Story Publication logo March 18, 2010

Iraq: Orpheus's Error


Iraq: Reporting the 2010 Parliamentary Elections

The Iraqi elections of 2010 played out against a backdrop of reduced but continuing violence...

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Print and Image by Dimiter Kenarov, for the Pulitzer Center
Baghdad, Iraq

Taking cover from death, I live in a tomb. My CHU (Containerized Housing Unit) is tightly girded by twelve-foot-high concrete T-walls. Right in front of my door, a slab of wall has been pushed slightly forward, like an oversize tombstone, so I can sidle in and out through the convenient gaps. The T-walls would not withstand a direct mortar attack; they should, theoretically, make me feel safer.

US troops sleep in a cemetery of CHUs. At dusk they lie down in their fortified tombs, and come out at dawn, like vampires recoiling from the bright Baghdad sun. When they need to journey out into the Red Zone, they use giant steel caskets on wheels called MRAPs and wrap themselves like mummies in thick-plated body armor.

It's all about survival.

The US Army believes Iraq is the Underworld, and to survive in the Underworld, one has to prepare accordingly. "Think like the dead" should be the unofficial motto of the Iraq War. To blend in, American soldiers are feigning death.

But Iraq is not the Underworld...

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