Under the quarter moon, in the high beams of their armored vehicles, US soldiers are gearing up for the most important day of the Iraq War. Seven years ago, this month, the United States and its “Coalition of the Willing” invaded in a bid to oust Saddam Hussein and seize his cache of weapons of mass destruction. When WMDs turned out to be a mirage, bringing democracy to Iraq became the war’s new raison d’être. Seven years after the beginning of the war, on March 7, 2010, the reality of Iraqi democracy is put to the test.
Dimiter Kenarov, for the Pulitzer Center
Friday. A day for prayer. Two days before the national elections. Still warm and sunny.
A lieutenant from the US Army offers to escort me inside the compound of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC). It is, supposedly, the most heavily-guarded building in Iraq right now, the high fortress of democracy, the central control room of the Iraqi parliamentary elections. I haven't registered with the IHEC, so I doubt they will let me in but decide to try my luck anyway.
Pickup trucks, SUVs, military trucks, Humvees, fire trucks, ambulances. Honking. Singing. It all looks like a big tailgate party. “If we were in America, there’d be shitloads of beer,” observes Dave Lee, a US Airman and now a cop with the International Zone Police in Baghdad, as we slowly drive past the commotion. It is the 4th of March, sunny, high 60s. Today all Iraqi Security Forces—army, police, and emergency personnel—are scheduled to cast ballots, a few days ahead of the official elections, when their job will be securing other people’s right to vote.
The sky over Baghdad is deep blue. Last night’s rain has washed the air spick-and-span. The day billows with promise—all green palms and golden mosques. Even the Aerostats, the ominous zeppelin-shaped surveillance balloons floating on the outer perimeter of the city, look somehow festive, like balloons at a party, and the bombed-out dome
“Lock the rear door.” The voice of our turret gunner is calm, almost weary, like the voice of a steward on a commercial flight from New York to Paris. “Passenger weapon status is amber. Insert magazine, but do not load a round in the chamber. I repeat, do not load a round in the chamber.”
Rick Rowley was interviewed on Democracy Now! on September 14th about his interaction with Abu Risha in Amman, Jordan during one of his last taped interviews. Abu Risha's death is considered a major setback for U.S. forces in Anbar. Democracy Now! broadcasts never-before-seen excerpts of Abu Risha in this broadcast exclusive.
As the crowd of chanting men grew around us, my translator gave me a sidelong glance.
"We should leave now," he said.
Iraq's agricultural sector is in serious trouble. The crisis is much worse than one bad growing season, and the explanation goes far beyond drought. David Enders reports from the formerly fertile crescent.
What was it like working as a female reporter in Iraq?
As a female journalist working in Iraq I face all sorts of difficulties in terms of the conservative society against women, in terms of working in a men's field and also working for international organizations and outlets or any sort of international or foreign company. While I did my work I was all the time more than men accused of collaborating with the occupier, with being loose, with not being conservative. And even though I had to put on this scarf I still had to act in a very conservative way.
The tough terms dictated by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki in the newly completed U.S.-Iraqi status of forces agreement marked a tactical concession in a domestic Iraqi battle for power that remains far from resolved.
Maliki’s homegrown antagonist is the Tayyera al Sadrieen, the Iraqi religious-nationalist movement led by Moqtada al Sadr that has resisted the U.S. occupation militarily and politically since 2003.
JARAMANA, Syria -- Hasem Abed is thinking about going back to Iraq.
The small-time auto trader, 32, left Diyala earlier this year after members of a Shia militia destroyed his house.
He says this town outside Damascus has been more secure, but he has run out of money and has been unable to find work. He is thinking of trying his luck in Baghdad.
Hassam Abdul Rahman might join him. Life in Iraq, the 42-year-old mechanical engineer says, "is very bad." But he, too, has exhausted his savings in Syria.
WASHINGTON -- After a stranger snapped her photograph as she entered the Green Zone, Tina Raad's family begged her to get out of Iraq.
At first, she resisted. The Iraqi woman had sought work with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Baghdad because she wanted to join in the reconstruction of her country.
But in the eyes of Iraqi insurgents, such collaboration made her a traitor. Changing her dress, varying the route she took to work and altering her hours had not stopped their threats. When her mother and three siblings fled Iraq, she relented.