Each war has those images that stick with us, that represent a fundemental truth about the conflict. Think World War I, the trenches and the senseless slaughter that follows comes to mind . In World War II, perhaps the troops landing on Omaha beach, or the mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We remember the Hueys from Vietnam–the rotor blades casting shadows over the jungle, the whoosh providing an eery soundtrack to the U.S. experience. The Gulf War gave us video screens of missiles blowing up Saddam’s targets, clean and neat and anti-septic. In the Iraq War, we have the blast walls, concrete barriers, everywhere, that marked our failures and our fears. For Iraqis, they were desperate symbols of a country trying to survive.
According to Reuters, the blast walls are coming down.
It has been decided … to lift all the concrete walls from the main and side streets of all Baghdad neighborhoods without exception and reopen them within 40 days,” said an official decree attributed to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.It has been decided … to lift all the concrete walls from the main and side streets of all Baghdad neighborhoods without exception and reopen them within 40 days,” said an official decree attributed to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
I suspect Maliki’s order, to be completed within 40 days, is meant to have a powerful impact on Iraq’s psyche. It is certainly a move towards normalcy. In its own way, it’s a declaration of mission accomplished. Bringing down the concrete barriers is the new Iraqi government saying, ‘Hey citizens, the country is no longer a warzone.’
As the Reuter’s story says, “Baghdad is a maze of blast walls, road blocks, razor wire, checkpoints and barricaded neighborhoods, making commuting a time-consuming nightmare for its inhabitants.” Nightmare is the right word, applicable to more than just commuting time, and the question now remains if the nightmare is really over.