Sophia's Peace Work

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Old Ronald would be spinning in his grave (if he had a grave)
The following is from a friend on the Christian Peacemaker Team currently in Iraq.

Life in the Green Zone
by Greg Rollins - June 18, 2005

I recently talked to a foreigner I know who lives in the Green Zone, Saddam's old palace grounds in the centre of Baghdad. The Green Zone is about four kilometres long and two kilometres wide. It holds the biggest U.S. embassy in the world, the British embassy, along with several others, the Iraqi parliament and dozens of foreign
organizations and contractors. The man I spoke to works for a telecommunications company. He said the Green Zone is like a prison. He wants to leave it and live else where in Baghdad but his company won't let him.

One condition that makes his life there so difficult is the myriad levels of security. Almost every major contractor or organization in the Green Zone has its own security unit. Each one is an entity unto itself. He refers to these security guards as cowboys, strutting around with their guns strapped to their thighs. Many security companies have their own checkpoints in front of their buildings. He said every time he leaves his apartment he must pass through two of these checkpoints on his street alone. It can take him as long as fifteen minutes to pass through them. I asked him if the guards ever recognized him and let him pass without checking him. He said they do recognize him but always search him.

To pass through some of these security zones the guy showed me several of his ID badges. Each one allows him to enter a different place. The badges reminded me of stories about Beirut in the 1970s when journalists needed different forms to move through the checkpoints of the numerous militias. The guy told me that each badge had different restrictions. Some stated he needed an escort to go places, some read he needed prior permission to enter areas. I asked him if it was true that there was a McDonald's in the Green Zone. He said there was but you needed a special badge to go there.

My teammate Tom asked if the badge had a picture of Ronald McDonaldon it.

The man I spoke with was also irritated by the fact that the Iraqis who work for him are not allowed to go anywhere in the Green Zone with out him escorting them. Every morning he has to pick them up at one of the entrances and every night he has to drop them off there.

The guy did not like the behaviour of the U.S. soldiers in the Green Zone either. He said they yell at cars to move out of their way, pointing their guns at anyone and everything. If they drove that way inside the Green Zone, he was afraid to hear how they drove outside the Green Zone in Iraqi traffic.

From my own experiences in the Green Zone and from what other people I know who live there have said, life in such a tight environment is not satisfying. It might be a "safe" place but it isn't real. It doesn't reflect what is happening in Iraq.
Most foreigners who live in the Green Zone never set foot outside its borders. They spend months here but they have no idea what Iraq is really like. It makes me wonder if people inside the Green Zone, particularly U.S. military and government officials, really know what is going on in Iraq at all.


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