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Posted on Feb 10, 2007 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Red Bulls in Iraq – Pt. 8: A Trip to Baghdad: Pt 2

By Cpt. Fernando A Franco

Also, some of the helmets are used as speed bumps across the entrance to the parade field, and they did quite a good job slowing down the SUVs that were passing through the area. Nobody could really tell me the meaning of the net full of helmets, but personally I think the crossed swords and the hands holding them really communicated a real message of victory and strength. The artistic conception is really good and well done.

Speed bumps made with Iranian helmets

The building itself is actually very well built, with marble walls, big halls and rooms and wide stairways. Except for the second-floor halls (which could easily accommodate over 1000 guests), all the rooms and stairways are pitch dark, so we turned on our flashlights to find our way.


Before I went to the presidential balcony, I explored the halls on the second floor. The once-shiny marble walls are covered with graffiti painted by the GIs who visited before us. The 10-foot-high windows are long gone and only pieces of broken glass hang from the frames. The elegant bathrooms are now trashed, the broken sinks and toilets on the floor and a few mice. The rooms are silent, except for the echo of my voice.

Before walking through the huge glass door (now without glass) onto the presidential balcony, I took time to remember that not many years ago, Saddam Hussein himself walked these same steps to address his soldiers from the balcony and shoot a rifle into the air. Now I was the one descending the stairs onto the triangular balcony, about 10’ wide at the base and 10’ deep and flanked by rows of yellow chairs meant for Hussein’s guests. This was the place from which he showed the Iraqi people that he was in charge.

small_baghdad_005.JPG small_baghdad_003.JPG
The podium building.

There is not much left of all that glorious era — just broken chairs, garbage, sand, and thoughts about the man who dictated over Iraq and who lived and died in Iraq.

It was now time to move to the next place, the tomb of the unknown soldier, only half a mile away. Just as I started walking to catch up with my group, I saw a very eerie image: a pack of 10-15 stray dogs walking on the parade grounds in single file no more than 50 yards from me and headed toward the small lake in search of water. It struck me that that is all that’s left of Saddam Hussein’s power – a pack of stray dogs on the parade grounds.

I’ll tell you about the tomb of the unknown soldier in my next entry. This has been a very busy time for us. My brigade just got word that our tour of duty has been extended, so we are busy making the necessary adjustments to continue our mission.

CPT Franco….. out

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