March 18, 2003
The War Economy
I got up at 4 to watch George Bush, as did a lot of people here. I was mainly relieved that he didn’t declare war just then. But most people here believe it could start any moment.
The war economy is kicking into gear. Gasoline, which had been about 50 cents a gallon here in Kurdistan, is now $2 a gallon as people start hoarding it. Plastic sheeting, which people use to cover their windows to protect against chemical weapons, went from 25 cents a meter to 65 cents. Today I went to a town right on the border with Iraq proper, Kalak, and people there said they couldn’t afford the plastic to cover their windows.
On the main roads you can see cars and pickups loaded down with stuff. One family of 11 people was jammed into a single Opel Vectra (about the size of a Honda Accord). I saw pickups with five people in the front seat and six children in the back, on top of all the family’s possessions.
My translator is now alone in his house with his cousin, who is about the same age. My driver decided to keep his family here, because when he fled during the Gulf War his house was looted.
The exchange rate, which had been 8.5 dinars to the dollar, dropped to seven to the dollar today. Readers with a better knowledge of currency rates are welcomed to try to explain to me why.
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