I used to think flying into Chicago's Midway Airport was scary. Stuck in the middle of the city, it has absolutely no undeveloped buffer around it. Even though there was a surprisingly steep dive to the runway on approach you were still skimming so low over peoples' houses that you could look down on their backyard picnic and tell whether they were having hamburgers or hot dogs.
But to paraphrase Al Jolsen... "that ain't nothin'" compared to a regularly scheduled airline flight into Baghdad International Airport. Time reporter Aparisim Ghosh explains:
...Sister Benedetta smiles politely when I joke that many of our fellow passengers will be calling to their maker when the plane begins its hellish descent. To avoid being shot down by Iraqi insurgents, the pilot must stay at 30,000 ft. until the plane is directly over Baghdad airport, then bank into a spiraling dive, straightening up just yards from the runway. If you're looking out the window, it can feel as if the plane is in a free fall from which it can't possibly pull out.
During one especially difficult landing in 2004, a retired American cop wouldn't stop screaming "Oh, God! Oh, God!" I finally had to slap him on the face--on instructions from the flight attendant. Another time the man in the window seat was a muscular, heavily tattooed Polynesian ex-commando who spent an hour telling me of his life as a mercenary in a succession of South Pacific island nations--stories that often ended with his punching, stabbing or shooting somebody. When the Fokker began its steep descent, he began whimpering to Jesus and grabbing my forearm so tight, I felt my palm go cold from lack of circulation.
You can read his whole article, Life in Hell: A Baghdad Diary on Time's website. From reading it one can't help but conclude that we've taken a bad but stable situation and converted it into a far worse and more unstable catastrophe.
Obviously a catastrophe for the 100,000+ innocent dead, and a catastrophe for those still living through it, and (self-centered american here) a catastrophe for our country's standing in the world. We've been dealing dirty in the arab/islamic world for decades but I can't imagine them ever forgiving us for this.