Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mad Max in Mosul

Buck Sargent on road rules in Iraq:

The Iraqis are presently reverse engineering a modern society from the pavement up. As it stands, holding the line on mortality rates is clearly a bigger priority than holding down insurance rates. (Not that any of them have insurance, mind you.) But take traffic patterns, for instance. Vehicle ownership has exploded since the fall of Saddam, and many drivers appear to observe the same right of way rules as do teenage mallrats, which is to say not much observance at all.

Here in Mosul, Iraqis often travel down whichever side of the street is most convenient for them at the time. They break for no one, not even donkeys. They speed everywhere because they can; the Iraqi police are understandably more concerned with fighting off ambushes than with setting up speed traps. And you can forget about trying to merge with a friendly wave: it’s dog-eat-mangy dog out on the highways and drive-byways. Our Strykers receive deference only because they weigh 22 tons and wield .50 caliber machine guns. Displacing oxygen with your ride apparently means never having to sit through rush hour.

I reflected on this with one of my soldiers while in a long-term surveillance of a high traffic area and a common site for insurgent mischief.

"You know, Gunderson," I said. "If I lived in this country, I think the only traffic laws I’d follow would be yielding, and only then because I’d be wary of getting T-boned in intersections or sideswiped by fast-moving convoys. I’d speed everywhere, I’d blow through red lights, pull u-turns whenever I felt like it, steer against traffic... I bet I could make daily commuting an extreme sport. What do you think?"

"I would drive

Excellent milblogging from the man who brought you What Casey Sheehan Died For (and got called "a lying scumbag" for it over on Bill Maher's message board).