My friend Stephen is on tour playing music in Syria, Kuwait, Lebanon. He had a hell of a time emailing from Syria - this report comes from Kuwait:
- I'm now in Kuwait where mercifully the internet is not (as) censored!!! I can't imagine how much effort those guys go to to keep you from...Yahoo Mail! After the one trip to the US Embassy to do e-mail, we didn't go there again, and the Syrian internet "cafes" we went to would not allow you to surf outside Syrian or other approved Arab sites! Amazing what a waste of time the censors have created. Any smart kid over there can set up a proxy server anyway.
Syria was pretty strange and surprising in that we never had a SINGLE protest or harsh word or sideways glance-- very different from last year when we had protests at every show. I would watch the CNN reporters describing the Middle East and Iraq and think they must be living in an alternate universe-- which I expect is called the Al-Rashid Hotel Bar.
There simply was no hostility towards us AT ALL, compared to last year. I remember seeing Amanpour on CNN while I was in Aleppo, telling someone she was interviewing (maybe they were interviewing her, given her desire to throw in subjective statements of her own devising) that "The Iraqis just want the U.S. out of there Right Now!" This struck me as odd given that I had just spoken with a guy in the band I was travelling with's mom (an Iraqi) who had come that day from Baghdad, and had been in Erbil and Mosul, and who said that ALL the Iraqis-- while they grumble about things being better under Saddam-- have NO desire to see the US go.
She says because of the heat and the discomfort, for many Iraqis it's a bit like someone going on a camping trip and having it rain-- they'll say they "never" want to go camping ever again or some such thing, but that doesn't mean anything more than that they are just fed up. She said (and she speaks fluent Arabic and is Iraqi by birth) that there are two groups of people-- the people who are glad the US is there, and are mildly optimistic (despite what they tell the reporters who turn up for a day trip), and those who got Mercedes, and jobs, and pensions and villas from Saddam. According to her talks with Iraqis it is ONLY the latter group, and a large smattering of foreign fighters who are doing all the fighting against the US. She drove all the way from Baghdad to Damascus in a single car with just a driver and no bodyguard-- and no problem.