Monday, February 26, 2007

Perspective: 'If you work for Americans, you might get killed'

Unemployed men line up to register with Iraq's labor ministry. Numbering in the millions, many of Iraq's unemployed have not had steady jobs since the 2003 invasion. U.S. and Iraqi officials acknowledge that every young man without work is a potential recruit for insurgents who pay as little as $50 to people who plant explosives on a highway or shoot a policeman.

BAGHDAD — The letter arrived at Hassim Mohammed's house a few months after he had started his new job. "If you work for an American company, we will kill you," it said.

It was not signed, but Mohammed didn't need a name. The simple, one-line threat was convincing enough.

The civil engineer quit his job with the American company six months ago and began looking for work elsewhere, but found nothing. Unemployment is high, and pay at most Iraqi companies is low, so Mohammed put on a suit Saturday and put his life on the line once more.

He came to a job fair, joining hundreds of other Iraqis vying for work with U.S. firms or with Iraqi firms doing business with Americans.

"It's dangerous, but life must go on," Mohammed said, reflecting the combination of fatalism and desperation driving many Iraqis to risk their lives, family ties and in some cases their marriages for a decent salary.

Read the rest at the LA Times