Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Dispatches from Iraq, Part 8

Christian writes in with the latest news from the Green Zone:

Baghdad - June 2, 2004

Yesterday proved exciting enough. On my way to lunch with one of my coworkers, we heard a boom off in the distance followed by what sounded like a rocket whizzing by overhead - the most frightening kind of firework. Booms are not as frightening anymore. If you hear one, the attack already happened and you are safe. However, the sound of a rocket flying by means that the worst is yet to come. At such a moment, there is only one thing you can do - hit the deck. We did so immediatly. Then we got up and ran over to one of the many concrete shelters erected throughout the Green Zone for just this kind of occasion. Afterward, we hit the chow hall and in the middle of our meal, another boom sounded and shook the entire dining facility. There was one beat of silence and everyone went back to enjoying their meals. Hardly a conversation was interrupted. It seems as if anything can become routine.

I had my first day off this past Monday for Memorial Day. I spent most of the day recovering from the previous evening's festivities and lounging by the pool. The night before, the Coalition Provisional Authority (the current government of Iraq) threw a BBQ complete with an amateur rock band of army people who covered everything from country to Jimi Hendrix. The shish kabobs were excellent but the burgers could have been better. Quite a high calibre political event. General Sanchez (the US military commander in charge of Iraq) was there. I ate my dinner but a few feet from him as he was posing for photographs and signing autographs just like a Hollywood celebrity. The British Ambassador recited a speech by Tony Blair. This was followed by an address by L. Paul Bremer (I stood but a couple yards away) thanking the staff of the CPA for their hard work. I was very impressed with his delivery. He sounded very sincere and exuded a sense of charisma one would expect of such a man with his position. After his talk, there was a prerecorded address by President Bush who hoped we enjoyed our BBQ. (Not very impressive after Bremer's talk.) One thing I have noted about Bremer - there is very little bad press on him. The consensus seems to be that he has performed extraordinarily well considering all the adversity.

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