Baghdad Diary: “Get used to it – This Is Iraq”

by Prashant Rao

Note: This blog post was originally published by AFP on June 3, 2009. It can be found here.

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.”

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