Sunday, September 09, 2007

Dante's Inferno - with Choppers Thrown In

The dust storm blows in and obscures the horizon, limited as it is. The eucalypts, quite pervasive here, are dusted in the fine desert sand that drops over everything with the consistency of talc. The lemon trees in the garden are coated with it and the date palm fronds seem to sag a little lower to the ground for it. The light remains intense and the oven hot wind (it is 43 degrees out there) snaps the flags vaguely visible through the trees on the convention centre. Dust, heat, light – only a few more ingredients and Dante would feel right at home here. A pair of Blackhawks, dim through the dust, cut a low, fast, level and silent line as they head off over the Tigris and vanish behind the Sheraton. We speed up the river bank and cut back into the burbs, moving quickly least anyone draw a bead on us. Except for that slightly surreal expectation the Tigris is a serene place. It is of course a setting marred by the knowledge that here, among the reeds, the Iraqi police have retrieved hundreds of executed civilians, victims of sectarian violence barely imaginable to the rest of us. Though perhaps our experience in the Balkans and Africa has inured us to this sort of slaughter. Suddenly a pair of Defenders beat up the air above us and start circling, doing a few laps before flashing off. Another pair of Blackhawks smack and throb over the top of us at high speed and vanish in a turbowhine swirl of dust, while another couple work their way across town a little more slowly. Something is happening somewhere to get them all lathered up like this. Only I seem to have had my attention drawn by the choppers. The locals never look up and continue about their daily chores.

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