We are driving across Baghdad when a GMC full of armed men races past our car, missing it by inches. Along with guns pointed out their windows at us (and all the other cars), a couple of the men hold their hands out, waving them down toward the ground in order to instruct the traffic they are pushing their way through to stay back.
CIA and mercenaries always travel like this here.
As the SUV passes, a gunman sits behind a metal barrier with his machine gun aimed at us. He’s flashing a light at us, to underscore the fact we should stay back.
As a second SUV full of armed men wearing helmets passes us, my friend Ahmed turns to me and says, "We are nowhere here. Iraq is nowhere now. Look at this life we are living."
The unbearable gas crisis has worsened yet further. Lines at stations are up to eight miles long in places, causing people to wait hours, sometimes days, for fuel. If they are lucky, the station won’t run out of gas before they are allowed in to fill their tank.
Petrol on the black market now, if you are lucky enough to find it, is nearly $1 per liter!
Generators are now running out of fuel so people have no electricity as the power grid for most of Baghdad produces in most places six hours of electricity per day. Much of Baghdad has two hours per day.
The gas crisis has increased transportation costs, so the cost of food is skyrocketing, along with cooking fuels like kerosene and propane.
Of course, it doesn’t help that today yet another pipeline was sabotaged that links the Beji refinery to Baghdad.
I took the day at my hotel to catch up on some writing. Yet another large explosion nearby rattled the glass of my windows, and of course there is sporadic automatic weapons fire throughout the capital.
"I hate this fucking place," says Salam as he enters my room tonight. He is pissed because he was instructed to be searched by Iraqi Police by soldiers who are stationed nearby. One of the IPs told him, "The soldiers are stupid motherf*ckers, so just let us search you. We know you come here all the time, even though they can’t remember. We have to do our job."
It didn’t help his disposition any yesterday when he was at an Internet café and a tank could not make it past his car as it was parked on a narrow street. An Iraqi policeman found Salam in the Internet café nearby and told him, "The soldiers told you to move your car or they will run it over. You’d better do it, because I’ve seen them run over a car there before."
Another example of the winning of hearts and minds of Iraqis is being formulated for the residents of Fallujah. The military has announced the plans it is considering to use for allowing Fallujans back into their city.
They will set up "processing centers" on the outskirts of the city and compile a database of peoples’ identities by using DNA testing and retina scans. Residents will then receive a badge that identifies them with their home address, which they must wear at all times.
Buses will ferry them into their city, as cars will be banned since the military fears the use of them by suicide bombers.
Another idea being kicked around is to require the men to work for pay in military-style battalions where these "work brigades" will reconstruct buildings and the water system, depending on the men’s skills.
There will also be "rubble-clearing" platoons.
The intent of the U.S. commanders and Iraqi leaders is to make Fallujah a "model city."
I wonder if they’ll try this in Baghdad. The goal of crushing the resistance and creating stability by destroying Fallujah has gone so well that resistance fighters here roamed freely about Haifa street today hunting for Iraqis collaborating with U.S. forces.
They executed a man they suspected as being a collaborator in Tahrir Square, and then they moved on to Mathaf Square, just three blocks from the "Green Zone" where the interim government and U.S. embassy are located.