Archive for the ‘In Iraq’ Category

Water Bottle

April 30, 2009

Anyone who’s spent time in Iraq will recognize this:

Water Bottle

Now that summer heat is arriving, everyone goes through a couple of these a day.  Uses I have seen for empty water bottles:

  • Cut down, as scoops for laundry detergent
  • As bumpers for hand-operated steel automobile barriers
  • Filled with sand, as counterweights for improvised self-closing doors
  • As floats for the ropes separating lanes in a swimming pool
  • With holes punched in the cap, to spray water on the short-order grill
  • Full of water, in shrink-wrapped packs of 12, as temporary furniture

Iraq Stock Exchange Starts Electronic Trading

April 20, 2009

A signal day.  Without fanfare, the ISX has opened electronic trading in five companies, with more to follow.  Here are Reuters and USA Today.

“This is an important step to opening ourselves up to foreign investment,” said Taha Ahmed Abdul Salam, chief executive of the exchange. “We are starting to create the transparency and systems that will make Iraq attractive to investors outside of Iraq.”  [That’s from USA Today.  The AP got the CEO mixed up with the head regulator.]


Would You Do It Again?

March 4, 2009

A Blackfive reader asks a great question: Infantrymen: Would You Do It Again?

I have been seriously thinking of re-upping after 20 years… I have all the questions any deploying soldier would have…effects on kids, family, of course. The question is, if you were offered the chance, would you do it again?

Our community of diplomats, development professionals, and contractors is a little different.  For many, Iraq is another difficult post in a long career.  Others are putting their professional and private lives on hold for this one mission.  My colleagues range in age from 28 to 70.  We have different training and missions than our military comrades.  Many of us serve (deploy) for 2 or more years at a stretch.

What about it, diplomats and development guys in Iraq and Afghanistan… would you do it again?

Three from Totten

December 19, 2008

Michael Totten’s posts are always widely linked, but that won’t stop us from pointing you to his gripping post on the hunt for a terrorist leader:

“If your men conduct any raids,” I said to Captain Todd Looney at Combat Outpost Ford on the outskirts of Sadr City, Baghdad, “I want to go.”

I have to disagree with this comment though: “Baghdad at night from the air looks more like a constellation of Christmas lights than, say, the brightly lit circuit board of Los Angeles.”  The electrical grid certainly is in poor condition but I am always surprised at the regular grids of fluorescent yard lights.  From the air at night, some parts of Baghdad don’t look terribly different from the flat suburban plains surrounding Midwestern American cities.

Since returning to Baghdad, Michael has also published two shorter pieces in Commentary magazine:

  • What’s Next in Iraq: “For the past two weeks I’ve been embedded with the United States Army in Baghdad, and I find myself unable to figure out what to make of this place.”
  • Iraq at the End of the Surge: “[M]y [last] piece was gloomy while [Michael] Yon’s piece was not, but Iraq is complex. Iraq produces good news and bad at the same time.”

500,000 Visitors per Day at Zawra Park

December 13, 2008

Gateway Pundit: “THOUSANDS Celebrate In Baghdad As Violence Falls.”  I’ve driven by that park.  Looks like fun.

Read the whole thing.

Elizabeth Warnock Fernea

December 10, 2008

Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, the pioneering scholar of Arab women and the Middle East, has died.  We reviewed her excellent Guests of the Sheikh here last month. The Los Angeles Times has a sympatheic obituary:

[W]hen she left [the Iraqi village of El Nahra] two years later, she had won over the women and the village with her efforts to learn their language and culture.

In “500 Great Books by Women” (1994), reviewer Rebecca Sullivan wrote, “The story of her life among the Iraqis is eye-opening, written with intellectual honesty as well as love and respect for the seemingly impenetrable society.”

Here is Guests of the Sheikh on Amazon, and here is the quasi-sequel, The Arab World. Here are her pages on Librarything and Wikipedia. Dr. Fernea wrote several books about women and Arab society and served as director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas.

I spend some of my time in the rural areas south of metropolitan Baghdad.  Dr. Fernea’s book, which I read only a few weeks ago, opened a vital window onto rural Iraqi society.  Its acute observation and spare prose make it an American classic, like Dr. Fernea herself.

Louis Vuitton?

December 8, 2008

As in other countries, counterfeit products are not unknown in Iraq. Here we have a selection of Louis Vuitton shoulder holsters.
Louis Vuitton
Sorry for the quality, I was shooting without a flash. Photo is a couple of months old.

Big Rainstorm

November 29, 2008

Unusual rainstorm in Baghdad today.  Enough thunder and lightning to make us jump.  Enough rain to flood the streets.  Wind pushing the palms around, hail piled up in the gutter.  I wish I had some pictures for you, maybe later.

Update 8 p.m.: It’s raining again.

Happy Thanksgiving

November 27, 2008


We all have so much to be thankful for, whether in Baghdad or Berkeley.

The photo is from October 10.

The Gear Post

November 14, 2008

When you finally get your orders to come to Iraq, usually you have a lot to do in a few short weeks.  Not least, you have to pick up appropriate clothing and equipment for this environment.  In this post, I’ll review some equipment that has worked well – and not well – for me.

I have spent my tour(s) in the International Zone, with frequent trips outside, including several to the rural qadas of Baghdad Province.  Nothing too rough, but lots of climbing in and out of Hummers.  Most of this advice will apply to civilians more than military.

Boots. If your feet aren’t happy, you won’t be happy.  I wear a pair of Merrell hiking boots like this.

merrell-bootMerrell is a popular choice for civilians.  The soles are a trademarked material that has held up very well to a year of walking on silt and concrete.  The lining is worn though to the sole in both heels and I had to replace a lace, but otherwise the uppers and bodies have held together perfectly.  Many people wear desert combat boots, but I’m told the Merrells are a little cooler to wear.  Grade: A.