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Baghdad, As Usual


The usual spiral descent in the airplane landed me into a grey day in Baghdad…the weather the same as when I left a few weeks ago. The usual hordes of ‘Global’ mercenaries crowded the airport…where a person isn’t allowed to take their carry-on into the bathroom with them-for fear of bombs. Keep in mind that the airport is the largest US military base in Iraq.

Then there was the usual joy of waiting at the front checkpoint to be picked up. As usual, Abu Talat had arrived early…only to be gridlocked in the nerve-wracking wait in the line of cars to have his car sniffed by dogs for explosives. Standing inside the checkpoint in the small parking area is not my idea of a good time-everyone eyeing one another, wondering if that person is a kidnapper, or if that car in the distance is a bomb.

Of course it didn’t help that random gunfire was popping not too far off in the distance.

Abu Talat is finally allowed through, and my friend Khalil and I are whisked off. The bright spot of the day, aside from being reunited with my dear friend and interpreter was the making of a new friend.

I tell them both in the car, “I know this sounds crazy since it’s such a horrible situation here,” as we drive past kilometers of cars lined up for gasoline and people carrying jerry-cans in front of fuel stations, “But I missed Baghdad and I’m very happy to be back.”

Khalil laughs and replies, “Everybody says that about this place.”

He took us to his home for a great Iraqi lunch, with Iraqi chai, of course, and great conversation. Aside from the electricity blinking off and on as most of Baghdad is averaging 4 hours of electricity per day, it’s a short stint of normalcy with friends in the most dangerous capital city in the world.

But that’s where the normalcy ends.

A suicide car bomber hit a police station in southern Baghdad today killing 8, three of which were Iraqi Police. Ten people were also wounded in the blast.

The deputy police chief of Baghdad, Brigadier Amer Ali Nayef and his son, Lt. Khalid Amer, were assassinated in Baghdad’s south Dora district today. Their car was gunned down while driving to work this morning. This is the second senior Iraqi official to be assassinated in less than a week. Just last Tuesday, gunmen assassinated the governor of Baghdad, Ali al-Haidari, along with six of his bodyguards.

But the details on the killing of the governor from an eyewitness escaped the news. The convoy was hit by a well coordinated attack. There were two groups of fighters who manned cigarette stands which line the streets of Baghdad, awaiting the governor. In addition, there were gunmen on the tops of nearby shops…the convoy was attacked, and the governors car escaped…only to be chased down by a car full of gunmen who finished the job. The only civilians who were shot were hit by the random firing from the governor’s guards.

The demolition of Fallujah continues. Two of my sources inside the city, who live in different neighborhoods, report that the military is now burning homes. Apparently, they are finding booby traps, so they are piling furniture up in the homes, dousing it with fuel, and burning it.

Nevertheless, another Marine was killed there today.

Another Bradley Fighting Vehicle was destroyed today in Baghdad…as the resistance is using larger bombs for their attacks. Two soldiers died in the blast, with four wounded.

Not long ago a Bradley was bombed by one of these huge devices, killing 6 soldiers.

Sirens blare throughout Baghdad, as usual. Random gunfire cracks across the city, as usual. And the British are sending 400 more troops.

As far as the elections, there are some nice signs around Baghdad now, encouraging folks to vote.

Several of my Iraqi friends tell me they expect only about 20% of Iraqis to vote. Who could blame them? With the resistance having announced they will be sniping polling stations during the elections, as well as the high likelihood of suicide car bombers driving into polling station, better security prior to any type of election would probably bring Iraqis to the polls more than nice billboards.

So, as usual, the horrible catastrophe that is occupied Iraq is getting worse by the day.

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