Thursday

Thursday 10/7/2003Forget the weapons of mass destruction -- how fervently must our beloved leaders hope we will -- and never mind Saddam, the real hunt in Baghdad is for a useable mobile phone signal. A report today says that although a temporary military GSM system is currently in place all bets are still off as to which standard will eventually be used.

Thursday 10/7/2003
Forget the weapons of mass destruction -- how fervently must our beloved leaders hope we will -- and never mind Saddam, the real hunt in Baghdad is for a useable mobile phone signal. A report today says that although a temporary military GSM system is currently in place all bets are still off as to which standard will eventually be used. The US has yet to decide: and as one of the country's most enduring attributes is to pick wireless standards as if the rest of the world didn't exist, it's too early to tell whether it'll be sensible or barking. Those of you with any reserves of foreboding left, prepare to bode them now. Not that it may make much difference. I have lunch with an executive from a company that specialises in putting cellular networks in far-flung places. As usual, he is full of pleasing war stories from ex-Soviet republics, family-run African states and other locations where the lights go off even more frequently than the guns. After a brief discussion about the miserable business in Cote D'Ivoire -- conclusion: WAWA, or West Africa Wins Again -- we turn to Iraq. Yes, they'd been approached and asked to pitch for the job. No, they weren't interested. "But you were the mob who parachuted the GSM system into Ishmaelia, a place where even the scorpions expect baksheesh before crawling into your boots", I said. "And then there was the business with Izbrokistan, where getting payment out of the state bank meant having bigger guns than the chief cashier. It's not like you to turn business down." "Too dangerous," he said. "Everyone learnt their lesson in the Balkans, and Afghanistan hasn't helped. You won't find anyone prepared to send engineers out there, not for a good long time." And that's the truth about life over in Mesopotamia at the moment: it's untouchably risky, with no sign that things will clear up in the foreseeable. Bear that in mind next time Ari spins his happy pictures. If you get the chance, creep up behind Bush or Blair and whisper 'quagmire'. Let me know how high they jump.

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