Escape from Baghdad

Unlike many who would also like to leave, today I board a cargo plane and fly away.

Topics: Iraq war,

Escape from Baghdad

May 22: I am leaving Iraq, and a lot of people who are staying wish they could do the same:

Sahar al-Jawari, the unemployed, divorced mother who is slowly selling the last of her jewelry to survive in a city where gunshots are an everyday affair and electricity is not.

Xzibit, the 19-year-old military translator from Baghdad who uses the name of his favorite American rapper as a pseudonym to protect his identity, and who has watched people kill and be killed during the year he has worked for the Americans.

The young U.S. Army specialist, who was pacing around his combat outpost the other day, counting out loud the time he has left to serve: “Thirteen months and 29 days, 13 months and 29 days.” Stiff western wind carried his voice into streets chocking with trash and rubble.

The Army Reserve sergeant in his late 30s, who has made up his mind to start an antiwar group when he comes home.

According to Capt. Andrew Betson, who commands Alpha Company of the 4-64 Armor Battalion of the 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad, the soldiers are exaggerating their disillusionment with Iraq.

“They may be saying ‘I hate this place,’” he said, “but they really want it to succeed, they really want to see progress here.”

From my conversations with soldiers, I, too, get a feeling that they do. So do millions of Iraqi civilians who, unlike the soldiers, don’t get to leave Iraq after their deployment is over.

But five years after the war began, the Iraqi government is feeble and basic services in the capital are as hard to come by as they were three years ago. Dead bodies no longer lie in the streets of religiously mixed neighborhoods for days, as they did last year — but there are almost no religiously mixed neighborhoods, either.

“I was here in 2003, after the initial invasion, and things got very bad real quick,” recalled Army Capt. Sean Chase, the 4-64′s Bravo Company commander. He is stationed in Baghdad’s Risala neighborhood, which American forces say is a hotbed of Shiite militias.

“I came back for the election,” three years ago, Chase said. “Then I came back in October and it had taken a huge downturn from when I was here in 2005.”

Each year no one sweeps the streets adds a layer of decomposing trash. Each year no one repairs the leaky sewage pipes, the putrid pools that sit in Baghdad’s lowlands grow deeper and wider. Each sectarian flare-up adds a new level of deep-seated mistrust that will be “very difficult to get rid of,” predicts Eddie Bello, an Iraqi-born American who works as a cultural advisor to American troops. Like me, Bello is leaving Iraq on board a C17 military cargo plane headed for Amman, Jordan.

I climb into the plane and buckle up. My fellow passengers are mostly military contractors like Bello, U.S. State Department officials, and a few Iraqis who are lucky enough to leave. The U.S. Air Force crewmen explain how to use our oxygen masks and where the emergency exits are. Thirty minutes later, our plane speeds noisily along the runway and takes off, heading west.

Anna Badkhen has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Somalia, the West Bank and Gaza. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, David Filipov, and their two sons.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>