Baghdad Journal: May 15, 2006

Nouri al-Maliki, I wish I could quit you. Maliki is the prime minister "designate" for Iraq. Why isn't he the actual prime minister? Because he can't be sworn in until he puts together a cabinet. When will he finally announce his cabinet? Who the heck knows? And believe me, I am not really thinking "heck."

It has been five months since the election here. Five months. Can anyone remember as far back as December? It was a long, long time ago. There was a transit strike in New York City, "Brokeback Mountain" was just hitting the theaters, and the Beatles were launching their first American tour. The election was that long ago, yet there is no government in place.

I know how incredibly difficult it has to be to form a full-term elected government, really for the first time ever. But c'mon, it is not like this matter snuck up on anyone. And it really should serve as a giant, blinking, neon warning sign about some of the problems that might exist in this country going forward.

They are having a hard time forming a government because there are real, serious divisions within the Iraqi leadership, and in many cases, a gaping lack of trust. I am sure they will meet the drop-dead deadline, they always do, and maybe everything will work out, but it is a source of concern.

Moreover, it's personal. If Maliki doesn't name a cabinet by Friday, then I don't get to cover it, and I won't know if I won my "pick the agriculture minister" pool. I know I sound like a broken record on the Iraq government, and it is not as interesting as Fox the Dog. It must be exhausting to keep reading.

If you are exhausted and need a nap, I have the perfect place for you, a sort of sleeping nirvana. … Right here, Baghdad. I swear this city is like an urban Ambien. You could sleep for 20 hours a day here. You have giant fans in the rooms and air-conditioning blasting. We have big, thick, black curtains on the windows, which might be to protect against bombs for all I know. And, finally, you have a sort of depressing psychology in your favor, namely, "What good can really come from getting up?"

I know that sounds morose, and I don't really mean it literally -- there are a lot of nice people, and good news stories, etc., etc., etc. But there is a lot of nasty stuff that happens here, too, and it doesn't entice you to leap right out of bed in the morning.

But Lionel Richie does. Many of you may have noticed that the United States is going to resume diplomatic relations with Libya for the first time in 25 years. What you probably don't know is that Lionel Richie performed in Libya just last month. This can't be coincidence. His music heals.

A U.S. colonel whom I deal with every day is trying to read all the presidential biographies too. He made a joke about John Tyler today. It wasn't funny, but then again, neither was John Tyler.

There have been no alligator attacks in Iraq, but it is officially mosquito season. They won the first round against me last night but tonight I will drink repellent if I have to in order to keep them off of me. … There can't be any risk in that?

And to answer a widely asked question from yesterday's entry, "Who is Jenny?" Well, Jenny is the subject of one of the great songs from the 1980s, and 867-5309 was her phone number. The fact that so many people did not know who Jenny was leads me to believe that the demographic for this absurd project of mine is a little older than I had thought. From now on, I will keep music references to the Tommy Dorsey band.

But if you want to learn more about the song and Tommy Tutone, the artist behind it, check out the twisted Web site I promise it has more than just the lyrics, which I have included below.

867-5309/Jenny Lyrics (Hey!)

Jenny, Jenny, who can I turn to? You give me something I can hold on to I know you think I'm like the others before Who saw your name and number on the wall.

Chorus: Jenny, I've got your number I need to make you mine Jenny, don't change your number Eight six seven five three oh nine (eight six seven five three oh nine) Eight six seven five three oh nine (eight six seven five three oh nine)

Jenny, Jenny You're the girl for me You don't know me but you make me so happy. I tried to call you before, but I lost my nerve; I tried my imagination, but I was disturbed.


I got it (I got it) I got it, I got your number on the wall. I got it (I got it) I got it, For a good time, For a good time call.

*Instrumental Break*



Jenny, Jenny Who can I turn to? For the price of a dime I can always turn to you.

Repeat until fade: 8 6 7 - 5 3 0 9 (8 6 7 - 5 3 0 9)