The New Man in Baghdad

Iraqis Kept in the Dark by an Aloof and Secretive Paul Bremer

Still, Iraqis try to fathom the American plans. Hussain Kubba runs a Baghdad brokerage, one of about 50 firms that traded shares in the 120 companies listed on the Iraqi stock exchange, which still remains closed. His five employees are currently "on vacation."

"I think the Americans are getting the wrong advice," says Kubba, who is infuriated that there has been no attempt to reopen the exchange, which he called the only kind of democracy Iraqis enjoyed.

"These investors trade actively," says Kubba, who holds a Ph.D. in economics. "People are angry and now they have simply started trading outside the market," he says, adding that the market could be opened in a week, if the Americans had the will to do it. For the CPA, which is concerned with a free market, opening the exchange would seem a logical choice.

"Security is deteriorating. The power supply is null. The investment mood is on the shrink," says Kubba, who adds there is a joke making the rounds in Baghdad. "People are saying that maybe the Americans should contract Saddam Hussein to come put the town back together."

The Americans finally arrive at the concert, a half-hour late, and they too have sent a deputy. The orchestra members seem thrilled that someone showed up, even if it is Pierre Cordone, the adviser to the Ministry of Culture, and not Bremer. The symphony's director and conductor both make speeches, referring to Cordone and an army colonel with him as "Your Excellency." And the director has a request. "We need some encouragement," he says. "We need some understanding." Especially, he says, when it comes to the group's salaries, now hovering around $20 a month. Then the Iraqi Symphony Orchestra puts on a hell of a rehearsal, which includes the march from Carmen, and some Mozart.

The visitors are thrilled with the performance and there are smiles and handshakes all around. Cordone tells the group that the request for more pay will be considered, and he will get back to them. That will probably not be before he runs it by Bremer somewhere in the gold-trimmed rooms of the Republican Palace, where such decisions are made.

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