Camp Normal

kenny.jpgWho knew being a vegetarian in a war zone could be this easy? Not that Im exactly in in the thick of battle, yet. Camp Victory, adjacent to the Baghdad Airport, is a sprawling military command center of 15,000 troops. And, despite the occasional helicopter grunting overhead, the conflict feels very far away. Yesterday, I was worried about facing bullets and bombs. Today, Im wondering whether to have a slushie or a cookie for desert.If you discount the dust and the suffocating heat, Victory could be any one of a hundred American military bases scattered around the world. Except this one is fancier. And there are more of the comforts of home.subway_hut.jpgThe Camps chiefs are installed in smart cubicles on the top floors of Saddams sumptuous summer palace. Some of the soldiers ride around in bicycles, wearing Army-issue shorts and tees. Kevlar and helmets are not required.Reporters are set up in air-conditioned tents, and can peck away at their laptops through the local wi-fi "Freedom Network." The mess hall is stocked with tangy kimchi and cook-to-order stir-fry, bean sprouts included. The PX is full of DVDs and X-Box games and Operation Iraw Freedom tchokes. The Starbucks knock-off is open 24/7, right next to the Pizza Hut and the Subway. The pool, for now, is closed.pool.jpgThe Army unit Im supposed to join up with was expecting me tomorrow, not today. The action should come quick after that. So I took advantage of the pause. I napped in my deliciously-cool tent. I played war tourist as I gawked at the palace-turned-HQ. And I shared cigars with a battlefield surgeon from the Green Zone, watching Blackhawks silhouetted by the crescent moon. Not a bad first day at war.THERES MORE: Yes, I did manage to get my bags back, in time to hitch a ride to Baghdad.

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