For those of you who missed it yesterday, freelance journalist Steven Vincent had a fine article in National Review on cabbies in Baghdad. There are several interesting anecdotes in the article, but here is a particularly good excerpt:
Over the tape-recorded sermons of a Shia cleric, my driver related how last spring he took his two children on a pilgrimage to the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, something he couldn’t do under Saddam. "I was so happy, my family happy!" His comments began tumbling out one after another. First he criticized "Arab media — Al-Jazeera and Arabia TV. They only say bad things about U.S., only talk about bombs and killing Americans. Never about how things are growing in Iraq, getting better." Then he turned to the entire Arab world. "They fear Iraq will become a democracy, then every country will want to become democratic and the rulers will be in trouble-they only want people with one thought, one mind." . . .
By the time I reached my hotel, I had a Koran-sized lump in my throat. I peeled off a wad of dinars, but the cabbie refused to take the money. After I implored him to accept payment, he finally took the bills, slipped them in his shirt pocket, then took them out and handed them back to me. "You give me the money, now I give it back to you — a gift to my friend from America." Then, turning up the volume on the imam’s sermon, he gave me a big missing-toothed smile and drove off in a cloud of exhaust.