October 12, 2007

Iraq trivia – the white Oldsmobile Cutlass

An interesting piece of trivia from Iraq.

The recent news story about two Iraqi women who were killed in Baghdad by employees of a private security firm included a description of the car involved. It was a white 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera.

What is a white 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera doing in Baghdad? Oldsmobiles are not exactly hot sellers in this part of the world. Granted, there were a lot of Chevrolet Caprices in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s – their reputation for excellent air-conditioning systems made them big sellers in the desert states.

Here’s the explanation:

During the Iran-Iraq war that lasted from September 1980 to August 1988, Iraq lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers. In the early years of the war, the families of those killed did not receive compensation from the government. The Iraqis researched how other countries, including the United States, compensate the families of the fallen, and came up with a uniquely Iraqi solution.

The family of an enlisted soldier or noncommissioned officer was given a red Brazilian-made Volkswagen Passat. When I was in Baghdad in 1987 and 1988, I saw thousands of them everywhere – easily the most common vehicle on the road. The family of an officer killed in the war was given a white Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. There were a lot of them on the roads as well.

The vehicle involved in this incident was probably one of the death gratuity vehicles from that war.