MONDAY, JAN. 28
The Super Bowl starts at 2:15 a.m. local time. Pretzels in one hand and non-alcoholic beers in the other, Tech. Sgt. James Lee and Staff Sgt. Doug Kline sit in their bulky chemical suits, gas masks close at hand, watching the Giants and Bills do battle via satellite TV.
With 30 comrades in arms from the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, Lee and Kline watch the game in a munitions bunker, sitting on makeshift plywood benches, not far from several stacks of missile cases.
Lee, normally a Chicago Bears fan, is rooting for the Bills. Why? "Because I hear Saddam's a Giants fan."
TUESDAY, JAN. 29
Artillery duels on the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. The Leathernecks of the 2nd Marine Division return Iraqi fire by loading up their 155-millimeter howitzer and blasting the enemy's positions with white phosphorous incendiary rounds. Those rounds are followed by salvos of shells containing "bouncing Betty" anti-personnel grenades that hit the ground, hop into the air and explode at about waist level. The Marines call them "gut ripper."
"Jesus God," mutters Cpl. Lee Welverton, 22, of Enterprise, Ala., as the rounds impact in an explosion of orange flames. "Jesus God, have pity on their souls."
He adds: "You want to damage the enemy, you want to kill him and destroy his might. But you can't help but sometimes remember those are human beings under the firestorm. Damn, I hate that man Saddam for leading his country to death."
The sticker in the back window of Sobhy Masaud Abu Haila's green Mercedes-Benz is a little touch of Americana on the border between Iraq and Jordan. "University of Southern California," it advertises in large white letters.
"It was there when I bought the car from an old Kuwaiti sheik," says Haila, 56, a Palestinian carwash owner who had lived in Kuwait for 35 years until the war forced him to tear up his life.
"But my son, Ahmad, did go to school in Los Angeles," the refugee adds as he reties the bundles containing his worldly possessions onto the car roof. "He was there six years. Don't remember the name of the school, but he got a degree in civil engineering there. He's still back in Kuwait. He wouldn't leave with us. Says he's waiting for the war to end."
There's no question where Haila's sympathies lie in this conflict. For half an hour he rails against President Bush and praises the perseverance and righteousness of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. But he's troubled, nonetheless.
"As people, the Americans are good. They are respected people, kind people. One-to-one, good friends. But the government is bad. It is against us, against the Arabs, and with the Jewish state. Your government has declared war on the Arabs, and now, well, now it is so hard for us to be friends."
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 30
Most of the war-zone stories about mail have described it as a huge morale booster for the troops. But aboard the carrier Roosevelt, the Rev. (Capt.) Ivan Fuller knows the other side--wives and girlfriends who wait for the ship to sail and then send their "dear John" goodbys.
"It is an undue cruelty, especially at a time like this," he says. "For a lot of these men, their families are their lives. And then they get a letter from their wife, and she says, 'John and I have decided that we love each other more than we love you.' Or: 'I have had an affair. I don't love you but perhaps we should stay together for the sake of the children.'
" . . . I was up here till midnight, talking with guys who should be clicking up their heels at mail call."
At a large allied support base in Saudi Arabia, Buford, the command center chicken, has become the early-warning system for a possible Iraqi chemical attack. The chicken sits in his cage beside a gas monitoring machine.
The machine is meant to sound an alarm when chemicals are present in the air. Buford is the backup.
Gas will kill birds before it kills human beings--that's why coal miners take canaries underground as a warning signal. So, says Col. Bill Van Meter, 48, of Holyoke, Mass., Buford is "very important. As long as he 'talks,' we're in good shape."
A controversy erupts in Tel Aviv over the distribution of 5,000 special gas masks to bearded Orthodox men in the religious suburb of Bnei Barak. The masks feature air pumps to make them more efficient--an important feature for the men whose facial hair prevents a tight fit with normal versions. The problem is that children, asthmatics and people with heart disease also need the special gas masks, and thousands have not received them yet. Furious parents and asthma sufferers complain loudly to the media, and embarrassed spokesmen for Israel's religious parties agree that sick people should certainly have priority over bearded men. Asked why the men did not simply shave their beards, one says it's not just a matter of religious custom. Beards, he says, "are a way of life."