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Is it Twilight Time for the Green Zone?

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Message Missy Beattie
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I try to imagine the Green Zone in Iraq. Even the adjective "green" conjures up images of lushness, wealth, or both. Some call it "The Bubble." Others refer to it as "Little America." To most Iraqis, this area is just a distant dream, a Disney World, exotic in its security-a fantasy nearby but, totally and despairingly, out of reach.

One could almost hear an Iraqi family member's saying, "If we could only make it inside the Green Zone, everything would be all right." Some Iraqis actually managed to accomplish this and set up housekeeping in what is now called "The Slum." Certainly, this slum within an oasis is infinitely better than a slum in the hell we've created for the people of Iraq. Most of this fortress, though, is for the privileged and is a paradise where money is dumped into wheelbarrows for contractors to play with and distribute at their whim.

Often referred to as the "Ultimate Gated Community" with its armed checkpoints, razor wire, and a perimeter of impenetrable slabs of concrete, the area in central Baghdad is controlled by "coalition" officials and the New Iraqi Government. Saddam Hussein's former residence, the Presidential Palace, stands there along with multiple villas where his family lived.

Once, I was walking past the Waldorf Astoria when I noticed sand-filled dump trucks, parked front to back around the entire block that surrounds the hotel. Police officers were everywhere as a motorcade of black SUVs brought all other traffic to a halt. I asked an officer about this and he said, "The President is here." When George comes to NYC, the Waldorf is his Green Zone.

Sporadically, when our mainstream media feel like defiant adolescents and ignore Lord George's edict that positive images of our accomplishments in Iraq be shown, we see that Baghdad is aflame. Sectarian violence enters our homes as we watch television, basking in the comfort of air-conditioning just like people in the Green Zone. Yes, they have satellite TV, DVDs, telephones, and computers. They party, have a swimming pool, eat pizza, and can shop at an international flea market.

Occasionally, an insurgent launches a missile, lobs a grenade, or fires mortar shells into this sheltering womb. But other than feeling paranoid about who is trustworthy, most people inside the Green Zone have been pretty content especially when compared to those who are prevented from entering.

Think about this: Suppose there was one area, just one, within your community, where safety was guaranteed. You have a husband or wife, children, parents, other relatives, friends, all people you love, those you want desperately to protect. But surrounding that single sanctuary is a system that forbids your access. And this system is operated by the very people who said they were entering your society as saviors to free you from fear and oppression.

Would you perceive those within this citadel as liberators? Would you be grateful?

I'm thinking that right about now not even those in the Green Zone are sleeping peacefully. There can be no hiding from the sound of exploding car bombs. There can be no avoiding the smell of fire, billowing smoke, and burning flesh. I doubt George Bush would pack on 25 pounds of body armor today and fly unannounced into Baghdad to shore up his polls and give the troops a pep talk.

If this zone of safety is penetrated, will the anchors stop saying "edge" and "brink" and finally admit what many of us already recognize-that this is a civil war?"

And will BushCo ever pay for crimes against my family (we will soon mark the first anniversary of my nephew's death in Iraq), every family who's lost a loved one, every troop with a devastating injury, every soldier who will suffer a lifetime from PTSD, every Iraqi changed forever by the neocons' bloodthirsty quest for oil?

It's too late for many of us. Nothing will completely heal our hearts. Peace will help but justice must be served.
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Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She's written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she's a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a (more...)
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