Fun Things You Probably Didn't Know about Iraq 2006

A compilation of funthings you probably did not know about Iraq in 2006

[quote]Trends You Don’t Hear About
May 29, 2006

There are a number of trends in Iraq that you hear little, or nothing, about in the mass media. For example;

@ The economy.
GDP doubled from 2003 to 2004, and was up double digits in 2005. Inflation and unemployment have both been falling steadily. Yes, the terrorists are still at it, but in the background you will notice all those people going to work, all the new cars and all the new construction. While big companies have stayed away from Iraq, and all those nasty headlines, smaller firms have been more aggressive. Life goes on.

@ Agriculture.
For thousands of years, Iraq was a food exporter. But as oil became a larger part of the economy over the past half century, agriculture declined. Now, for the first time in half a century, Iraq is exporting food. Agriculture has come back big time, mainly because many of the regulations government bureaucrats have piled on farmers for decades, have been eliminated. A farmer can now make a lot of money, growing food in the most productive agriculture land in the region.

@ Currency Exchange Rates.
The Iraqi currency (the dinar) trades in a narrow range, against the dollar, that is controlled by the Iraqi Central Bank. For the last few years, the exchange range has been around 1,470 dinars to the dollar. But the dinar floats against other local currencies (like the Kuwaiti dinar and the Iranian rial), and has gotten stronger against both of those currencies. That’s a big deal, as it means that the Iraqi economy is getting stronger, and people, in and out of, Iraq, have confidence in the Iraqi economy, and currency.

@ U.S. Bases Taken Over by Iraqi Troops.
Since last Fall, over fifty U.S. bases have been transferred to Iraqi control. American troops are moving to larger, consolidated, bases out in the countryside. These require fewer troops to defend, and keep U.S. troops out of sight. Iraqi soldiers and police are taking care of security in many areas where American used to do it. This is why you keep hearing reports of plans to pull most American troops out of Iraq in the next 12-18 months.

@ Refugees.
Before the U.S. invaded in 2003, it was believed there might be millions of refugees fleeing Iraq. Didn’t happen that way. Over a million people (mostly Sunni Arabs) have fled the country, but that is a relatively recent phenomenon, linked to the growing power of the Shia dominated government, and the fear of retribution for decades of atrocities against Kurds and Shia Arabs. More surprising has been the number of refugees returning to Iraq. So far, it’s over 1.2 million people, most of the them Kurds and Shia Arabs.

@ Tourism.
The holiest shrines in Shia Islam are in southern Iraq, and in the last three years they have seen a growing flood of pilgrims. Over 12 million so far, and increasing as Shia Moslems kept away by Saddam’s police state for decades, make long deferred trips. Some stay longer, mainly religion students. For the last three decades, Shia religious scholars and teachers have been fleeing Iraq for places like Iran. But now there are over 12,000 religion students in southern Iraq, attending hundreds of newly established schools. These pilgrims and students spend a lot of money as well, helping to feed economic growth in the south.

@ Media.
Iraqi has gone from police state, to media madhouse, in three years. Under Saddam, media was tightly controlled. Since Saddam, hundreds of newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations have appeared. Talk radio and investigative reporting are all the rage. The gangsters and politicians hate it but, so far, have been unable to stop or control it.

@ Health and Education.
More hospitals and schools are open and operating than ever before.

@ Democracy.
It’s thriving, and contrary to popular opinion, it’s not an alien concept in Iraq. From the 1920s to the 1950s, Iraq had democracy. A military dictatorship was established in 1958, in the name of progress, and that was the end of democracy. The Baath Party was going to make things so much better, as long as everyone did what they were told. Iraqis are not stupid, and there are older Iraqis who remember the old democracy. Yes, it may have been ramshackle, but compared to Saddam and all that came after 1958, democracy is a lot more popular these days.

May 28, 2006:
A top aid to al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Kassim al-Ani, was captured in Baghdad by Iraqi police. Meanwhile, Iraq and Iran have agreed to coordinate their border patrols, in order to stop illegal crossings of their mutual, 1,100 kilometer long, border. The deal appears directed more at smugglers of commercial goods and illegal drugs, because there are powerful factions in the Iranian government that remain committed to supporting the establishment of a religious dictatorship in Iraq.

May 27, 2006:
Al Qaeda, and Baath Party terrorists continue to carry out enough attacks to keep foreign journalists occupied, but the terror campaign is much diminished over the past year. There are still several suicide bomber attacks a week, and assassinations of government officials or tribal chiefs continues. The terrorists are still obsessed with the idea that they can foment a civil war. But most Iraqis look at the terrorists as a crime problem. More and more, terrorists are caught because of a tip from a concerned citizen (although cash rewards are also given for some types of tips.) The private militias (Shia Arab in the south, Kurdish in the north) are still attempting to take control, politically and economically, of certain areas. The militias run their protection rackets, taking a cut of whatever they can. The militias have a payroll and other expenses. The government has a hard time keep the police honest, as their is a tendency (an old Iraqi tradition) for local police commanders to go bad and become just another money grubbing bunch of gangsters.

The government is cracking down on the militias, sending in the police SWAT battalions and army units to take on the militias. This is getting people killed. In normally peaceful southern Iraq, over two hundred people died from militia related violence just last month. The two largest Shia militias in the south (the Badr and Sadr groups) are trying to establish one of themselves as a religious dictatorship in Iraq. Most Iraqis want no part of this, but radicals in the Iranian government (which is a religious dictatorship) are supplying guns, money and technical help to Badr and Sadr. This is getting people killed and is rather pointless, but that makes sense to many in the region. … 60529.aspx[/quote]

great source…lol.

a bunch of video game designers with demented hobbies! the senior editor makes war games…why do i get the feeling these guys belong to the same clubs that Timothy McVeigh did???

hardly objective.

I hear that valium is really cheap and easy to get on the Market. That could be fun while bombs are dropping all around you.

[quote=“Hondu Grease”]great source…lol.
a bunch of video game designers with demented hobbies! the senior editor makes war games…why do I get the feeling these guys belong to the same clubs that Timothy McVeigh did???
hardly objective.[/quote]Hondu Grease -
Some times it pays to actually have a clue prior to typing.

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Wars and rumors of war. Get it straight, get it fast at

Includes notes on sourcing and staff bio’s[/quote]

Keep posting…you make life fun!

Trends, my ass. I suspect they’re all BS, but I have to get back to work, so I’ll just comment on one.

[quote]The economy.
GDP doubled from 2003 to 2004, and was up double digits in 2005.[/quote]

Very impressive. :unamused: It was in the Spring of 2003 that Team America, World Police, invaded Iraq, toppled the government, knocked out roads, water supply, oilfields, sewage systems and power plants, and killed, imprisoned, tortured and terrorized the population. What kind of a GDP would one expect in that year? Doubling zero is an easy feat.

Next. . .

Life imitates Full Metal Jacket:

[quote]LOCKHART: "Not While We’re Eating–N.V.A. learn marines on a search and destroy mission don’t like to be interrupted while eating chow.“Search and destroy. Uh, we have a new directive from M.A.F. on this. In the future, in place of"search and destroy,” substitute the phrase “sweep and clear.” Got it?

JOKER: Got it. Very catchy.

LOCKHART: And, Joker… where’s the weenie?


LOCKHART: The Kill, JOKER. The kill. I mean, all that fire, the grunts must’ve hit something.

JOKER: Didn’t see 'em.

LOCKHART: Joker, I’ve told you, we run two basic stories here. Grunts who give half their pay to buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants–Winning of Hearts and Minds–okay? And combat action that results in a kill–Winning the War. Now you must have seen blood trails… drag marks?

JOKER: It was raining, sir.

LOCKHART: Well, that’s why God passed the law of probability. Now rewrite it and give it a happy ending–say, uh, one kill. Make it a sapper or an officer. Which?

JOKER: Whichever you say.

LOCKHART: Grunts like reading about dead officers.

JOKER: Okay, an officer. How about a general?

LOCKHART: Joker, maybe you’d like our guys to read the paper and feel bad. I mean, in case you didn’t know it, this is not a particularly popular war. Now, it is our job to report the news that these why-are-we-here civilian newsmen ignore.[/quote]

[quote=“Mother Theresa”][quote]The economy.
GDP doubled from 2003 to 2004, and was up double digits in 2005.
Very impressive. :unamused: It was in the Spring of 2003 that Team America, World Police, invaded Iraq, toppled the government, knocked out roads, water supply, oilfields, sewage systems and power plants, and killed, imprisoned, tortured and terrorized the population. What kind of a GDP would one expect in that year? Doubling zero is an easy feat.
Next. . .[/quote]MT -
Its called…“PROGRESS”…perhaps you would be happier without it having to see this progress?
And by the way, your “Doubling zero is an easy feat.” statement is hilarious…and non-applicable here.
But at least you are addressing the OP. Something others seem to be having a hard time doing.

so anyway it’s like I was saying before the guards showed up, rich people would be better if they weren’t so goddamned dumb half the time, or unethical, that’s the part that really gets my goat. What kind of person manufactures bullets?

I am with TC on this one.

Yes, the economy doubled (100 percent growth) after falling 35 percent during the war. So that still is progress. I have posted these statistics before, the following year it grew 15 percent before dropping to only 4.5 percent in 2005. This incidentally was better than most of the other nations in the region. I am not sure what it will be in 2006 but again, why all the rah rahing almost in hopes that things will go badly there? Do you all hate Bush so much that you would be willing to see the experiment in Iraq fail just to be proven right? Sick. Sick. Sick.

Also, I have posted statistics from the Washington Post on the relatively more violent Venezuela and Colombia. Yet, among the left, there seems to be this reverence for Chavez all while protesting the Americans and their role in Iraq. Under Chavez, the murder rate has doubled, maybe even tripled. In Iraq, Americans are not the ones doing the killing. So why protest the Americans but march in support of Chavez? I just don’t get it.

Please don’t call what is happening in Iraq an experiment. It’s not an experiment, is it? I guess it is, in a way…

It is an experiment just as our actions in Bosnia and Kosovo and Afghanistan and then Iraq and to some extent before that Lebanon and Somalia and Haiti were experiments. Can and should the world stand by when awful things are happening in other nations? No one is quite sure how and when to define when intervention should take place, hence the UN confusion over Kosovo and Bosnia. Anyway, this is also an experiment in bringing pluralistic, democratic governance to the Arabs. It took 40 years to do so in East Asia and many wars: Korea, Vietnam, Malaysian Insurgency, Indonesian bloodbath (communists and chinese) and Cambodia and Laos emerged along with the Cultural Revolution in China which followed a major civil war. It ain’t going to be much easier in the Middle East but we have to do it.

Of course it’s not. Experiments are done with precaution and due diligence.

What Fred refers to are merely crap shots. Putting Iraq II and the Cultural Revolution into the same line in that respect does not sound too much off mark though.

[quote] Viva Muqtada…
It’s fascinating to watch the world beyond Iraq prepare for the World Cup. I get pictures by email of people hanging flags and banners, in support of this team or that one. Oh we have flags and banners too- the hole-ridden black banners all over Baghdad, announcing deaths and wakes. The flags are all of one color, usually- black, green, red, or yellow- representing a certain religious party or political group.

A friend who owns a shop in Karrada had a little problem with a certain flag last week. Karrada was one of the best mercantile areas in Baghdad prior to the war. It was the area you went to when you had a list of unrelated necessities- like shoes, a potato peeler, pink nail polish and a dozen blank CDs. You were sure to find everything you needed in under an hour.

After the war, SCIRI, Da’awa and other religious parties instantly opened up bureaus in the area. Shops that once displayed colorful clothes, and posters of women wearing makeup, began looking more subdued. Soon, instead of pictures of the charming women advertising Dior perfume, shops began putting up pictures of Sistani, looking half-alive, shrouded in black. Or pictures of Sadr, grim and dark, and almost certainly not smelling like Dior.

This friend owns a small cosmetics shop where he sells everything from lipstick to head scarves. His apartment is located right over the shop so that when he looks down from the living room window, he can see whoever is standing at the shop door. G. inherited the shop from his father, who sold sewing materials instead of cosmetics. The shop has been in his family for nearly 20 years. Prior to the war, his wife and sister ran the shop, making the most persuasive sales duo in the history of cosmetics probably (the proof of this being a garishly colored neck scarf I bought 4 years ago and never took out of the closet since). After the war, and various threats in the form of letters and broken windows, G. began running the shop personally and in addition to cosmetics, he introduced an appropriately dark line of flowing abbayas and headscarves.

The last time I visited G. in his shop was two weeks ago. Since January, G.’s shop has been the center of some football (soccer) activity. His obsession with football has gotten to the point where the shop closes up two hours early so that E., the cousin and various other friends can gather for PlayStation FIFA tournaments. These tournaments are basically a group of grown men sitting around, maneuvering little digital men running around after a digital ball, screaming encouragement and insults at each other. If you walk into the shop looking to buy something during those hours, you risk being thrown out or simply told to “Just take it, take it- whatever it is. Take it and GO!”. Every World Cup year, G. and his wife only half-jokingly quarrel about changing his only sons name to that of the footballer of the year. (As a sort of compromise, family and friends have all agreed to call his 14-year-old son “Ronaldino” until the games are over.)

G.’s cousin, who has lived in Canada for nearly 15 years, recently sent G. a large, colorful Brazilian flag- perfect for hanging on a shop window. He told us how he was planning to hang it right in the center and paint under it in big bold letters “VIVA BRASILIA!!”. E. looked dubious as G. excitedly described how he’d be changing the colors of the display- green and yellow to match the flag.

It was up for nearly two whole days before the problems began. The first hint of a problem came through G.’s neighbor. He stopped by the shop and told G. that a black-turbaned young cleric had been walking past the shop window, when the flag attracted his attention. According to the neighbor Abu Rossul, the young cleric stopped, gazed at the flag, took note of the shops name and location and went on his way. G. shrugged it off with the words, “Well maybe he’s a fan of Brazil too…” Abu Rossul wasn’t so sure, “He looked more like the ‘Viva Sadr!’ type to me…”.

A day later, G. had a visit at noon. A young black-clad cleric walked into the shop, and had a brief look around. G. tried to interest him in some lovely headscarves and abbayas, but he was not to be deterred from his apparent mission. He claimed to be a ‘representative’ from the Sadr press bureau which was a few streets away and he had a message for G.: the people at the abovementioned bureau were not happy with G.’s display. Where was his sense of national pride? Where was his sense of religion? Instead of the face of a heathen player, there were pictures of the first Sadr, or better yet, Muqtada! Why did he have a foreign flag plastered obscenely on his display window? Should he feel the need for a flag, there was the Iraqi flag to put up. Should he feel the necessity for a green flag, like the one in the display, there was the green flag of “Al il Bayt”… Democracy, after all, is all about having options.

G. wasn’t happy at all. He told the young cleric he would find a ‘solution’ and made a peace offering of some inexpensive men’s slippers and some cotton undershirts he sometimes sold. That evening, he conferred with various relatives and friends and although nearly everyone advised him to take down the flag, he insisted it should remain on display as a matter of principle. His wife even offered to turn it into a curtain or bed sheets for him to enjoy until the games were over. He was adamant about keeping it up.

Two days later, he found a rather dramatic warning letter slipped under the large aluminum outer door. In a nutshell, it declared G. and people like him ‘heathens’ and demanded he take down the flag or he would be exposing himself to danger. It takes quite a bit to shake up a guy like G., but the same day he had the flag down and the display was back to normal.

As it turns out, Muqtada has a fatwa against football (soccer). I downloaded it and this is a translation of what he says when someone asks him for a fatwa on football and the World Cup:

“In reality, my father’s position on this topic isn’t deficient… Not only my father but Sharia also prohibits such activities which keep the followers too occupied for worshiping, keep people from remembering [to worship]. Habeebi, the West created things that keep us from completing ourselves (perfection). What did they make us do? Run after a ball, habeebi… What does that mean? A man, this large and this tall, Muslim- running after a ball? Habeebi, this ‘goal’ as it is called… if you want to run, run for a noble goal. Follow the noble goals which complete you and not the ones that demean you. Run after a goal, put it in your mind and everyone follows their own path to the goal to satisfy God. That is one thing. The second thing, which is more important, we find that the West and especially Israel, habeebi the Jews, did you see them playing soccer? Did you see them playing games like Arabs play? They let us keep busy with soccer and other things and they’ve left it. Have you heard that the Israeli team, curse them, got the World Cup? Or even America? Only other games… They’ve kept us occuppied with them- singing, and soccer, and smoking, stuff like that, satellites used for things which are blasphemous while they occuppy themselves with science etc. Why habeebi? Are they better than us- no we’re better than them.”

Important note: Islamic Sharia does not prohibit soccer/football or sports- it’s only prohibited by the version of Sharia in Muqtada’s dark little head. I wonder what he thinks of tennis, swimming and yoga…

I listened to the fatwa, with him getting emotional about playing football, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Foreign occupation and being a part of a puppet government- those things are ok. Football, however, will be the end of civilization as we know it, according to Muqtada. It’s amusing- they look nothing alike- yet he reminds me so much of Bush. He can barely string two sentences together properly and yet, millions of people consider his word law. So when Bush raves about the new ‘fledgling Iraqi government’ ‘freely elected’ into power, you can take a look at Muqtada and see one of the fledglings. He is currently one of the most powerful men in the country for his followers.

So this is democracy. This is one of the great minds of Bush’s democratic Iraq.

Sadr’s militia control parts of Iraq now. Just a couple of days ago, his militia, with the help of Badr, were keeping women from visiting the market in the southern city of Karbala. Women weren’t allowed in the marketplace and shop owners were complaining that their businesses were suffering. Welcome to the new Iraq.

It’s darkly funny to see what we’ve turned into, and it is also anguishing. Muqtada Al-Sadr is a measure of how much we’ve regressed these last three years. Even during the Iran-Iraq war and the sanctions, people turned to sports to keep their mind off of day-to-day living. After the occupation, we won a football match against someone or another and we’d console ourselves with “Well we lose wars- but we win football!” From a country that once celebrated sports- football (soccer) especially- to a country that worries if the male football players are wearing long enough shorts or whether all sports fans will face eternal damnation… That’s what we’ve become. [/quote]

The above blogger has won a few awards for her blog. An interesting look at life in Iraq from an educated female.

very nice post cfimages. i checked out the blog too, good stuff.

it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the orthodoxy is rising up.

i can see it now, whoever we decide should run things over there will be as ruthless, if not worse than Saddam and we will have to go back in and take him out.

just follow the blueprint from Panama/Noriega.

I’m sure everybody in Iraq is laughing about the “fun things”!

Whole lotta yap yap, no actual sourced comments challenging the items presented…

This is not about orthodoxy. This is about mafia-like gangs taking over. It happened in Eastern and Central Europe as well. Want to talk about similar security issues in most notably Bulgaria but also Russia, Ukraine, etc.?

Who is this we? I thought that you were Canadian?

I will take that account as accurate. What then do those of you who are “concerned” think that we should do about the Sadr and Badr brigades? Nothing? since you did not support the war against Iraq? blame the neocons for unleashing these new forces?

But then if it is a question of overall well-being, should we not compare how many of these Shias were being killed (I would argue that being alive would be the most basic block in determining one’s well-being surely) with how many are being killed now? how many are being imprisoned now?

Again, mistakes have been made in Iraq. The Iraqis have a chance to move ahead. There are forces in Iraq that do not want the country to be democratic. It was not under Saddam. Saddam was a thug who terrorized the whole neighborhood. Ultimately, Iraq may return to being a dictatorship with nasty Shia thugs running the nation rather than Saddam. From an American perspective and a strategic one, we would still be marginally better off, but what about the Iraqi people? No loss then since the number of deaths now is lower than under Saddam with all his many wars. No loss then since they did not have democracy before? No loss then since while women may have been able to dress a certain way and wear makeup, remember that they still did not have any rights. So? Why is this suddenly a big concern of yours then if Iraq is merely returning to its normal state of affairs? You didn’t care about it 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago or even 50 years ago so why the sudden interest now?

You want to tell us that the more Iraqi deaths were attributed to the the U.S. when Saddam was in charge than now?

Yeah … riiiiight :loco:

Dream on.

Depends on if you count the First Gulf War, the sanctions program and limited weapons sales to Saddam during 1982-5. Define what you mean first (if you can) and I will try to answer your point.

I may agree with you but since I have no idea what context you are yeah righting about I guess I will refrain from joining in the fun.

and you party on dude because you having one hell of a trip today aren’t you?

Oh, I refer to easy to associate stuff - shooting people. Something that is easy to attribute. Not some indirect measures like sanctions or arms sales where it is still possible, easy or plain correct to put the blame on someone else than the U.S…

You claimed:

And I doubt that. The blame for getting Iraqis killed has shifted from Saddam to the U.S… Before it was Saddam killing people in the name of keeping “insurgents” down and the streets save. Now it is the U.S. getting people killed to keep “insurgents” down and the streets save. Including an ugly number of U.S. soldiers. Of those a lot more than Saddam ever managed.

The numbers are different and the side effects too (killing every other dissident too vs. maybe jump-starting some democracy, if that). But by rushing in so eagerly, the U.S. has taken over responsibility to deal with Iraq. And with that the blame for failure and collateral damages.

Given the warring political factions, ethnicities, religious subgroups and whatnot I have doubts this will pay off strategically as well as you hope.

Btw - what is this “strategic payoff” all about you regularly allude to in your posts? What does the U.S. stand to gain in Iraq? And at what price? Is there any real cost/benefit in favour of the U.S. or is this just the same-old same-old “milk and honey in the afterlife if you just do as we say for the time being” - backed up by wishful thinking?

You won’t step so low again to cite “it worked two generations ago in Germany and Japan … it is BOUND to succeed in Iraq, just trust me.” Just imagine spook would be so lame and claim “it just failed one generation ago in Vietnam … it is BOUND to come down crashing.”