FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

From Detroit to Basra

by RAYMOND BARRETT

Kuwait City.

Three months after the US-led “intervention” in Iraq, the automobile has leaped to the top of the wish lists of the liberated peoples of Iraq. For those opponents of the war that cried that the war itself was waged on behalf of the fuel that powers the internal combustion engine, it will be of no consolation to see how quickly the automobile has been in driving the new economy that is busy revving in to life in the towns and cities of Iraq.

When I first came to Kuwait over three years ago, I purchased my first car: a 1984 Chevrolet Caprice Classic, a 5 Litre V8 hulk of car that is still ubiquitous on the dusty highways of Kuwait. For just over a $1000, I thought it was a bargain, especially when you compare the price of petrol and insurance to Ireland, where the very thought of running such an automobile would be enough to bring out the wrath of an environmentalist and a smile to the face of the inland revenue.

Three years down the line, two failed MoTs (Ministry of Transport certification) later, it was time for us to part. The only problem was that it is impossible to sell a car in Kuwait if the vehicle is not registered and certified. I had been avoiding the issue for some time, until the stubbornness of two would-be dynasties met somewhere in a holistic universe to my own personal benefit once again.

The war on/in/for (take your pick) Iraq had already allowed me to attend the wedding of friend back in Ireland due a temporary evacuation order from my employer and now it seemed that it would facilitate the removal of a quintessential example of Detroit mechanized excess from outside my apartment, that had been busy collecting dust for a nearly a year.

Two days ago, while leafing through the classified section of The Kuwait Times, I found an unexpected answer to my prayers -We buy Chevrolet Cars, all models 1980-2003. One phone call later and I was in business, heading to Andalus, an area of Kuwait city off the beaten track for most foreigners in this country. There I met Hamad, a bedoun (literally without [papers]), one of the 125,000 stateless Arabs living in Kuwait, sometimes for as long two generations, but as yet without full citizenship.

After a quick bout of negotiation (that he excelled at far better than I) we came to a deal: 200 Kuwaiti Dinars ($600) and he would assist me with the paperwork. The later was indeed a major selling point. I pointed out the registration had expired due to a failed emissions test, but he told me this was not a problem. The car was not destined for Kuwait, but 200 km to the north, in Basra, Iraq.

Once business was out of the way, Hamad invited me in to his office where a thick Turkish coffee and a Marlboro Red completed the transaction. Being invited for coffee (as opposed to tea) is a much more magnanimous gesture in Arab societies, and can also be interpreted as an invitation to converse, an art in which the people here excel and revel in. He told me a little about his business, and how former Iraqi governmental employees are presently being paid $500 a month by the US authority administrating Iraq. This sudden influx of cash had generated a huge demand for a range of products, and top of the list it seems are cars, of all makes, shapes and sizes.

As I looked outside, and took in the long sky blue lines of a my first car, I was struck by how iconic certain things can become: these huge cars epitomizing the American car industry, and possibly the society as a whole in the 70’s and 80’s; large, powerful, prone to excess, slightly garish, great in straight lines but not so nimble taking corners or negotiating tricky terrain. While at the same it managed to go even further, embodying the oil-fuelled wealth and status of Kuwait during the same time, when it could claim to be the wealthiest country on the planet in relation to GDP per capita.

What about Iraq? Is there any significance to both the US and Kuwait sending such emblematic icons, though now worn and aged, to a once foresworn enemy?

As I put the money in my pocket and took a taxi home, there was at least one that sprung to mind. For both Hamad and myself, someone else’s adversity had provided us with opportunities, and both of us seemed pretty pleased with the result.

RAYMOND BARRETT can be reached at: r_barrett73@yahoo.com

 

More articles by:
February 21, 2018
Cecil Bothwell
Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear
Ajamu Baraka
Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire
Edward Hunt
Treating North Korea Rough
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail