Pakistanis and Indians Hired to Cook in Iraq
Toward the end of a column that points out legitimate flaws in our Iraq policy, George Will cites his WaPo colleague Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone.
Halliburton, writes Chandrasekaran, hired Pakistanis and Indians, but no Iraqis, for kitchen work. “Nobody ever explained why, but everyone knew. They could poison the food.”
Halliburton hired Pakistanis and Indians for food service work (and truck driving) in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm, too. I suspect they did the same thing in northern Iraq during Operation Provide Comfort.
Indeed, I suspect that Pakistanis and Indians were doing most of the work in Iraqi restaurants under Saddam Hussein’s watch, as they do throughout the Arab world. That type of work was considered beneath men in Bedouin culture and the disdain for manual labor is widespread in the Arab world and many other traditional societies. Even in India, that work is typically reserved for the down castes.
While no such cultural stigma attaches to manual labor in the West, those with the means to do so have long hired out housecleaning and yard work. Those services were disproportionately done by blacks until recent years, when Hispanics, especially illegal immigrants, have nudged them aside.
In recent decades, oil money has made it very easy for Arab states to farm out their scut work to foreigners rather than low status natives. Indians and Pakistanis are the natural choice, given their geographic proximity and abundance of poor people willing to work for modest wages.