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Archived Weekly Features
This View by Nancy LeMay
Nancy LeMay is a five-time Emmy winning broadcast designer who has worked both in New York and LA, in network and local. She is a teacher and a painter as well. You can reach her through her website, and by email at

Observations on War with Iraq, 1991

Though I am not a journalist, I have always been a keeper of journals.

Some of the odd details that find their way into journals may give us the flavor of a moment in a way different from, but perhaps as effective, as conventional reporting. This personal ‘bearing witness’ is a different looking glass precisely because an individual may record ‘small’ things that "The Media" will, over time, edit out of the ‘cut-down’ version of its’ coverage. But the telling detail has its' own value and need not be lost.

I recently looked at the journals I kept in 1991; it was fascinating to see the texture of the things that I chose to record. The United States was getting ready to take military action against Iraq; I was working for Network Graphics at NBC News in New York, and had been moved from the overnight shift, (which served "Today" and "Sunrise"), to a new 4 to midnight shift. We would service "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw" and any primetime coverage that NBC would do.

I made note of the following among many pages of entries as the war progressed:

January 17th, 1991, 2:40 AM (the bombing of Baghdad had begun at 7 PM Eastern)
"...Everyone agreed a very scary moment came early in our coverage when, while Brokaw and Tom Aspell, in Baghdad, were cross-talking, we lost Tom Aspell’s signal, and his ‘box’ turned from a live person talking to hash and static. But right now Garrick Utley is talking to him- "It’s wonderful to hear your voice..." he said to Aspell, and it is.

January 25th, 1991, 1:30 AM
"The use of chemical and nerve weapons, available to (Saddam’s) tanks and aircraft, remains a big question mark, and horrible to contemplate. Details of his military fortifications- concrete bunkers for aircraft, tanks operating like trapdoor spiders, the mobile Scud missiles, now loom large in our attention. After a week this seems more difficult than we had thought. The Iraqi ‘technique’ depends on deception- the ability to hide and strike later, it seems, as opposed to our techniques of relentless precision. The idea being, I gues s, that they’ll wait while we exhaust ourselves... Our Pentagon guys are cautioning us about the coming ground war. It’s as if we are at the end of an early chapter, and the closing sentence steels us for the calamity in the next chapter..."

January 29th, 10:40 PM
"Starting today, we are wearing our ID cards at all times when we’re in 30 Rock.
At the IBM Gallery today (on Madison Avenue in Midtown Manhattan), they inspected my bag when I checked it at the bag check. They had a sign posted: "Due to the situation in the Middle East..."

February 8th, 1991, midnight
"Jack (Kriska, "Sunrise" lead artist) heard on the radio on his way in to work that there is trouble- anti-Saddam trouble- within the Iraqi military. Harry (my husband) predicted this two weeks ago. It will be interesting to see if it amounts to anything. Meanwhile, the Iraqi army has sent out execution squads to shoot defectors."

February 27th, 1991, 11:36 AM
" The Today Show had a report this morning: one of our Humvees got stuck in the sand in Iraq. The Americans got out and tried to extricate it, just as some Iraqis approached in a tank. The Iraqi soldiers got out, helped push the Humvee out of the sand, then surrendered.
Is it possible the war will only last the length of this (journal)?"