A big U.S. motor oil company has been sponsoring a "World's Worst Commute" contest on TV. Commercials have shown folks across the land talking about the bridges, bypasses, detours, flyovers, clots of cars and other hassles they must endure to go, say, 27 miles in two hours. The winner gets a ride with a NASCAR champ. (Is second prize two rides?)
We've got a winner right here in the Baghdad bureau:
Take today's commute. She lives less than 1 kilometer--0.6 miles--from the bureau. Because of traffic, checkpoints, blast walls, police and military convoys, even that short distance usually takes her 15 minutes to drive.
This morning, just before she left for the office, an IED--a homemade bomb--blew up in the street near her home in the Karrada district. Within a minute, Iraqi security forces, mostly police, converged on the scene. Instead of seeing to the wounded, Jenan said, they started firing wild random shots with their automatic weapons. Some bystanders were hit.
"They were in the wrong place at the wrong moment," the McClatchy reporter explained about the wounded. Some were kids, now out of school.
Still upset hours after the incident, Jenan explained how the Iraqi officers had learned recon-by-fire from the Americans. U.S. troops used automatic weapons fire to suppress anybody coming to the scene of a blast because insurgents learned to detonate a second, and sometimes even a third, bomb once crowds had gathered. The American tactic was meant to deter the bad guys from approaching the carnage to create more havoc.
Like any tactic, it's imperfect. This morning, Jenan could see no reason for the Iraqi officers to unleash magazine after magazine with no clear targets. "Sometimes the student learns too well from the teacher," she said.The official report listed five wounded; it didn't say whether they were injured from the IED or from gunshots.
The incident shows how critical it will be for Iraqi forces to show professional restraint once American troops are pulled out of major Iraqi cities by June 30. According to Jenan's experience this morning, the homegrown men in uniform still have a lot to learn.
And her commute? After detouring around barricades and checkpoints, she was an hour late.
As for any award, it'd be tough to stick all those advertising decals on her hijab.