I loathe Sean Penn, and won't ever see any of his movies again if it's at all within my power. His new travel journal from Iraq may give you some insight into why. (I feel like noting there that, despite arrests for assault and drug use, Sean Penn was still granted a California permit to Carry Concealed Weapons; despite my lack of a violent criminal record, I've been denied.) The article starts idiotically enough.
Doc Birnbaum filled the last of three receptacles with my blood (he was concerned about my looming cholesterol problem and had graciously made a house call), then slid the needle out of my vein as my phone rang. I answered as the doc pressed a cotton ball onto the puncture in the crook of my arm.What normal people have doctors that make house calls to take blood? No one. It's not surprising that this pompus monkey is so disconnected from reality and popular opinion.
It is 2 a.m. in Jordan when my flight arrives. I part ways with Medea and her delegation, pay the 10 dinars for a visa, and go through customs, where I am greeted by Sattar. Before the Gulf War, Sattar had been a well-paid civil engineer. Now he drives the perilous 12 hours into Amman and 12 hours back to Baghdad, shuttling journalists and humanitarian aides, for a mere $300 per 24- hour round trip.Again, how many people in America make a mere $300 per day? It's not a huge amount of money (around $80,000 per year), but compared to what Sattar was likely making as a civil engineer before the war it's a fortune; plus, he's probably not paying a 40%+ marginal tax rate.
For hundreds of kilometers at a stretch, the occasional Bedouin sheepherder is the only human form in sight. As far as the eye can see, these Bedouins -- solitary robed figures traveling the desert followed by a hundred head of sheep -- appear to have neither a point of origin nor a destination. It seems their only mission is to exist as props for a National Geographic photographer. Where are they taking these sheep? And where did they come from?It's called working for a living. Idiot.
I've quietly arranged (the less my whereabouts are known, the better) to switch cars at the Hunting Club, a private social club that traditionally hosted a who's-who of Iraqi society. Saddam Hussein's son Oday was known to pick up girls there.By "pick up girls" he of course means that Oday (who? Uday?) kidnapped them, raped them, and often murdered them. Pshaw, minor details.
On the busy boulevard in front of the Palestine Hotel are several makeshift money-changing tables. They survive on the fluctuating exchange rate of the dinar and charge a commission for changing money, mostly U.S. dollars for Iraqi dinars. It's not really a black market, because there is no official market; it's all black, without regulation, taxes or import duty.That's not a black market, that's a free market. Communist.
Anyway, there's a lot more drivel, but Mr. Penn can't help but note in passing that the American troops are good guys, and that many (at least) of the Iraqis are glad to have them there. He manages to highlight the various failings of the occupation, but I'm quite encouraged by what I read between the lines. He notes repeated details of Saddam's tyrannical and murderous rule, and it looks like even Sean Penn may now see (some of the reasons) why the invasion was a good thing all around.