I would have posted something earlier today but there was a lot to do and my brother reminded me that we have to go refill the car and that was two hours of wasted time waiting. It is not as bad as two days ago but the gas stations are still crowded. A couple of hours after I wrote that two police cars were standing near gas stations to keep things in order we went out again and there were more party members wearing their olive-green uniforms with Kalashnikovs in gas stations but today it is back to the police cars. There is a rumor that they will open the “special” gas stations for the public too, there are four of these in Baghdad used only by “them” or whoever has the right ID.
Before I go into what was going on today I really want to thank all the people who have been sending emails and letting me know that they care and worry about what will happen in Iraq, thank you so much. I hope you understand that it takes a bit of time to answer your questions so please don’t be angry if I don’t reply promptly. I print them out for Raed to read and he is totally baffled. some of them I wish I could publish or print and paste on light poles. Thank you very much.
And as a thank you here is a little web-gem. a true ohmigod moment. This is an image I found on [spaceimaging.com]. It is rather large but worth every second. Below I have posted a color coded thumbpix to give you a little info.
The feature most people would recognize when not seen from the top is the grand festival square (which is not a square at all. It is a semi-circle) it is in light blue. This is the one which has two huge intersecting swords at its entrance. The building below the semi-circle is the grand stand; this is the place that saw the big army marches last winter. The road to the right of it is called the Zaitoon (olive tree) Street, it has lots of olive trees obviously. On the green side of that street (the green area is a residential area called Harthiya) live many big wigs, don’t bother you CIA types reading the blog, they are empty now. The yellow area is the Zawra public garden, you see it here during the renovation period. They have just finished working on the garden. The brown longish thing down the left of the image is the clock tower of Baghdad, a very very hideous building and it houses the museum of Saddam’s presents (the ones he got from everybody, there was an article about a couple of months ago in the guardian I think). The blue square is a building that has been hit twice (desert storm and desert fox) after desert fox they decided to do a redesign since it was hit really bad. It is still unfinished but it does look nice. The red area is something I see with you for the first time. This is off boundaries to Iraqis, the whole area is a “presidential Palace”. The Sijood palace can be seen from the other side of the river and it is one of the most beautiful palaces, I really hope it does not get its “havoc recked”. I see it as a museum or some sort of academy in the future, I really like it.
A couple of weeks ago journalists were exasperated by that fact that Iraqis just went on with their lives and did not panic, well today there is a very different picture. It is actually a bit scary and very disturbing. To start wit the Dinar hit another low 3100 dinars per dollar. There was no exchange place open. If you went and asked they just look at you as if you were crazy. Wherever you go you see closed shops and it is not just doors-locked closed but sheet-metal-welded-on-the-front closed, windows-removed-and-built-with-bricks closed, doors were being welded shut. There were trucks loaded with all sort of stuff being taken from the shops to wherever their owner had a secure place. Houses which are still being built are having huge walls erected in front of them with no doors, to make sure they don’t get used as barracks I guess. Driving thru Mansur, Harthiya or Arrasat is pretty depressing. Still me, Raed and G. went out to have our last lunch together.
The radio plays war songs from the 80’s non-stop. We know them all by heart. Driving thru Baghdad now singing along to songs saying things like “we will be with you till the day we die Saddam” was suddenly a bit too heavy, no one gave that line too much thought but somehow these days it is sounds sinister. Since last night one of the most played old “patriotic” songs is the song of the youth “al-fituuwa”, it is the code that all fidayeen should join their assigned units. And it is still being played.
A couple of hours earlier we were at a shop and a woman said as she was leaving, and this is a very common sentence, “we’ll see you tomorrow if good keeps us alive” – itha allah khalana taibeen – and the whole place just freezes. She laughed nervously and said she didn’t mean that, and we all laughed but these things start having a meaning beyond being figures of speech.
There still is no military presence in the streets but we expect that to happen after the ultimatum. Here and there you see cars with machine guns going around the streets but not too many. But enough to make you nervous.
The prices of things are going higher and higher, not only because of the drop of the Dinar but because there is no more supply. Businesses are shutting down and packing up, only the small stores are open.
Pharmacies are very helpful in getting you the supplies you need but they also have only a limited amount of medication and first aid stuff, so if you have not bought what you need you might have to pay inflated prices.
And if you want to run off to Syria, the trip will cost you $600, it used to be $50. it’s cheaper to stay now. anyway we went past the travel permit issuing offices and they were shut with lock and chain.
It is being said that Barazan (Saddam’s brother) has suggested to him that he should do the decent thing and surrender, he got himself under house arrest in one of the presidential palaces which is probably going to be one of the first to be hit.
Families of big wigs and “his” own family are being armed to the teeth. More from fear of Iraqis seeking retribution than Americans.