The following is from a letter to Lilly Rivlin by a participant in last year’s Meretz USA Israel seminar, currently doing development work in Iraq. We are posting this anonymously to prevent any negative consequences for this individual.

… the International Zone (IZ) is undergoing “beautification.” There is no civil war. And things are getting better (aparently except for Donald Rumsfeld and the three mosques that exploded Friday). The war against “Oceana” [alluding to Orwell’s 1984— RS] continues and will be successful.

Let’s talk about the IZ. It is huge, encompassing a lot of empty area, pushing out–maybe doubling–the boundaries of Saddam’s most extensive compound . It includes his medical buildings, the legislative building, some administrative ones, a couple of false palaces, a place for visiting dignitaries, etc. A few are pristine but more “need repair”–something about rockets. Most of the IZ simply is unused capacity, even where buildings might accommodate or be made to accommodate offices.

I am no expert, of course, but from what I can observe the air strikes must have been pretty surgical, because there will be an untouched building right next to one with its face sheared off. Etc. I am told that Sadam had a zillion palaces spotted around Iraq, some large compounds, some villas. All prepared three meals a day, because he traveled unanounced between them, never spent more than ten hours a day in one–warding off assassination. Most State Dept and army folks live in temp metal buildings near their work, often sharing a room or bathroom. Of course, I imagine that is not exactly true for everyone there.

We meet the board of the Baghdad Private Business Center now in formation at the Al Sadeer restaurant, in a hotel that I think is unused, except for some shops. It is the only restaurant in the IZ not in an office building. A general got tired of barfights, stimulants smuggled out to other troops, and carrying on (I supposed that could be called messing with privates).

We can look out from the entrance there and see the tomb of the Iran war’s unknown soldier. Actually, it really is the tomb of the very well-known soldier. The corpses all are on display. There is an irony in all this that I imagine is not lost on Iraqis. The area was off limits to them during Saddam’s time: now an expanded version of it is equally inaccessable to them. Trading one master for a bigger, badder one. Cultural Sensitivity Gone Wild!

The inadequate current U.S.Embassy, home to 3,000 bureaucrats and soon to be replaced by what may be the largest building in the IZ, occupies Saddam’s old seat-o-gov palace. Not that the current building is not sizeable. It features a large central domed chamber with nice architecture, flanked by two curving columned wings leading to big cubes on each end. I figure the design must imitate something modest from Babylonia. Looking up, the gorgeous high mosque-like dome shows geometric relief work–but in sand-colored cement.

By | 2006-04-25T14:03:00-04:00 April 25th, 2006|Blog|0 Comments

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