• Baghdad at High Volume: Five years after the invasion of Iraq, says correspondent Sam Dagher, significantly more walls have gone up in Baghdad to protect buildings and neighborhoods from car-bomb attacks. Beyond that, more licensed and unlicensed guns are on the streets and the sound of sirens rivals that of humming generators.
The additional walls, checkpoints, barricades, and dead-end roads in Baghdad's divided neighborhoods have translated into a daily challenge for residents, Sam says: "unbelievable" traffic jams.
"Iraqi and US forces, Iraqi officials from top leaders to petty party officials, and diplomats still need to get around," Sam notes. "This means traveling high-profile, especially for the growing cadre of Iraqi officials. They take large SUVs trailed by pickups – often with fierce-looking masked gunmen peering from the rooftops or the back of the open trunks and pointing their big guns at commuters just to get through." Most Iraqi official convoys, Sam adds, are now equipped with frightful sirens.
"Sitting in traffic recently," Sam muses, "I counted a wailing siren every second."
The guns are not only now in the convoys, but at official Army and police checkpoints, in the hands of the armies of private and government guards protecting public buildings, and at all the other checkpoints set up by US-funded militias and neighborhood guards. Iraqi citizens joke that officials are taking the official American style of travel in Baghdad to extremes now. "Put it all together," Sam says, "and the result is a place like no other on the face of the earth."
– Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor