Written on 8/7/08

From the customary smell of the country to the fine dust that immediately coats your hands, Iraq activates the senses and conjures up old memories long forgotten. Since returning to Iraq last night, I have been to two areas that I never visited before: Baghdad International Airport, and the Green Zone. Still, many things feel familiar.[# More #]

Due to continued security precautions, most transportation continues to take place at night. As a result, I am associating with new places in the dark, and thus very disoriented the next day. Everything looks different in the bright sun.

Major U.S. bases in Iraq remain the same. They contain the ubiquitous KBR-constructed buildings, TV lounges tuned into U.S. news channels, American general purpose stores and Burger Kings. It is easy to see how these sprawling bases isolate U.S. troops from the Iraqi community.

So far on this trip, my best and only view of the real Iraq has been on the flight from Kuwait to Baghdad. As we made our approach to the capital, I unconsciously began searching for the lights of one of the great Arab cities. When I saw nothing, I remembered how nightfall would plunge the Iraqi town where my platoon live into complete darkness. Much of Iraq still faces chronic electricity shortages, a problem not experienced on large U.S. installations.

I am itching to leave the disconcerting tranquility of the Green Zone. I prefer the towns and cities of Anbar, where reality is not hidden behind walls and barbed wire.