Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Perspective: Life in the 'Red Zone'

It was hard enough to organize my trip from France to Baghdad. But once there, it proved even tougher to get to get into the "green zone," the American military and diplomatic headquarters and construction site of a new American embassy that will be the largest in the world.

I had an appointment with an aide to General David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq. A press officer offered to meet me at one of the main checkpoints. I advised him by cell phone how he would recognize me: "Don't look for a Western-looking woman. I'm dressed like an Iraqi."

He met me in full combat gear. Between the first checkpoint and the parking lot of the U.S. Embassy, still based in Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace, a distance of about a mile, I was checked six times. I had come from the "red zone."

The "red zone": that is to say, all of Baghdad outside the fortified American enclave. The "no-go zone." The sprawling capital city that is home to more than 10 million people. That's where I lived for two weeks to get "the other side" of the story. To do that, I had no choice but to blend in.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune