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RE: [casi] please reply to Washington Post

> Thought someone on this list might want to formulate a response to the
> following page one "news" feature in yesterday's Washington Post.
> It reads to me like a rehash of press releases from the State Department.
> Sadly, in a awesome act of willed ignorance, this article is accepted by
> most in Washington as god's honest truth.

The article rings true to me.  I was just in Baghdad, and was excited to
walk along Sa'adoun Street and see more signs of economic activity than I
did when I was there last.  The last time was in December, which was Ramadan
and winter, making direct comparisons more difficult to make.  I was so
pleased to hear from one man, who runs a bookstore: his books are 'smuggled'
in from Beirut and sold to him at a reduced price.  He was smiling, with
pride I assume: he had a nice bookstore and was happy to recommend Arabic
dictionaries to his foreign visitors.  My companion, in Iraq for the first
time, was not allowed to pay for anything: tea and photocopies were provided
for free.

The article notes in passing that this economic recovery has not reached

> Even such areas as an impoverished corner of Saddam City south of
> Baghdad are feeling gains. There, vegetable seller Rabbia Jassim at first
> pointed to his 6-year-old son's dilapidated sneakers and said that for the
> poorest in Iraq, many basics remain out of reach. But later he conceded
> there was some improvement: His family can now afford an occasional

My map places Saddam City to the city's north-east, but I imagine that this
is true nonetheless.  Unfortunately, I didn't have time to visit Saddam City
on this trip.

Everyone that I speak to, though, stresses that Baghdad is quite different
from the rest of the country.  Basra is still held up by people within the
UN as the counter-example.  Independent aid officials with whom I spoke
stressed that the true costs of the situation there are hard to quantify: a
generation without much hope, and with less contact with the rest of the
world than their parents.  One of them wants to slap journalists who ask why
people are complaining, given that the ration is adequate.

Finally, for all the recovery that some people are experiencing, Iraq is way
behind where it could be without sanctions.  With proper investment in its
oil industry, it could be pumping five times what it's pumping today.


Colin Rowat

work | Room 406, Department of Economics | The University of Birmingham |
Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK | | (+44/0) 121 414 3754 |
(+44/0) 121 414 7377 (fax) |

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