Must Haves: Cellphones Top Iraqi Cool List
Even more telling are the text messages and images that Iraqis share over their phones. From all over the city, Baghdad cellphones practically shout commentary about Saddam Hussein, failed reconstruction and violence, always the violence. One of the most popular messages making the rounds appears onscreen with the image of a skeleton.
“Your call cannot be completed,” it says, “because the subscriber has been bombed or kidnapped.”
These days, some of the most popular clips poke fun at Islamist radicals. In one amateur video, a masked man, pictured at dusk with a knife, threatens to behead a fish because “all the fish did not come out of the sea.” With an exclamation of “God is great,” he bends over and slices off the fish’s head, laying it on top of the scaly body.
Another video captures young men trying to decapitate a victim with a fake, dull knife and failing; like Hans and Franz, the muscle-bound weightlifters famously mocked on Saturday Night Live, the supposed killers are all talk, dense and incompetent.
Electricity and gas are also popular topics. One doctored photograph claims to offer an explanation for why Iraqis still have only a few hours of electricity a day: Two transformer towers are flipping a wire in circles like a jump-rope while a third tower bounces up and down.
And in another video, a young, bearded Iraqi dances with abandon after successfully refilling his propane gas cylinder. With a spiraling Arabic song as the soundtrack, he wriggles and smiles, shaking the cylinder over his head like a trophy. He also kisses it.
Clips from official sources and those adapted from television, both Western and Arabic, are also shared. Some Sunnis are currently passing around video outtakes of the militant Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr talking casually to advisers or friends that they believe make him look foolish (in part because he criticizes people who are “Afendi,” well-dressed and flashing their cellphones).
Everyone seems to enjoy laughing at Mr. Hussein. His propaganda has literally become a joke: a 2003 broadcast from Iraq’s state-run station, just before the war, shows a gaggle of soldiers with machine guns dancing and singing along with Khasim al-Sultan, an Iraqi pop star.
“If you want the stars, we will reach out for the stars,” the men sing, offering a pledge to Mr. Hussein. “We will wipe America from the map!”
Firas al-Taie, 19, after showing the clip, laughed and tried to explain why Iraqis find the segment entertaining.
“It’s not matching the reality,” he said, in halting English. “They said this thing and then something else happened.”