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The Daily Iraqi Cheese Grader
October 14, 2005

Topic: The People
Companies working in Iraq rely heavily on employees from third world countries. In a typical dining hall or janitorial staff, there are Nepalese, Pakistani, India, Filipinos, and the occasional Fijian. Similarly, security companies also rely heavily on Nepalese, Fijians, Zimbabweans and Hondurans to perform dull static security jobs inside the Green Zone.

While many of these employees receive large paychecks based on the standards of their home countries, they do not make very much by Western standards. For example, according to a recently investigative report conducted by the Chicago Tribute, "pay for such workers [at KBR] can range from about $65 to $112" per week, though some companies do pay more than others.

The whole situation even becomes slightly scandalous considering that many of these workers come from countries that specifically prohibit their employees from working in Iraq. To get around these restrictions, workers take indirect routes or purchase multiple sets of airline tickets for each leg of their journey. For example, I knew a Filipino who flew from the Philippines to Laos to Dubai to Jordan to get to Iraq.

Even though they do not make very much money, these people are still risking their lives. According to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, third-country nationals (TCNs), people who are neither Iraqis nor citizens from U.S. coalition members, account for more than 100 of the roughly 270 contractor fatalities in the country since the start of the war. However, it is widely believed that many companies do not publicly report the deaths of every TCNs; I rarely hear about the death of anyone who isn't from a Western nation. TCNs are largely regulated a second class status in Iraq.

Posted by alohafromtim at 4:34 AM EDT
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October 8, 2005

Topic: The People
Ramadan started a few days ago. Ramadan lasts for a month. During that time, all Muslims must fast during the daylight hours. Indulgence of any sort is forbidden during the fast. Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam by refraining from violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, backbiting, and are meant to try to get along with each other better than normal.

Because most Americans living in Iraq are not Muslim, Ramadan doesn't have a direct effect the life of most foreign service officers living inside the Green Zone. However, I keep here little snippets from Americans that helps them remember that Iraqis are celebrating Ramadan.

Two different guys have told me that Fashion TV, which has lingerie shows late at night, has been blacked out for the month. My drivers have one hour off starting right after sunset so they break the fast. There is no beer at one of the two restaurants Americans can visit inside the zone, and there are rumors that some of the liquor stores are closed.

Posted by alohafromtim at 12:31 AM EDT
Updated: October 9, 2005 4:08 AM EDT
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October 5, 2005

Topic: The People
Foreign service officers working for the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department are currently the middle of the "bidding" seasons trying to figure out where they will go after finishing their tours in Iraq. There is one unwritten rules for American foreign service officers stationed in Iraq – after completing your one-year tour, you generally get to go wherever you want, within reason. It is called, "using the Iraq card."

Smart foreign service officers are trying to use the experiences they have gained in Iraq to leapfrog over people who refused to come to Iraq or could not come to Iraq for family reasons, and I am certain that shrewd foreign service officers will be successful. For example, I know someone in Iraq who is managing thirty people and a $2.6 billion program. That budget is larger than almost every overseas Mission. This is a really nice thing to put on a resume when shopping around for a new post.

And in other news, NPR did a decent peiece on life inside the Green Zone. However, there is something about the tone that I don't like, and the piece gives the sense that the world inside the Green Zone is pretty large. It's not. The reporter went to almost all the "fun" places inside the Zone.

Posted by alohafromtim at 12:34 AM EDT
Updated: October 5, 2005 12:44 AM EDT
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April 24, 2005

Topic: The People
Admiral David Nash (retired) served as the director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office (IRMO) and its predecessor, the Coalition Provisional Authority's Project Management Office (PMO). IRMO and PMO were responsible for the planning and execution of the $18.4 Iraq reconstruction fund.

In the summer of 2004, Nash received the John I. Parcel - Leif J. Sverdrup Civil Engineering Management Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). "The award is given to an engineer of high character and professional integrity who has made a definite contribution in the field of civil engineering management." Call me nuts, but the reconstruction isn't going so well, so I'm not so sure it was a good idea to give him the award. In fact, "experts" believe the reconstruction plans were based on "flawed assumptions by Pentagon planners and Congress when they set out to pepper Iraq with large infrastructure projects built by American companies." In fact, in the State Department's recent White Paper on the effectiveness of the infrastructure reconstruction projects, reconstruction planner in Iraq admitted that significant changes had to be made to maintain the capabilities of power and waters plants recently repaired or built by the US, largely because many of them had already begun to break down and fail to operate at even their minimum capacity.

Giving Nash an award is much like giving Paul Bremer the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in Iraq, even though many of Bremer's actions were very questionable.

Posted by alohafromtim at 11:10 PM EDT
Updated: April 24, 2005 11:13 PM EDT
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April 1, 2005

Topic: The People
Just like in any war, the children inside the International Zone have already grown accustomed to the American military presence in Iraq. In fact, they realize that Americans have money, and they know what to do to pick up a buck or two.

A few weeks ago I stopped by one of the local beer shacks inside the International Zone to pick up a little gin and a case of Coronas. When I walked out of the store, two kids offered to carry my beer from the store to the car. While I bet most people have no problem carrying their drinks for 50 feet, undoubtedly some Americans think the kids are "cute" and pay them a buck or two for the "services."

During one of my recent visit to the Palace, I was waiting at the bus stop for the driver to come and take me back to my compound. As I was sitting there, I noticed three young girls trying to sell gum for $1 per pack. They had learned enough English to flatter anyone who walked past them. If that didn't work, they would also remind them that $1 is nothing to a "big rich American."

Posted by alohafromtim at 12:59 AM EST
Updated: April 1, 2005 2:35 PM EST
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February 1, 2005

Mood:  blue
Topic: The People
As I walked across the compound in my battle rattle the other day, I saw about 15 Iraqis playing soccer in the middle of the compound. They were the same people work run the motor pool and cook my food. It was nice to seem them in another setting. They were playfully running back and forth along the street, which served as their makeshift soccer field. As they shouted commands to their teammate and occasionally leap into the air to redirect the ball, they laughed loudly and seemed happy. In the middle of an American compound during a war, they were trying to live a regular life.

Posted by alohafromtim at 11:11 PM EST
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January 24, 2005

Topic: The People
Last night I hung out with two young guys who can speak Arabic and seem to understand the local culture. (Interestingly enough, both were recruiting by the U.S. intelligence community becuase they could speak Arabic.) Despite their incredibly useful knowledge, they are buried in the middle of the bureaucratic system. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think they aren't being used in a manner that matches their skills or potential. In the good old days of the occupation, it seemed like any neocon with a friend in the Pentagon or the White House could come to Iraq and be given too much power. Now, the bureaucracy has finally crept into the system and changes come very slowly, if at all.

Posted by alohafromtim at 11:40 PM EST
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