- Last night I peered out my hotel room window into the
vast darkness of Baghdad. Aside from random lights powered by generators,
the blackened capital city seemed to lay dormant under high winds and a
cold, driving rain.
- This morning as we're driving under clear, crisp skies
on the harrowing streets Abu Talat tells me, "We have had neither
water nor electricity at our house since 9am yesterday morning. It is as
if we are camping in our house!"
- He laughs his usual deep laugh as I shake my head. I
noticed he hadn't shaved in a couple of days.
- Sirens wail in the distance as Apaches rumble low overhead
and we make our way to our interviews. Looking out the window I see a rough
looking man wearing a black leather jacket ambling along the street. He
wears a wide leather belt with a pistol strapped on his right side, and
a knife which runs down to his middle thigh on his left. Welcome to occupied
- A little further we begin what is often a quest to find
some "reasonably" priced black market petrol. The first man we
ask tells us 8,000 Iraqi Dinar (ID) for 20 Liters ($1.06 per gallon). While
the prices have dropped from a recent 20,000 ID per 20 liters, they are
still unacceptable to Abu Talat, who paid 100 ID for 20 liters prior to
the invasion at pumps where maybe one car was in front of him.
- He is irked at the 8,000 ID, so we drive past a miles
long gas line to find a boy selling for 8,000 again, so we continue on
to find another boy selling for 6,500 ID.
- Abu Talat asks him some questions then drives off again.
- "Why didn't you take it for 6,500," I ask perplexed.
- "He wouldn't swear to me it wasn't watered down,"
he replied with a smile.
- Another block further we find another boy http://dahrjamailiraq.com/gallery/
- selling for 6,000. He passes the swear test so we wait
as he dumps 20 liters through his old plastic half of a soda bottle into
the tank. Nearby is his cache of fuel http://dahrjamailiraq.com/gallery/
on a handy push cart so he can make a quick getaway if Iraqi or US
soldiers decide to break up his little black market, as they so often do
when the feel compelled.
- We continue on over towards Khadamiya while listening
to the radio. The Iraqi resistance appears to be spreading to the south
as a few days ago an Italian soldier was killed when his helicopter took
ground fire. Just yesterday a Polish soldier died when his helicopter took
fire near Babil, while today 6 Iraqi soldiers were wounded when a car bomb
detonated at their checkpoint in front of the Polish military HQ in Hilla.
- In case you missed it, recently the Bush administration
quietly downgraded the list of members of the famed "coalition of
the willing" from 45 countries to under 30.
- Then of course there's always Mosul-another US soldier
died there today in clashes, bringing the Pentagon number of dead troops
to 1,372 since the invasion. Also, just north of Ramadi today a police
station was raided by resistance fighters who made off with equipment and
weapons. They didn't kill any policemen, but after forcing them out of
their station they warned them they would kill them if they returned inside.
- After interviewing some folks in a mosque (more on that
at a later date), we decide to venture into a gas station http://dahrjamailiraq.com/gallery/
to see how the manager is faring with the crisis. We're walking after we
park the car and I'm startled by nearby gunfire. Abu Talat doesn't even
- "You're not even going to look," I ask him.
- "Why? This is nothing for me anymore," he says
back smiling, "This is the freedom of Iraq!"
- Riyad Atoush sits slumped behind his old desk in a small
office. Beeping cars impatiently wait outside for their chance at the pump.
- "We stay open from 6am to 6pm every day," he
tells me, "But yesterday we closed at 4pm since we ran out of fuel."
- They normally get two tanker trucks each day, each one
holding 32,000 liters of the now precious liquid, but today only one showed
- "There is a rumor that the government will be raising
the prices at the pumps," adds Mr. Atoush, "But for now we just
continue to ration the fuel; even plates one day, odd the next, 30 liters
(7.5 gallons) per vehicle."
- He concludes by saying that they hope to receive three
tankers per day soon; that is if there are no more attacks on pipelines
or stolen tanker trucks.
- Back on the streets it is the usual cacophony of honking
traffic jams, rumbling choppers overhead, and Iraqi and US soldiers on
- We sit in a traffic jam and I notice a small child
- http://dahrjamailiraq.com/gallery next
- He is peering out at an Iraqi soldier http://dahrjamailiraq.com/gallery/
- standing with his Kalashnikov on the other side of our
- More writing, photos and commentary at http://dahrjamailiraq.com
- (c)2004 Dahr Jamail.
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