August 13, 2003


The Sydney Morning Herald supports liberalised censorship and drug laws in Australia. But now that Iraqis are drinking, taking drugs, and watching porn -- not for nothing did our man in Najaf call for “democracy, whiskey, and sexy!” -- well, these are bad things. Paul McGeough, in Baptist minister mode, reports:

It is 10am and the crowd is pouring into the seedy Al Najah cinema on Baghdad's Al Rasheed Street. They come, at 70 cents a ticket, for sex on a loop - fleshy scenes from a dozen B-grade movies spliced into a single program, for which there is standing room only.

Could be Kings Cross. Except Al Rasheed Street is probably cleaner.

In Sadoun Street the midday temperature is 50 degrees and the prostitutes tout for business from the shade of a beach umbrella. Further along, in Fidros Square - where US troops stage-managed the demolition of a statue of Saddam Hussein on April 9 - as many as 30 teenagers are sniffing glue and paint thinner.

Whoa, whoa, whoa ... stage-managed? And as for the glue-huffin’ kids, well, such hobbies were likely commonplace before Saddam’s fall. Unless he controlled glue sales.

Drug dealers in the treacherous Bab al Sharqi markets, just off central Tahrir Square, are doing a brisk trade in looted prescription drugs.

The biggest demand is for mind-altering, and addictive, medications. Each trader has a special, half-hidden box for what he calls feel good capsules and tablets - the Herald came away with a multi-coloured cocktail of 200 pills for less than $10.

It’s possibly a stretch to describe these drugs as addictive if you don’t, in fact, know what they are.

At the other end of the day hundreds of street drinkers converge on the banks of the Tigris River, openly selling and drinking gin, arak and beer in a raucous celebration of the ending of Saddam's rigid control of vice.

They’re doing this openly? You mean, like Australians do at Randwick?

Under Saddam, alcohol, drugs, pornography and prostitution were state-controlled for the pleasure of a few. But in the post-war vacuum vice has exploded and the likes of Majid Al Sa'adi's tea house, just back from the bustle of Sadoun Street, has become a one-stop shop.

In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald uses value-free terms like sex industry to describe prostitution. In Iraq, prostitution -- along with alcohol and everything else -- becomes “vice”.

How quaint.

Posted by Tim Blair at August 13, 2003 03:36 AM

Well, it's The White Liberal's Burden, old man.

Posted by: Mike G at August 13, 2003 at 04:09 AM

50 degrees?


I hope Halliburtons canon fodder have got air conditioning in their body armour.

Methinks a tidy sum could be made from kevlar condoms too.

Posted by: Analogue Voter at August 13, 2003 at 06:55 AM

Analogue Voter, something tells me you couldn't really care less about "Halliburtons canon fodder." Dipshit.

Posted by: Dave Himrich at August 13, 2003 at 08:59 AM

Only yesterday the Herald ran an approving article about how pornography is "believable and empowering for the fairer sex".

Now today it's baaaad. Looks like only middle class whiteys can be trusted with porn.

Posted by: The Mongrel at August 13, 2003 at 09:46 AM

Why did he need to buy the 200 happy pills? Couldn't he have just asked how much they cost?

Posted by: Prick at August 13, 2003 at 09:52 AM

Ah, but don't you understand these aren't Iraqi's voluntarily indulging in vices? They are hapless victims, having their superior, non-western society polluted and degraded with American exports.

Posted by: Kevin at August 13, 2003 at 10:32 AM

AnalVoter, don't you worry your pretty little head about "Halibuton's cannon fodder", they're about a hundred times tougher than you.

Posted by: David Crawford at August 13, 2003 at 10:39 AM

Anal Voter - Hah! I like that.

Does it mean we get to do a steaming turd on George Bush's head in 2004?

That'd sure increase voter turnout.

Posted by: Analogue Voter at August 13, 2003 at 11:41 AM


You should know better. Didn't your daddy tell you never to get in a pissin' contest with a big ol' dick?

Posted by: E.A. at August 13, 2003 at 12:05 PM


There was a doco on SBS titled Operation Saddam on July 29 which made the claim that the statue demolition was designed by a PR company for the Pentagon. It may not be true, but McGeogh is not making it up out of thin air.

In any case I don't see why you should be suprised. The US military spends millions on PR, and it's not like US soldiers are in the habit of pulling down statues on a whim- they have to be ordered to do so by their superiors, as is the case with most stuff in the Army.

As far as the Herald's double standards go, the article seemed fairly non-judgemental to me. Surely this is a matter for some concern: if conservative religious Iraqis associate this decline in public morality with the occupation, then it's not a good thing from the "winning hearts and minds" perspective. And I hardly think that advocating liberalised drug laws is quite the same as endorsing the sale of "looted prescription drugs" on street corners. And since when in Australia is it legal for stuff like "hundreds of street drinkers ... openly selling and drinking", say on the banks of the Yarra?

In general this is just further evidence of the breakdown in law & order which has been a problem for the last couple of months- and which will have to be solved to get the country back on its feet- which is what we all want, right?

Posted by: carl at August 13, 2003 at 01:39 PM


The thrust of the argument is the hypocrisy displayed by the newspaper in treating one subject in different arenas, not the rights and wrongs of vice in Iraq.

Much in the same vein as yesterday's post about The Guardian's Gary Younge's duplicity in spinning his own conclusions about defence force numbers.

As you say, no-one wants to see a breakdown of law and order in Iraq.

Except the twisted individuals - and there's a few of those - who will delight in laying this at the feet of the liberating forces.

Posted by: ilibcc at August 13, 2003 at 02:00 PM

I've got a creepy feeling analogue voter is Al Gore.
Tell me analogue who do you hate the most, racists or Jews?

Posted by: Frank at August 13, 2003 at 02:14 PM

>> no-one wants to see a breakdown of law and order in Iraq

Posted by: Analogue Voter at August 13, 2003 at 02:59 PM

Might be an idea for the US to stop killing Iraqi cops

btw - I hate everyone equally, but reserve a special loathing for people called "Frank".

Posted by: Analogue Voter at August 13, 2003 at 03:03 PM

Yet another non-argument. Tim and his buddies are still equating anarchy with freedom. Our society has stable governance and a rule of law, things yet to be seen in post-war Iraq. It is also ridiculous to infer that Paul approves of the "sex-industry" just because he works for a paper that uses non-judgemental terminology. To Tim and friends, I suggest that you put your efforts into genuine debate rather than childish ideological point-scoring.

Posted by: thepusher at August 13, 2003 at 07:14 PM


I watched the Statue of Saddam being pulled down as it happened. If a PR firm could stage manage that, they would not be working for the government. Just think of the logistics.

Posted by: James Dudek at August 13, 2003 at 11:51 PM

Paul McGeough and the Sydney Morning Herald obviously believes that the wogs can't handle the good stuff, unlike the elites at the newspaper and among its readers. Ah, what happened to multi-culturalism?

Posted by: Jabba the Nutt at August 14, 2003 at 01:43 AM

Saddam's rigid control of vice??? I guess that means only Uday was allowed to rape who ever he wanted, and beat and kill them too.

Ever notice how dictatorships are always big on controlling vice and being all pure. Maybe you've got to clamp down on all the freedoms.

Posted by: PJ at August 14, 2003 at 02:31 PM