Monday, May 5, 2008


The Krempinski hotel is where the anti-corruption seminars were that The Asia Foundation held with the Education and Transportation Ministries. The anti-corruption seminars were wild. The first was a two-day affair at the presidential compound, Ikh Tengur, and when I'd had lunch the week before with Akim and Tugsuu about the wolf book Tugsuu had said something about the seminar. So when I came into the Asia Foundation to speak with Bill about the book I asked if I could observe it. It's a closed seminar, he said, but maybe we could get you in--can you take notes into a powerpoint? Tom Briggs was there from the US national treasury. He was one of the first twelve non-press civilians allowed into Iraq after 9/11. He was in the book with "Emerald City" in the title, featured as the guy who knew the right thing to do with the stock market there:

"I went to Iraq I the fall of '03 for a couple months. I had been a banker, and I went to organize banks as a counterpoint to the debt reduction problem. Iraq owes the world $180 billion at a GDP of $10. Not exactly sustainable. The first day I wore my flak jacket, 9mm, guards, then the next day ditched the equipment and the next day ditched the guards. I was fine. Every so often I'd get a look. This one guy I talked to was Sunni and he married a Shiiite. He said it's fine, there's no trouble, but don't do anything to create divisions. Which of course," he said primly, stirring his coffee, "We proceeded to do.

"I had an idea for a stock exchange--by that point, anyone with stock in Iraq was corrupt, dirty, and I was a banker and they asked me so I said get a blackboard and a telephone and unfreeze some of these equities. But then Baghdad fell and an army guy came in and tried to write laws, SEC, etc like in the states, it was a mess. 6 months later they were back to my plan exactly, the only difference being that they used a whiteboard instead of a blackboard.

"I was supposed to find a safe to store the money making up millions of dollars--this friend of mine had a simple, brilliant plan to give $20 to all the government civil workers who had been shocked by our invasion to get them to come back to work. I was presented with a safe with 2 ft thick walls and a roof that was essentially open, just tile. The truck was coming, loaded with cash. They said they'd build another wall for the roof and pour concrete on top. I said fine, but then Baghdad fell.

"When I was in Iraq for the first time I hired two young Iraqi women about your age who had been friends since girlhood to do administrative things. I taught them how to use cell phones and computers. I told them their daughters would laugh when they heard phones used to be connected to walls. They laughed and laughed. You know how those girlhood friendships are, really tight. I got to see them--they were still there when I returned in January. Next day I was walking and there was an explosion that felt like the mortar was on the next block. I was actually half a mile away. I was walking with my weight on my left foot at that moment, and if it had been on my right foot I would have gone down. As it was my left foot just hit the ground really hard.

"Anyway one of the young woman was in a car. It was 8am. She died at 9 that night. Horrible death, burns, you know. I still have trouble talking about it."

1 comment:

samraat said...