Baghdad calling: Do good, improve your golf swing

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 1, 2011; 10:56 PM

The Iraqis, despite America's best efforts, seem to be having a difficult time with this whole democracy thing. Just last weekend, the U.S.-backed government of Nouri al-Maliki responded most poorly when tens of thousands of Iraqis around the country demonstrated against the endemic corruption of government officials and the lack of electricity.

Seemingly legitimate concerns, but the government nonetheless responded to the "Day of Rage" by killing 29 protesters, wounding hundreds and allegedly detaining hundreds more, though the prime minister's office says only four people were detained.

The government also allegedly beat and tortured some journalists and others, and shut down a TV station. (Note to file: time to repeat the First Amendment lecture series.)

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Iraq's security forces "generally have not used force against peaceful demonstrators." Of course, it all depends on the general definition of "generally."

But not to worry, help is on the way. The U.S. Agency for International Development is looking for a number of people who will "be a part of history" by signing up for a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to contribute to a society that was the center of civilization for thousands of years" - namely, Iraq.

There's a fine opening, for example, in "the mission's flagship Capacity Building program" for a "talented officer who can contribute to improving Iraq's basic social services," a Jan. 31 announcement said. And the lack of those basic services is "the single-largest source of public discontent in today's Iraq."

Hesitant about living in Iraq? The job posting has a lengthy section titled: "Life in Baghdad - What is it really like?"

It's been eight years this month since the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, but "movements in and around the International Zone" - the Green Zone - "remain very limited due to ongoing security threats."

How about an occasional picnic in the countryside? No, "travel outside of Baghdad also requires major logistical and security efforts," the posting says, meaning a security escort must be available, otherwise you're going to be at your desk all day.

Still, "a concerted effort has been made to provide USAID staff with a life support system that mitigates some of the hardships," the posting says.

"After a day in the office, you can exercise in two full-sized gyms, an indoor swimming pool, a yoga studio, a golf driving range, or on the embassy's basketball, volleyball and tennis courts. You can also watch the latest movies and dance at Baghdaddy's, the embassy employee association club, which features live and recorded music every weekend."

So it's kind of like a desert version of the Greenbrier. And you've got cable TV and Internet access in your "suite-like double-occupancy apartments" with private bedrooms. The complex has its own power supply, so there are no electricity outages like those that plague Baghdad. (We seem to recall that the electricity worked better in the 1980s, before Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and before Iraq became a vassal state of Iran.)

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