Zoriah: Iraq War Diary – Into the Mouth of Madness

(click the photo above or here to see Zoriah's photo series)

I catch an early helicopter flight from the Green Zone into Sadr City, Baghdad. The flight is uneventful although the Blackhawk helicopter does shoot out a series of heat flares, which are designed to repel rocket attacks by distracting the missiles from the aircraft by giving it another source of heat to follow. I never saw a rocket come near us, but that makes little difference, it still feels like a close call.

I arrive at Combat Outpost Old Mod and watch the helicopters fly away. This will be my home for the next few weeks. Old Mod is a compound of Iraqi buildings which used to be the Iraqi Ministry of Defense Complex. Now, the buildings have been fortified and house primarily Iraqi Army troops and a US Army MITT (Military In Transition Team) who are tasked with monitoring and training their Iraqi Army counterparts.

I am told that the day before my arrival a dump truck full of rockets exploded nearby and took out several city blocks of homes and killed dozens. They suggest that this could mean a possible upturn in violence in the area, but that the cease-fire brokered between the US and Muktad El Sadr may provide the opposite effect. Only time would tell.

Life around the camp is typical. There are frequent and sustained power outages and people learn how to live in the dark. Meals are eaten by flashlight, and ghostly LED torches illuminate the gym. The hallways are dark, with spikes of light near the few open doors.

The guards pass time resting on sandbags and it feels like boredom must be one of the hardest aspects of life here. I have to remind myself that choices were made by these individuals and not by the Iraqi people. What I have seen outside the bases far surpassed the minimal discomforts experienced here.

As the sun goes down and the temperature cools to about 100f/37.7c, soldiers wander outside and start up games of basketball, play cards or just walk around to escape their drab living quarters.

I am so exhausted I can barely walk, so anywhere I can sleep is fine with me. I have to charge my batteries, attach a few extra Kevlar panels to my vest and prepare the rest of my gear…at any moment all hell may break loose. Being ill prepared is not an option.

Poll

Which Photo Agency Is Hardest To Deal With? (Please use the comment section to address some of the issues you see.)
Getty
29%
Corbis
7%
Sipa
5%
Blackstar
4%
WireImage
6%
Panos
1%
Agency VU
2%
Lookat Photos
4%
VII
6%
Magnum
11%
Aurora
1%
Gamma
5%
WPN
5%
Zuma Press
8%
Polaris
5%
Total votes: 690