Michael Totten has a wonderfully detailed, powerfully honest account of the surreal nature of Baghdad today – still a wreck but not a total war zone, dark as a forest at night, in a lull whose future is unknowable. Money quote:
I stayed outside and talked to Sergeant Pennartz who stood watch on the porch.
“I sure hope this holds,” he said, “because we’re going to pull out soon. I think it’s a mistake. This country is going to need help for years. But at the same time I really really really don’t want to come back here. That’s how a lot of us feel. We don’t want to pull out, but we also don’t want to be here. I just hope the peace holds so we don’t have to come back and fight for the ground we already won and abandoned. Again.” …
“On the surface everyone will tell you Sunnis, Shias, we don’t care, we’re all Iraqis,” Sergeant Pennartz said. “But talk to them for a while and they’ll tell you what they really think. Do you know what those Shias did? Et cetera. Some Sunnis say Shias were never in Iraq until the Iran-Iraq war. Some are totally ignorant and say they’ll never live next to Shias.”
We eventually climbed back in the Humvees and headed back toward the FOB. On the way I saw orange trees covered in dust behind crumbling walls. Wild dogs ran in the streets. Iraqi Police officers huddled around a fire to keep warm like bums around a burning trash can in The Bronx.
“Sometimes,” Lieutenant Dimenna said, “during the worst of the rainy season, the sewage here gets up to ankle level.”
Visit his tip-jar.