View Full Version : War Comes to the Green Zone

10-17-2004, 12:07 PM
By Stephen A. Myrow
Stephen A. Myrow served in Iraq as the chief of staff of the Coalition Provisional Authority's Transportation Ministry.

October 17, 2004

Two suicide bombers met for lunch Thursday and then blew themselves up in the heart of the Green Zone, the home of the coalition and interim Iraqi government's leadership. Despite the fact that many American civilians, including some media members, reside within or regularly travel to the Green Zone, the American public has, at best, been offered a caricature of what life in the Green Zone is really like.

The Associated Press says the Green Zone "resemble[s] a suburban 'Little America' in central Baghdad with green lawns, restaurants, American television, U.S. area codes, even at least one swimming pool set up behind barricades and multiple checkpoints." Yet this same report fails to mention that most Americans like me and our coalition partners live in dressed-up shipping containers. The residential trailers are surrounded by ever-deteriorating sandbags that are not there for aesthetic purposes. I do not remember seeing many green lawns when I was there for three months this spring, but I have many memories of bombed-out buildings. Little America? Actually, it's a far cry from Topeka, Kan.

Government employees in the Green Zone regularly work seven days a week and up to 18 hours per day. Meals are taken military-style in communal dining facilities. It made my previous life as a corporate attorney on Wall Street seem like a part-time job. The normal workday is often interrupted with little annoyances, such as head counts to ensure that a staff member has not been blown up in the most recent car bombing at one of the checkpoints or when running to the bomb shelter as insurgents begin walking in mortars and rockets.

For security reasons, stories on the dangers to those who live and work in the Green Zone generally do not find their way into the media, thus leaving Americans with the impression that those inside the Green Zone live without danger. But just last week I received an e-mail from a friend reporting that a mortar round landed but didn't explode in a Green Zone tent housing 15 men. It's as if it never really happened.

Also unreported was the incident of the college student who worked down the hall from me for the Ministry of the Interior. He took a year off from school to dedicate himself to a cause in which he truly believed. He and his vehicle was riddled with bullets as he returned from a grass-roots, democracy-building event at Baghdad University. His life was saved when members of the Iraqi police pulled him out and raced him to the Green Zone. Just another day in Little America.

Violence is not a new phenomenon for those who live in the Green Zone, and it comes in waves. It is likely to increase as we approach the milestones of both our own election and the historic Iraqi election set for late January.

A rise in violence in and of itself does not necessarily signify that we are on the wrong path in Iraq. On the contrary, our nihilist enemies who seek to prevent democracy from taking root in the middle of the Arab world will rely on more aggressive and desperate acts of terror as we assist the Iraqi people in moving closer to their vision of a free Iraq.

There are regular cries for "supporting the troops." Not only do our troops deserve our respect but so do the civilians who tirelessly labor in the Green Zone. Though there is indeed a swimming pool, and even a pizza shack, these creature comforts are a far cry from everyday life in middle America.

I am perplexed by descriptions such as the one in the Associated Press almost implying that Zagat is about to publish its inaugural guide to dining and night life in the Green Zone.

I can see it now: "The tasty chicken sandwich has only a 50% chance of giving you food poisoning, but it is hard to maintain a conversation over the din of small-arms fire in the distance and pesky medevac helicopters hovering overhead." In short, green the symbol of safety is a relative color.


10-17-2004, 03:19 PM

10-17-2004, 04:21 PM
Liberal media bias, clearly.

Things are 10 times better and if you can't see that then you are an anti-American piece of crap terrorist. I can't wait until the day you die and God makes you suffer for your Satanic views.

10-17-2004, 05:48 PM
Liberal media bias, clearly.

Things are 10 times better and if you can't see that then you are an anti-American piece of crap terrorist. I can't wait until the day you die and God makes you suffer for your Satanic views.

I wonder when the Pentagon will ban reporting about the Green Zone...

10-17-2004, 05:51 PM
I'd never heard of the Green Zone until people started blowing themselves up there.

10-17-2004, 10:16 PM
Oct. 25 issue - The Green Zone was a haven, a little slice of America in the heart of Baghdad. At the Green Zone Cafe, you could order a burger, wash it down with a beer and imagine (if you tried really hard) that you were someplace comfortable and safe. That was true until last Thursday, when a jihadi sat down at a table and calmly set off a large bomb. Another insurgent left a big satchel charge at a souvenir bazaar nearby. The two explosions killed at least five people, including three American employees of the DynCorp security firm (a fourth is missing and presumed dead), and wounded another 20. "The Green Zone Cafe is gone. I got there three minutes after the blast and there were pieces of human flesh ... 200 feet out into the street," an American Army officer e-mailed NEWSWEEK. "The news says the insurgents probably brought the bombs in, [but] my gut tells me they are in here already and there is more to come."

The United States has 138,000 troops in Iraq, equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry and communications. So why can't U.S. forces safeguard one small patch of the Iraqi capital? The answer is simple: terrorists and insurgents are impossible to distinguish from civilians, they enjoy significant support from ordinary Iraqis and they're fighting in an urban setting. Other major targets in Baghdad have already been hit repeatedly. Insurgents have rocketed major hotels, and sealed off streets from midday traffic in order to kidnap foreigners. The highway linking Baghdad International Airport to the city center is the most vital stretch of road in the country, and just two miles long, but ambushes happen there on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.

American forces are much more successful outside of the cities. More than 3,000 troops belonging to the Second Brigade Combat Team of the Army's 10th Mountain Division deployed west of Baghdad last July. Since then, the number of mortar attacks near the sprawlinginternational airport has dropped by about 75 percent, and no rockets have been fired at air traffic in the last two months. Midlevel officers attribute their success to round-the-clock patrolling and a campaign to win over locals by distributing live chickens, soccer balls and water pumps. "Nothing is impossible," says Capt. Scott Shaw, a company commander who served in Afghanistan last year.

Yet the enemy has also proved to be adaptable. Roadside bombings have jumped 50 percent in the brigade's area of operations, and soldiers walk warily through towns and villages. "It's almost like fighting a ghost," says Staff Sgt. Wayne Hupman. "They blend in very well." In other cases, U.S. troops may be letting down their guard. An entire brigade of the First Cavalry Division is in charge of defending the Green Zone, and individuals entering some facilities can face three to six separate body frisks. But nobody examined the bags of two men with Jordanian accents who sipped cups of tea at the Green Zone Cafe before one of them blew himself up. "The First Cavalry Division has done a piss-poor job of securing the gates [of the Green Zone]," says the U.S. Army officer who witnessed the grisly aftermath of last week's attacks. "Even my translators complain they are not searched thoroughly when they come in." If that doesn't change soon, the safest place in Baghdad is bound to be thought of as just another hot zone.

With Rod Nordland in Amman, Christopher Dickey in Paris and Eve Conant in Washington


10-18-2004, 09:41 AM
and some people think OUR borders are well guarded.