I’m heading home in a day or so, my short time here in Iraq has come to an end, causing me to become slightly reflective of those things that have recently changed. Over the past months:
- The security situation has vastly improved, to the point where violence is the exception and not the norm. Daily explosions and gunfire that could be heard throughout Baghdad is now a rarity. Today automatic weapons are fired less in anger and more to celebrate local weddings and soccer victories.
- The streets are full of pedestrians going about their daily business; children happily walk to school, the shelves of neighborhood shops are full of goods, and kids peddle refreshments to gridlocked motorists.
- The road to the airport is undergoing a face-lift; painted murals adorn concrete blastwalls, new bright and shinny guard rails, palm trees, irrigation, and new hope-filled billboards. They still haven’t fixed the heavily pot-holed road though.
- Main battle tanks, Bradleys, and Strykers are a rarity on the Baghdad streets now. HMMWVs still flit around but chances are they belong to the Iraqi Army and not the Coalition.
- Muqtada al-Sadr has been severely marginalized and his Madhi Army fractioned into many dysfunctional pieces.
- PSDs still operate with an amazing degree of aggressive disregard for those around them. The Iraqi Government, however, is on the verge of striping their legal immunity. I’m waiting for the first PSD to get pulled over by the Iraqi Police and ticketed for speeding☺
- The Baghdad airport is undergoing renovation. Operations have moved to another terminal while the old one is “improved”.
- The government is reconstructing the many traffic circles in the city that were destroyed during the war. Work is progressing slowly but there is still no order to the traffic that circumvents them.
- The Iraqi soccer team has enjoyed great success, acting as a unifying force for this country. Soccer is the one thing that every Iraqi can get behind and support.