You Can Be a Tourist in Iraq, If You Want To

TO GO WITH STORY BY JACQUES CLEMENTA picture shows the second largest ferris wheel in the Middle East, standing 55 metres (180 feet) over the Iraqi capital, at the Zawraa Park in Baghdad on March 14, 2011. AFP PHOTO/SABAH ARAR (Photo credit should read SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images) Photo: SABAH ARAR/2011 AFP

Former "Page Sixer" and novelist Paula Froelich went to Iraq this summer on a mission from Playboy. Not to report on the war, or on the living conditions of Iraqis, or on the withdrawal of American forces. No, it was something far freakier — she went as a tourist on a package bus-tour. From her insane, must-read story:

The interpreter from the Ministry of Tourism who usually accompanied him was “called away unexpectedly” and replaced with Mohammed, an anxious, sweaty man with a Saddam mustache and pompadoured jet-black hair. ­Mohammed wore a uniform of pleated chinos and golf shirt and carried a briefcase at all times, like a 1965 insurance salesman ... The few times he was brought in to decipher what locals were saying, his interpretation varied from sort of correct to not even close. (Example: A man with scars all over his body talked to me for five minutes. ­Mohammed’s interpretation: “He says welcome!” Actual interpretation: “Look at my scars. I got these in an attack while I was working for the Americans. Can you help me get to America to get medical help? I’m in constant pain.”)

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Down and Out in Baghdad [Playboy]