Green Zone

The 'Green Zone' is the area smack in the center of Baghdad where the Coalition forces set up shop after they rolled this place in 2003. In June 2004, when control was officially handed over to the interim Iraqi government, it was re-designated as the 'International Zone' but that term was only short-lived and at best is used as the abbreviated 'IZ'. Although the official line has been to use 'International Zone' or 'IZ', the usage of 'Green Zone' is creeping back into public releases and official documents.

Unlike other military camps in Iraq, the Coalition Forces and various countries Embassies planted their roots in the middle of a sprawling city of approx 5 million what was considered to be the symbolic seat of Saddams power, the Republican Palace compound along the Tigris river; just under a quarter-mile in length.

To achieve security, they put up huge T-Walls, (12 ft tall reinforced concrete blast walls), encircling the entire area from the Haifa Street bridge in the North east corner through to just past the Adnan Clock Tower in the south west corner. The south is bordered in by the Tigris river that curves up to the NE bridge.

Getting in can be a pain in the ass since you have to wait in line at one of the huge check points...and that's where they are oh-so-fond of blowing themselves to shit and back.

Civilian contractors make up the majority of the non-Iraqi populace with various Embassy personnel in second and the military in distant third.

Different companies out here have their own respective compounds...not with that particular company? Then stay out! Except for the Palace grounds--just about anyone can get onto that although Iraqis get searched enough to be classified as an anal probing.

Standard Players

IZ PoliceInternational Zone Police:
Officially, there's a law. Actually, there's 2 sets of law in the GZ. One for Iraqi's that enforced by the local Iraqi police, (when they feel like working), and one for expats, like myself, that supposed to be enforced by a group of US Air Force guys called the IZ Police--they've been here a year and no-ones still sure of exactly what they do. They've been known to hand out speeding and traffic tickets--but there's no court or impound lots or even driving licenses here. I laminated my tickets as souvenirs.

Most of the life support/logistics in the Green Zone is done by a company called KBR, (Kellogg Brown & Root). Ya know, the Dick Cheney company everyone loves to slam. KBR employees are generally looked down upon. They usually resemble the refugees that lost their trailer park in a weather related disaster. Main reason? They're the lowest paid Americans out here...meaning these people couldn't find anything else so they jumped at the opportunity to get their brood out of debt.

During the early parts of 2005, KBR employees had been told they weren't allowed to go to the hangouts like other companies were. The bars on other camp's were off limits. But people were still having fun at the Palace pool next door--so the company implemented a curfew so strict that one either went straight back to the KBR camp, (Camp Hope), at 19:00, (end of shift), or one was written up. This actually put a serious dent in the parties at the pools.

Now the people were having a blast from within the confines of Camp Hope. Lots of alcohol and sex, (only a few fights). Then a new girl on the project,(fine as hell and under 21), got really drunk and said she'd been a firefighter...that everyone saw her hitting on...anyway---The entire camp got slapped with Prohibition. No more boozing at all. Everyone in the Green Zone heard about was already common knowledge that KBR treated it's employees rather poorly. So it was no surprise that a number of people quit and even more didn't renew their contracts by simply staying home once on R&R

Please don't ask me how you can get a job with them...I don't want to be liable for your downfall.

State Department personnel:
see prima donna

No exaggeration...they would show up with several hundred pounds of luggage and get highly upset when they had to carry it themselves. In Baghdad.

These guys came in as some kind of non-private company stop-gap when CJTF-7 went away. (note: When the handover happened in 04', the mission in the Green Zone mostly ceased being a military mission and rolled over into a civilian Embassy mission) At first, these people did absolutely nothing. They were military that had zero control over the civilian contractors that supported them---someone pushed the issue, (and they pretty much wanted payback because we civilians could drink alcohol--unlike themselves) and the next thing we knew, JASG was given the authority to put their hand in almost everyone’s cookie pot.

Supposedly, they go away sometime later this year, (in 2006). That will be good; excellent in fact! They were the driving force as a buzz-kill for all the parties that used to happen at the Palace pool. Those parties were so wild that most military weren't allowed, (by their own commanders), to attend. Somehow, young and nubile State Department interns running around intoxicated and topless...well, they somehow though that was a bad thing. Go figure.

PCO stands for Project Contracting Office. This is the temporary US Gov't used as a blanket office to award and monitor all the billions of dollars being spent on reconstruction. Although there are people whose paycheck comes from the Dept of the Army or DoD, when we say PCO, we're almost always referring to the actual companies that comprise over 99% of the staffing.

The PCO companies used to be housed over on the Palace grounds before October 2004 because they had managed to fuck up the contract on having their own compound built. Three times. Some of the major names were Aegis, Blackwater, Dyncorp, Bechtel, Fluer, Parsons, Louis Berger, CACI, and a ton of smaller ones. Before those guys had to move out, the Palace Pool was the place to be! Drunken mercenaries standing with their machine guns in front of a sign stating that no-one was to be armed while drinking. People riding bicycles off the top diving platform. Sex just being thrown out there for the taking.

The good ole days...

Things to do:

Drink Alcohol.
Lots of it. Yes, it IS a Muslim country but liquor and beer have always been available under Saddam---just not something they openly sold. However, here in the Green Zone, there are open air bars and liquor stores. Many companies also set up small cabanas on their respective compounds so their employees won't have to go out driving around every time they want to get hammered, (unlike the Triple Canopy guys that recently totaled a $250,000 up-armored Suburban by drunkenly slamming it into a statue monument traffic circle down the road).

There are quite a number of pools in the Green Zone---most of them on contractors camps--hence, off limits. The two nicest are open to the public...well, what passes for public here. You still have to have a Coalition type ID card.

Anyway, there’s the one over at the Republican Palace where the State Department parties down on Thursday nights and the military tries their hand at karaoke the rest of the nights. Considering the military's not allowed to drink, their karaoke always sucks as bad as those teen-idol shows.

The other pool is the nicest one--called Liberty Pool. It's got one of those neo-retro canopy's over it where a central pole supports the center and it curves down to various points via cabling. I know my description makes no sense. Unless you can bribe the E2 Gods to bump my level up to allowing me to post pictures, you'll just have to deal with it.

Yes, you can go fishing in the Green Zone. There is road on the south west section that has no T-walls because the friggin Tigris is in front of you. Please don't fish in the Tigris--there's some really nasty stuff in there. What we do have, however, is a small reservoir where the water is almost clean enough to be normal. Feel free to fish in there but I wouldn't touch the catch with my bare hands if I were you. So far, no one had been able to identify the only fish that lives in there. Pictures have been sent all over for Universities to fishing-lure's ugly as hell and no one knows about it.

The Gurkhas will eat these fish--fight over them in fact. A guy once had his pole broken as the Gurkhas ripped the fish to shreds, (still on the hook), within seconds of pulling it out of the water. So far, no ill affects have been reported by them. But they're not really the most civilized bunch, after all.

Salsa Night:
Anyone that can get into the Palace can also partake of the Salsa Night. I've only been in there once so all I can tell you is that it exists and every person around with even a hint of natural darkness in their skin will show up and promptly forget how to speak English.

But at least you know it's there for you.


Pistols, AK-47's, and M16/4:
There is something insanely sexy about a girl wearing tight civilian clothing with a pistol strapped on her thigh. Seriously, almost everyone in the Green Zone is armed. And it's not like in the military--these people take it with them or not. Lots of ammo or not. Pistol or rifle, usually their choice. The expat civilians usually are better armed than the soldiers you see around.

Expect to see everyone armed...including the Iraqis. It'll be un-nerving at first but understand that there's no restriction from having weapons here. Or hand grenades....however, I wouldn't suggest them to be used as key chains.

The only people not armed are some of the State Dept people, the Filipino kitchen workers, and...oh yea...every last person in KBR.

One Last Note

If you happen to visit...
Occasionally, you will see a group of PSD vehicles. They are usually grouped tight togather and have completely blacked out windows. They are prone to driving erratically and often look like they're playing 'tag' or 'hop-scotch'. These vehicle groupings are designated to carry VIP's around in. They have a virtual arsenal and are packed full of mercenaries who're just waiting for something to shoot.

Just because you see them moving out with a purpose, they may in-fact be doing nothing more than a beer run. Some ideas to keep in mind...

  • They always drive like that regardless of having VIP's or not.
  • Do not look directly at them.
  • Do not wave to them.
  • Do not even think of getting a picture.
  • They always have the right of way
  • Always assume they will cross your path and gently veer in another direction
They're not there to ruin your day...but they won't hesitate do drop you like a rock regardless of how 'western' you might look.

New Years Eve - 11:50 pm, 31 December, 2007.

Walking to the gym at the Embassy compound, the night is dark and foreboding. I approach an intersection. Its Iraqi police, typically found wanting in their vigiliance, loomed over a large fire in a desiccated barrel, its flame shining through its porous sides. I can't see their faces because of the intense flame blotting my vision in the dark. They seem like puppets. Archetypes of our perception of Arabs; lazy, tribal, cunning.

Their presence is unnerving. They watch me intently, as I watch them. I lack the typical uniform of an American soldier, though they know I wouldn't walk alone and unarmed. Perhaps I was a mercenary, they likely thought. This time, they're wrong. I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I'm no stranger to dark streets and its denizens. Their blank faces say more than they ever would. Who are you? What do you think of our violent, beautiful land? I pass them, half of me hoping one day we won't have to kill each other. The other half hoped we would.

I check my watch as I near the gym. 11:57. I pull out a cell phone, to call my girl friend. As I dial the long number I picture her, safe and warm in the Tennessee winter, curled up in a ball on our crescent moon couch, in front of the TV on a quiet night. When she answers, it's always with the same relieved sigh of "Hhhii babbyy!" Sometimes it's almost motherly, as if I were a delicate child, and the slightest thing might upset me. I tell her about my day, the normal diatribe of frustration, and the conversation always stops short of giving her true fulfillment. Too much must go unsaid, but her heart yearns for knowledge. I know she silently curses my profession, equally torn with reverance and respect. She tells me as much, everytime we talk.

I check my watch again, 11:59:47. I almost forgot to count down with her! We count the seconds together, even though she won't pass into the new year for another 9 hours. As we reach zero, the skies around me erupt into a glorious chaos. Bright, phosphorescent tracer fire wreathes the huge city from every corner, on every street. The barks of fire are so loud I can barely hear my horrified loved one, her voice a mousy squeak over the masculine noise of machine guns. I watch in staggered amazment, unable to close my mouth, or to speak, as I witness the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. No mountain vista, or beach view, ever compared to the sight of thousands of rounds of angry 7.62x39 arcing in long strings of bright red stitching. I thought, this must've been what the first gulf war looked like over Baghdad. I was just a boy then, watching the lazy patterns of anti aircraft fire loop over the city, my heart pining for the day I could join in that holiest of mankind's creations, the act of war.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.