Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

WAR -- The Money [Part 16]

The economy of Iraq is in ruins. Reading this story about a brave and very persistent Iraqi businessman is bitter sweet. His life is changed forever, nothing the United States does or doesn’t do can change that. Our contribution to change in Iraq has already been made. It has been a disaster. China sees the writing on the wall. The Bush/McCain war, with its no end-game strategy, remains a policy of arrogant blindness.

The New York Times
April 15, 2008
Devising Survival at Factory in Iraq

BAGHDAD — Before April 2003, when the maze of crooked lanes that branch away from Rasheed Street downtown were crammed with hundreds of small leather goods factories, Hassan Attiya, now 43, designed fancy women’s shoes under his signature “Cowboy” label. And his workers manufactured and sold them by the thousands.

Now Mr. Attiya, humbled by security fears, the shuttering of Iraqi tanning factories that provided his raw materials and an avalanche of cheap imports from China and Syria since the invasion, hangs on in a crumbling former dentist’s office with a handful of workers.

If all that were not crushing enough, as widespread violence generated by fighting in the south last month forced Mr. Attiya to close his factory, policemen in Baghdad stopped a car carrying goods he had ordered from Syria. The policemen said they were looking for weaponry, but when the search was over a package containing good-quality faux diamonds for his shoes had vanished. It was worth $1,200, perhaps a quarter of Mr. Attiya’s working capital.

“Wallahi,” Mr. Attiya said in an Arabic expression of woe. “The business is not as it used to be. It is like the survival of the fittest.” . . .

The hard realities of the shoe business have forced some former factory owners to adapt in a way that pains even themselves: turning to the import trade. One of them is Haider H. Jawad al-Madamgha, 46, who shut his factory when the cost for generator fuel became too high and who now makes regular trips to China to order the shoes that sit atop boxes behind the plate-glass windows of his Rasheed Street shop. He does not deny that many of his former colleagues regard him as something of a turncoat.

“That is right,” Mr. Madamgha said of the influence of his trade. “By importing Chinese shoes, in a way we are destroying the Iraqi industry.”

But Mr. Madamgha noted that everyone needs shoes, and that Iraqi factories are no longer capable of keeping up with that demand, even if they all work at full capacity. And he called upon another market truism to justify his move.

“If I stop importing Chinese shoes, then Iraqi shoes would be $100 a pair,” Mr. Madamgha said, before offering a visitor tea.

HERE for full article.



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