Wednesday, February 09, 2005

On to Baghdad

On Monday, a C-130 Hercules cargo plane carried a full load of passengers and baggage from Kuwait to Baghdad. Two-thirds of the people on board were military, the rest civilian contractors and a group of American cops who had signed up to train the Iraqi police. In 90 minutes, the plane flew over ground that had taken three weeks of heavy fighting to cover, between the invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003 and the fall of the capital on April 9. From the air, little trace of the war was visible. In Baghdad, a hot zone landing reminded passengers that fighting goes on. To avoid weapons fire from the ground, the plane dove steeply and circled tightly over Baghdad International Airport before coming in for a fast landing and quick stop. Passengers sat on body armor. They clung to webbing to keep from being thrown about during the descent. They looked at one another in a mixture of amusement and anxiety. The rear cargo ramp opened as the aircraft taxied off the runway. The smell of burning rubber from the roughly used tires filled the plane.

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