How NOT to Travel in the Middle East

How’s this for a bad idea?

Try smuggling a cigarette lighter shaped as an exact replica of a 9mm
Beretta automatic pistol through the checked luggage X-ray at Queen Alia
International Airport in Amman, Jordan.

When that set off all kinds of buzzers, the Jordanian secret police looking
through my dirty underwear also found the uniform of a Field Marshall in the
former Iraqi Army which I’d had tailor-made for myself in anticipation of a
costume New Year’s Eve party at the Sursock Palace in Beirut.

They confiscated these and all my other Saddam Hussein memorabilia, so now
I’m on the the kind list, somewhere in the bowels of the Mahabarrat, that
could make future air travel difficult, AND I have nothing to wear for New

I got out of Baghdad on a CNN convoy, which was wonderfully uneventful
except for the company. I shared a GMC with a Harvard educated half native
Hawaiian half Blackfoot Indian ex-stunt man named Kai — credits include
“Windtalkers” and “Blue Crush” — who, after getting knighted by the Pope
and becoming a member of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher in gratitude for
charitable work in Latin America, walked and hitchhiked his way from
Jerusalem to Baghdad, surviving several attempts on his life by the grace of
God and his martial arts expertise, in order to perform rosaries with U.S.
soldiers in Iraq. The third passenger was Brad, a former British paratrooper
who was working security for CNN.

The night before the journey, my CNN friends warned me that Brad, whom they
called “Freak Boy,” had a tendency to become confrontational and erratic at
inopportune moments such as at checkpoints manned by heavily armed Iraqi
police. Luckily Freak Boy didn’t freak out on the road to Amman, but
he kept asking Sir Kai tightly-wound open-ended religious questions like “So
what do you think of the Devil, or the so-called “Devil?” as platforms for
tirades about the inevitable spiritual decline of Western civilization, all
the while clutching a fully-loaded machine gun in a duffel bag under his
seat. Sir Kai, whose contact with Iraqis had been as limited as
their need for rosaries, wanted to know about life in Iraq outside the Green
Zone. “Have you had much experience with the Enemy?” he asked, which I
understood to mean the Resistance, rather than the so-called Devil.
Meanwhile, I was still farting up a storm because of a near-death experience
I’d had with and Army ration burrito a full two days previous. It was a long
10 hours for everyone.

On the plus side, I am safe and sound and much relived to be back home in

Yours, Andrew

Those of you who know my mother, please don’t tell her I’ve left Iraq. Her
60th Birthday is in a week, and I’m surprising her by making it to the

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