Well, not a country club in the traditional sense – no, more of a small, dusty convenience store stocked with a limited selection of liquor, beer, wine, and other odds and ends located on a small side street in a run-down residential section of Baghdad’s International Zone.
The IZ, commonly referred to as the “Green Zone” by the press and media types, was – when I was there many years ago – still a heavily fortified city-within-a city, filled mostly with Western diplomats, coalition military personnel, and Iraqi politicians who were wealthy enough to live behind the blastwalls and U.S. Army checkpoints.
For those of us who lived there, the IZ wasn’t much to look at. It did provide safety from the indiscriminate car bombs that were so common in those days, but not the indirect attacks (mortars, rockets, small arms fire) launched from nearby neighborhoods. Really, there were only a few places that provided some modicum of happiness: the Embassy’s coffee shop (located in Saddam’s Presidential Palace); the Blue Star restaurant; and the Baghdad Country Club. For me, the Country Club was tricky to visit. I was a non-military person living on a military base; thus, the military’s rules applied to us, including General Order #1 (no consumption of alcohol). But working for a manager who understands discretion does have its benefits, so whenever possible, a short detour was made to the Country Club.
I was lucky enough to have visited the Baghdad Country Club. For those who weren’t, Joshuah Bearman recently wrote a story entitled Baghdad Country Club, published electronically by The Atavist and available for purchase/download. The Atlantic excerpted a piece of Bearman’s story, which after reading, put a nostalgic smile on my face and stirred a few old memories of warm bottles of Dewar’s blended Scotch whisky. To this day, I still keep a bottle of Dewar’s on my bar, mostly for its sentimental value.
In addition to the excerpted Atlantic piece, Atavist Publishing posted a superb video companion to Bearman’s story, a truly imaginative piece of art. Although it doesn’t replicate the actual experience, it provides a little colorful background to the Country Club’s origins.
For a more about my drinking experience while serving in Iraq, see my three part series Hazardous Drinking in the Middle East, which originally appeared in September 2010.