Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Iraq After Liberation: Rockers, Businesswomen, and Hope

Quite a bit has changed since America 'unilaterally' invaded Iraq (with over two dozen other countries), and ruined the sweet deal Saddam Hussein had for himself and his village.

Rockers: Acrassicauda Comes to America

Good news: The "Heavy Metal in Baghdad" documentary gave Acrassicauda international publicity: The sort of visibility most rock bands only dream of getting.

Bad news: The "Heavy Metal in Baghdad" (2007) documentary gave Acrassicauda international publicity: Letting Muslims who don't like heavy metal music, or anything else western, know who - and where - they were.

(Acrassicauda is pronounced a-crass-a-COW-da and comes from the name of a kind of black scorpion.)

Between death threats and living in a war zone, the rockers moved. To Syria, to Turkey, and - now - to America. Three of them are in New Jersey, one in Michigan, and they're trying to get the band back together.

Acrassicauda is getting help: from outfits like Vice (the company that made "Heavy Metal in Baghdad") and International Rescue Committee, sorting out the paperwork and logistics, and from Metallica's lead singer James Hetfield, who gave them a guitar. Black, of course. Hetfield signed the ESP guitar "Welcome to America" - and, as he disappeared, said: "Write some good riffs."

Acrassicauda members are concerned about their families back in Iraq. The member who was in Michigan when the rest saw Metallica was working through the process of getting some of his kinfolk to America.

It isn't the standard of living that's the issue here: it's living, period. Iraq has it's haters of rock music. And, over there, they don't break the records.1 They break the rockers. Or, failing that, the rockers' relatives.

And, no: not all Iraqis are anti-western fanatics with mayhem on their minds.

Businesswomen, security, and an American Rear Admiral

While Acrassicauda was meeting Metallica, and setting up a new life - and career - in America, quite a few Iraqi women were going about the business of - business.

" 'In many war-torn economies, the only part that continues to work is at the community level, and women are the most powerful players in that,' [Rear Admiral Kathleen] Dussault said, 'and I think Iraqi women have turned that from a community-based effort and a micro-economic level, to a very important business entity at a more macro-economic level. They are becoming a powerful business force in Iraq, so enormous strides have been made.' " (USACE)

Anybody doing business in Iraq has concerns that go beyond cash flow. There are still people who kill Iraqis who work with Westerners. Some of them may think they're defending Islam, others may do it because they're paid, some may just enjoy killing people.

Iraqis women who do business - or anything else that doesn't fit some exquisitely restrictive Middle Eastern notions of what women are for - are particularly at-risk.

But, now that the coalition has dealt with (most of?) the biggest military threats, and is handing responsibility for security over to the new Iraqi government, it's not quite as bad.

And, it's getting better. Azza Humadi, program manager of the Women's Advocate Initiative (Gulf Region Division of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), organized a conference for Iraqi businesswomen, in January, 2009.

"The Coalition Forces try to provide security," Humadi said. "That's the most important thing. If you have security, you have women working." (USACE)

I wrote "better," not perfect. Iraq isn't the cultural museum piece that places like Sudan and Saudi Arabia are, but there's still work to do. " 'I faced one problem when my car broke down on the highway to Baghdad Airport at 7 p.m.,' said one regular conference attendee, 'and it was hard to even get someone to help me.' " (USACE)

Iraq Just Isn't the Same Place Anymore

Ever since "Bush's war" ruined the social life of one of Saddam Hussein's sons, and the career of another, Iraq just hasn't been the same. Sure, a few perverts at Abu Ghraib prison mistreated some prisoners, and (being nitwits as well as perverts) took photos of themselves having 'fun.' But their antics, before the American stopped them, were nothing when compared to Abu Ghraib under Hussein. Now that was a center of torture and death that any tyrant could be proud of.

Iraq's electrical grid and water systems, like the rest of its infrastructure, was in bad shape, after decades of neglect, sanctions, and wars. It's all a matter of priorities: either solid gold toilet fixtures are a country's top priority, or not.

Now that there's a new government, and foreigners (including Americans) are giving technical assistance, there's more clean water and reliable power in Iraq. (USACE (2004), USACE (2006))

And, although some rockers have been driven out, there are still many Iraqis who are determined to make their country work.

Who knows, if things keep improving, Acrassicauda may be able to go back to Iraq - or at least go on tour there.

Related posts: In the news: Background:
1 "...break the records..."?! If you're under 30 or so, you may not be familiar with "records" - those oversize black plastic disks. They've got sound recorded on them, using an analog technology.

The point is that, back in the 'good old days,' of the fifties and sixties, music was recorded on "records." Including rock music.

There's a video/motion picture clip from that period, showing some middle-aged guy making disparaging remarks about rock music, and breaking records. I haven't seen it for a while now: but it made a rather good example of how some of the older generation reacted to rock back then.

The 'older generation' now grew up on rock and roll, by and large, so it's not so much an issue these days.

I was born during the Truman administration, so I'm sincerely part of the 'older generation.' I've listened to, and watched, some Metallica and other heavy metal bands. Can't say that I care for the lyrics, entirely, but I like the music.

Truthfully, though, I prefer the work of artists like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, John Philip Sousa, Moody Blues, and Peter Schickele.

Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.