scene emerges in Baghdad’s sealed-off ‘green zone’
BAGHDAD, Iraq — The job of occupying Iraq means hardship and long hours —
and sometimes a game of Risk over a hookah and a few beers.
In a city where few people drink, Baghdad’s sealed-off green zone counts at
least seven bars, including a Thursday night disco, a sports bar, a British
pub, a rooftop bar run by General Electric, and a bare-bones trailer-tavern
operated by the contractor Bechtel.
Only employees of the occupation are welcome in most of them. U.S. troops
ejected a reporter from the basement sports bar a few months ago, at the
insistence of Coalition Provisional Authority employees drinking inside.
The plushest tavern is the CIA’s rattan furnished watering hole, known as
the ‘‘OGA bar.’’ OGA stands for
‘‘Other Government Agency,’’ the CIA’s
The OGA bar has a dance floor with a revolving mirrored disco ball and a
game room. It is open to outsiders by invitation only. Disgruntled CPA
employees who haven’t wangled invites complain that the CIA favors women
An American government worker said the British residents are especially keen
to drink. A joke running through the green zone says that British officials
overseeing construction of their new embassy are giving highest priority to
opening the embassy pub.
One of the more interesting hangouts is the Green Zone Cafe, a tent erected
in the parking lot of a former gas station. The cafe brings together a
raucous mix of occupation personalities and others — like reporters — who
don’t carry government IDs.
On a typical evening, one can see U.S. soldiers smoking from 4-foot-tall
hookahs and security contractors guffawing over beer, their machine guns by
their sides. The CPA’s would-be strategists can sometimes be seen in their
ubiquitous military desert boots and dress shirts and slacks, playing Risk,
the board game of global domination.
One night, the CPA’s senior adviser for youth and sport, Mounzer Fatfat, sat
at the head of a banquet table in white shirt and tie, beating out an
infectious rhythm on an Arab derbakah drum. Bar patrons danced and clapped
A tiny back room at the cafe also holds the green zone’s chief liquor store,
where bottles of whiskey, vodka and wine are sold at approximately double
the price charged outside the green zone’s blast walls.
The backroom liquor store is a typical stop along the way to one of the
green zone’s frequent ‘‘trailer parties’’ held in the cramped temporary
Luckier residents prefer the big barbecue parties put on by security firms
like Kroll and Olive. The green zone’s dearth of eligible women means men
aren’t as likely to be invited.
Worst off, perhaps, are the few thousand U.S. soldiers living in full view
of the carousing. The Pentagon’s General Order No. 1 prohibits U.S. troops
from drinking, although soldiers say liquor is easy to come by — especially
in the green zone.
The zone also boasts a pizza parlor and pair of highly competitive Chinese
restaurants. There is the palace swimming pool and a ‘‘casino’’ that is
really a glorified game room. The zone’s several gyms are popular, the
occupation seeming to have transformed many who arrived overweight into
One street has been converted into a souk, where Iraqis sell bootleg DVDs,
rugs and trinkets. On a recent visit, a boy on a motorbike pulled up and
made a hushed offering: ‘‘Hey! Porno?’’
‘‘I don’t know if they are corrupting us or we’re
corrupting them,’’ one CPA official quipped.
source: AP - 20 Jun, 2004