In pictures: the bridges of Baghdad

A US soldier sits on the rear of a military vehicle as it cruises on a bridge over the Tigris river while patrolling the streets of Baghdad, 13 May 2003. Image: AFP/Getty.

Seven years in the making; 12 volumes; 2.6m words – today, Sir John Chilcot finally published his long-awaited report into the 2003 Iraq War.

You almost certainly haven't read it. Moreover, what you've read about it is depressingly unlikely to have changed your views, either of the war or of Tony Blair's role in it.

So here, instead, are some photographs of Iraqi bridges, before, during and after the conflict. They'll all expand, if you click.

The Shadhu Bridge, across the River Tigris, in 1932. Image: AFP/Getty.


An aerial view of Baghdad, 1935. Image: AFP/Getty.


King Faisel's Bridge, Baghdad, 1941. Image: AFP/Getty.


The locals in Samawa, 250km south of Baghdad, use boats to cross the Euphrates in February 1991, after the bridge was destroyed in the first Gulf War. Image: STR/Getty.



 Iraqis walk across a bridge into Baghdad 13 April 2003, four days after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Image: AFP/Getty.



 Iraqi men bathe in water leaking from a pipe under a damaged bridge May 5, 2003 in Baghdad. Image: Getty.


Iraqi men cross a bridge, repaired after suffering damage during the war to topple Saddam Hussein, 07 June 2003 in Baghdad. Image: Getty.


A US Army boat passes a bridge, damaged in the war in Tikrit, about 180 km north of Baghdad, in July 2003. Image: AFP/Getty.


US soldiers secure the area around the Al-Jamuria Bridge near the former presidential palace, following a protest by former Iraqi government workers demanding back pay, 7 October 2003. Image: AFP/Getty.


Protestors cross a bridge in Baquba, 60km northeast of Baghdad, to demand the release of Iraqi prisoners of war in Iran, 10 August 2003. Image: AFP/Getty.


An Iraqi girl at the newly re-oppened 14th of July bridge in Baghdad, 25 October 2003. Image: AFP/Getty.


 A traffic policeman sits inside a damaged booth at the edge of a deserted bridge in central Baghdad, 14 December 2005, one day before the country's general election. Image: AFP/Getty.



Meet the YIMBY campaigners hoping to ease the housing crisis

Some houses, being built. Image: Getty.

The nimby is a wearily familiar political breed. Though individuals may support new housing and infrastructure projects in theory, they oppose them in practice (“not in my backyard”). For fear of consequences such as a fall in property values, locals reliably revolt against proposed developments – and politicians retreat. The net result is that cities and countries are denied the housing they need. For the past decade, the UK has fallen far short of the 250,000 new homes required annually to meet demand.

But the nimby has now met its dialectical opposite: the yimby. In contrast to their opponents, yimbys not merely tolerate but welcome development (“yes in my backyard”). The earliest known usage of yimby was in a 1988 New York Times article (“Coping in the Age of Nimby”) and the first organisation was founded in 2007 (Yimby Stockholm). Sister groups have since been established in Toronto, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Sydney, Helsinki and, most recently, London.

John Myers, a 44-year-old former barrister and financial analyst, co-founded London Yimby with four others last year. They were inspired by the capital’s dysfunctional property market (London is the most expensive major global city for buying or renting) and the success of groups elsewhere.

“We saw what was happening in the States,” Myers said when we spoke. “The San Francisco group has just had three new laws passed in California to get more housing built. There are now more than 30 US cities with yimby groups… There really is a feeling in the air that something has to be done.” Myers lives in a small mortgaged house in Camden, north London, but most of the group’s volunteers are private or social housing tenants and range from “the very young to retired grandparents”.

“The big problem with the housing crisis,” Myers told me, “the dirty little secret that politicians don’t like to talk about is that, actually, people quite like house prices to go up.”

In 2013, shortly after launching the Help to Buy scheme, the former chancellor George Osborne told the cabinet: “Hopefully we will get a little housing boom and everyone will be happy as property values go up” (the average London house now costs £484,362). Though the exorbitant price of housing (such that there are now more outright owners than mortgagors) has become an electoral problem for the Tories, homeowners remain an obstacle to development.

In a recent report for the Adam Smith Institute (“Yes In My Back Yard”), Myers made three proposals to win over this bloc: allowing individual streets to grant themselves planning permission to extend or replace buildings; permitting local parishes to develop “ugly or low amenity” sections of the green belt; and devolving planning powers to city-region mayors.

“There are ways to get support from local people for high-quality developments but we have a system right now that doesn’t try and get that support,” Myers said. “It just imposes measures from the top down.”

In some US cities, yimbys have antagonised anti-gentrification campaigners by supporting luxury developments. There is a tension between the aim of greater supply and that of greater affordability. Myers argued that it was crucial to have “clear rules on what percentage [of affordable housing] is required up front, so it gets priced into the land and taken out of the landowner’s pocket”.

The replacement of stamp duty with a land value tax, he added, would leave both “the buyer and the seller better off: the buyer doesn’t have to scrape a deposit together and the seller doesn’t have the price reduced by the amount of stamp duty”.

That some Conservatives are now prepared to consider previously heretical measures such as building on the green belt and borrowing £50bn for housing investment may herald a new era. The yimby bulldozer is beginning to dislodge the nimbys from their privileged perch. 

This article previously appeared in our sister title, the New Statesman.

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