About twenty minutes later, Groarke and his party arrive in
the Green Zone, the four-square-mile patch of downtown where
the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) is headquartered under
heavy U.S. military guard. But even here in this walled-off
section on the West Bank of the Tigris there are frequent rocket
and mortar attacks, particularly at night.
“On one occasion earlier this year, rockets landed not far from
the trailer in which I was sleeping,” Groarke writes. “The trailer
rocked as if there were an earthquake, but I was unharmed.”
Earlier this year he was close enough to feel a powerful car
bomb that detonated near the “Assassin’s Gate.” Scores of
people were killed or injured. “Last year I had the privilege,” he
writes, “of staying at the Al-Rashid Hotel before it was blasted
by six missiles.” The Al-Rashid is the 400-room hotel booked
by most American officials. Some rooms took direct hits, killing
at least one and wounding 15.
Groarke arrived in Egypt two years ago with his wife and
two daughters. His mission: to negotiate what has become an
$18 billion rebuilding effort that has morphed into a brutally
hard and hazardous task.
His job is to implement reconstruction activities in every
province of Iraq, a work that has been slowed by a growing
insurgency of car bombings, shootings, and road blocks that
have become part of daily life. Add to that the rising death toll
of American soldiers, the brutal murders of four civilian security
specialists, the beheading of a freelance contractor last May from
Philadelphia’s suburbs, and the prisoner abuse scandals that
eroded yet further America’s image around the world. According
to one report, all of this has raised security costs from 10 to 25
percent of all reconstruction monies through September 2004.
Reconstruction work has been delayed or slowed to a crawl.