Friday, August 08, 2003

For the most part, though, the Iraqis I have met have been friendly and happy to share their stories. If they don't come right out and condemn Saddam, none have praised him.

Earlier this month, I went with a driver and a translator for a shoot with two U.S. soldiers who found more than $600 million in cash at a Baghdad palace site.

The houses where the money was found are just north of what will be the headquarters for the U.S. administered ORHA (Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance). The quiet, tree-lined streets were surrounded by canals and pools and ponds and pretty little homes.

Our translator looked around and called the place paradise. "It's like I am in a dream," she said. A print reporter from Baghdad in her mid-40s, she had never seen this part of the city. Our driver just looked around and swore profusely at Saddam Hussein.

As for the palace itself, the first time I drove up to it, the driver said he was nervous driving down the empty street guarded on both ends by the U.S. Army for fear that Saddam's troops could suddenly appear.

Once at the palace, none of the Iraqis I was with even knew that it existed. They had never seen it before or had even seen pictures of it. They had never been allowed down that street before.

In front of the many palaces and homes, common Iraqis were not allowed to stop, not even allowed to look. Doing so could land you in jail. As Ali Murad, one of our translators, told me, the most oft heard expression in Iraq was "not allowed."

Read it all.

No comments: