Baghdad

What does my future hold? An Iraqi child looks on as her mother prepares to board a bus to take them to visit detained family members.

My eyes are heavy, let me rest. Bunkers not only kept us safe from live fire but also provided us a secure place to rest when time permitted.

A woman with a full heart, hidden somewhere in an empty room.

Christmas in Iraq. A sand bag Christmas tree made by my co-workers and I. We weren’t able to be home with our families that year but also realized that we had become a small family of our own and decided not to let distance or a strange place keep us from the holiday.

Give me courage. Give me strength.

A Reflective Moment. Riding in a 5 ton one afternoon on our way to pick up chow for the people at my work site I took advantage of the rear view mirror and attempted to take a self portrait.

“Like a bird on the wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir I have tried in my way to be free”. Leonard Cohen

Baath Party House

The construction design of this building is one of many that follows the Iraqi/Muslim convention that no sin can happen on water. It is only connected to the mainland by a bridge and is surrounded by water on all four sides. Essentially, it is a rectangle of large hallways, big room complexes at each corner consisting of a pool area, theater, dining room, and conference room. It also has two docks right in the middle of the building.

This building was actually the location of the “first strike” of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. The President had received intelligence that there was a large gathering of the Ba’ath Party/Iraqi Government in this building, specifically in the theater. A Navy Tomahawk missile launched from the USS Bunker Hill completely destroyed the theater and took out nearly 200 of the top government and military officials. We missed Saddam by 15 minutes.

Last Ones Standing. Two chairs that survived the attacks on the Baath Party House in 2003.

If these walls could talk… Walking these halls you feel a sense of heaviness in the air as well as in your heart.

A Concrete Hell. Pools in Saddam’s Palaces were used for execution purposes.

What was once one of the largest chandeliers in the world.

Victory Over America Palace

The largest Palace on Camp Slayer, never finished, is the Victory Over America Palace. The construction cranes still stand right beside it. The palace is so big, it was built to wrap around the already completed Victory over Iran Palace. Saddam named these palaces for victories that he didn’t actually win. The popular story is that Saddam believed any war that he survived was a victory.

This is the main ballroom on the top floor that is football field sized and roughly 4 stories tall with multiple balconies, galleries, and attached “apartments”. Though this palace was never completed or occupied, at some point in the early war, we targeted and struck this main ballroom area with 2 JDAM bombs.  Maybe this was our answer to the palace’s inaccurate name. All of the debris you see in the picture is a combination of leftover construction materials and bomb damage.

Ornate and unfinished stairways.

As an example of the interesting Iraqi construction techniques, the floors all over the palace look like very roughly poured concrete – not a good base layer to put a nice floor on top of. It turns out that the Iraqis built the ornate marble tiled floors first, before the palace was even close to done, then to protect them from the construction, poured the rough concrete over the top. When the palace was completed, the workers would have had to chip off every single bit of the concrete protective layer to expose the marble floors.

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