Iraq: 2010 Election Day and Beyond

In December 2005, two months after the ratification of the new constitution, 80 percent of Iraqi voters took part in the country's free parliamentary elections. High turnout and low levels of violence gave hope for optimism, but the future proved much, much darker. A vicious wave of terrorist attacks and sectarian bloodshed in 2006 nearly destroyed the little that was left of Iraq, and brought the country to the brink of civil war. Institutional infighting stalled the political process; armed militias, regular and irregular, roamed the neighborhoods, killing and kidnapping peaceful citizens at will; a culture of intimidation sent thousands of Iraqis fleeing their homes and country. For all the official talk, there was no government in charge.

Since 2007, with the surge of US troop levels and the Sunni Awakening in full swing, violence has not disappeared, but it has substantially decreased. Though still mired in rivalries, the representatives of the main political parties have been trying to forge a compromise. The parliamentary elections in March of 2010 tested the resolve of both Iraqi politicians and community to preserve the precarious peace and achieve greater national unity, beyond the fault lines of religion and ethnicity. The drama played out against stepped-up training of Iraqi police and army units by U.S. troops and contractors committed to an exit from the country by mid 2011.

These reports from Baghdad follow the 2010 Iraqi elections, before, during, and after.

It's Impossible to Leave Iraq

He wakes up at five in the morning and washes away his deep-sea dreams, the hot water spilling off his balding crown, running down his goatee and his bulky paunch...

Iraq: Orpheus's Error

Print and Image by Dimiter Kenarov, for the Pulitzer Center
Baghdad, Iraq

Taking cover from death, I live in a tomb. My CHU (Containerized Housing Unit) is tightly girded by twelve-foot-high concrete T-walls. Right in front of my door, a slab of wall has been pushed slightly forward, like an oversize tombstone, so I can sidle in and out through the convenient gaps. The T-walls would not withstand a direct mortar attack; they should, theoretically, make me feel safer.

Iraq: City of Trash

After the post-election glow, Baghdad is back in the real world. The streets are clogged with vehicles honking and people hawking. Men are walking to work (or, more likely, looking for jobs); women are out shopping (if their husbands are lucky enough to have jobs). The posters of politicians sag, peel off the blast walls, and fall face down, trampled under the shoes of millions.

Iraq: The Hurt Locker 2

Three days after Iraqis voted amid a barrage of bombs and Hollywood awarded Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker six Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director), I’m at Baghdad’s General Counter Explosive Directorate, the center of Iraq’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal programs.