Kurdish Evenings, Baghdad Days

I had dinner again last night as the guest of Mr. Hussain Sinjari, who is working to promote a classical liberal campaign of religious toleration in Iraq. Once again, lots of bodyguards, but this time to go and dine with the prince of the Jaff tribe of the Kurds. There were a number of brothers, cousins, and friends there, including Kurds who were coming back from Sweden and the U.S. to do business in and rebuild a new Iraq.

As the conference this morning was an all-Iraqi affair, I went out with some of the other international participants to visit Saddam’s marching grounds (with the giant crossed swords and the huge mounds of Iranian helmets, including those that were embedded in the concrete so that they could be marched over), the tomb of the unknown martyr, and a flea market. The tomb was rather chilling, as we managed to get down inside into Saddam’s offices of control and looked around with a flashlight. One of the side offices was still littered with police files on individuals. God only knows what happened to the boys and young men whose pictures were on the photocopied identity cards in the scattered files. The whole creepy monument is honeycombed with entrances and special guard offices so that Saddam could enter by any entrance, appear on the ceremonial ground, and then leave by any exit.

I managed at the flea market to buy a bunch of worthless (not really, as I paid for them) Saddam dinars, a really creepy Saddam medal of the Iraqi Football Association, a key chain with Saddam and his loving sons Uday and Qusay, and some other totalitarian kitsch, as well as some additional Arabic headresses. So I got the tourist shopping bug out of my system.

If all goes well, I fly out tomorrow to Amman, then on Wednesday on to Amsterdam, Chicago, and San Diego.

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