former entrances are entirely walled off, sharply limiting the number of
access points to the 5-square-mile compound. Marriott never came, and
no new hotel was ever constructed. Iraqi and American journalists and
government workers can make their way into the Green Zone by flashing
the proper IDs and passing through an extensive series of checkpoints.
Ordinary Iraqi citizens with business inside must get clearance
beforehand and have an escort.
"I said, in 2009, that within one
month we would open it," Tahsin al-Shaikhly, a senior Maliki advisor,
said in an interview in his office in the Green Zone. "We are working on
it. It takes a long time."
Shaikhly, who lived in Virginia for
years and speaks fluent English, said the Maliki government had removed
half of the concrete walls dotting the city, reopened 190 streets that
had been closed off for security reasons, and cut the number of
checkpoints throughout the city by 25 percent. But he admitted he wasn't
sure when--or how much of--the Green Zone would be reopened to the Iraqi
"Maybe in the future it will be opened, but now, no," he said.
Baghdad of late 2011, just months before the last American troops are
slated to return home, remains a city of gray concrete walls. Many of
the barriers that hastily went up across the city over the years remain,
leaving hidden hundreds of banks, offices, restaurants, and businesses,
as well as private homes. Armed checkpoints are a common sight in many
areas of the city, though the young Iraqi soldiers who man them are
often found talking or texting on their cell phones rather than
A grim sense of loss hangs over the city. Framed
photos of the thousands of Iraqi police officers and soldiers killed in
recent years hang from the city's lampposts, while hand-painted pictures
of Shia militants killed battling the American military cover many of
the walls in Sadr City, a vast Shia slum here.
meanwhile, have entirely disappeared from view, with the 46,000 troops
who remain in the country relocating to a handful of large bases far
from Baghdad in preparation for returning home later this year.
quirky reminders of the lengthy American presence here abound. Many
Iraqi soldiers copy U.S. troops; they sport Oakley sunglasses, CamelBak
water canteens, and black wristbands. Iraqi politicians, meanwhile, race
through Baghdad's streets in convoys of armored Toyota Land Cruisers,
using hand signals and loudspeakers to warn Iraqi drivers to keep their
distance and fire warning shots if the drivers come too close. American
military Humvees once drove through Baghdad in exactly the same manner.
learned that from you," my former translator, Jabbar Yassin, says when I
call him to ask about the practice. "It is like seeing ghosts of the