Christmas in Baghdad…

Happy Holidays, everyone!
Baghdad is cool and slow today, this Christmas Eve, and the Green Zone has become even more fortified, if that’s possible. The entrance where journalists are allowed to go in looks like Normandy Beach, with tank caltrops, razor wire and sandbagged defensive positions that have taken over half of Tahir Square. A Bradley squats in the middle of a briar patch of concertina wire facing out into the city, ready to shred whoever would be so foolish as to attempt to storm this Fortress America.
There were very few Iraqi civilians manning the checkpoints, too, and when I asked one of the 1st Cav soldiers if they had fired the Iraqis, he said, “We didn’t get rid of them; I guess they just decided not to show up today.”
Perhaps the Mosul suicide attack have led to a breaking of the trust between Iraqis and Americans working together. That would be a crushing win for the insurgents. Or it just might have been Friday evening on Christmas Eve, and no one wanted to work. Many of the Iraqis working in the Green Zone are Christians.
Speaking of Christians, this is possibly the “worst Christmas ever”: for Iraq’s Christians. What used to be a pretty fun holiday for all Iraqis has almost completely vanished from the streets. Iraq’s Christians are staying in, keeping their heads down and hiding their faith because of fears from _jihadis_ who have bombed churches, threatened families and leafletted neighborhoods warning the Christians either to convert, to leave or else.
Back in September, I wrote about the “Christians’ flight from Iraq for TIME”:,10987,995198,00.html. (Paid archive, sorry. Note to TIME: Let the stories go free!) This modern exodus has continued apace, with Christians numbering about 500,000 now, down from 800,000 before the war. And even that’s down from a population of 1.2 million before the Gulf War in 1991. It’s yet another tragedy in the breakdown of Iraqi culture since the invasion in March 2003 — especially since George W. Bush has made his own Christian faith the central pillar of his personality and presidency. Ironic, no?
Finally, I will be on a C-SPAN call-in show at 7:30 a.m. EST (egad) with Robb Harleston on Sunday, Dec. 26. I understand the questions on such shows can be … creative.
Happy Holidays everyone. Wish us peace here in Iraq. We need it.