So it turns out that my paper work isn't *really* with the US Government. This consulting firm has a bottleneck in Baghdad with one of their senior employees. They're trying to clear the bottleneck and hope to do so this week. After which I'd have about a week while their Project Management group gets my paper work together and then I get shipped out, via a US Military base for training first. So I'm around for at least 10 days, probably more like 12, maybe more.
On the other hand I'm getting a lot done with Connexed (startup #2), I managed to pack up my place (which I need to do for Tahoe anyway; new move in date = April 17, "at the earliest") and may have another short term consulting gig to fill the gap, so no harm done. It's just a little frustrating to find yourself an unwilling cast member in a puppet show.
Well, my friend who got me the gig is an extremely reliable guy. However he's not in charge of this contract, one of his coworkers is. I can't seem to get any kind of reliable estimate as to when I might be leaving, they keep telling me to get ready and then nothing happens, worse they won't even give me a reasonable outline of the process. All I know right now is that my paper work is with the US Government and we're waiting on them. Great, that's helpful.
Anyway, in the meanwhile it turns out that it is likely that I won't be staying in the Green Zone when I first get there but instead one of the hardened business class hotels like this one:
Worse they don't have in-room internet access. So I thought "this is dumb", there's hundreds of contractors making good money (and with big expense accounts) staying in these hotels -- they'd pay for in room access. A friend of mine started a WISP with international operations so I figured I'd put him in touch with the hotel. Well, the Big-X Consulting firm (increasingly becoming "Big-Dumb-Company") didn't like this at all, said that my involvement might be a conflict of interest and made me promise not to try to get internet access to the hotel. Whatever, I think I just agreed to sit in the dark for a few weeks because no one thought it would be appropriate to turn on the lights. Besides, I thought we were doing all of this to improve the Iraqi infrastructure ... so I'll guess I'll not do that because...?
The moral of the story: don't work for a big company.
Here's a good article on it:
Here are some good arial photos of it:
Green Zone Photos
I'm told I'll be working and living inside the Green Zone, not even allowed to leave w/o armed escort.
If I had to quantify it?
In the US, for the age group 25- 44 the death rate per 100,000 people is 177.8. The death rate of soldiers in Iraq is 443 per 100,000, only about 1/2 of which are from combat (people still get hit by cars and have heart attacks in a war).
Incidentally, The murder rate of young blacks in Washington DC is 435 per 100,000 (604 per 100,000 total death rate). This means that a soldier from the ghetto is more likely to die staying at home than going to be a soldier in Iraq.
The stats for soldiers are worst case. Their job is to protect the green zone and keep schmucks like me safe. On top of the military there is private security as well. In a typical foreign consulting contract ~4% of your budget would be dedicated to security, in Iraq it's typically more like 15-25% -- so a lot is done to keep everyone safe.
So, what are my numbers? It's hard to say for sure as I can't find death rates for civilian contractors in Iraq. But it's clear that it's safer than being a soldier. I will be safer than living in a US ghetto and will certainly be less than 3x as likely to die there than here.
With 3x as an outer bound I feel like it's a reasonable risk. We could swing our chances in the US of staying alive by a lot more than 3x simply by not driving or having sex (vehicle death is #1 in the US, AIDS #2). Do we bother? Of course not.
So, it looks like I'm going to Baghdad. What I know so far is that I've been looking for some consulting work on the side to help support the startup I've been working on since last June (Connexed). My old college roommate, Keith, who got me a gig in South Africa many years ago, is now at one of the Big-X consulting firms (I don't know what X equals anymore) -- he e-mailed me and told me he got me a gig in Baghdad. That was Monday. I sent my bio data in that night and I'm told that it's a sure thing. On Tuesday I got a copy of their proposal outline. Now it's Wed and I still don't have any paper work on my side but I'm told it's "90%" likely to happen.
Okay, if it does I'll apparently have only a few days to clear out my life and get to the airport. No pressure.