Sunday, October 12, 2003

[written two days ago]
It is four twenty five am and I have just gone past the Iraqi border point from Jordan. It is very very different from what it used to be. There is much less bureaucracy, although they still want you to do the pointless "AIDS test" which actually is just a way for the people at the check point to make money. They will give you a date on which you are supposed to do the test and they would just tell you to go to the nearest clinic to where you live, well I could do that without having to pay 5 bucks for someone to tell me that I should.
The one thing that did not change, and will not if you ask me, is that bribes are still accepted and welcome. Give the people at the check point who are supposed to check your luggage $10 and they will not look. You don’t have to open the trunk let alone bringing it out of the car. It is actually a mighty drag, especially if like me you have got four plus lots of small bags and most of them are filled with books and CDs. You don't really want to explain why you have five Salman Rushdie books, it never makes a good impression on the border guards. He would report you to his superiors as the anti-Allah. Don’t start with your “but you are free now” speech, it will take more tan six months to change that.
So the border point was made more pleasant by paying 10 fucking dollars, can you imagine that, only ten dollars and I could have a car full of explosives. Long live bribable corrupt countries. And of course the foreigners have to mess this up, they go and give a $40 “tip”, my god don’t spoil them like that next time they will want 40 from me as well. Anyway, I am on my way back home. happy happy joy joy.

Coming back into the country is much easier than getting out; first you have the problem of the passport authority. There is none so if yours has expired or you don’t have one; then tough luck. You ain’t getting one anytime soon. The Governing Council did promise that by mid September they would have that up and running but nothing happened, now why am I not surprised? I guess they have a bigger problem making sure they are safe from all the threats to actually do something. And did you read that incredible thing about them getting $5000 lunches. 25 people are costing Iraq $5000 to feed. Well it is not costing Iraq now it is more the “coalition” tax payers who are paying for that. They are Iraqis why are they having $200 lunches, that is unheard of, they are lucky the IHT does not have an Arabic edition, anyway I have strayed. I was talking about traveling out of Iraq.
So you are lucky that you got your passport before the war and you have packed your floral print shirts and polka dot ties, now where to go? It is funny how no country wanted to have Iraqis when we had Saddam and how they still don’t want us. Do we have [trouble] stamped on our foreheads or what? To get anywhere we still have to go thru Jordan, until the Baghdad airport opens for commercial flights. Now let’s look at how our friendly neighbor Jordan is dealing with that.
They have their borders open after the war for the Iraqis with big money to come; they have the families of all the ex-ministers there. They have their money in their banks and they are letting them buy loads of real estate. Then they decide OK this is what we needed let’s make life hell for the rest of the Iraqis. You have to wait for hours at the border only to be turned back. They don’t issue visas they just tell you to go to the border and the officer at the border will decide which is fucking pointless. Have the border guard in Baghdad so that I know whether you are letting me in or not, it doesn’t feel like a border point it feels like the door at a club with a really nasty bouncer. Sorry, not tonight. And it is a 5 hour drive to the border and 5 hours back. The driver who drove me to Baghdad told me that a week ago he drove an old man to the border who has arranged with his son, whom he has not seen for 15 years, to meet him at the border because he was afraid the Jordanian border authority would not let him in. and if they let you in they give you a transit stamp which means you have to leave the country within 72 hours.
Meanwhile they have Raghad [Saddam’s daughter] prancing around Abdoun Mall with two bodyguards waving hellos as if she were a superstar.
Whatever, all we need is for the Airport to open again and there will be no need to go thru Amman anymore, the business they will lose will make them feel sorry for being so mean, just imagine anyone who wants to get into Iraq has to go thru Jordan now. The foreign press the Iraqi expats, all this will go, khalas maku, the Jordanian guard will not have his kicks asking me to empty my pockets.