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Offlinewingnutx
Registered: 09/25/00
Posts: 2,268
Last seen: 6 years, 7 days
Heard the Good News From Baghdad?
    #1983477 - 10/06/03 11:39 AM (13 years, 8 months ago)

washingtonpost.com
Heard the Good News From Baghdad?


By Vivienne Walt

Sunday, October 5, 2003; Page B02


BAGHDAD

Wisam Karim stands ankle deep in glass two hours after his hotel has been bombed. He's bracing for a visit to the pregnant widow of the night porter, who was killed when 15 pounds of explosives deposited along the outside wall destroyed several rooms.

Considering this, Karim's assessment of Baghdad these days is not what you would expect. "Things have gotten much, much better recently," says the 42-year-old manager of the Aike Hotel in south Baghdad, which housed the NBC News bureau until the blast 10 days ago. "I'm here 16 hours a day. I see everything going on. I can tell you, things are much better." He waves one arm over his wrecked lobby and says, "We'll fix this in two days."

Six months after American tanks stormed Baghdad and obliterated Saddam Hussein's regime, there are two realities here: The continuing war and a return to normality. For those of us reporters who drift between these two galaxies, the dichotomy now passes for regular life, so much so that we fail to remark on it. The roar of tanks and attack helicopters competes with the din of jackhammers as streets are repaired and storefronts reopened. One can swim laps in a sparkling pool to the sounds of a gunfight taking place a block away from the Palestine Hotel, a hulking 1970s high-rise with a panoramic vista of urban turmoil. Bombs and shootings intrude on mundane diversions. One night, a giant explosion from a trash-can bomb momentarily drowned out an "Ally McBeal" rerun on Lebanese television.

With ordinariness and violence jostling for primacy, the question is: Which will win out? That answer will determine whether American troops and their Iraqi allies -- police officers, soldiers and political operatives -- are sucked into a defensive battle that is longer and more violent than the Bush administration currently envisions. Since the stakes are critical, the Bush administration is eager to advertise one reality, while glossing over the other. In truth, the two have settled into a bizarre coexistence.

It may seem strange, but this city is suddenly throbbing with street life, even as the guerrilla insurgency drags on. Baghdadis have become tired of waiting for order to be restored, and have decided to get on with life. Traffic jams are monstrous, as drivers burn nickel-a-gallon gas. Some drive used, spit-shined BMWs and Mercedes Benzes imported -- basically tax-free, since there's no government -- from relatives or salesmen in the rich Gulf states. Many mornings, it can take an hour to drive from the shopping districts of east Baghdad to the leafier residential neighborhoods west of the Tigris River. Last week, U.S. officials shortened Baghdad's curfew by an hour, making it from midnight to 4 a.m., saying that the city's security had improved.

Telephones in Baghdad have barely operated since American missiles shattered the main communications centers last April. Yet across town countless signs in store windows and on walls announce new Internet caf?s linked to satellite receivers. A hand-painted banner across one street in east Baghdad advertises new Internet service with "bowsin and chatin 24 hour," notwithstanding the curfew. In late September, workers began repaving Firdos Square -- where Saddam's giant statue was hauled down on April 9, marking the war's end -- and replanting the central island where Iraqis celebrated that day.

Despite their distaste for the U.S. occupation, many in Baghdad are itching to Americanize their city. Two blocks from the square, Hamed Al-Tai, a 34-year-old importer of air conditioners, says he intends to change the name of his office building to Westinghouse when he begins importing American appliances. In late September, workers were renovating his space, complete with Romanesque pillars and marble tiles. "We're also discussing opening the first McDonald's in Baghdad," Tai says. "Everyone will want to try it. It's American and it's new."

Workers last week began removing the bricks covering the glass fa?ade that protected the city's National Theater during the heavy bombing in March and April. Now, about 200 actors and musicians crowd into the theater's lobby every Tuesday morning to hash over new productions. "There's this new blood, a new beauty around here suddenly," says Mahmoud Hussein, 50, a comic actor well-known in Iraq, who is rehearsing a children's play to be performed as part of a post-war festival this month .

In his office upstairs, Saadon Al-Ubaydi, the general manager appointed in July by U.S. advisers to the Ministry of Culture, discusses plans to stage Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller plays in Arabic -- a stark contrast to the "clowning rubbish" of escapist slapstick that was standard fare for the government-run theater under Saddam Hussein. Ubaydi's thought is interrupted by a loud gunshot from outside his open window. He pauses, and then says: "The atmosphere is a lot more relaxed than even two months ago."

We journalists tend to emphasize Baghdad's lack of security, a story full of its own drama. After months of talking to people in Baghdad, I have finally begun to realize that many complaints are translated in English as "no security." When I probe further, the meanings range from a general unease about the overwhelming transformation underway to actual alarm about violent crime. "Things have really changed since the end of July," says Yassin Tariq Al-Shimari, 42, who sells television sets and refrigerators from a tiny storefront in the shopping district of Karrada. Sitting on the sidewalk outside his store, Shimari says, "In July we saw three or four robberies and killings a day. I don't think I've seen one since July."

That's not to say that the violence isn't real, too. The city -- and Iraq in general -- is still racked by bombs, shoot-outs and hit-and-run ambushes. No insurance company will cover the drivers or their vehicles jamming Baghdad's streets. The rattle of gunfire and low thud of explosions resound long after dark. And despite the shortened curfew, many residents stay indoors at night -- "especially now that they have satellite TV," quips Hussein, the actor.

Mornings bring the grim tally of overnight military deaths from Central Command; last Monday's blotter included six U.S. soldiers wounded the night before near the hotbed of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, by a homemade explosive device. Days are scarcely better. On Monday morning, an American soldier traveling in a convoy was killed in the same area by another homemade bomb, sparking a 3-hour firefight. On Wednesday, American soldiers fired warning shots at Iraqis who threw stones at a Shiite mosque in southwest Baghdad; the demonstrators were enraged that the troops had detained a cleric the night before. And Iraqi police, who are taking over front-line duties from U.S. forces, fired live bullets at protesters demanding jobs as police officers.

Most Baghdadis blame the U.S. military -- at least as much as criminal gangs -- for turning their city into a war zone. It is hard to find an Iraqi who has not witnessed jittery American soldiers, yelling curse-filled orders in English at befuddled civilians. While tension among Baghdad residents has eased, the thousands of U.S. soldiers in the capital remain garrisoned behind barbed wire and sandbags -- ill at ease and ready for battle.

The foot patrols touted by U.S. military officials last May, as a way for American soldiers to meet ordinary Iraqis, have virtually disappeared. Instead, what Iraqis see now are soldiers in bulletproof vests and Kevlar helmets pointing their rifles from tanks and Humvees as they rumble through neighborhoods. "People are scared to open their doors now, because there are so many stories about soldiers bursting in and arresting people," says Shimari, the television salesman.

Perhaps that helps explain why Iraqis are suspending decades of bloodletting among themselves and focusing their anger on a common, highly visible enemy: the occupation soldiers. That enmity has grown, rather than dissipated, as normal life takes hold in Baghdad. After months of rarely hearing any question raised about my own nationality, I find myself warily asked at the start of interviews: "Amriki?" (The truthful answer is, I'm a dual citizen. But in Baghdad lately it seems safer to introduce myself as a South African.) In a Gallup Poll last month, only 29 percent of Baghdad residents expressed a favorable view of the United States.

"Sure we're afraid of all these guns on the streets," said Mustafa Salman al-Kaisi, 47, a businessman and oil drilling engineer, who sat waiting for an appointment last week with an Iraqi trader to discuss importing new goods. "But in fact, most of the guns are aimed at the Americans moving around in Humvees."

What would happen if the U.S. Humvees disappeared? In visits last month, both Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell warned that chaos could erupt if the occupation ended too soon. Perhaps Iraq would turn into the former Lebanon, where political violence also coexisted with bits of normal life. That's hardly what the Bush team had in mind for Iraq. But maybe the violence would dissipate, leaving Americans feeling bruised, while giving Iraqis space to lay claim to the routine and minor pleasures of everyday life.

Author's e-mail:vivwalt@yahoo.com

Vivienne Walt, a freelance reporter based in Paris, has spent the last 10 weeks on assignment in Iraq for Time magazine and the Boston Globe.



? 2003 The Washington Post Company


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InvisibleXlea321
Stranger
Registered: 02/26/01
Posts: 9,134
Re: Heard the Good News From Baghdad? [Re: wingnutx]
    #1983518 - 10/06/03 11:56 AM (13 years, 8 months ago)

You're on a roll today wing.

You've almost convinced me that slaughtering thousands of innocent people on the basis of a lie is ok  :laugh: 


--------------------
Don't worry, B. Caapi


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Anonymous

Re: Heard the Good News From Baghdad? [Re: Xlea321]
    #1983530 - 10/06/03 12:04 PM (13 years, 8 months ago)

yawn.


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Invisibleafoaf
CEO DBK?
 User Gallery

Registered: 11/08/02
Posts: 32,665
Loc: Ripple's Heart
Re: Heard the Good News From Baghdad? [Re: wingnutx]
    #1983544 - 10/06/03 12:13 PM (13 years, 8 months ago)

rummy, is that you?


--------------------
All I know is The Growery is a place where losers who get banned here go.


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Offlinewingnutx
Registered: 09/25/00
Posts: 2,268
Last seen: 6 years, 7 days
Re: Heard the Good News From Baghdad? [Re: afoaf]
    #1983547 - 10/06/03 12:15 PM (13 years, 8 months ago)

It's that notoriously right-wing Washington Post.


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OfflineAzmodeus
Seeker

Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 3,392
Loc: Lotus Land!! B.C.
Last seen: 12 years, 5 months
Re: Heard the Good News From Baghdad? [Re: wingnutx]
    #1983920 - 10/06/03 03:02 PM (13 years, 8 months ago)

So whats the good news?!  :wink:


--------------------
"Know your Body - Know your Mind - Know your Substance - Know your Source.

Lest we forget. "


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InvisiblePsiloKitten
Ganja Goddess

Registered: 02/13/99
Posts: 1,617
Re: Heard the Good News From Baghdad? [Re: wingnutx]
    #1983946 - 10/06/03 03:12 PM (13 years, 8 months ago)

Ohh.. the joys of Americanization. Maybe soon they can have a nation of fat lazy kids, an aids rate that is soaring, a buncha unwed mothers, some school shootings, sex on MTV and BET.

What lucky, lucky bastards.


--------------------


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InvisibleinfidelGOD
illusion

Registered: 04/18/02
Posts: 3,040
Loc: there
Re: Heard the Good News From Baghdad? [Re: wingnutx]
    #1984177 - 10/06/03 05:01 PM (13 years, 8 months ago)

"Baghdadis have become tired of waiting for order to be restored, and have decided to get on with life"

"After months of talking to people in Baghdad, I have finally begun to realize that many complaints are translated in English as "no security." When I probe further, the meanings range from a general unease about the overwhelming transformation underway to actual alarm about violent crime"

"The city -- and Iraq in general -- is still racked by bombs, shoot-outs and hit-and-run ambushes. No insurance company will cover the drivers or their vehicles jamming Baghdad's streets. The rattle of gunfire and low thud of explosions resound long after dark"

"Mornings bring the grim tally of overnight military deaths from Central Command; last Monday's blotter included six U.S. soldiers wounded the night before near the hotbed of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, by a homemade explosive device. Days are scarcely better. On Monday morning, an American soldier traveling in a convoy was killed in the same area by another homemade bomb, sparking a 3-hour firefight"

"Most Baghdadis blame the U.S. military -- at least as much as criminal gangs -- for turning their city into a war zone. It is hard to find an Iraqi who has not witnessed jittery American soldiers, yelling curse-filled orders in English at befuddled civilians"

"People are scared to open their doors now, because there are so many stories about soldiers bursting in and arresting people"

"Iraqis are suspending decades of bloodletting among themselves and focusing their anger on a common, highly visible enemy: the occupation soldiers. That enmity has grown, rather than dissipated, as normal life takes hold in Baghdad"


what good news?


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