Fear and Loathing in Iraq: August 1, 2004


Hello everyone! As you can tell from my exclamation point I am in a better mood this week. This week was rather quiet and things around here have relaxed a bit. We have come to terms with these transportation companies and their grumbling, and with that it has calmed the grumbling in our company. These trans companies were complaining that our ambulances were too slow and could not keep up with their convoy speeds. So some companies started requesting we not bring ambulances and have the medics ride shotgun or in the back of a truck. Well our commander finally came to some kind of sense and told them that if they won’t allow ambulances we will not provide medics. It made sense. If you take away our trucks you take away 50% of our capabilities as medics—we have no oxygen backup, no suction apparatus, no protection, no traction splints, no NBC ventilation systems, no A/C. But a few of them said, “OK, fine, we don’t need your medics.” Well that cut down on the number of companies that we support and has eased the hectic schedule for our troopies. Now the scheduling matrix we update all through the day has relaxed because there are fewer companies to schedule and find medics for. This has made the TOC take a breath of relief, which has eased my big mouth, which has made everyone else’s life better. Get this: people actually think I complain a lot. Some imagination people have.

There is a funny story worth telling from this week. On Friday night I got off work around 1:30 a.m. and my roommate and I were watching a movie and I start taking off my boots. I take off my left boot and toss it aside. Here is how it went from there.

Sgt Vice: “Did you hear that?”
Me: “It was just my boot hitting the ground.”
Sgt Vice: “Oh, it sounded like a rocket.”
Me: “Dumbass. Hee hee”
[Pause. I take off my right boot and toss it aside]
Sgt Vice: “Wait! I heard it again. You hear that?”
Me: “Dude, you're fucking retarded. It was my other boot!”
Sgt Vice: “No. It was something else.”
Me: “Dude, I’m telling you, it was just my boot hitting the floor.”
Sgt Vice: “You sure? It sounded…I don’t know.”
Me: “OK, hold on…” [I angle my head to listen]
US: SHIT!! [Two idiots hit the floor and cover their heads]
[We scramble our gear on, haul ass out the door and dive into the bunker]
Sgt Vice: “See. I told you so.”
Me: “Fuck you!”

[We sit in the bunker laughing and eventually go back to our movie.]

What are the odds that the first two out of four rockets that attack the base that night fell at the exact moments I took my boots off? It was classic.

A bunch of us have come across a nice investment opportunity and many of us have taken advantage of it. It all stared with Sgt Garcia. Sgt Garcia is the coolest, wisest and most experienced guy in the company. We all love Sgt G.

Now, Sgt G. has a hobby of making money. Lots of money. He is closing in on $1 million and he is optimistic he will make it by the year’s end. So whenever Sgt G. talks money we all listen, and even though we all make a fraction what he does and have portfolios that include Chuck-E-Cheese discount cards, we try to take advantage of his sage advice. He told us that he’s been buying new Iraqi dinars. And like kids sitting around the football coach, we said, “Why are ya buyin’ dinars Coach G.?”

Well, as you all know the old dinars were rendered worthless and the Iraqis had 60 days to switch over to the new currency. Before the Iraq war the exchange rate was like 4:1, now one U.S. dollar is worth 1,456 dinars. So we are looking at an exchange rate of .000686. Sgt G. found a guy that will sell us dinars at .00075, or 375$ for half a million dinars or $750 for a million. You may just now be able to buy dinars in the U.S. in some places, I’m not positive, but the rates may be different and the bills hard to find. We did see some people selling dinars on Ebay for maybe $250 more than what we are paying for a million, and there is no way to know if it is legit. The best way to buy them is to go to an Iraqi bank and trade dollars, but we can’t. So we have to go through a middle man. We got a nice guy that buys our goods off the Iraqi market for us--educated in France no less--and he takes $63 bucks profit for getting us the cash; not too bad.

The idea is a long term investment, thinking that the exchange rate will increase over time as Iraq gets back on it feet, increases trade, and especially when the U.S. withdraws its troops. Sgt G. bought ten million dinars, and if the exchange rate ever gets to even 10 cents on the dollar, he will make $1 million in profit. So it could take 5, 10, 15, 20 years, but whatever, if even if it goes up one decimal place you make 7,500 on a 750 dollar investment. So why not? We all went to finance and took out casual pays and went to Sgt G. with the cash. Now we are all owners of some dinars and will sit on them until one day we cash them in. Sgt G. got receipts for us all and said that we needed a receipt to prove we bought the money legally. Hey, sounds good to me, Coach.

So it is a legitimate investment, and it is also like a lottery ticket. You just never know. But since we are out here we need to take advantage of little advantages we can, and this is one of them. This sure sounds like a better deal than the AK-47 bayonets I have been buying from the kids at the front gate and selling them to soldiers for… well… the same I paid for them. It would be a shame if I charged a profit for knives that were illegal for us to have in the first place. But if anyone is interested in buying some dinars let me know and I will let you know what to do.

Beyond all that, it has been fairly quiet here this week. We got all new furniture and have been remodeling our TOC. Our chicken shit 1Sgt got us all new desks, books cases, tables. Now the place looks like Martha Stewart decorated a shitty, damaged Iraqi building with cheap, shitty furniture. We could care less but our 1Sgt—who cares more how things look than what’s functional—is happy as a clam, and that shuts him up, and we all love that.

Well, sorry there is not more interesting things to report this week, but what can I say, sometimes there is an eye in the storm.
Take care all.

--Chris Sachs