The Washington Post has published a series of photographs by Andrea Bruce titled “Soldiers’ Night Out in Baghdad.” The photos show US soldiers, in full combat gear, dancing and mingling with Iraqis in bars on Abu Nawas Street. I take it from the photo captions that the fact that US soldiers are hanging out with Iraqis is viewed as a good thing. And I think that’s a good thing too. However, these photos show the soldiers in the same company as drunk Iraqi men, prostitutes and dancers. One of the captions points out how these kinds of establishments are a “surprising atmosphere” in what is a conservative Muslim society. I wouldn’t necessarily call bars in Baghdad surprising but they sure do look sleezy.
I would guess that in pretty much all predominately Muslim Middle Eastern countries, you’ll find alcohol-serving bars and clubs; even if they are on the down low. And the fact that these establishments exist isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I guess. Because regardless of the Muslim population, there are always non-Muslims who would patron these places. But in my opinion, I don’t think the fact that these soldiers are hanging out in bars with these members of Iraqi society should be seen in a positive light. It would be nice if the soldiers hung out with Iraqis who would actually remember their encounters with them the following morning. I don’t know how Iraqis feel about this but drunken men, prostitutes and dancers isn’t exactly what I’d want to portray to the world as a positive development in Iraqi daily life; even if it does exist.