Thursday, October 07, 2004

More Truth Slips Through

On the heels of Ayad Allawi admitting that things weren't quite as rosy as he'd led us to believe in a speech written at least partly by the Bush-Cheney campaign, comes more truth. In today's Wall Street Journal (subscription), the Iraqi Tourism Minister says that his primary job is...

[not] trying to lure Western tourists to Iraq. He's trying to keep them away.
Seems that things are just too dangerous there. Imagine.

"I understand all about wanting to have an adventure, but Iraq could be a one-way trip," he says, shaking his head. "This is just not a place for tourists."

With the country beset by a bloody guerrilla war and a wave of kidnappings and killings, Mr. Jobori's point might seem obvious. But despite the violence, a small number of determined adventure-seekers are planning to visit Iraq in coming months.
For those "adventurists" who just must - for some reason - visit, who escorts them around? Perhaps some intrepid young Iraqis, for whom jobs continue to be non-existent? Not so much...

Phil Lalani, a hotel owner from Blackpool, England, hopes to be one of the pioneers. He and his girlfriend, Katrina Copsey, are among the 10 tourists who have paid to reserve space in a tour of the country later this month with Don Lucey, a former British special-forces officer who worked in Iraq last year doing support work for a British company providing telecommunications services to the British army. Cost of the eight-day trip: $2,200 per person, with mandatory insurance adding another $1,000.


For security reasons, Mr. Lucey refuses to tell the tourists their exact itinerary until they arrive in Iraq. Then, he'll parcel it out to them a day at a time.

Mr. Lucey, 52, also says the group will wear non-Western clothing, travel discreetly in inconspicuous vehicles and be protected at all times by armed guards.

"People think we'll be walking around with cameras around our necks snapping pictures, but this will be a covert operation," Mr. Lucey says. "You can't get away from the fact that Iraq is a very dangerous place, but I'm determined to begin bringing tourists here."
The Tourist Minister hasn't stopped making preparations for the day when tourists might return; a resort hotel in Mosul was recently renovated and restored to pre-war opulence. But Mr. Jobori could not even have a grand opening ceremony:

Mr. Jobori had hoped to travel north and mark its completion with a gala grand-opening party. But with the highways connecting the cities largely controlled by militants and Mosul convulsed by violence, Mr. Jobori opted to remain in Baghdad instead. He didn't even announce the completion publicly for fear of sparking an insurgent attack on the hotel.
With the US puppet government unable to hide the truth from the American electorate, with yet another arms inspection team reporting that Saddam's Iraq was absolutely no threat, and with more and more ex-administration officials reporting that the pre-war planning and the post-war execution were a shambles, perhaps - just maybe - American voters are getting a clue about the empty-headed empty suit in the White House.

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