Saturday, August 26, 2006

NYT: "Weary Iraqis Find New Foes: Rising Prices" (Damien Cave)

Damien Cave's "Weary Iraqis Find New Foes: Rising Prices" in this morning's New York Times is actually a stronger article than might be expected. Let's start with its weaknesses. In looking at the new economic realities in Iraq (brought on by the likes of the No Dinar Left Behind activities discussed in the previous entry), Cave offers that "the fallout from decades of government control," among other issues, "are kicking up the price of nearly everything". There's something a little embarrassing about that statement. It's the same sense of embarrassment I'd feel hearing someone who'd been a general studies major weigh in at length on Plato's Ladder of Love with the sort of 'analysis' that's a notch above a greeting in a Hallmark card. Journalists are rarely economists. The dime-store analysis mars the article (but is in keeping with the free market endorsement of the Times -- 'free market' translates at the paper as the citizens are 'free' to be gouged regularly and big business is 'free' to seek and be awarded corporate welfare).

Outside of dispensing economic (editorial) wisdom that he doesn't posses, Cave's article is a strong one. I'm counting five Iraqi citizens (possibly six) as being given a voice and the five even includes a woman (women in Iraq, as in an Oliver Stone film, are repeatedly rendered invisible). The citizens outweigh the 'experts' (from outside Iraq) and the government spokesperson. So we'll note that. Cave (or Qais Mizher, Wisam A. Habeeb and Omar al-Neami) actually took the trouble to speak to Iraqis and that's the strongest part of the article. That matters because the price shocks don't register as harshly with those running around with bodyguards. (Cave notes that the average Iraqi makes "only about $150 a month on average."

What I'm not seeing noted is that the gas being purchased is not just for cars. Due to the fact that electricity still only runs for a few hours a day in most of Iraq (including Baghdad, outside the Green Zone), many Iraqis, who can afford it, use generators (as Riverbend has noted frequently at her site Baghdad Burning).

Cave writes of the increase in prices. For instance, gas, after government subsidies were dropped, went from a four cents a gallon to sixty-seven cents a gallon -- if you can find it legally (shortages prevent that for many and on the underground market, it sells for as much as $3.19 a gallon). Abdul Rehman Qasim is quoted as explaining how he deals with the long waits and long lines to get to the gas pumps, "I'm a poor guy. So I leave some of my children here. They spend the night in the car." Zabkiya Abid Salman declares, at a market where she's purchasing egg plants, "We're tired, and the situation is horrible. There are no jobs, and the prices are always rising."

Yesterday, after the snapshot went up, Reuters noted that at least three people were killed and at least twenty-two wounded in Ramadi when a US tank shelled a mosque while, in Balad Ruz, teenagers engaged in a game of a football were surprised by a "makeshift bomb" that left three dead and three more wounded. KUNA reports that an Iraqi soldier was killed and two others wounded as well as five police officers injured in Kirkuk. In Dhuluiya, Reuters notes that an ice house owner was shot dead. That was part of some of the reported violence for Friday. (Is the Times also barred from occupation Nouri al-Maliki from commenting on the daily violence or are they just taking a holiday? Paul von Zielbauer is among the few who had any articles this past week noting the violence and there's no article in today's paper on the violence. Apparently, the new 'Iraq solution' for the Operation Happy Talkers is just to ignore the realities.)

With the eleven dead noted in yesterday's snapshot and the eight noted above, that's nineteen (and that's not counting the corpses that turned up on Friday or those killed on Friday that will be discovered later) so it's interesting that the AP deems it "quiet" on Friday. (The story also only notes only five dead so it was apparently filed early.) In another AP story, Robert Burns notes:

The death toll among National Guard and Reserve troops in Iraq has plunged this year as citizen soldiers play a smaller combat role against an insurgency that increasingly targets Iraqis.

AFP reports that Nouri al-Maliki met with tribal heads today and warned that the (illegal) occupation by foreign forces would continue until there was 'peace.' (His version of Bully Boy's speech earlier this week where Bully Boy announced that US forces would remain in Iraq as long as he occupied the oval office?) Also noted in the report is that "Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), said a referendum should be called in the region to endorse a breakaway, an idea which is fiercely opposed by Sunni leaders."

Another AFP report notes that: "Taiseer al-Mashhadani, a member of the Sunni National Concord Front -- the largest Sunni parliamentary bloc -- was released on almost two months after an armed gang snatched her in a Baghdad ambush."

The following sites have updated since yesterday morning:

Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty's Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
Kat's Kat's Korner (of The Common Ils);
Cedric's Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike's Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine's Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally's The Daily Jot:
and Trina's Trina's Kitchen

Tomorrow's The Third Estate Sunday Review will again focus on Iraq. The plan is for the majority of new content to be focused on Iraq. Ruth's Report goes up today. She's covering
Ehren Watada (and possibly other things as well).