Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Baghdad Layers

I spent an hour on the roof this afternoon reading Duiker’s “Ho Chi Minh” until the sweat and dust got too much. But its good to get out of the room. The Apaches were tooling around again. They don’t do laps here for practise so I was tuned in to what else might be going on. As with the previous day their presence coincided with military ground units moving around (you hear turbines whining and roaring, tracks rumbling or wheels whirring on the asphalt and sandy coloured camouflage flashing through the palms) and with Blackhawks flying out of a nearby base. Perhaps all of them watching over a VIP moving between various US bases. But other things catch your eye up here as well. A plump dove sits on a neighbouring roof. Kids bikes lean against a wall around the corner. A white blimp sits high in the sky while yesterday even further up I surprised myself by finding a Predator flying lazy, silent circles. I happened to be watching a chopper then caught the massive drone in view immediately behind at 20,000 feet or so. You could stare at the sky all day and never see those. Which is the idea of course. As you take all that in and look across the perfectly serene and settled suburbs, hear the kids shouting as they play and fight you are struck by just how many layers there are to this place. Starting at the top - unseen but always heard - the fast jets boring holes in the sandy blue sky, a Predator team somewhere doing remote reconnaissance for something. Choppers and a blimp lower down, doing their thing. None of which are necessarily connected by their missions by the way. Lower again and across the roof tops aerials mark homes and unseen TVs and living rooms and squabbles over the remote control. Smoke lifts and curls in lazy grey off the gas burning flue at the refinery just over the river and everywhere Iraqi flags snap away in the hot wind. Under those flags public servants beaver away like public servants do or don’t anywhere around the world. Apartments and high rise buildings stretch away to the horizon, interspersed with TV towers, and domes of mosques. And a surprising amount of foliage. And under my feet kids play, puppies yelp, a lizard scampers and a dove nods off in the heat. Layers on layers, most not connected and the lowermost ones being those you pray become the settled norm here one day.


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