Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

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IRAQ: Snakes, spiders and temptation

February 1, 2008 | 11:47 am

The terminal building at the Al Asad Air Base is the entry-point into Iraq for thousands of troops, U.S. government employees, and employees of U.S. contractors from a dozen or more countries.

Officials want them to know about the dangers ahead. A big poster shows the poisonous snakes of Southwest Asia. Another shows nasty looking spiders and other things that lurk in the desert.

And near the exit is a very large sign telling of the behaviors that are prohibited at Al Asad. Among them: photography, gambling, defacing national treasures, selling currency, religious proselytizing, adopting wild animals as pets, souvenir hunting, and visiting the sleeping quarters of the opposite sex.

At the top of the list, in English and Arabic, is No Prostitution. Not everyone gets the message about banning retail sale of physical pleasures.

There have been a few cases.

— Tony Perry at Al Asad, Iraq

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