Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Powell speech is around 6pm in Baghdad, the whole family is getting together for tea and dates-pastry to watch the (Powell Rocks the UN) show. Not on Iraqi TV of course, we have decided to put up the satellite dish to watch it, yes we will put it away afterwards until the next event. I don’t exactly like the thought of two months in prison just to have 24 hour BBC (no free CNN on ArabSat which is the only sat we get with our tiny dish).

A quick run thru what is going on in Baghdad before uncles and aunts flood the house. The juiciest bit of news actually happened about a week ago but I was told about it today. A couple of days ago it was rumored that all top officials had their phone numbers changed, well who cares it’s not like I call Saddam every night to chat, but today a friend explained why. Around six days ago the phone lines of the Iraqi air defense units were “attacked”. When you picked up the phone in some of the command units you didn’t get a dial tone but a male voice speaking in broken Arabic. What it said is close to what the infamous email said, don’t use chemical or biological weapons, don’t offer resistance, and don’t obey commands to attack civilian areas and so on. This went on for a couple of hours. Now everyone has new numbers. I have no idea how that is at all possible. I do know that for some rural areas we use microwave signals for phone connections but they can’t be so stupid as to use it for military purposes.
Way to go uncle Sam. This is going to make one hell of a James Bond movie.

The trenches and sandbag mountains I wrote about last week are now all over Baghdad. They are not being put there by the army; they are part of the Party’s preparations for an insurgence. Each day a different area of Baghdad goes thru the motions. Party members spread in the streets of that area, build the trenches, sit in them polishing their Kalashnikovs and drink tea. The annoyance-factor of these training days depend on the zeal of the party members in that area. Until now the worst was the [14th of Ramadan] street, they stopped cars searched them and asked for ID and military cards, good thing I wasn’t going thru that street, I still have not stamped my military papers to show that I have done my reserves training.

Saddam is still meeting officers daily, and we have the pleasure of watching these meetings three times every day. Each batch he meets leaves the place with a 1.5million Iraqi Dinars check and a brand new car. The latest cars to be put in the warehouses I pass by are Toyota Corollas, all white. The warehouse has around 150 of them (we counted the trucks standing outside). It is said that there are a couple of thousand more new cars waiting just outside Baghdad, parked so close to each other when one of them caught fire they couldn’t get to it fast enough, 38 cars burned.

Don’t you just love gossip?

A work related trip to Arbil in the north of Iraq had to be canceled when I found out that if I am going to sit in the same car as a WHO staff member I have to get travel permit from the ministry of foreign affairs, even if it was “local staff” i.e. Iraqi citizen. The permit takes around three days to issue which would have made the whole trip pointless. I really wanted to go. There is no border as such but you go thru an “Iraqi” check point and a “Kurdish” one, and the best way to get thru them without hassle is to travel in an international agency car, but that requires permit from the Iraqis. Bummer.

Door bells are ringing have to go now.