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Story Publication logo August 2, 2008

No Roads Out, No Roads Home


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"Iraq: Death of a Nation" examines how the U.S. invasion and occupation created a multi-faceted...

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Mehyar said he had a car, but he didn't bring it with him.

"It's broken," he told me, and I'm sure my expression gave away my dismay. "We can take a cab, or we can take my bike."

Workers in Baghdad's Chikook neighborhood are busily keeping up with demand for housing in this Shiite enclave.By spring 2006, getting in a cab in Baghdad, especially as a non-Iraqi, had become a pretty dicey proposition. I weighed that against the prospect of climbing on the back of Mehyar's bike, a 1000-cc Yamaha crotch rocket.

"There are only four like it in all of Iraq," he told me proudly. It was painted white and electric blue, and he kept it irreconcilably clean amid the dust and dirt of Baghdad.

Initially, I hesitated. At that point, I was the only Western journalist living outside a fortified hotel complex. The civil war was picking up momentum, but Westerners and the US military remained targets. Almost every morning I had a cup of coffee while mortars sailed overhead toward the Green Zone directly across the river. (One had actually landed on the roof of my building the previous November, fortunately coming down in a large water tank and only destroying that.) Climbing onto the back of an expensive motorcycle might make me more noticeable, but it probably wouldn't make things that much more dangerous.

I put on my sunglasses and tried not to think about it, gritting my teeth as Mehyar zipped through the traffic. Later, after seeing Mehyar's car, a beat-up piece of junk with an unreliable clutch (good camouflage but prone to breakdowns), I decided that the bike was by far the better option.

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war and conflict reporting


War and Conflict

War and Conflict

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