Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Hmm.... now it is me who linked to this weblog, and I am sure everyone has the right to say what they think, but this is kind of strange.

I would rather have President Bremer (Allah preserve him) ruling us than any of them.

pfui...filthy words wash your moth with soap young man.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

The interview in the German STERN has a picture. the photographer was really cool.
My cousin,after his 3rd beer, is the smartest person on this planet.
For some reason we started talking about whether Bush will have another term on the big chair in the White House. I thought he's out because of all the trouble in Iraq. My cousin puts down his beer and tells me that I am a fool, because:
"Bush is the Devil himself, and you can't beat a Shaitan. Saddam will magically appear in cuffs two months before the elections and American soldiers will be at their homes partying by New Year's. The ground will start spitting up WMD's and al-Qaeda links the moment he touches the ground with his nose, and he will be the next american president".
he puts his beer down and tells me my tuna salad is the worst ever.
Did I mention that G. has stopped blogging for ideological reasons? A statement will be issued.
he is giving his brains time off or something, and he even shaved his beard. The shia mullahs don't do the hug-kiss-kiss thing when they see him anymore. Maybe he got sick of that.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Baghdad's Jews: On their last leg
Two months ago I went to Bataween and looked for the Synagogue, you wouldn't notice it because there is a huge 4 meter wall around it, not even the policemen who were just around the corner knew where it was (or maybe they just didn't want to tell me). Anyway I found it, I guessed it was it, and I knocked on their door. The young man who came out didn't even let me in to take a look, he just told me that I should go away because I will cause trouble. The really scary thing thing was that just a couple of hundred meters away there was the SCIRI headquarters for the Bataween district.
hmmmm funny now that I am writing this I have a strange sense of dejavu. did I already tell you this or did I tell it to Diane only. anyway back to the jazeera article, because it is Jazeera they have to fuck it up as usual. look:
Here was the first person I had met who yearned for the clock to be turned back and former President Hussein to return – not a Baathist sympathiser, not a former member of the secret police - but a middle-aged Jewish woman.
The other two women said they also wished for the return of the former president and swore all their friends felt the same.
"In Saddam's day, there was the rule of law, there was safety. Now I dare not let my daughter out of the house. She won't be able to complete her studies. This is what the Americans have brought", said Subhiyya.
Now aljazeera can make people in the english speaking countries sick as well.
Zeyad's post on the 15th talks about the date the Coalition/CPA/GC whatever chose for the date of the release of new Iraqi currency. I you scroll down a bit and get to the part wher it says [Al-Zahf Al-Kabir] in bold. The point he makes is actually very inetersting and I thought about this as well. I do actually think that it would be a good idea to start superimposing new "events" on old ones. This is actually the best way to clear the markings history makes on certain dates, to just say "it is no more" does not really work. I think it did happen in the Soviet Union where they just adopted the old holidays and gave them new names. Look at the Kurds and Nawruz [unislamic and banned by the Taliban] they still celebrate it, it's meaning was changed so that peole later on forgot where it came from. The same should happen to our old national holidays. It is going to be very difficult to make people really just ignore the 7th of april or the 17th of july, all your life these dates have been engraved on your skull from the inside, so the best thing to do is give them new meanings, new reasons to celebrate. Now we will remember the 15th of October as the day we got our funky new/old money and not the day of al zahf al kabir.
My god I leave for a month and look what happens, Riverbend ranks right behind me on google (I have to start working those links again otherwise I will just drop of the ranking, she is just unstoppable) and there is a NEW IRAQI BLOGGER. It is called Healing Iraq, isn't this nice we have Baghdad Burning and Healing Iraq.
Listen to this, it’s really funny and they (people in the CPA) wouldn’t want anyone to tell you about it so it is double the fun.
Because anyone who is inside the “green zone” does not go outside, it is like they are living on a Martian colony, they have been trying to bring some of the “exotic east” inside the green zone, anyway one of the things they offer inside the green zone is a hair salon, who’s proprietor is the famous Karim Mourad (he’s a big shot Hair guy here) so they have him inside and it is either this guy or another who also offers massages at their salon, basic beauty spa thingy, or is it? For some reason he was doing something nasty on the way. If you were a man and came to get a massage he would get a “nice” young girl to do it for you and apparently things were not very “Halal”. Some killjoy complained about this and they (CPA big cheese) axed the massage parlor. Tsk tsk tsk, no consideration to basic human needs, or it might have been someone who complained because he would much rather get serviced by a nice young man. Killjoy either way. And they decided that no Iraqis are allowed to get hair cuts in there.

Another things Iraqis who work for the CPA or related offices are not allowed to have is Breakfast. If you are seen in the Cafeteria during the breakfast period your badge gets taken away from you and without a badge you get booted out of the compound. I talked to a couple of young women working for the CPA in the green zone and what they told me was very interesting, it seems from what they have been telling me that the ratio of women to men on there is much higher than the normal work space (if you exclude banks, it is very much women’s domain don’t ask me why) that is interesting by itself added to that Iraqis never get promoted to anything, they stay at “level zero”. The maximum pay is $15 a day and in order to be on time for the start of the working day you have to start queuing from 6am because of the long lines at the entrance gates. This lining up is one thing they are all freaked out about, all except the Americans in their green zone. Both women I talked to have been warned against telling anyone their home address and the communication between Iraqis in there is not very good, you don’t want to tell someone where you live only to start getting phone calls telling you stop helping the Americans. This has happened quite often. So although they have this on their minds all they time thay still come to their jobs, yes the pay is good but if they stop coming the “coalition” will be in the blind. They depend on these people to be their link to the “outside” world. And what do they do to insure they safety? They make them wait for hours in lines outside the green zone. The 14th of July Bridge and the Jumhuriya Bridge entrances are very nice places for any sort of saboteur. You only have to drive by with a Kalashnikov to mow down the Iraqis. Look these people are working for you and don’t tell me you don’t need them because that would be a lie, do you want to bring your own civil servants into a war zone? So the least you can do is not to make them into sitting ducks like the Iraqi police now are. This is another thing I would like people to pay some respect to. Iraqi Police kick major ass. Much respect. Wherever you go now and open up that subject you will see a lot of sympathy with those brave men and women and a total incomprehension to what this so called resistance is doing. They are killing Iraqis now. They say Jihad against the Infidel Occupier and they go kill those Iraqi police men. The Baghdad Hotel, the Turkish embassy and many more. It is not the Infidel the attackers are killing but Iraqis and this just might be good because the general sentiment now is “what the fuck do the Jihadis think they are doing?”. I wrote or said some time ago that most Iraqis are just sitting on the fence, well the last couple of attacks are tipping the balance against the Jihadis because they are killing all those Iraqis, they are putting bombs in streets and in front of schools, threatening to bomb banks where Iraqis are standing in line waiting to get their new Iraqi Dinars. So as we say here [biha saleh – something good will come out of it] maybe the people who are dying in those attacks are helping us understand that what those saboteurs are doing is just pure evil, telling people they are Muslim Jihadis doesn’t cut it anymore because they are killing civilians indiscriminately.
The new Iraqi currency is pure nostalgia. Let-us-take-you-on-a-trip-back-to-the-good-old-days type of thing, of course the irony will be totally lost on the younger people but me Raed and G. sat looking at the new 250 remembering the days when we would get a quarter of a dinar a daily allowance. It was enough for a bottle of Sinalco (a yellow fizzy drink) a bar of bad chocolate and whatever sandwich the school cafeteria was selling.

I am sure everybody already has seen pictures but here is a pdf link. we don't have Hundreds anymore.
They have changed the color which kind of spoils the effect, the quarter (250 fils) used to be green now the 250 dinar is bluish. Although the “Government” warned against the trade in the new currency – you know selling for more than its value because it is spanking new – it is already happening, the exchange rate is 2000 dinars per dollar in the old currency and 1900 per dollar for the new.
And we are still waiting for any attacks on banks.

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.
Three weeks in London and two in Amman, it felt like being out of Iraq for ages. I left Baghdad with one piece of luggage, I came back with three. The number of CDs and books I bought would keep a whole country happy for a year. And what was even better some of the journalists who came to interview brought me book presents with them, in one case I got a book sent by mail, The Devil’s Dictionary. That was a great Interview and a very funny book. Thanks Lina. And I finally got the promised yellow New York cab Diane bought for me before the war.

So here are my best London moments in no particular order :
- Seeing Jack Straw at the BBC and sitting in the same room for 10 minutes without having the balls to ask him : so where are the WMDs?
- having coffee with Ann Clwyd at he Houses of Parliament and finding out that she has been supporting [The Free Prisoners Society]. Before I went there people were telling me that she was so pro-war, when I sat and talked to her she amazed me with her knowledge and commitment. So pro-war she is but her heart is in the right place, if more anti-war people were as committed to helping Iraq out of the bad place it is now as she is things would be great.
- James Lavelle in Fabric, thanks Louisa for telling me I should go there. and London Garage does make sense.
- Birthday dinner, thanks wendy.
- The Demo in London on the 27th. It was supposed to be an anti-war/end the occupation thingy. I went there. I was amused. It felt very much like a nice Saturday family outing, look I have not seen many demonstrations. The ones I have seen are the ones we had here in Baghdad after the war they were all very angry, scary things. Then I go to the one in London and you have this carnival atmosphere. I was really interested in how much the guys selling the whistles were making. It was huge I grant you that and walking among all these people did feel very good. I was looking for an Iraqi flag to go and talk to the Iraqis, I thought there were non there until Yasar sent me a text message telling me they were already by Trafalgar Square [Hi Yasar, thanks]. I left and went to Camden.
- buying [Hatful of Hollow] for 3 Pounds.
- The room at Tate Modern where they have an instillation called [5 angels for the millennium or look at the Tate's page]. I didn’t want to leave that room.
- The Guardian’s G2 people. They make it look so easy; if you see their editorial meetings you would be amazed they have a paper out very day. You know, you expect deadly serious people and lots of arguing, the basic movie thing. It is not. They just sit and crack jokes.

The guys at Atlantic promised it was going to be OK and fun and it was. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Still in Jordan, will be back in baghdad by thursday.
did I tell you that while waiting for the BBC Today show Jack Straw was in the same room with me, he was waiting for his turn to be put infront of a mic. It was probably one of the strangest moments in my life ever. I kept looking over the rim of my coffee mug, just making sure that it is actually him sitting in front of me.