Basra

Remembering Basra

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Nine years ago, I drove into Iraq one spring morning. As we leave it’s worth recalling: After all the angry commissions and self-serving memoirs, the war was always more complicated than it seemed.

BY SUSAN B. GLASSER DECEMBER 15, 2011

So much has happened since that it’s a shock to go back and remember. The smell of confusion on that first day of the ground war, when we rose in the middle of the night and drove our rental cars from the Kuwait City airport through the blowing sands until we found an obliging British unit that didn’t mind letting a pack of anxious, unauthorized reporters into Iraq. When we found ourselves facing gunfire — not parades — and little boys throwing stones, and mines placed along the side of Highway 8, the main road to Baghdad, the one that U.S. troops were even then pounding north on.

This was during the period that President George W. Bush so memorably, and incorrectly, referred to as “major combat operations” in his ill-advised victory speech a few months later. Of course, with nine years of hindsight, it’s fair to say it was most likely the safest time for an American to be driving around southern Iraq in a rental car, Motown music blaring, accompanied only by a few friends and a single shared interpreter whose Beirut dialect of Arabic was hardly any help at all in Basra as it turned out.

We did not see what we expected. But then again, who did? Could anyone have imagined where we would be nine years later, as another president and another era finally bring to a close the chaos unleashed that night in the warm air of southern Iraq? Read the rest of this entry »

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