Archive for Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A sense of normalcy in Iraq

Drop in violence brings improvements to capital

A high-rise building, a newly opened park and the Tigris River are seen Sunday in central Baghdad. The Iraqi capital is becoming more stable as violence is dropping.

A high-rise building, a newly opened park and the Tigris River are seen Sunday in central Baghdad. The Iraqi capital is becoming more stable as violence is dropping.

July 15, 2008


— The corkscrew landing is a rite of passage for travelers to Iraq, who feel the pull of gravity as their airplane makes a rapid, spiraling descent to avoid ground fire.

So it was a surprise to one periodic visitor last week when the Royal Jordanian Airlines aircraft from Amman descended into Baghdad International Airport with the same lack of drama as any commuter flight anywhere. No sudden plunge, no tight rotation, no straightening out the flight path just before the runway.

It didn't feel like flying into a war zone anymore.

The absence - on a number of recent civilian flights, at least - of the "corkscrew" maneuver is a measure of how security has improved in Iraq. Back in November 2003, a missile hit a DHL cargo jet just after takeoff. The pilot managed to land safely.

Iraq is still very dangerous. The poisonous legacy of the sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites could last generations. More people will die in bombings and shootings.

But the debate, for now, is no longer about whether the country is heading toward civil war, or already in one. Rather, it is about whether Iraq has turned a corner toward stability, or is in a quiet spell before another bout of bloodletting.

In other words, can it hold?

The numbers look good (for a country as violent as Iraq): attacks at their lowest level in four years, casualties of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers down, oil production and revenues up.

There is also a new feeling that, while less easy to quantify, is no less important.

Even for a visitor restricted in movements because of security concerns, the improvement is evident in talks with Iraqis.

"It's good" or "It's better" is a common remark. Simple, guarded, but succinct. After five years of war, the people who say it should know. It is hard to find an Iraqi who has not been touched by conflict: a relative or friend killed or kidnapped, a family displaced or destitute.

In nearly a week, the only gunfire heard in a neighborhood near the International Zone - home to Iraqi government offices and the U.S. Embassy - was from a police firing range. Only one explosion. Two months ago, Shiite militants were firing mortars almost nightly into the zone.

The clatter of U.S. military helicopters, and even the roar of U.S. jet fighters, used to be a constant distraction. No longer. One recent night, a helicopter belonging to the Blackwater security group flew in circles over neighborhoods along the Tigris River.

Al-Sabah, a state-owned newspaper, reflects the confidence of a government that has benefited from the U.S. troop surge in 2007, the revolt of Sunni groups against al-Qaida in Iraq and the withdrawal of many Shiite militia groups.

"Their base is weaker than a spider web," reads the caption on a half-page advertisement that boasts of gains against the Iraqi wing of al-Qaida, which means "the base" in Arabic. The phrase is a play on a Koranic verse that remarks on the weakness of the unfaithful.

Many things are the same in Iraq: the blast walls that crisscross Baghdad in a maze of concrete, the military signs that say "Use of Deadly Force is Authorized," the checkpoints, including 48 alone on the road to Karbala, 60 miles south of the capital.

The same kind of passengers as always flew for 90 minutes from Amman to Baghdad last week. Most were security contractors, one with a T-shirt that said: "And the skulls of my enemies will be piled at my feet as trophies."

But no corkscrew landing.


cato_the_elder 8 years ago

Wow - another AP writer succumbs to the truth - and more power to him for doing so. And to our servicemen and women in Iraq and all others who are making the Saddam-less peace there a reality: Great job, and keep up the good work.

zbarf 8 years ago

I recall the words:LostQuagmireCivil WarImperialismDoomedOnly for OilAll uttered in ignorance!Will you now or ever admit your mistake and the real harm done to this countries reputation for speaking to soon? Or was the real reason to tarnish a president's reputation that you thought was improperly elected.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

Hey, you forgot to mention that I'm also immune to the effects of kryptonite, barry.

zbarf 8 years ago

I guess I would expect that response. It is hard to change ones views when it has been an obsession for 4+ years. To have that false reality come crashing down is more than most can handle. Maybe in the years to come as the real impact of the war in Iraq is realized, more will come to their senses and say..."wow, was I wrong on that one".

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

What I supported was staying the hell out of Iraq in the first place, and getting out ASAP ever since. You can spin that anyway you like, but your spin is your spin, not mine.

cato_the_elder 8 years ago

Interesting news report today about the removal from presidential candidate Obama's website of a prior page containing a header stating that "The Surge is Not Working."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

"LostQuagmireCivil WarImperialismDoomedOnly for Oil"Yep, that pretty well sums up the 5-year (and counting) history of this war.

John McCoy 8 years ago

Nice to have the guy with the T-shirt representing me and my country.

zbarf 8 years ago

I know you do...That is part of the problem. You hope we will fail so that the Bush supporters are proved wrong. Very sad!I hope we win and Iraq is a success so that we all can celebrate a future peace.

Satirical 8 years ago

I agree, Tony Snow was one of my favorite members of the media, and did a great job as the White House Press Secretary (which I would say even if he did it for a Dem).

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years ago

Bozo stil doesn't see fewer deaths in Iraq as positive. What a shame.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

"Bozo, Have you seen Charlie Wilson's War?"I haven't seen the movie, but from what I know of him, he seems to be an alternately lovable and loath-able crackpot.

redwaggoner 8 years ago

WMD's? Hell, that was an excuse for the rep's. to go to war! Every time we get a rep prez, we seem to wind up with a war on our hands. Lets INSIST on a time-tablew fropm OUR elected officials and get the hell out of Iraq, Iran & the ME. The have been fighting for centuries w/o our help or interference. GET the flock out of the middle east and let them fight it out themselves. We need to take care of our own people first & other countries second! I'm tireds of all our tax (& other) dollars going to the middle east and the far east(China)! Buy American & support our country!

redwaggoner 8 years ago

Perry: Are you sure you're not talking about GWB? Sounds mor like him.

Satirical 8 years ago

Re: this article..."The truth shall let you free"My guess is we will still have ignorant people claiming that we should withdraw immediately or too rapidly, because the Iraqis want a timetable for withdrawl. The obvious fallacy in the remark is, saying you want a timetable is not the same as saying you want us immediately to leave. When you start school you have a timetable to finish, that doesn't mean you are going to finish in a year. Perhaps some of the libs should read Obama's most recent (it keeps changing) stance on Iraq, even though it is highly ambigious and filled with wiggle room. He agrees the U.S. shouldn't leave too soon (paraphrasing).

Satirical 8 years ago

chet_larock...I can also not help you for not doing your research. Maybe you just recently starting paying attention to Obama, but Hillary was much more careful in her wording during the Demo debates to not state we would be leaving too precipitously, and she got attacked by the other Dems for her stance.

chet_larock 8 years ago

Finally, a little peace and quiet so we can get our oil! Seriously though, hopefully this is the norm not the exception going forward. "Perhaps some of the libs should read Obama's most recent (it keeps changing) stance on Iraq, even though it is highly ambigious and filled with wiggle room. He agrees the U.S. shouldn't leave too soon (paraphrasing)."Perhaps cons should look back at what he's said before -- and they wouldn't make silly comments like this one :)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

"Define "P" in ASAP"How long does it take to put 170,000 people in planes and fly them out?

jaywalker 8 years ago

Yeah, surprised to see a positive post from the AP. It's unfortunate they couldn't do that with their posting concerning Tony Snow's passing. Baby steps, I guess...

chet_larock 8 years ago

Actually, it's your fault AND GWB's fault, Ms. Nancy. You still hate America. WHY?

Sage Seay 8 years ago

"LostQuagmireCivil WarImperialismDoomedOnly for Oil"These words are TRUE today and have been along with no WMD found AND opportunities for people/companys to profit from war. To zbarf: I pray you are correct and that one day we will be able to say :"wow, was I wrong on that one".I was against the war for many reasons. Just to name a couple I'd like to form them in a question. After Hussain witnessed the destruction our troops did to his country during the Gulf War, why would he risk doing anything for Iraq to be attacked again? Also, why did we use the reason to wait for around 20 years to have him tried for crimes againsts humanity when we knew this when it happened? He was cruel but not stupid.Now we have a tigar by the tail. I'd love to see our troops leave Iraq. But just as with Nam, it won't happen for quite some time no matter who gets elected for prez UNLESS some definite time frame is DEMANDED by the Iraqian government. BTW, I watched a documentary where an employee of the Pentagon worked and quit. Why? Because of UN-elected officials called the "Think Tankers" that plan wars years in advance. Ever heard of that? In any event, I'd really like yours and anyone else's answer. I'm glad to read there was no need for a corkscrew landing. So sad it was ever needed in the first place.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

"The numbers look good (for a country as violent as Iraq): attacks at their lowest level in four years, casualties of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers down, oil production and revenues up."Lowest level in 4 years-- that goes back to 2004. How were the conditions in 2004? Disastrous, if I recall correctly, and I do. So things have improved to disastrous, and we're supposed to consider this "good news," as if the approximately 5000 dead Americans (counting contractors) and likely 1 million dead Iraqis are no longer dead, or that nearly 5 million Iraqis are no longer refugees, or that the total destruction of Iraq's infrastructure and economy had been meaningfully reversed.The invasion and occupation remain the single stupidest action in modern US history. Grasping desperately for anything that can be labeled positive, however erroneously, will not change that.

chet_larock 8 years ago

"Or was the real reason to tarnish a president's reputation..."Nope, ol' boy did that all by his'self.

chet_larock 8 years ago

Satirical, I can't help you if you won't do the research regarding Obama's Iraq position.

Satirical 8 years ago

chet_larock....To the subjective I am sure his comments are totally reconcilable. However, to the objective, during the Demo primaries and debates (I watch them for the same reason people enjoy horror movies) he threw himself in the fray regarding the "who is going to leave Iraq soonest" contest. Now he is saying we shouldn't be too quick to leave.Although I am sure you can find ONE of his earlier statements that is ambiguous enough to make the uniformed believe his position never really changed. But it is clear from the majority of his rehetoric, that over time his stance has changed (in the right direction).

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