To a longtime correspondent, Baghdad seems "shabby and bleak"

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer has spent a lot of time in Iraq during the last decade.

She just wrapped up another 10-day assignment in Baghdad -- reporting on a country that often seems stuck in an endless cycle of violence and corruption.

Before she left, she took the time to share her observations.

Of course, Baghdad these days isn't all bombs and bullets.

Even in the winter, the days are warm enough for a little outdoor sport. And in the evening, people do find the time and place to unwind. For example, Sunnis gathered in the mosque to celebrate their Prophet's birthday.

 

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Iraqis get out for a little sport
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But overall, the city is shabby and bleak.

Seeing it like this after two years was a shock.

I covered Iraq for over a decade during the U.S. occupation, through some of the very grimmest chapters.

But by 2011, as the last of the American troops pulled out, I thought things had turned around, after a successful election and oil money started to flow.

 

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After the last of the American troops pulled out, there was a successful election and oil money started to flow
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So did Seyed Abdul Gilani. He heads one of the main Sunni mosques in Baghdad.

But instead, he said, Iraqis have had nothing but corrupt politics, empty promises and a government that does not build anything.

"We hear about the water, we hear about the electric, we hear about the sewage," he said. "We hear, we hear, we hear. Nothing. Nothing."

Saddest of all, Baghdad is not safe. After security improved steadily over several years, terrorist attacks shot up again last summer. In spite of hundreds of checkpoints that cause epic traffic jams, somehow the bombers still slip past, and wreak havoc. This week alone there were 22 attacks.

 

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Baghdad has seen the number of terrorist attacks shoot up
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Khadamiya hospital keeps this room ready all the time full of empty beds close to the front emergency entrance to receive the steady waves of bombing victims that can arrive at anytime.

All the violence looks depressingly familiar. Anyone who lived through the bloodshed of the post-Saddam years sees ominous parallels today.

Armed extremists have once again occupied the city of Fallujah in Anbar province, where more than 1,300 U.S. soldiers died.

America says it will help out again though not with men this time but arms.

And Iraqis - who have learned realism the hard way -- are praying for peace, but once again bracing for war.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."

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