You need to activate Javascript in your Firewall and Browser to get the best out of this multimedia site. There is NO SPYWARE.
Instant Search
Home arrow Home arrow Sitemap arrow List of articles arrow Bahgdad after the invasion
Bahgdad after the invasion Print E-mail
Tag it:
Furl it!
After weeks of U.S.-led bombings and Iraqi-lit oil trenches and a decade of decay from an economic embargo, it may be hard to see Baghdad as the once-mighty, modern Arab capital that Saddam Hussein built. U.S. troops have put a chokehold on the city and may obliterate much of what is left of Baghdad's glory before they occupy it. Hussein presided over the creation of a sprawling, cosmopolitan 2,000-square-mile city, which thanks to Iraq's 20th-century oil wealth fused an austere Socialist-style Baath Party ideology with the fabled history that was the setting for the tales of "A Thousand and One Nights." Today, U.S. troops, after raiding into the heart of the city, hold one end of the city at a once-gleaming airport that was a model for the Middle East. On the other end, more than 1 million Shiites live in a slum called Saddam City – all linked, more or less, by a freeway system that has reminded American visitors of Los Angeles. Baghdad is sliced in two by a river that runs through the Bible – the Tigris. And, especially between wars, affluent residents would spend their evenings in open-air restaurants along the river, dining on an outdoor slow-cooked fish feast called masgoof. The city has broad boulevards built wide enough for an armored tank column and an old souq, or bazaar, which by day clamored with a cacophony of brass workers a few alleys away from the Persian carpet merchants. In all, an estimated 6.7 million people live in metropolitan Baghdad, a city of apartment blocks and suburbs, university campuses and slums, complete with posh high-rise hotels, parks and what are coyly called palaces – the secret, now mostly smashed, compounds in which, for decades, the secret work of Hussein was carried out. More publicly, especially before the 1990 U.N. sanctions, Baghdad pumped a share of its oil wealth into massive building projects, as though Baghdad were Texas and Hussein the sheriff. Teams of architects designed huge monuments – many to war, but invariably also mentioning Hussein – drawing on the eras when Iraq was called Mesopotamia and the celebrated king was Nebuchadnezzar. Founded in the 8th century, Baghdad started as a circular city with double brick walls and emerged as a center of commerce and culture, poetry and scholarship by the time Mongols sacked it five centuries later. Renowned across the Arab world, and embodied in the tales of Arabian Nights, it was a city celebrated for centuries as a center of literary discussions, where the poet Abu Nawas wrote sultry paeans to wine and women. Sometime after he emerged as strongman in 1979 – mostly by systematically killing off rivals from a 1958 military coup against Iraqi royalty – Hussein began to see the city as a reflection of Baath Party destiny. The party's doctrine, an Arab form of socialism, ended royal power. Baghdad's crowds, according to accounts, cheered as the members of the royal family were dragged through the city's dusty narrow streets. Yet royalty is still part of Baghdad's history. As recently as the mid-1990s, visitors could find royal graves in a cemetery in a working-class section of the city. For years, under sanctions, Baghdad residents have lived on on-again, off-again rations. But the city also has offered American-style fast food for those who can afford it, high-tech computer links for those the regime trusted and, for years, some of the most esteemed artists, architects and archaeologists of the Arab world. It also had Saddam City, mile after mile of dusty, sandy slums where at least 1.5 million Shiite Iraqis live, long the underclass in this Sunni-dominated nation. In a startling juxtaposition to the modern image, many Shiite women veil themselves from head to toe in traditional black. In other parts of Baghdad, the atmosphere is secular, defying traditional Muslim taboos with a beer brewery, cafes and coed cinemas in the city center. Enforcing the liberality is an iron-fisted secret police network that for years has permitted barely a Muslim fundamentalist peep. But Baghdad does not hide its Islamic roots, and under Hussein's building schemes it has some of the largest and most beautiful mosques in the Middle East. Its universities also were among the best of the Arab world, with strengths in the arts and sciences, as well as a medical school where men and women became doctors, side by side.
< Prev   Next >
© 2018 Green Politics

This is Keith Richardson's alternative news site. The site aims to promote Truth, Justice, a green clean healthy environment and a wildlife friendly world. It is currently focused on Foreign News and particularly the Middle East.