Saturday, March 10, 2007
Destruction of A Street Full of Bookstores, Baghdad, Iraq
And A Reporter Who Felt the Pain * Exorcising G.W. Bush
BAGHDAD, Mar. 5 -- Two firemen emerged from the thick curtain of black smoke that covered the pavement on Monday, carrying a soft, shapeless corpse wrapped in a green tarpaulin.
In their path was what was left of Mutanabi Street, Baghdad's literary heart. Bookstores in ruins. Balconies torn from oatmeal-colored buildings, some still on fire. Mangled cars with cracked windshields. The sounds of weeping mingled with the smell of burned flesh, as shards of paper seemed to flutter endlessly down from the sky.
At 11:40 a.m., a car bomb exploded on this storied street, killing as many as 26 people and injuring dozens, according to police officers at the scene. It shattered an area once known for liberal ideas, an intellectual haven that in the heady days after the U.S.-led invasion pulsed with the promise of freedom.
Solemn as pallbearers, the firemen walked through the landscape of twisted metal and debris, their feet crunching shattered glass. Behind them, the tower of smoke and ash billowed above the capital. One placed the charred body on a pushcart. The other covered it with a long sheet of white paper, as if he were tucking a child into bed. As they rolled the cart up the street, a young man in a black checkered sweater and light-blue jeans ran past. Tears streamed down his face.
"Where is my family? What happened to my family?" he screamed.
As the young man in bluejeans cried, a friend clutched his shoulder and took him into his home for comfort. Others watched as firefighters tried to rescue two people trapped inside a burning building.
"The roof is going to collapse," one onlooker predicted.
Ten minutes later, the young man emerged onto the street, his face a mask of anguish.
"Where is my family?" he asked no one in particular. As he watched, another fireman rolled a pushcart bearing a body, this one covered in a blue tarpaulin.
"All we do is sell books," said Amer Kasim, 38, struggling for an explanation.
Not a believer in evil spirits but I can understand the Guatemalan priests' feelings about our president. Talk about bad karma. He has it in spades.