BAGHDAD – THE CITY OF WALLS (2003-2013) / The CPA arrivals to the Green Zone

Figure 1 – U.S. Army soldier with the 1st Armored Division, 135th Regiment set up the barbed wire after closing the road along the ‘Green Zone’ area where the Rashid hotel and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was located in November 4, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq. Security had been increased due all the recent wave of violent attacks in Baghdad. That night, three to four mortars hit the ‘Green Zone’ area with reports of injuring three to four people.
Image source: Road Closed For Security Due To Increased Attacks In Baghdad. November 4, 2003. Getty Images, Baghdad. Accessed December 13, 2017.


So what had happened before the incident shown in figure 1?


The foreigners lived inside the Green zone consisted of many including the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and contractors.


CPA arrival – In the summer of 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and contractor had moved into the Green zone, they had settled in the expropriated buildings where they made themselves temporary home. The CPA and contractors staffed up one after another, thousands of them arrived into the Green zone, with no less than ⅓ of women. They spent their daily life inside the zone not only working, but also socializing. The climate was extremely hot all through Baghdad and the Middle East, fortunately, they had the privilege to have fully functioned air conditioners throughout the Palace quarters they stayed in, with sufficient numbers of generators installed to prevent power shortage that afflicted the bomb busted Green zone.


The ministries – “The CPA surrounded the Green Zone with razor wire, chain link fences, and blast-proof concrete slabs, and strictly controlled entry and exit from the area through armed checkpoints. Since the period of CPA administration, the Green Zone has been the site of multiple mortar and rocket attacks.” (Bugnacki, 2015) The CPA employees mainly stayed inside the Palace, they resided there, and worked there also. They were put into small rooms which they treated as offices, overloaded with office desks and electronics such as computers, doing all kinds of ministries work that put together the occupation government. “In alphabetical order the ministries included Agriculture, Communication, Construction & Housing, Culture, Education, Electricity, Environment, Expatriates & Immigrants, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Health, Higher Education, Human Rights, Industry & Minerals, Interior, Irrigation, Justice, Labor & Social Affairs, Oil, Planning, Public Works, Science & Technology, Trade, Transport, and Youth & Sports.” (Langewiesche, 2004) Obviously, there was hierarchy order between them which some were more demanding and urgent than the others. In order to complete all the work, the CPA employees were always punctual, they arrived at 08:00 on time and would stayed to work through the evening. As to relax, they watched DVDs together occasionally. Regardless, they had nowhere else to go to.


Micro migration – By July 2003, the Al Rashid hotel was reopened inside the Green zone, it was a grand and luxury building with 14 storeys, located at the north of the zone. More than 700 CPA staffs moved in and resided there. In comparison to the Palace they stayed at, this hotel was much better and had improved the living quality. They shared room between 2 to 4, all rooms were well furnished, consisted of comfy beds and private bathrooms with cold-water supply. The Rashid Hotel was an authentic showpiece and symbol of the former regime, built in a grand Middle Eastern architectural style. Only one renovation was made, the existing ballroom was converted into the standard hall for the CPA, the rest of the hotel remained the same. The Rashid offered many kinds of entertainments such as cafe, souvenir shopping, traditional Middle Eastern restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, bars and discotheque etc.. Previously, the disco was a special preserve of Saddam’s son, Uday. The CPA employees would spent their free time at the bars and disco, drinking and dancing, and overtime, it soon became the after hours Green zone social life. Behind the songs played in the disco, sometimes there was gunfire and bombing noise added to the background music, the fighting and falling was the reality of Baghdad and they could not walked away from. It was quite safe to go around as long as they were inside the Green zone, therefore, most of the Americans used to confined themselves to the zone, only a number of the CPA personnel went outside to handle affairs, such as meetings with the local Iraqi officials. In terms of transportation, they either drove themselves, or took taxis at the gates of the Green zone. Though, the traffic was often bad and slow, but often got better at night. 


Became the urban phenomenon – Regardless to day or night, bombing of the Green zone happened in distinct phases. “The mortar attacks were very predictable at any given time that people working in the safety of the heavy-roofed Palace had office pools going on when the rounds would come in.” (Langewiesche, 2004) These had become the unwritten Green zone’s culture which the CPA employees overtime learnt not to over react to the mortars and gunfire but yet, an unignorable fact.

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