A dictatorship—even a one-man psycho state—can appear surprisingly normal on the surface. For much of Saddam Hussein's long reign, enough brand-name Western enterprises were willing enough to do business with him that parts of downtown Baghdad at first glance have the same multinational blandness as any other capital city. In the outlying towns, the Main Streets have a healthy commercial life, granted that many of them are made up of competing convenience stores lined up side-by-side with the same stacks of the same sweltering soda hot enough to boil a lobster. The residential streets can look quite pleasant, if you don't mind the garbage piled up in the yard—nothing to do with Rumsfeld's destruction of the infrastructure, just a reflection of the relatively low priority municipal services had in Baathist Iraq. The hospitals, despite the alleged humanitarian catastrophe the country's engulfed by (according to the NGOs), are...

 

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