Back in Iraq

Once again, artist Steve Mumford has made the trek to Iraq and has produced yet another entry in the Baghdad Journal series. As always, he provides a much needed different perspective on Iraq:
After checking in at my hotel, we spend the day wandering around downtown Baghdad. I’m trying to gauge how much things have changed since I was here last, back in March, before all the violence with Muqtada Sadr and in Falluja. We’re hanging out in the park, underneath the massive sculptural mural in Tarir Square when Esam notices that someone’s got a gun underneath his shirt. We leave, but in fact, I can’t shake the impression of a certain optimism pervading at least this area. Businesses are open; the streets are relatively clean and bustling. People seem as friendly as ever. One shopkeeper kisses my shoulder when I tell him I’m American. Esam advises me to tell Iraqis that I’m Canadian. I find myself oddly resistant to telling this lie. I haven’t yet encountered overt hostility. I’ve met a lot of Iraqis while out drawing. If they haven’t been happy about my nationality, they’ve politely kept it to themselves. Yet it would be foolish to imagine that I’m safe here.
It's funny, I'm beginning to recognize many of Mumford's friends from previous columns. Indeed, Mumford appears to have made some truly good friends over there:
Looking across at the crowd of journalists eating and chatting, I’m reminded of summer dinner parties in New York, among artist friends. But thinking of my companions here in Iraq, I feel proud to be with them. My project has allowed me the time and luxury to become close to people with whom I don’t need to have a professional relationship. I’m wondering if it will ever be possible for them to travel as Iraqi tourists to the U.S.
Excellent, stuff, as usual. If you're not familiar with Mumford's work, you might want to check on the previous installments of the Baghdad Journal. Highly recommended.