I have been in Iraq only two days and this is my first visit, so my impressions can only be those of a new set of eyes looking at a very well-examined place and situation.
Still, two things stand out to me immediately: One is that at the hospital in the Green Zone where the 28th Combat Support Hospital (CASH in military speak) receives massive numbers of wounded soldiers, there is a sense of it all being so routine. And it is not just the medical staff that does such a sensational job; the troops I spoke with who woke up with missing limbs and other severe injuries seemed so stoic and calm. It is as though they know that their patrols here have such a high chance of encountering life-threatening trouble that they almost expect it to happen.
People can talk about bravery and dedication, but when a young woman who just lost her leg tells me she is still glad to just see the sun rise and be in the Army, I'm so moved I start to cry. Another impression: the Green Zone -- the international American-guarded sector -- Saddam's old palaces, where massively armed U.S. soldiers and a few Iraqis walk around in a calm atmosphere. One can see and feel huge explosions only hundreds of yards away, but it seems thoroughly incongruous. But today, seeing the mangled soldiers in the Green Zone made me know -- it is real.
Editor's note: If you missed Robert's report on Tuesday's broadcast, click here to watch.