I don't think about risk much. . . . If you gotta go, you gotta go.
The C-12 Sherpa transport was beginning its descent to the Baghdad airbase when the U.S. Army pilot made an announcement: "We're entering a kill zone. It's going to be a steep drop." It would be all that and more.
I was familiar with war zones, but I had only to look at the faces of my three-man team to know they were wrestling with something new and frightening. I tried to ease their fears by cracking a lame joke—even though I was batting away my own butterflies.
We landed safely, donned flak jackets, and stepped out onto the scorching tarmac. Nerves were still frayed as we climbed into the armored SUVs waiting to ferry us into Baghdad proper. It took a while before the presence of the heavily armed GIs and contract security guards convinced me that my team and I were in good hands.
It was March 2008, and we were in Baghdad at the behest of General David H. Petraeus, then commander of the multinational force in Iraq. At a Pentagon meeting with Bill Marriott Jr., the general had asked us to join in the building of a hotel in Iraq's capital city as part of the Allied effort to stabilize the country. The hotel, he said, would provide work for Iraqis and demonstrate the United States' goodwill. At the same time, it would show the world that Iraq was back in business and ready to host foreign enterprise. Last but not least, he predicted, it would be a profitable venture ...