The trip to the pool was delayed a bit by some late meetings. Yesterday was hot, humid, and hazy in Baghdad, and because of the haze there was not much sun to be had. The pool itself is large, with a fountain which feeds the pool, and a high diving platform. With the heat, palm trees, desert architecture, and pool, I kept fighting the feeling that I was in Las Vegas.
I met some interesting folks who are setting up the mail system in Iraq. I can’t recall if I have mentioned that there is currently no regular mail service in Baghdad. While the CPA employees and soldiers receive mail through military POs, private parties such as I must rely on commercial mail services, like Fed Ex and DHL.
Post offices in Iraq previously handled a very small amount of mail. The reason behind this limited usage is that the people did not trust the mail service, and for good reason. The postal employees would open the mail. If there was anything worth taking in there--money, etc.--they simply took it. If, however, you exercised poor judgment by saying something disparaging about the government in the mail, then someone would show up at your door to kill you. Creating a working postal system therefore requires not only the technical implementation of zip codes and sorting mechanisms, but winning the trust of the people.
Once again, it is worth realizing what dire conditions the people lived under. You could not send a relative money via the mail. You were subject to execution for private dissent. Remember this the next time some uninformed individual casts doubt on whether the Iraqis are better off now.