Bullets Traded for Radio Waves as War Winds Down
By Suzanne Freeman

U.S. soldiers in Baghdad are handing out more transistors than trading fire with resistors these days. Throughout Baghdad, U.S. Troops continue to fight small groups of armed Iraqis. But now that the war is won, the military is working on winning the peace. Soldiers are handing out radios, soccer balls, comic books, and baseball equipment as more than just gestures of friendship.

U.S. General Tommy Franks walks through piles of rubble where a Tomahawk Land Attack Missile destroyed a portion of one of Saddam Hussein's many presidential palaces. (Photo U.S. DOD Sgt. 1st Class David K. Dismukes)

The AM/FM radios come with information on how to tune into three different frequencies. The U.S.-backed broadcasts provide information on where to find food, drinking water, and medical care. Even the soccer balls carry messages warning kids to be careful of minefields, unexploded munitions, and downed power lines.

"The best thing about it is that I will be able to know what is happening all over Iraq," one man told a Chicago Tribune reporter in Baghdad. "We all know very little about our own future. It would be a good idea to help us understand what is going to happen next."

What may become known as the world's fastest war basically ended in mid-April when U.S. troops took Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. The resistance in this Republican Guard stronghold was minimal. Baghdad had fallen a week earlier. Cities in the south fell within the first days of the war.

Coalition forces are now focusing on providing security. They are working with local leaders to reestablish police forces and return a sense of normalcy to the country. Curfews have been established in the evenings because of the lack of electricity and continued looting.

Without electricity and running water, grocery stores are unable to open for business. Sidewalk shops are popping up around the city with people selling everything from toasters to car batteries to computers to squash. While the fruit and vegetables are being brought in from nearby farms, other items may have been stolen during the looting. The desperate air around the sellers on the streets and the markets carries its own threat of trouble.

"They come and sell weapons in the market as well, so we have to carry weapons and prevent them from shooting in the air and hurting our families," one Iraqi told reporters. "None of this was here a few weeks ago."

Establishing what will be there in the future is the next step the Iraqi people must take.