Looking for the New Baghdad

TIME's former bureau chief finds Iraq's capital has changed in many ways, mostly for the better. But the gains are fragile

Franco Pagetti / VII for TIME

Confident the surge would pacify Baghdad, bus driver Andalus Hammadi and his family returned from Syria last summer. Now facing new threats from death squads, they're thinking of fleeing again.

Andalus Abdel-Rahim Hammadi, a Baghdad school-bus driver, has this much in common with John McCain: both men gambled on the U.S. military's "surge" in Iraq long before it looked like a sure thing. If the Arizona Senator risked his presidential ambitions on it, the stakes for Hammadi were higher: his life and the lives of his wife and two young children. Last summer, as the final batch of 30,000 additional American troops requisitioned by General David Petraeus was arriving in Iraq, the bus driver and his family left their refuge in Syria to return home. It had been nearly two years...

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