Monday, August 25, 2008
Driving Through Baghdad
We did a "windshield tour" of Baghdad this morning, visiting areas that we haven't been to lately and confirming routes and accessibility. The traffic was outrageous which is par for the course in the city. The white lines on the road are meaningless, and it's just an absolute food-fight on four wheels, everyone is trying to get ahead of the next guy.
There are plenty of people on the streets and all of the stores are open for business. The one thing that I noticed was that the Iraqi Police did not have as large a presence on the streets as it has in the past, when you would see dozens of blue and white SUVs bullying their way through traffic, automatic weapons hanging menacingly out open windows. Today I saw only pieces of that. The same is true for the American Army, it's presence was almost non-existant when compared to that of the Iraqi Army. I take all of that as a good sign.
Another particularity is that the majority of Iraqis don't have functioning air conditioning in their cars. When stuck in traffic they think nothing of getting out, leaving the doors open, and walking over to the water hose along side the road for a quick cool-down. It matters not if the traffic starts to move again, the Iraqi will get back to his car when he's ready. Everyone else must find their own way around his abandoned vehicle.
Finally, in the intersections you will normally find one or two disheveled Iraqi traffic police. They wear these funny, black bus driver hats, and absolutely no one pays them any attention. It's clear that they're powerless. I think that they should be armed with hammers, and if a vehicle fails to yield the traffic police can pound away on the car's hood until the desired result is achieved. Think of it as an instant traffic fine, and I guarantee it'll work because Iraqi's love their cars, no air conditioning and all.