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06server readers are SMART PROGRESSIVE INVOLVED INFLUENTIAL GOOD LOOKING 39 are \(6server oavertisersr Get noticed by Texas Observer folks all over the state and nation. Let them know about your bookstore, service, restaurant, non-profit organization, event, political candidate, shoe store, coffee house, boutique, salon, yoga studio, law practice, etc. j The Texas Obserler ADVERTISE IN THE OBSERVER! REASONABLE RATES GREAT EXPOSURE Call 512-477-0746 and ask for Julia Austin or e-mail [email protected] :Re3, 06server readers r Consider advertising your business or non-profit in the Observer. GOOD FOR YOU GOOD FOR THE OBSERVER combed humanitarian and nongovernsearching for jobs, but they only wanted Ph.D.s. Instead of applying online for a job half a world away, we decided to apply in person.” Lest the reader begin to think their intentions too altruistic, LeMoine and Neumann readily admit to other reasons for traveling in war-torn lands. “It’s not accurate to pretend Jeff and I were simply two do-gooders trying to help babies in the Third World,” LeMoine confesses. “We also enjoyed the world’s sleazy side. … Stupid, I know. When I say we were stupid, I don’t mean that we didn’t know anything. With all our free time, we had the chance to read and read and read. Our stupidity lay not in a lack of knowledge, but rather in our application of that knowledge to dumb ideas, like buying stolen sports cars in Iraq to transport rugs, or selling offensive T-shirts on the sidewalk, or going to Gaza to get a job.” Able to afford the ultimate reality experience with coffers stuffed from their lucrative, bootleg T-shirt business, LeMoine and Neumann set their sights on Baghdad. “Real, lethal, and constant, Baghdad was our escape from the escapism we’d been living during our T-shirt baron years on the Backpacker Trash circuit,” LeMoine writes. “Its urgency and relevancy were intoxicating.” Aside from the war’s intoxication, LeMoine and Neumann are constantly high throughout their Baghdad memoir on a hazy stream of muscle relaxers, pot, and alcohol. “Within days, my signature cocktail became a shot of arrack and a shot of Valium with a dab of water,” LeMoine recalls \(Valium is a nonpreArab Tom Collins.” Although lacking the addled eloquence of Hunter S. Thompson’s overindulgent political chronicles, LeMoine’s and Neumann’s taste for the underbellies of society proves a boon for the reader, giving insight into circles of Baghdad not previously covered in the media. Describing a sleazy watering hole in the Red Zone named the Fanar Bar, the authors draw a wonderfully vivid sketch. “British mercenaries sat with Washington lawyers from firms like Patton Boggs, while a senator from Romania ate shish kebabs with Lebanese profiteers and German reporters,” LeMoine writes. “John F. Burns of The New York Times would be at a table with Jon Lee Anderson from The New Yorker, two great war correspondents, far from home, enjoying a drink while swapping sources and info in a seedy bar. Serbian mercenaries would be talking Vlade Divac and Slobo’s trial at The Hague with State Department contractors. The same Serbians had been killing so many Muslims a decade ago that NATO bombed their country. Now, they were getting paid by NATO countries to manage Muslims. It’s funny how things worked out.” Arriving in Baghdad by bus from Jordan in January 2004, LeMoine and Neumann were able to witness a delicate period in Iraq’s reconstruction, when success seemed possible and civil war was a muted cry. “The insurgency was still a toddler,” LeMoine writes. “In Iraq’s teahouses, restaurants, and barsboth inside and outside the Green Zone many journalists, contractors, profiteers, and Iraqis thought the CPA [the nowdefunct Coalition Provisional Authority] had a shot at avoiding a long-term guerrilla war and establishing democracy.” Quickly landing work from the CPA, LeMoine and Neumann established an NGO called the Humanitarian Aid Network of Distribution. They traveled throughout Baghdad and Sadr City with locals distributing used clothing sent by U.S. citizens. Being an NGO, they were able to achieve tangible results on a small scale without bureaucratic impediments. Traveling in unarmored vehicles with no military escorts, LeMoine and Neumann distributed aid from mosque to mosque, observing Iraqi life up close and gaining an understanding of the culture. Traveling unencumbered between the Green Zone, where the CPA had set up camp within Saddam’s old palace, and the Red Zone, essentially the rest of Baghdad, LeMoine and Neumann observed the vacuum world most U.S. government workers lived in. “What made it funnier was that no one in SEPTEMBER 21, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25