Six months after American tanks stormed Baghdad and obliterated Saddam Hussein's regime, there are two realities here: The continuing war and a return to normality.
For those of us reporters who drift between these two galaxies, the dichotomy now passes for regular life, so much so that we fail to remark on it. The roar of tanks and attack helicopters competes with the din of jackhammers as streets are repaired and storefronts reopened.
One can swim laps in a sparkling pool to the sounds of a gunfight taking place a block away from the Palestine Hotel, a hulking 1970s high-rise with a panoramic vista of urban turmoil. Bombs and shootings intrude on mundane diversions. One night, a giant explosion from a trash-can bomb momentarily drowned out an "Ally McBeal" rerun on Lebanese television...
It may seem strange, but this city is suddenly throbbing with street life, even as the guerrilla insurgency drags on. Baghdadis have become tired of waiting for order to be restored, and have decided to get on with life.
Traffic jams are monstrous, as drivers burn nickel-a-gallon gas. Some drive used, spit-shined BMWs and Mercedes Benzes imported -- basically tax-free, since there's no government -- from relatives or salesmen in the rich Gulf states. Many mornings, it can take an hour to drive from the shopping districts of east Baghdad to the leafier residential neighborhoods west of the Tigris River.
Last week, U.S. officials shortened Baghdad's curfew by an hour, making it from midnight to 4 a.m., saying that the city's security had improved.
Monday, October 06, 2003
"A RETURN TO NORMALITY"