Insecure in Baghdad

Hazards of nation building
Getting to Iraq requires a flight from neighboring Jordan that ends with a hair-raising flourish: a 60-degree “corkscrew” turn into the former Saddam International Airport. “We have a slight missile problem,” said the impish pilot, a white South African, explaining that the tricky maneuver is necessary to avoid getting hit by a ground-launched rocket.

Fellow Americans on the Amman-Baghdad route included optimistic Baptist missionaries (“Things are improving,” said one) and earnest U.S. government and think-tank representatives who spoke about good intentions and appearances (“We have to convince the Iraqis that we’re sincere,” I overhear someone say). All brandish bulletproof vests as they prepare to make the unnerving journey from the airport to the center of Baghdad.

 

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