Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Perspective: Baghdad up close and personal

BAGHDAD - It's noon on Sunday right in front of the Adhamiyah wall - the now infamous symbol of the Pentagon-devised Baghdad gulag. On Muhamad al-Kasem highway, a few battered cars and vans stop, their occupants curious to examine this prime stretch of "ghettoization".

Behind lies Adhamiyah, one the key arteries of the Red Zone and privileged heartland of Sunni Arab guerrillas. The streets are littered with all sorts of debris, some blocked by tanks, some blocked by the usual blast wall slalom. The road to Abu Hanifa Mosque - where the Sunni Arab resistance was born on April 8, 2003, a little over a week after the "liberation" of Baghdad - is also blocked. It was in Abu Hanifa that a 3,000-strong demonstration assembled last week to protest against the wall. Adhamiyah is virtually encircled by US forces, but their checkpoints are always mobile.

A few minutes later we are still close to the heart of Adhamiyah, on al-Mashatil Road, one of its main streets. We are unembedded, non-Hummer convoy-transported, non-Kevlar protected, and not surrounded by 100 soldiers and circled overhead by three Black Hawks and two Apaches, like US presidential candidate John MacCain in his recent visit ("Hello, habibi!") to Shorja market (the next day 21 merchants and workers at the market were ambushed and murdered). We are just three journalists - two Iraqis, Abdel and Fatima (their real identities should be protected) and one foreigner, his head in a keffiah, all aboard a civilian Toyota stuck in traffic.

There's a checkpoint ahead.

Read the rest at Asia Times