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May 21, 2007

Green Zone As Metaphor


Yesterday, I commented on a NYT WIR piece about the “fuzzyness” involved in defining the Iraqi picture.

Thinking about it overnight, I have to differ.  Censorship and limited access to battle zones not withstanding, I think more and more definitive evidence — at least, of a visual kind — has been showing up for weeks now. Take the photo above, for example.  If you don’t recognize it, it was taken on April 12th in the cafeteria of the Iraqi Parliament following a suicide bombing on premises.

This shot is not just the record of a single incident.  Rather, it is an iconic image, representative of two things:  1.) The inherent vulnerability of the inner sanctum of America’s primary security zone, and  2.) The inability of the Americans to absolutely secure a single make-or-break piece of Iraqi real estate.

Without following the daily Green Zone report, I know that The Green Zone was hit twelve days ago, while Dick Cheney was in the complex, supposedly offering some steadying influence.  The Green Zone was also hit three times in three days, culminating with a substantial attack on the U.S. military base in Taji eight days ago.

One thing that makes an image an icon is the ability to extrapolate the general from the specific, and then offer conclusions.  Is it simply coincidence this photo, like the image The Times published with its story yesterday, is defined by obscurity, cataclysm, and the inability to even tell night from day?

Once the goal in Iraq was the security of hearts and minds. Now viability rests on the ability to secure a couple of neighborhoods.  How do you make that argument, however, when you cannot secure this single place?

(image: A.P. TV/A.P. Baghdad. April 12, 2007. via YahooNews)

  • Aunt Deb

    Thanks for this picture. I’ve been wondering at the sniping being done at the Iraqi parliament for ‘taking a vacation’ this summer. As though our own Congress doesn’t do the same. And our own Congress does not have to contend with bombs in the cafetaria and assassinations on the way to work. Furthermore, such ’service’ to the country here earns Congress members health care, pensions, and lifelong esteem. In Iraq, the effect of such service is most likely to shorten one’s life and that of one’s family. As for esteem, well, look at how many Americans sneer at these people whenever they happen to think of them.

  • bluecheese

    “2.) The inability of the Americans to absolutely secure a single make-or-break piece of Iraqi real estate.”
    While this “piece” is in the green zone, the Iraqi’s are responsible for it’s security, they have been for some time.
    If you want a clearer picture, go to Bill Roggio to read about the positive developments in Anbar.

  • ummabdulla

    They look like they’re in a smoky theatre.
    Here’s a Warden’s message from the American Embassy in Kuwait, ordering any Americans in the Green Zone to restrict their movement, avoid congregating outdoors, and wear protective gear if they’re going to be outside for long. Sounds like things are peachy there.
    I don’t have the reports in front of me either, but a week or two ago, I think four Asian workers were killed there, and there were mortar attacks when Tony Blair was just there. I think it’s pretty much a daily occurrence.
    As for the Parliament taking a break, I would also add that it’s extremely hot during the summer, and they can’t count on having electicity in Baghdad. Besides the lack of A/C, I think the water comes by pumps, so if there’s no electricity, there’s no water either. Everybody who can takes a break during the summer – and why shouldn’t they? (One of them should bring up George Bush’s vacation schedule.)

  • itwasntme

    Thanks Ummabdulla, does this mean that Kuwait is closing it’s borders to American/other contractors, or is it easily possible to get a visa to transit thru Kuwait?
    Is this an important change in attitude by a supposed “ally” or does it indicate that Kuwaiti government is shutting down on cooperation with US?
    Any clarifying info you have would be appreciated.

  • jtfromBC

    Is the moon made of blue cheese ?
    Saddam Thought Baghdad’s Green Zone Was Safe Too.
    “The penetration of security in Baghdad’s Green Zone in broad daylight yesterday by a suicide bomber, into Iraq’s Parliament building located in the old Saddam Conference Center on its western edge, symbolizes everything that is wrong in Iraq.
    The Zone is officially known as the international zone, a less inflammatory label that suggests *non-U.S. control,* but everyone knows the truth.
    Parliament is officially safe and secured behind circles of Iraqi and contractor guards and checkpoints, a force that is now exposed as not just incompetent but probably completely penetrated by opponents of the government and the United States.
    As for the Green Zone itself, at various points in the past four years, we have heard pledges that the United States would reduce its presence there, even while it builds its largest Embassy in the universe and mans a Pentagon-like military headquarters” —-

  • ummabdulla

    itwasntme, I don’t really know; I didn’t pay much attention to that first message. It looks like they’d been allowing these contractors in with just these contractor ID cards, without having passports (which I guess they do for American military, too), and they’re not going to do that any more. I guess that from now on, they’ll be treated like everyone else, meaning that they have to have valid passports. Anyone with an American passport can just get a visa after arriving at the airport, for about $10.

  • Northern Observer

    The photo reminds me of 9/11. The dust the confusion the office setting. It establishes an kind of empathy between Americans and Iraqis. We are all suffering.

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