What It's Like in Baghdad
Jude Wanniski
January 28, 2005


Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Report from Baghdad Betty

Everyone is on pins and needles waiting for Iraq to vote on Sunday, but I checked the website of the young Iraqi woman I've dubbed "Baghdad Betty" to find out what's on her mind. Her latest posting was yesterday and she does get around to sizing up election day, but not before doing some household chores. She does seem to suspect that the way the elections were rigged, all the important posts will go to the folks at the top of the slates, who happen to be old friends of Richard Perle, the Iranians or the CIA. Isn't democracy fun? JW]

Baghdad Burning... I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend...

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Water Anxiety...
I have to make this fast. We have about two hours of electricity- hopefully. The water came back yesterday evening. It's just a little drizzle but it's certainly better than nothing.

E. was the first to hear it. We were sitting in the living room and he suddenly jumped up, alert, "Do you hear that?" He asked. I strained my ears for either the sound of a plane or helicopter or gun shots. Nothing... except, wait... something... like a small stream of... water? Could it be? Was it back? We both ran into the bathroom where we had the faucets turned on for the last eight days in anticipation of water. Sure enough, there it was- a little stream of water that kept coming and going as if undecided. E. and I did a little victory dance in front of the sink with some celebratory hoots and clapping.

This was followed by a lot of work. We spent the rest of the evening filling anything that was fillable- pots, pans, cups, bottles and buckets. The formerly empty area under the staircase is now filled with big pots of water covered with trays and mismatching pot covers to keep out stray bugs and dust.

I almost didn't sleep last night. I kept worrying the water would be cut off again. I actually crept downstairs at 4 a.m. to see if it was still there and found E. standing in the bathroom doorway doing the same. My mother is calling the syndrome "water anxiety". We were hoping the flow would grow stronger at night but apparently the water pressure is really low. E. and I rose early this morning because we decided last night that should the water continue to flow, we'd attempt to fill up the big water tank on the roof. The water from this tank goes directly to the electric water heater but since we haven't been using that for a while now, we decided to close up the tank and use it as a sort of secondary storage. We cannot get caught off-guard again. Drinking water rose to almost 1,000 Dinars a liter this last week.

E. and I spent the day carrying up buckets of water. The water flow is so weak, it takes about 17 minutes to fill up a 10 liter plastic pail (I was timing it). We've carried up about 10 buckets until now. The water still doesn't reach the kitchen faucets so we've managed to move the dirty dishes to the bathroom and are washing them there.

Unfortunately, the electricity situation has deteriorated. We're getting about four hours for every twenty hours in our area- I'm not quite sure what's going on in the other areas. It feels like we're almost cut off from each other.

Baghdad has been unstable these last few days. We had several explosions this last week and although the number of explosions wasn't surprising, the force of a couple of them had us wincing. There's a real fear of the coming elections and what they might bring. I don't like the idea that they've selected schools as election sites. School is out right now, but the security threat is obvious- elections sites are most likely going to be bombed. Schools are having a difficult time as it is getting things fixed and replaced, they don't need the added trauma of an explosion. It's just a bad idea.

The curfew begins at six from now on and there's also a "driving curfew" in addition to the ordinary one. I don't have the exact hours but I know that during several hours of the day, it's ok to be on foot but not ok to be in a car. I don't have the slightest idea how they're going to enforce that one.

Ghazi Al Yawir, our alleged current president, was giving an interview on LBC yesterday. Apparently, he and Allawi aren't on the same election list anymore because they had a falling out as to who should head the list. Ghazi proposed the president should be the head of the list and Allawi claimed somebody Shia (Allawi himself) should head the list. Now, Allawi's group is 285 on the election ballot and Yawir's group is 288, I think.

My favorite question during the interview was when the reporter asked him what he thought of Chalabi possibly being arrested. Ghazi looked flustered and a little bit unsure (apparently he hasn't been watching CNN while abroad). He actually told her that the person who claimed Chalabi was wanted was probably speaking his own "personal" opinion and that it wasn't representative of the 'government'- never mind the person in question was the Minister of Defense. To be perfectly fair, he didn't mention which government he was referring to- I couldn't tell if he was talking about the US, the UK or the current group of Puppets. He claimed that for Chalabi to be arrested there needed to be 'proof' he had actually done something wrong... the Interpol wanting him really wasn't enough.

It's a bit discouraging to watch the current government so uncoordinated. It's like they don't even communicate with each other. It's also somewhat disturbing to know that they can't seem to decide who is a criminal and who isn't. Isn't there some "idiots guide to being a good Vichy government"?

They say communications are going to be cut off very soon. Telephones are often cut off and the mobile network is sometimes inaccessible for days at a time but we heard there also might not be web access. Students have a mid-year vacation right now but no one is going anywhere. Almost everyone is trapped at home because the security situation is quite bad and no one wants to be caught in an area where an explosion might occur. If the bomb doesn't kill you, the Iraqi security forces or the Americans might and if no one kills you then you risk getting a bag over the head and a trip to Abu Ghraib.

There's an almost palpable anxiety in the air these last couple of weeks and it's beginning to wear on people- fuel shortages, water shortages and a lack of electricity. It's like the first days of the war all over again.

Juan Cole has a "The Speech Bush SHOULD have Given" and it's quite good. In my opinion, during this year's inaugural Bush could have summed it up with the following: "Ha! I can't believe you people actually re-elected me! Unbelievable! Some people just loooove the abuse!!!"

* * * * *

[You can find the Juan Cole "speech" at his website, http://www.juancole.com> the January 27 posting. JW]