I was spinning through downtown Baghdad last night. We had a just cruised through our area, and decided to trek through the International Zone, just to get our bearings. Our normal area is south of the city, in a small subdivision. It’s filled with wealthy, poor, and looks like your typical 3rd world city, with its have/have-not separations, religious divisions, and trash.
The International Zone, however, is different. If you haven’t been there lately, you would be generally amazed at its transformation. Instead of T-walls, barricades and barbed wire, the roads are generally open, with wide lanes and clean streets. Even late at night, as we cruised through, we saw people on the street, a few cars, and activity in and around some of the coffee shops and small eating places. I think there is still a curfew, however, in the IZ; I think ignoring it is a thrill. As I surveyed the areas, (I can do that, because I sit in the turret of my Hummer) I saw new construction, repair of damaged buildings, and, above all that, the smell of the city. Instead of raw sewage and smoke, I could smell food being cooked, the smell of the coffee shop, and a faint scent of incense. I could here laughter, conversation, and people having a good time. The lights played off the streets, and, for a moment, I thought I was in Kuwait city or Qatar.
Is this what Baghdad was like? Before the war, before the chaos? Is this what the future is going to be like for this nation, as the IZ expands beyond the border of the city to other regions of the country? Is this is what the terrorists and insurgents are trying so hard to destroy?
If so, we need to do what needs to be done because the future here is full of hope. I have seen the streets of Mosul, the downtown sections of Najaf, Fallujah, Sadr City, Ramadi and Tal A’far, and they could look similar to this if the effort is made and the peace is won. The democratization of this country needs to be a priority not of the coalition forces, nor the politicians, sheiks, tribal leaders or visiting dignitaries. This priority needs to be set by the masses of this country. They need to understand, to see with their own eyes, what peace holds for their future, and the potential the “good war” has for them. Without that, I think, it will only become harder to unseat the insurgents, terrorists, and factions trying to foster the madness.
As we turned south and headed across the bridge leading out of the IZ, I turned back to see the river and a last look. Where is the media now? Where are the reporters, the cameras, and the breaking news? Why can’t they show images like this? Because this doesn’t generate the big fees from advertising, doesn’t foster the “TERRORISM ALERT: ELEVATED” fear that our political leaders want. Because it makes everything look peaceful, and we just don’t want that now, do we?
Crossing the bridge, we hear machine guns south of us, and are moving towards it. I smell smoke, and can hear police ambulance sirens wailing. Time to go back to work.
Please say a prayer for the Marines, soldiers and the families of those that were killed and wounded yesterday.