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Free Iraqis Pimp Their Rides

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By See-Dubya  •  July 3, 2008 12:53 PM

Subtle? No.

Tasteful? Er, not really.

Refined? Nope.

Utterly Awesome? Absolutely!

These are conflicted times for Baghdad’s tightknit community of car-heads.

The fall of Saddam Hussein has enabled them to create their dream rides like never before. Hussein’s notorious son Uday and his cronies personally controlled all car imports into Iraq. Uday was also a car freak known for on-the-spot confiscations of any vehicle that caught his fancy.

The end of the Hussein era opened Iraq’s borders to an unrestrained flow of new and used cars, along with exotic parts and Western car magazines. The MTV show “Pimp My Ride” is now a popular feature on Arabic satellite television; Bilal Hussein, the Mustang driver who dreams of flaming mufflers, is a big fan.

But the dictator’s ouster also unleashed a new era of Baghdad lawlessness that makes owning a head-turning ride a dangerous hobby. In addition to the threat from roving gangs of opportunistic carjackers, there are armed fundamentalists, both Sunni and Shiite, who might view an overly showy car as sinfully extravagant.

“We have the Mahdi Army on one side, Al Qaeda on the other side, thieves everywhere, and we’re caught in the middle,” said Hussein, who also sticks to safer streets.

From what I know of gearhead culture, it’s pro-innovation and pro-freedom. It’s the very antithesis of totalitarian oppression, so this is a great development. I’m pleased to see many of these guys are buying and working up American cars, too. Good luck to them.

Great reporting here from the L.A. Times, and a good use of their Iraq bureau. It tells me about a subculture I had no idea existed. It doesn’t sugarcoat the dangerous situation these guys face, but it’s not a politicized whinefest either.

___________

{Post by See-Dubya}

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