Saturday, March 08, 2008

"I Don't Want A Pickle..."*

From CNN
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*The title of this post is from Arlo Guthrie's motorcycle song.
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Speeding motorcycles, wheelies provide war relief
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Ali Jawhar streaked across the pavement on his yellow motorcycle and popped a wheelie. Hundreds of onlookers whistled wildly and shouted in glee at the yellow blur before them. He was followed by other motorcycle enthusiasts who performed similar stunts before the testosterone-filled crowd in Iraq.
Jawhar said he would never drive his bike so crazily anywhere else in Baghdad. Doing so would put his life at risk because security forces would think he's a terrorist or an outlaw.
"But here, I can do whatever I want," he said.
Jawhar and other bikers are taking part in newfound freedom in a central Baghdad parking lot, thanks to an improved security situation in the Iraqi capital.
The better security can be attributed to many factors: the U.S.-led surge that has put more troops across Baghdad and clamped down on insurgents; better-trained Iraqi security forces who guard more checkpoints; and the establishment of predominantly Sunni "Awakening Councils," often made up of former militants, aimed at going after al Qaeda.
And so spectators flock to this makeshift race track every Friday, lining up hours before the 3 p.m. start time for an afternoon of entertainment and relief from the war. They crowd around the only entrance into the parking lot. Most of the participants are motorcyclists, but some bring their cars to burn rubber.
When they arrive, the crowd chants: "Our heroes are coming! Our heroes are coming!"
It costs nothing to attend. The racers don't win anything either -- other than the hearts and minds of those watching.
Sarmad Sadiq, 22, said he couldn't bear sitting at home any longer. When he heard about the Friday motorcycle festivities, he was excited.
"I was bored of staying home," he said. "I needed some change."
Raad Kamal, another spectator, echoed that sentiment. "I expect anything, car bombs or suicide bombers. But if I decided to stay in the house all the time, then it means I am a dead man, and I do not want to be a dead man. I decided to go outside and live my life."
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