For Iraqis, blackouts are a way of life

THE BALTIMORE SUN

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A power generator hummed in the corner of a popular menswear shop here, and Leith Tamimi sat smirking as he listened to news of the electrical blackout that afflicted the Northeastern United States for the second day.

"It's not in Iraqi nature to be happy when someone is suffering, but I thank God for allowing them to see how we live," Tamimi said. "I saw Americans on TV and they were enraged. If they were enraged after two days without power, how do they think we feel after four months?"

Iraqis, who have endured widespread power outages since the U.S.-led war ended in April, expressed little sympathy for the Americans who got a dose of life without lights or air conditioning - or water, for some - when a major electrical grid shut down Thursday afternoon.

Baghdad residents gloated over stories of New Yorkers stuck in subways, and some seemed disappointed that power was restored Friday in large swaths of the affected area.

Many Iraqis said they believed the blackout was a gift from God to show Americans the hardships of life without electricity and, they hoped, to speed up coalition efforts to bring electricity back to Iraq.

"Imagine how we've been waiting here for electricity," said Talib Alrubaiyi, a 54-year-old English teacher. "I don't want to hear about Americans complaining over two little days. Their power is back, but how long will we wait?"

Yesterday, shopkeepers said they hadn't heard a word about the American power outage. Smiling, they pointed at small TV sets plugged into lifeless sockets and shrugged.

One shop owner, 42-year-old Salam al Khafaji, refused to believe that "mighty America" could succumb to the same problems that have halved his income because meat and dairy products spoil before they sell in his neighborhood market.

"It's impossible that they don't have electricity," Khafaji said. "Are you sure power is out for the Americans? Maybe they just made it look like that to make Iraqis feel better."

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