Sunday, December 14, 2003

New Iraqi Army soldiers are leaving their posts reportedly because the pay ($60 a month) is too low.

It's the same salary Iraqis get as members of the new Iraqi Civil Defense Force and the Iraqi Police, both of which have been targeted by insurgents who have killed them at an alarming rate.

But teachers are getting $140 a month and engineers even more than that.

And members of the old Army, who were given pensions after staging angry protests over the summer, are in some cases only just receiving payments for September.

Things are a bit skewed here.

Some housewives don't know the price of meat because they cannot afford to buy it. This explains why some Iraqi manual laborers who earlier this year were paid about $2 a day by coalition forces took the job.

But other Iraqis are buying $110 new model Samsung cell phones. And those are among the cheaper models - one merchant is selling a $445 new model that includes a digital camera. It's not clear how many customers he'll have for that one. (The networks aren't up yet and cell phone service, once promised in December, is now not expected until at least the New Year).

CDs are also expensive here, my driver Hassan says.

I told him about the RIAA and the controversy over copying digital music at home.

His eyes grew wide at the idea of paying $16 for a new CD.

There are virtually no original CDs for sale here in Baghdad. Only good quality copies and bad quality copies.

Hassan didn't even consider buying a good quality copy at 5,000 dinars ($2.50) until I insisted that a bad quality version of the latest Amr Diab CD was unlistenable with its skips and stops.

There's a CD shop in Karada called Ghost which sells dozens of copies including recent releases by the Raveonettes and Eminem. But most of the foreigners who come in seem to want Arabic music, he says.

The latest hit by Nancy Ajram:

kill meh oo sahr (he said a word and something happened)
albi be kill meh (something in my heart, because of that word)
nar a lar nar (a fire on a fire)
bess meh a la bess meh (a smile on a smile)
gelbi eh tar (my heart is confused)
nessani ess me (makes me forget my name)
madri keif oo when (i don't know how and where)

yaaaaay saha yoonoo (wow the magic of his eyes)
nazrahtoo (the way he looks at me)
owuhl matla ayna ba'ayne (the first time we met, eye to eye)
yaaaaay shoo mah doo ma kill mah too (how nice his words)
kill meh kaif lau kanu it nane (it's only one word, what's going to happen if there are two?)