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When the bombing stopped, "there was no government, no security," Zena says.The precision-bombing campaign had, amazingly, left the capital mostly intact, but looters were tearing it apart. And then, there they were in front of her: the Americans.
"I was hiding under a blanket." Crazily she thought, "Oh, the blanket is going to protect me." Then she tried to hide in a small space between a refrigerator and the wall.Then, as visa processing dragged on, it was almost another year still before Lena finally landed in America. They named her Khadijah (after the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad) Mariam (after the mother of Jesus) Ahearn.The baby smiled like the future her parents dreamed of. troops were deployed, whether among steadfast allies or recently conquered enemies, and regardless of culture, language, religion or the best efforts of the military hierarchy to prevent "fraternizing," soldiers and locals got married."I just wanted to feel safe."Wars push people together, says Benjamin Karney, a behavioral scientist with RAND Corporation, "so when there's a threat, a lot of people look for connections." This is especially true among soldiers, who face the constant threat of death.In a country as bloody as Iraq, it's also true of civilians.The insistent demands of "force protection" and the insidious efficiency of the insurgents' bombs and booby traps have isolated the American soldier from the population he or she was once tasked to liberate.
We may not lament the lack of bars, dance halls and whorehouses for today's troops.
"We didn't know what these soldiers were going to do.
We just tried to hide, especially the women and kids.
In Baghdad in May 2003, amid the chaos, fear and hope (it is easy to forget how much hope there was in those early weeks when Americans and Iraqis began meeting face to face after years of tyranny and war), Jimmy and Lena were among the first to fall in love. Lena Ghadeer, her divorced mother, her brother and four sisterswere struggling to keep up appearances when American soldiers dragged Saddam's statue off its pedestal and turned their world upside down."You know, you're a really pretty lady," Jimmy told Lena the first day they met, courting her with the kind of straightforward gentility that Americans were known for back in the days of Gary Cooper and Clark Gable.
She was from a middle-class Baghdad family that had seen better days.
Then in 2003, soon after she took her degree, the countdown began to yet another war."We knew this was going to be the end. You could see it in people's faces," says Zena, who has grown into a raven-haired beauty.