By Martin Savidge
No, this is not a wistful column about the old Bing Crosby seasonal favorite. It's where I was in December 1998. Often I remember stories I've covered by where I was staying. Don't ask me why... I just do.
So, there I was at the Holiday Inn Bahrain checked in and checking out the U.N. weapons inspectors who had just unceremoniously left Baghdad. The Holiday Inn was their hotel too.
Most of the other journalists were staying next door at the Diplomat. They liked the digs of the executive floor level better. I wasn't getting free hors d'oeuvres but I was getting plenty of access to the U.N. team. They weren't allowed to say much, at least not on the record; weapons inspectors tend to be like that. But I got an earful on the frustrations and hide-and-seek ways of the Iraqi regime. The conversation though unreportable was a good way to pass the time. We were all basically waiting to see when the inspectors would go back. Who knew?
When the missiles of Operation Desert Fox flew in to punish Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for kicking the inspectors out, the suddenly unemployed U.N. team members went back to their respective countries and their day jobs.
I was moved from the Holiday Inn to the desert of Kuwait along the Iraqi border. My Christmas Eve was spent in a fighting hole in the middle of a dust storm with a U.S. Marine machine gun crew. The only cheer came from golden glow sticks hung in the bunker. The concern was Saddam Hussein might strike back and the Marines were there to make sure he didn't succeed.
Now flash forward ... it's four years later. The weapons inspectors are back in Baghdad and U.S. Marines are back in the Kuwaiti Desert. I'm not at the Holiday Inn because the U.N. mission is now based out of another country and another hotel.
Will the weapons inspectors succeed? It's too soon to tell. Lets just say I have my reservations ... hotel reservations.