Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Iraqalypse Now (copyright Kathryn Ballentine Shepherd)

Someone back in the States asked in an email if I was able to see much "devastation" in Baghdad, based on the impression left by endless close-up media footage of car-bombings, and even perhaps by the early "Shock & Awe" campaign. In fact, Baghdad is demonstrably whole, a relatively thriving Third World capital with some beautiful (not to say remarkable) buildings fully intact.

Nice shot of what used to be something... until the war, when we aimed a precision munition right through that door on the roof

Nice shot of something from the air

Meeting with a very interesting, smart and hard-working Iraqi and his team.

Smiley Dukakis

Okay, enough of the macho crap

Ready to leave the IZ

California kid

Me in front of the statue - here's a tidbit from General Schwarzkopf [It Doesn't Take A Hero, (Bantam, 1992) p. 455] "I had spoken to Gen. Powell regularly throughout the day. ...At ten p.m., I called to give him a final update. I was tired; at the end of the conversation I heard myself say how much I'd like to blow up the giant Saddam statue and the Victory Arch in downtown Baghdad. The Victory Arch, a monument to the war against Iran, was a huge sculpture of two hands, said to be Saddam's, holding two swords crossed. We'd spared both the statue and the Victory Arch during the air campaign because they weren't military targets. To my surprise, Powell was all for it-- although he suggested we check with the president first. Pentagon lawyers vetoed the idea a couple of days later..."

The famous "Hands of Victory" statue erected by Saddam after the Iran-Iraq war... the Hands were modeled on his own

Some mercenary tough guys ... guy on the left looks a little like Jay, with an attitude (I'd like to see Jay on his plane with THAT gun)

Approach to the Ministry

No, no, there's no corruption in the new Iraqi government... it's just normal that I counted 18 brand-spanking new BMW's in the parking lot of the Ministry of the Interior - all armored


To get to the Ministry, we had to do a sprint of 500 meters through the Red Zone - yikes!

I would guess that i've seen eighty-six thousand Hummers on this trip already


Landing party waiting for us to take us to the Ministry

Ministry of the Interior, the home of the infamous Mukhabarat, Saddam's secret police. Torture was a regular staple inside, and we've cleaned it up enormously, now more reminiscent of the FBI, and trying hard to inculcate a clean sense of professionalism in its members. We spent a few hours inside today, on "courtesy calls."

This traffic jam was actually caused by one of the bombings, near the Ministry of the Interior... I couldn't see the bombed cars themselves (other side of the helo) but the traffic at the bottom of the photo was being held up for remaining emergency vehicles.

Stadium and sports complex - reminds me that flying over Bahrain (we stopped there on the way to Qatar), I saw a gorgeous, very ritzy racetrack, all lit up, huge grounds and enormous pools attached

I regret not being able to wander around the city, I would enjoy that very much

Eight million drivers!

Eight million people!

Along the river

Oasis in the city

Nothing funny about this - one of at least 10 attacks today, over a hundred killed... included in the attacks were at least two on US convoys - unlike ours, outside the IZ (in other words, out in the Red Zone). We were flying to the Ministry of the Interior when we saw this - pilot just flew on, of course

I dig his helmet

Pat Linehan goofing around (our liaison to MNC-I, the Multinational Coalition in Iraq, in country for most of the war)

Okay, with the helmet on I'm definitely a DORK. It's Mike Dukakis all over again

Back for the fourth of our six helo trips on Day Two... "Where are we going??"

Alley by the Embassy (but inside the gates and walls)

Dude is good lookin

Our convoy ready to pick us up

Ceiling in the Embassy ballroom

Back in the Embassy "annex" ... nice ballroom, near the Press Office (which looked like the Press Office in any political campaign, frankly)

Lunch in the IZ cafeteria, lots of Iraqi govt officials, US personnel, soldiers from lots of countries (I saw Aussies, NZealanders, Pakistanis, and one incredibly good looking Italian soldier... wonder if he's got a busy social life)

2 Suicide bombs a few blocks away

I know it's a bad shot, but driving around the city you see a lot of bomb damage - mostly from our own bombing, buildings which haven't yet been fixed. Other cities have been doing a faster job than Baghdad itself of rebuilding. But then Baghdad has 8 million people...

Hey, also in Arabic!

Global Security hires almost exclusively Ghurkas, the legendary fighting tribe.. these guys are apparently crack shots and fearless

Most of the guards at the Embassy gates are private contractors employed by a company called Global Security Corp, and I see that this fellow has spray-painted a little corporate pride on the wall

At the embassy gate... that's friendly! It is HEAVILY fortified, even though it is in the IZ

Meeting with various military intelligence guys in an Embassy conference room

Model of the Embassy building... the model was kinda falling apart, gee, no symbolism there...

First meeting was at the US Embassy, which is in the old Republican Palace, quite nice... but this is temporary location - building a new Embassy from scratch.

Some sort of triumphal arch