June 04, 2004


As a whole, this place gets really bad press. If you believed the media at home: everyone hates us, we messed the place up, we should pull out and it'll all be better.

These are all untrue, I guess that we-messed-up stories sell better than success stories but we've done a lot of good here that for whatever reason I just don't see in the papers. In fact, I'd say that our presence, and subsequent generosity, is the nicest, and most thankless, thing we did since giving France back to the French.

I'll address these three myths separately:

Myth #1: Hate. The fact is that some people do hate us. Just like there are some people in the south that go to Klan rallies and hate black people, there are people here who will always hate us -- regardless of how much we do to change their minds there will be no talking to them on this subject. They'll hold rallies that make for good foreign news clippings and there is nothing that will change this other than decades of education and tolerance. However, just like southern racists, they are in the minority (and generally looked down upon as ignorant as well).

Saddam Hussein had his boot right on the necks of the Iraqi people and there is absolutely positively no way they would be free of him or his eventual legacy (his sons) with out our help. The UN would have danced around this problem forever and the vast majority of the people here understand this and by and large they are very grateful for our intervention. Now, a lot of them are temporarily put out that we are occupying their country, that we get around more easily (coalition country citizens cruise through checkpoints while locals wait in line to be searched), live in the nice houses, and drive the nice cars, while they're still struggling. But this is a temporary annoyance and not a fundamental conflict of cultures or criticism of our actions; as their standard of living continues to visibly increase, and our presence decreases, this will become a self-resolving problem.

Myth #2: We messed the place up. Iraq has not only suffered from recent economic sanctions and subsequent military actions, but long before that it suffered from a nearly complete lack of capital improvement. The Baath party was brutally efficient in making sure that all of the country's wealth went into lining their own pockets. Hardly a Fil (lowest denomination of Iraqi currency, equivalent to a penny) went into doing anything for the country's infrastructure. Just look at every large building project in the last 20 years: Saddam's palaces and monuments. If you look at the telecommunications infrastructure it's a 1970's time warp. We didn't mess this place up; it was broken and looted long before we got here. Now, we did fail to provide adequate security after military operations ceased, but on the other hand all the people managed to do was steal from themselves. Furthermore, the post-liberation rioters looted a bunch of stuff that was all 30 years old and (should have been considered) fully depreciated anyway. Our arrival was simply the catalyst for a long overdue infrastructure upgrade to this place.

Myth #3: We should pull out and it'll all be better. The ONLY thing holding this place together is the US Military presence. If we pulled out now there would immediately be mass chaos and looting, and much worse, and this would persist until another ruthless dictator was finally able to assume power. More troublesome is that instead a dictator it could be a "religious" leader that would seize power and turn this place into an Iran-like Theocracy. Iraq would then plunge back into the dark ages and things would be worse than ever from a human right's perspective. No matter who took over, dictator or theocrat, in the resultant chaos of a sudden US Military pullout, the subsequent retributions would make the naked pyramids of Abu Gahrib look like fraternity hazing.

Iraq is going *much* better than the US press would have you believe. We have dumped BILLIONS of dollars ($18.7 and counting) right into this country that is the size of California. Our impact is huge and positive. The project I'm working on, however, is an IPF.

What's an IPF? Well, first you have to understand what a PF is. An old boss of mine introduced me to the term. When a project is going so incredibly poorly that you not only have no idea how to get it running right again and you really wish you didn't even take it on in the first place -- you suddenly realize that the project you are working on has all the traits that you'd expect of an commercial Pig F*ck. Just imagine all the hassles you would have with that: pigs running everywhere, animal right's organizations after you, massive legal problems, contestants/customers that you'd rather not deal with running around with their pants down...

The only thing more messed up than a PF is an IPF: an International Pig F*ck. It's the same thing but with more language and legal issues.

Well, this is an IPF. I won't get into the details of the job but let me say that I was sitting at my desk yesterday, minding my own business, as I am wont to do, when someone walks in and says "we're over budget, everyone is going home, you leave Sunday".


It's starting to sound like they really mean it too. I might be here just long enough to take some cool pictures, get used to an 11hour time difference and wearing a flack jacket, and go home. I'll keep you posted, but one thing is for sure -- when I do leave I'm gonna miss this place.

Posted by rick at June 4, 2004 07:50 AM