I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin...

Ali from the blog Iraq the Model has put up a rather fascinating (and long) post about conditions "on the ground" there, and is chock full of interesting nuggets of the sociological and economic variety, the first one being a rather amusing (and telling) passage about generational differences in perception:

My young cousin is a religious Sunni who goes to the mosque and listens to the cleric there every Friday and believes whatever he says, as he?s still young. My uncle always teased his son about this but never prohibited him from doing that. We were talking about different stuff; the kids? needs, clerics, Americans and the increase in the average income of most Iraqis. My uncle has a somewhat unusual sense of humor that doesn't fit quite well in his somewhat religious family. He winked at me and turned to his son and asked him "What do you think of the Americans?"

His son answered, "They are occupiers".

"So you think we should fight them?" his father asked.

Ibrahim said "No, but I don?t like them".

My uncle said, pretending to change the subject "Do you like your new computer that no one shares with you?"

"Yes of course dad".

"Ok, are you satisfied with the satellite dish receiver we have or do you need a better one?"

"This one is fine but I heard there?s a better one that gets more channels"

"ok I?ll get you that next week". Then he said, "Is there anything else you?d like to have son?"

"No dad I have all that I need".

"Ok but how about a car?"

Ibrahim was astounded and said "Really? a..a CAR.. for me!?".

"Of course for you! I?m too old to drive now and my eyes are not that well and you are the older son. So whom else would it be for!?"

"Oh, dad that will be great! When will that happen?"

"Just finish your exams and you?ll have it".

"I will dad".

"Are you happy now son?"

"Yes dad, sure I am!"

"Then why do you hate the Americans you son of a b***h!? I couldn?t get you a bicycle a year ago, I could hardly feed you and your brothers and sisters. You didn?t know what an apple or a banana tasted like, I couldn?t buy you a damned Pepsi bottle except in occasions, and now you can have all that you wish, and a car of your own! Who do you think made that possible!?" My cousin?s face turned red and didn?t answer as we laughed and I said "What do you think Ibrahim?"

He said, "Well it?s true but it?s our money. They are not giving us a charity" and I said "Of course it?s our money, so let?s forget the Billions of dollars they are giving to rebuild Iraq and the efforts they are making to cut down our debts and lets talk about our money. Why didn?t your father, I, my brothers and all the Iraqis have anything worth mentioning before the Americans came?" He said, "Because Saddam used it to buy weapons and build palaces". "There you have it Ibrahim, but Americans are not touching our money. Can you tell me who?s better; the ?occupiers? who are helping us or the ?patriot? who did all that you know to us?" He said in a faint voice "They are better than Saddam but still they are not Muslims". "So do you want them to be Muslims?" "I wish they were." "Will you fight them to that?" he said, "No, of course not. I don?t like fighting." We didn?t want to pressure and embarrass him further and didn?t go further, as he?s still young but he?s smart and good-natured and will get it soon.

Additionally, Ali tells of the economic conditions on the ground, both monetarily and of the labor market:

think that most people agree that the exchange price of a country?s currency is one of the indicators of the state of that country?s economy and one that when combined with the average income would help in giving a prediction of the future of this economy and the political future of that country as well, as economy and politics are so connected to each other. Now the Iraqi Dinar was never trusted before the war, and my family was one of the hundreds of thousands of families that changed all the Iraqi currency they had into US Dollars just before the war which caused the exchange price for the Iraqi Dinar against the US Dollar and other foreign currencies to drop uncontrollably from 2000 for each dollar to about 4000 in a period of a month that proceeded the war. After the war the Iraqi Dinar returned to the previous figure and with the introduction of the new Iraqi Dinar, the exchange price improved to around 1500 by the beginning of 2004 with few wobbles during the early period. Since January 2004 and till now and despite all the given factors of instability, the exchange price remained almost constant with a marginal variation from 1430 to 1460 and never dropped below 1400 nor did it ever rise above 1500!! What should that tell us?


Back to the average income issue. Some readers may remember that I said my salary was about 17 US$ before the war. Shortly after the war it was raised to 120 US$. Three months after that, they made it 150 US$. Two months later it became 200$(although the truth should be said that they promised that it was going to be 250$) and when I went with one of my colloquies (who gets an exact payment) to receive his salary this month (I still haven?t been paid for 6 months due to some bureaucratic problems that have just been solved), the accountant said to my friend "congratulations! You are getting a new raise starting from the next month and your salary will be around 300 US$!"
Now I know this is still a very low figure compared to what doctors get in other countries, but look at the pace of the raises; 120, 150, 200, 300 all in one year! I mean it?s spooky. What will it be the next year, 500$? And what about 3 or 4 years from now? A thousand or can I dare say a few thousand dollars? Will we get more than what the Syrian, Egyptian Iranian and even Saudi doctors!? What a disaster will it be to the mullahs of Iran, Bashar Al-Assad and the king of Saudi Arabia?

Some people, including some Iraqis, are fooled by the media as they tells them that the prices are higher than before. This is not true, as the prices of ALL the imported goods have lowered especially with only 5% import tax and with no Uday or Qusay to take their share of the merchants? profits. The only prices that have risen are those the of the local goods and the wages of laborers and services provided by private businesses, but that was only by 2 to 3 folds increase at maximum compared to the unbelievably high rise in the income of the government employees who represent most of the working Iraqis which should explain the former fact as a healthy sign of economical growth, not the opposite.

Others are fooled by what the media keeps screaming about the unemployment. And this is the most stupid lie I?ve ever heard to which I have only one question: Who are those unemployed people?? I dare anyone to answer this!

Everyone who knows enough about Iraq should know that millions of Iraqis were employed by the government, but most of them had second jobs (I used to run a small shop with my brothers beside my job as a doctor, and of course I gave it up soon after the war) except for those who took illegal advantages from their original jobs. The rest were involved in private businesses that paid more but were very risky with all the shakes in economy and all the restrictions from the old regime. After the war some of those who were employed by the government were expelled, but most of them are back now. For God?s sake even most of the Ba?athists and the security agents are back to their jobs now! The only people who are out of job now are Saddam?s special security agents and higher ranked Ba?athists who sucked the Iraqi people?s blood for decades. May I ask how many are those, and should we really sympathieze with them this much?

That Ali has noticed Iraqis all around him almost reflexively engaged in trade and commercial/productive activity so shortly after the destruction of the previous regime and disruption of the old economy doesn't surprise me; I've always thought that being in the seat of 6000+ years of civilization tends to make many of the habits of civilized society somewhat instinctive. I also think it is illuminating to see that a stable currency (at least relative to the massive influx of dollars into the economy) has kept its value, and that personal and commercial income has increased with a concomitant rise in wages when the state's cut of trade has been lowered. Amazing, who'd've thought?

Now, I'm not saying that Iraq is some sort of paradise, or that the late war is a good model for future interventions (in order to get 'the same results'), since we all know that Iraq really is just a big cesspool/hellhole/Vietnam/Quagmire/free-fire zone of chaotic perpetual and universal urban and guerilla warfare, filled with barbarians, thieves, and murderers after all- I'm just saying that maybe, just maybe, things are a teensy bit better in Iraq now than in 2002.

Just a tad.

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One of my aquaintences was a

One of my aquaintences was a card carrying member of the Iranian Communist Party. Needless to say he was VERY popular amoungst the mullah led lunatics that run that shithole like an islamic version of ottawa. Anyway, he spent 5 years in 'the hole' and finally got kicked out for some reason, the only stipulation being he had to emigrate. To make a long story short, said friend gets huge social welfare bonus on arrival, gets student funding, gets serious job with super hi tech firm , AND STILL MOUTHS OFF about the crummy evil capitalist system. i swear its all in their fucking heads. you cannot reason with 'progressives'.

With all of the billions we

With all of the billions we are pouring in there I am not surprised that life is getting better (economically) for those who manage to avoid getting picked up or shot by the Americans. Just don't write a paper critical of the Americans or dwell in the street.