BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 March, 2003, 00:10 GMT
Reporters' Log: Waiting for war
The BBC's unrivalled team of correspondents is bringing you news from the Gulf and reaction from around the world. On this page BBC News Online logs their impressions and personal experiences as they watch events unfold.

Most recent postings are at the top.

Wednesday, 19 March

State Department, Washington :: Jon Leyne :: 2359GMT

As war approached, one man brought a large part of the American capital to a halt. Washington DC was paralysed through the efforts of - Dwight W Watson.

It all added to the sense of the surreal in this often soporific capital city. The protestors are still outside the White House, reluctant to admit defeat. On Capitol Hill, the politicians have been vying with each other in how loyal they can be to American forces as they go into battle.

But out on the National Mall, Dwight Watson was allowed to continue his bizarre protest. Mr Watson drove his tractor into a pond near the White House three days ago. He said he was loaded with explosives, so the police sealed off the area and let him sit there.

Mr Watson is a tobacco farmer from North Carolina, who says government policies are putting him out of business. As one passer by put it "everyone was expecting a war, and instead we have a guy on a tractor who is ranting and raving".

Away from Mr Watson's tractor, there are signs here that this country is about to go to war, but not many. The "cordon sanitaire" around the White House has been extended by a few feet. Security is a little tighter. But by and large, Americans have got over their urge to buy duct tape and sheets and sheets of plastic.

And finally, after three days of tortuous negotiations, police persuaded Dwight W Watson to end his lonely vigil at the heart of the nation's capital.

US marine convoy in Kuwaiti desert :: Gavin Hewitt :: 2312GMT

There is not really a sense of the timing of a likely assault but we are currently travelling in a vast column of American armour. At the front are Abrams tanks, followed by fighting vehicles.

This is a column which stretches back for two or three km, it really is an impressive sight moving through the Kuwaiti night.

Sometimes our lights pick out artillery pieces or ammunition trucks. During the day we have seen other columns like this travelling towards the Iraqi border.

What we don't know is if we will cross tonight, or in a few days time. What we have been told is that when this division crosses into Iraq there will be 10,000 vehicles.

The impression we are getting here is that it is very serious and that a conflict is imminent.

Northern Iraq :: John Simpson :: 2210GMT

I am standing in no mans land beyond the Kurdish front line in northern Iraq. I'm told American special forces are within 100 metres of us. I have seen a vehicle behind me through night vision sights; I believe them to be special forces people.

We are not absolutely clear when the bombing will begin, maybe within three hours, maybe in 27 hours' time. We just don't know.

It is eerie in the marshes around me, there is a full moon above us and the air is filled with the night birds making strange noises. There is nothing between us and the Iraqi front line.

British Field HQ, Kuwaiti desert :: Ben Brown :: 2205GMT

The atmosphere here tonight is very tense, there is some trepidation and apprehension amongst the troops as this long awaited and debated war is about to begin.

Some of the troops are young and have not been in battle before. They are nervous but prepared.

The hour is almost upon us and there is no doubt it will be utterly terrifying in its intensity.

British Field HQ, Kuwaiti desert :: Ben Brown :: 2120GMT

Troops have been making final preparations today. They know that there is a risk of a chemical attack so they are preparing to go forward in full protective clothing.

Tonight the troops have been allowed to make one last phone call home to their loved ones before they move forward.

Kuwait desert :: Richard Bilton :: 2100GMT

There is a different feeling in northern Kuwait tonight, only the military are allowed to move forward. Farm workers in the area have been moved south during the day, the north of Kuwait is now closed to civilians.

Baghdad :: Paul Wood :: 2005GMT

It is still all quiet in Baghdad. I have been out driving around the city and the streets are deserted. The shops are all shuttered up, people have taken stock out and no longer open for business, that has been the case for most of the day.

You do see more traffic police out and about, wearing helmets and carrying weapons.

There are lots of sandbags on the street, but there is no large movement of the regular army in the city. The streets are eerily empty, the ordinary people have gone to the air raid shelters and are waiting to see what will happen.

Some people have been getting out of the capital, but a lot of families remain in the city. They have gone into fortified rooms with stock piles of food and with their families gathered around them, they are simply waiting.

British Army HQ in Northern Kuwait :: Tim Franks :: 1730GMT

The British army is drawing ever closer to the Iraqi border. The soldiers are moving into the holding areas from which they'll be deployed into battle.

The movement of troops and armour has, though, for much of the day been extremely difficult because of a howling, pounding sandstorm. It's abated now but for twenty four hours it hurled and scudded across this featureless desert, some time reducing visibility to the length of a car.

From time-to-time you could see a soldier walking in the white gloom, leaning into the gusts. It slowed everything down. But it may also prove useful in battle.

No one this side of the border knows for sure what weapons the Iraqis have and how they might be used. Within days, perhaps hours, we will find out.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia :: Heba Saleh :: 1615GMT

Inside the hundreds of air-conditioned malls which line the streets of Riyadh life goes on as normal. But in a country were many young men sympathise with the Al Qaeda group, the authorities fear that anger against the Americans could lead to violence.

A man has just been blown up inside a flat in Riyadh, apparently because he was handling explosives. The security services have found an arsenal of deadly weapons in the apartment.

Earlier a group of influential Islamic scholars called on militants to refrain from acts which could undermine social cohesion at this difficult time.

For now Saudis say there is nothing they can do expect wait and hope their worst fears will not be realized.

Ark Royal, Gulf of Arabia :: Matthew Price :: 1411GMT

Most people on board the Ark Royal are glad that they have got parliamentary backing for this - in the next few hours and days the order will be given for them to go in and do the job that they are here to do.

Interestingly they believe they are being given direction and guidance and that the correct decisions are being made in London and Washington - they believe in this mission and most people tell me that they want to get into Iraq and do the job that they're here for.

It is pretty tricky trying to do my job on this ship. It is difficult getting in touch with the BBC news programmes to ask them what they want. Sometimes they shut down all communications. No e-mail, no phone calls, no contact with the outside world.

Amman, Jordan :: Caroline Hawley :: 1200 GMT

The Jordanian authorities have grown increasingly jumpy as the clock ticks towards war. Hundreds of journalists now need to get special permits for anywhere they want to go - particularly areas where it is believed American troops are operating.

In Jordan's eastern desert Bedouins we spoke to reported strange sightings of foreigners speaking Arabic and wearing Arab dress - the telltale sign of special forces.

In the town of Azraq which hosts a recently expanded military base, there has been an usual amount of air activity by grey unmarked planes. Residents are convinced they are American and complain that their sleepy town is being kept up at night by the roar of military jets.

One old man whose son-in-law is now working round the clock on the base told us he had not seen a foreign army on Jordanian soil since the days of old colonial rule. The tape on which he was filmed was later confiscated by plainclothes police.

Jordan is trying to keep its co-operation with western forces quiet - but rumours about the troops have been swirling around the coffee shops of Amman as Jordan braces itself for war.

US marine base Kuwait :: Andrew North :: 1020 GMT

The sandstorm is still raging outside and visibility is down to a few yards as it has been all day, choking sand blowing in my face. Whether this will affect the timing of action it is hard to say. Commanders say it is still a waiting game. The troops are prepared and trained, but there is but no word yet on action.

There are 7,000 US marines here and many have never seen combat. Some of them, as young as 19, express a lot of anxieties, not only about the danger they obviously face, but about whether they will match up to the challenge. Will they let their friends down ?

Northern Kuwaiti desert :: Caroline Wyatt :: 0900 GMT

Today the main battle for everyone here in the Kuwaiti desert has been against the elements. A massive sandstorm is blowing clouds of fine dust across military camps and restricting vision to about 100 yards.

Sand gets into your eyes, your clothes, your mouth, even the air tastes of grit. Everyone who can, has taken refuge inside their tents - making sure the sandbags holding them down are firmly secured.

All the British units are on NBC alert state 1, against chemical or biological attack. That means everyone has to carry their gas mask and protective suit at all times - even when you brave the sandstorm to go to the latrines outside.

The overwhelming feeling among the British troops is a wish to get on with the job they have been sent here to do.

As one British commander put it: "It will be tea and medals in Baghdad in a few days time." And no-one really wants to contemplate the alternative.

The movements of those reporting from Baghdad are restricted and their reports are monitored by the Iraqi authorities.



News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific