Getting to Iraq requires a flight from neighboring Jordan that ends with a hair-raising flourish: a 60-degree “corkscrew” turn into the former Saddam International Airport. “We have a slight missile problem,” said the impish pilot, a white South African, explaining that the tricky maneuver is necessary to avoid getting hit by a ground-launched rocket.
Fellow Americans on the Amman-Baghdad route included optimistic Baptist missionaries (“Things are improving,” said one) and earnest U.S. government and think-tank representatives who spoke about good intentions and appearances (“We have to convince the Iraqis that we’re sincere,” I overhear someone say). All brandish bulletproof vests as they prepare to make the unnerving journey from the airport to the center of Baghdad.
Chris Herlinger, former senior writer for Church World Service, is a contributing writer for National Catholic Reporter’s Global Sisters Report. He is the coauthor, with Paul Jeffrey, of books on Haiti and Darfur, published by Seabury. A third book, Food Fight: Struggling for Justice in a Hungry World, has just been released.