Iraq checkpoint flowers can't mask fear and danger

Sun Jan 18, 2009 6:47am EST
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By Mohammed Abbas

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Flowers and paint cannot mask bullet and shrapnel marks in the concrete blast walls of Iraq's checkpoints, where recruits like 23 year-old Jawad Jaddou face frequent attacks doing one of the world's most dangerous jobs.

"When I leave the house I tell them not to ask for me ... I won't get married because I have this job. I can't leave a woman and children on their own," Jaddou said.

In addition to bomb attacks, the often young army and police recruits who man the barricades face scorching heat, an irate public and driving standards almost as lethal as the bombs.

Inspirational slogans are painted or sprayed on the concrete to try to reassure the public. "You respect, we respect" reads one. "Nobody is above the law" says another "Together, Iraqis crush the terrorist cowards," reads one more.

Some blast walls are painted with idyllic images of Iraq, such as palm groves, and many checkpoints are adorned with garlands of plastic flowers to make them look less forbidding. One features flowers planted in old artillery shells.

But reminders of the extreme danger people at checkpoints face are often close by.

Near Jaddou's post is a picture of a police captain who died at a checkpoint, one of many such posters commemorating the sacrifice of dead security men that are put up close to roadblocks around Iraq.

Many were killed stopping suicide bombers. Violence has dropped sharply in Iraq in the past year, but insurgents have shown they are still able to conduct spectacular bomb attacks.   Continued...