Yet in Samarra, as in many parts of this ravaged country, better is a relative term. The city's name is derived from an Arabic phrase meaning "a joy for all to see." But joy, or even basic satisfaction, remains a scarce commodity.
The violence that once raged throughout the overwhelmingly Sunni city has quieted in the last few months. In August there were only nine small weapons attacks, compared with 44 last November, according to the American military. One homemade bomb exploded in August. Last November there were 13. The curfew for residents has been pushed back to midnight or even later if there are religious events.
Yet the costs of greater safety are also apparent. At virtually every corner there are checkpoints staffed by members of the Iraqi security forces or guards from the Awakening Councils, the citizen patrols that the American military paid and trained to fight the insurgents. Blast walls line the streets. And to stray outside the nine "safe" neighborhoods that American military officials say have been secured by the Awakening guards is still to invite violent death.
The above is from Erica Goode and Mohammed Hussein's "As Bombs Fall Silent, an Iraqi City Rebuilds" (New York Times)and among the details provided by the reporters is that the reconstruction of Askairya Shrine (after the 2007 bombing) is not only expensive (expected to cost $8 million), the reconstruction is being done "without blueprints." Samara, like everywhere in Iraq, suffers from the same problems: "few jobs available, that the water is not potable, that the electricity is intermittent at best, that they have not received their pensions and that there are shortages of medicine." It's a strong article and hopefully the paper running articles filed from Iraq two days in a row does not mean that judgments will be made that readers can do without Iraq for three to four days.
Yesterday saw violence as usual and the violence included two bombings in Baghdad which garnered some press attention. Jeffrey Fleishman covers the bombings in "Baghdad blasts kill at least 24" (Los Angeles Times):
A witness to the Zafaraniya attack, a vendor who gave his name only as Salaam, said that moments before the explosion, he saw a car racing toward the mosque and an Iraqi armored vehicle parked near the entrance. He said the blast created a fireball, setting the armored vehicle and four cars ablaze.
"I feel distressed," said Salaam, who helped evacuate the injured to a hospital in a pickup truck. "Despite all the government assurances that the security situation is improved and Ramadan this year was safe . . . the situation is still bad."
On Democracy Now! today, a vice presidential debate is offered between Matt Gonzales (Ralph Nader's running mate) and Rosa Clemente (Cynthia McKinney's running mate). The exchange on prison reform may be the closest the two come to "testy."
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