by Prashant Rao
Most people, everywhere, tend to think their country is exceptional, in one way or another. Iraq, my new home for a year, is probably one where they are right more often than not.
I’ve been in Baghdad for a couple of days now, and am fast trying to work out the quirks of life here, and keen for advice. When things go badly, “don’t take it personally” I was told the other day. “This is Iraq”. “Don’t get angry easily”, I was advised. “This is Iraq.”
On the drive from the airport, to my new home, I instinctively buckled my seatbelt. Moments later, I was told this was not necessary. “This is Iraq” was the only explanation.
And when I was told to remove the battery from my mobile phone as I was on my way to get my press credentials, the same reason: “This is Iraq”.
It is, in some ways, a slightly weary phrase, or resigned at least. “Iraq is as it is. Get used to it,” I suppose it means. And it is also pretty convenient. It’s a ready excuse for almost every eventuality. I’m not sure that everything is explained by Iraq being Iraq. But I do know one thing. The phrase is catching. Earlier today, when an interview with a ministry official was abruptly cancelled while we were on our way there, my colleague and I looked at each other. And this time I managed to beat him to it – “I know, I know,” I said. “This is Iraq.”