Commentary Magazine


The Twists and Turns of Progress in Iraq

Aside from a few stubborn holdouts, we’ve been virtually awash with good news on the Iraq political and military fronts. This AP story offers a more subtle, if telling, detail about change in the quality of life over there.

The corkscrew landing is a rite of passage for travelers to Iraq, who feel the pull of gravity as their airplane makes a rapid, spiraling descent to avoid ground fire.

So it was a surprise to one periodic visitor last week when the Royal Jordanian Airlines aircraft from Amman descended into Baghdad International Airport with the same lack of drama as any commuter flight anywhere. No sudden plunge, no tight rotation, no straightening out the flight path just before the runway.

It didn’t feel like flying into a war zone anymore.

The absence – on a number of recent civilian flights, at least – of the “corkscrew” maneuver is a measure of how security has improved in Iraq. Back in November 2003, a missile hit a DHL cargo jet just after takeoff. The pilot managed to land safely.

While the corkscrew landing is (for now) a thing of the past, the corkscrew itself is making a return to Iraq’s capital. From the Independent:

Alcohol is openly for sale once more in Baghdad. All over the Iraqi capital, drink stores, which closed their doors in early 2006 when sectarian strife was raging, have slowly begun to reopen. Two years ago, al-Qa’ida militants were burning down liquor stores and shooting their owners. Now around Saadoun Street, in the centre of the city, at least 50 stores are advertising that they have alcohol for sale.

The fear of being seen drinking in public is also subsiding. Young men openly drink beer in some, if not all, streets. A favourite spot where drinkers traditionally gathered is al-Jadriya bridge, which has fine views up and down the Tigris river. Two years ago even serious drunks decided that boozing on the bridge was too dangerous. But in the past three months they have returned, a sign that militant gunmen no longer decide what people in Baghdad do at night

An excellent trade, I’d say.