Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I mentioned a second and final note of optimism I witnessed on the way out. As we were boarding the C-17, a long line of new Iraqi soldiers marched by from a nearby training facility. As they saw American soldiers our way, they began to wave and give thumbs-up signs. Not only did we wave back, but I must admit I swallowed pretty damn hard not to choke up.

I hope it's not too long before we can leave their country in their hands entirely... and I hope everyone of them kills a terrorist before the terrorist kills him.

Rounding out yet another theme of the trip, that of women in the military, Capt Jennifer King flew us safely to Qatar, even re-negotiating with Bahrain from out over the Gulf, when it looked like they were denying us clearance to fly over. Excellent flight, smooth landing, and then it was well & truly time to go home ... and be the DC bureaucrat again.

Flight out to Qatar was a C-17, much bigger & better than the C-130 we barrelled in on during the night a week before.... Actual seats!

Finally, out to Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), where by the way I watched a number of commercial flights land and take off, without incident.... That was one of two last optimistic signs I saw on my way out of Iraq.

Seen from Flintstones land: across the way, the unfinished "Victory over America Palace," which would have been huge. U.S. bombs had quite an impact, but it's nice the construction cranes are still there, an appropriate though rusty symbol of the corrupt foundation Iraq is building on now.

The elevator has been "remodeled" extensively. What was once an extensive sound-system has also been smashed.

Any comment superfluous, cheers to the succinct perspicacity of the USAF Special Operations Command.

Downstairs, some rooms still have attractive tiled murals.

Lots of rumors about how Uday, Qusay, and Pops used to use the place... but "Criminal Number One," as soldiers refer to Saddam, isn't talking. There's a rumor that he himself was obsessed with the Flintstones cartoons and watched reruns every day. That one I'm not buying.

The compound had a number of bedrooms, party decks, shower rooms, screened-in living rooms... well-designed and reminding me of some of the fancier Silicon Valley exec homes in the hills of Los Gatos or Woodside.

The walls are covered in graffitti, added by US and coalition soldiers, who originally liberated the place and now visit it, not needing hallucinogenics to get a "weird trip" vibe from the surroundings.

One can't escape the staggering irony, that all of Babylonia has been occupied by American forces - and the relics of corrupt totalitarian rule (like this odd spot) are simply relics, of a stone-age gone by...

At the corner of Flintstone Lane and Yankee Road, on the outskirts of what is now Camp Slayer, lie the ruins of what probably was a cute little retreat for the chosen few...

Okay, last day in Iraq - time to exceed all possible limits on Plausible Metaphors for the Iraqi situation. Yes, a visit to "Flintstone Village," the beyond-odd playground resort built by Saddam for Uday, Qusay, and children of them and other elites back in the heyday.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

From "Kubla Khan," by Coleridge:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war !

Saigon? Baghdad?


Letters from children line the walls of many buildings, offices, trailers and tents. Last line of the one on the right reads, "Thank you for keeping the bad people away from us."

Fun on the base!

Getting that tan! Armband holds various ID cards, which are checked incessantly

One of many walls in Iraq with a few pot-shot holes

Fine print reads, "Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot again."

The British have multiple units here, co-located on our bases...

Some "differently-abled" Soviet-made tanks, now half-buried in a sand berm inside Camp Slayer

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Special post for Tom McEnery - inside the DFAC (dining facility) on Camp Liberty, Baghdad - the San Jose Sharks banner! I did the chomp...

Fun time had by all!

This fellow stood there like that the entire time, overlooking... either a commanding officer or one intense boxing fan

I think there might have been money changing hands....

Woman on left was knocked out in the third

First fight was between two women soldiers (all fighters were, it goes without saying, soldiers on base)

Full moon and lots of folks

Crowd gathers for Saturday Night Fights at Camp Liberty

Gus Tavares, "T-Money" as he incessantly refers to himself - our guide for nightlife

Gorgeous moon came out over Baghdad... time to head out for Saturday night fun

Read and heed

Defense Intelligence Support Office - Iraq... their slogan on the shield reads, "Non Potes Occultare," or "You Cannot Hide"

There's a mosque right inside the Camp Slayer wall, but I don't believe it gets a lot of foot-traffic

The boys make fun of my driving here - the roads are almost as bad as Downtown DC

I was issued a LandCruiser a few days ago. Driving around is great, but not allowed off base.

Incongruous - we're smiling, but in front of two separate carbombs outside the base walls... a fact of life that redefines normalcy. Capt. Gus Taveras, U.S. Army... Gus is our guide to Camp Slayer nightlife.

Let's get our PRIORITIES straight, people!!

Soldiers dragging in the heat

Hot, but not too hot. Dare I say it, "a dry heat."

More bad stuff today... I'm lucky, because I haven't had to go outside the wall except for my first two days here. Nevertheless, one guy here on base was killed the day I left the US (Sept 11) by a mortar attack over the wall, and another on Sept 7. This is a car bomb near the airport.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Goodnight, Baghdad

Marble walkway down to the lake

Yet another sink

Spooky down on the deck