Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Ali Rasheed, 9, and a friend sell balloons in the Karada neighborhood as a woman begs on the sidewalk. Seven years after the Saddam Hussein regime was overthrown by U.S.-led forces, life for most Iraqis remains a struggle and the future of the country is uncertain.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Gasoline and sheep are sold on the side of the road in a neighborhood where sectarian violence is so common that drivers must wait in long lines to have their vehicles searched before entering.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

In the old city section of the capital, a man pulls a cart filled with books and another sells ice by the block.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Six-year-old Hamid Mozeh helps his family by selling potatoes in the Karada neighborhood.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Lack of sufficient electricity is one of the major problems facing Iraq. The plant in the Dora neighborhood provides some electricity, but residents of Baghdad generally have to survive on about three hours of power a day. With temperatures above 100 degrees, that makes for an uncomfortable situation.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

A man takes his grandson swimming in the Tigris River for the first time. The river is one of the few places to escape the August heat.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

A young girl sleeps in the abandoned office building where her family lives. The family says rats frequently bite the children during the night.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

A pair of boys walk the streets with plastic pistols in hand. War is all they have ever known.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Youngsters slip through barbed wire on the way into their neighborhood.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Children look toward the Tigris at one of several popular parks in the capital.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Iraqis enjoy an evening by the riverfront at one of the parks provided by American dollars. The modest Baghdad park projects offer one of the enduring lessons of the U.S. reconstruction campaign in Iraq: Big is not always better.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Thick concrete blast walls line most streets of Baghdad, leaving a vacant feeling to the city. They have become a part of the scenery and are frequently used for political posters and advertisements.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Firdos Square was the site of the toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein in 2003 after U.S. forces reached the capital. Across the street, private security and barbed wire block the entrance to hotels, closed after being bombed earlier this year.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Barricades and barbed wire line many neighborhoods as seen from the window of an Iraqi security force Humvee.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

The famous Palestine Hotel, where journalists stayed during the beginning of the war, was closed after it was bombed this year, but the pool remains open for those who can afford to come in and cool off.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

A man rests on the roof of a house, trying to escape the heat in a neighborhood where the electricity is on only infrequently.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Members of the Iraqi Olympic rowing team practice on the Tigris River for the upcoming Asian Games.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

A young pilgrim touches the door of the Imam Ali shrine, the scene of fierce battles between U.S. and Mahdi Army forces in the summer of 2004. Najaf is now one of the most prosperous cities in Iraq, visited by thousands of Iraqi and Iranian pilgrims each day.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

In the same Najaf cemetery where American forces fought the Mahdi Army in 2004, policeman Fuad Kadhim Ali Ghassami works building tombs on his days off to supplement his low income.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Men cool off in the Tigris River as two American helicopters prepare to land in the Green Zone. With the number of American troops in Iraq now below 50,000, many Iraqis are uncertain whether they are secure.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles Times staff photographer Carolyn Cole is in Iraq covering the final days of the U.S. combat role. She filed this post on life in Baghdad and Najaf.

Reporting from Baghdad, August 31, 2010

When I was last in Iraq, summer of 2004, the country was in a violent downward spiral.  U.S. troops were fighting insurgents for control of the city of Najaf and indications were that things would only get worse.

Going back to cover the exit of the last U.S. combat brigade has given  me a chance not only to witness the end of a chapter in U.S. military history, but also to visit with the Iraqi people who have suffered greatly over these last seven years.

They continue to be plagued by gas and electricity shortages, making the high temperatures unbearable. One way to cope is by jumping into the Tigris River, once off-limits in the downtown area where Saddam Hussein’s headquarters used to be.

Some neighborhoods are now safe enough for a foreigner to walk, but entire sections of the city are walled off behind concrete barricades making it difficult to see or enter. What I was able to see appears mostly unchanged.

At every intersection, police and military checkpoints stop traffic to open trunks and check passengers for proper identification. They use mirrors on long poles to scan the underside of vehicles for bombs. Cameras should be kept out of sight to avoid being detained or confiscated. After demanding to look through all of my pictures, one Iraqi police officer reminded me, “This is not America.”

See more of Cole’s photographs during the earlier years in Iraq and those of the last U.S. combat brigade to leave.

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