Nearly every night here for the past month, Iraqis weary of the tumult around them have been turning on the television to watch a wacky-looking man with a giant Afro wig and star-shaped glasses deliver the grim news of the day.
In a recent episode, the host, Saad Khalifa, reported that Iraqâ€™s Ministry of Water and Sewage had decided to change its name to simply the Ministry of Sewage â€” because it had given up on the water part.
In another episode, he jubilantly declared that â€œRums bin Feldâ€ had announced American troops were leaving the country on 1/1, in other words, on Jan. 1. His face crumpled when he realized he had made a mistake. The troops were not actually departing on any specific date, he clarified, but instead leaving one by one. At that rate, it would take more than 600 years for them to be gone.
. . .
The newscast opens with an explanation of the showâ€™s underlying premise: it is the year 2017 and the main character, Saaed, is the last Iraqi alive. He is lying face down on a beach with a red suitcase next to him. When he comes to, he is quickly encircled by beautiful women.
Cut to a scene of Saaed clad in a black T-shirt imprinted with â€œ2PAC,â€ showboating in front of a white stretch Humvee limousine with dancers cavorting all around.
The showâ€™s raucous theme song, which has become a popular cellphone ring tone here and is sung by children in schoolyards, laments that it would be better to be a lowly cat on the street than an Iraqi: â€œNo one asks the cat where you are from, which party youâ€™re from, whether you are an Arab, a Kurd, a Sunni or a Shiite.â€
He sings on, â€œI am the last Iraqi alive, but I still do not own a house,â€ a reference to the countryâ€™s acute housing shortage.
I think somebody forgot to tell Saad Khalifa that things are getting better in Iraq.