Sunday, March 22, 2009

Would you pack for Iraq?

A tourist group has just completed a 17-day tour there, which either shows the triumph of the human spirit or a serious lack of taste

Mary Warnock
No thank you. I detest travelling anyway. I mean the actual process of deciding what to take, packing, getting to the airport two hours early without what you could call a ticket, just a floppy piece of paper, taking off your shoes, having your nail scissors confiscated and then sitting about in the most squalid place imaginable until your flight is called. To put up with all that voluntarily is madness enough, even if you are not facing probable death and certain acute discomfort for 17 days. Besides, I'd be haunted by Bush and Blair.

• Mary Warnock is a philosopher and crossbench peer

Donald Macleod
Once the idea is put into your head, it becomes almost a moral obligation. If you don't go, it's because you don't have the bottle. You might then convince yourself that it would be fun to stand by a plaque in Basra - "Abraham left from here" - and even more fun to set off on a jolly hunt for weapons of mass destruction, but the idea of a war zone as a tourist venue is the ultimate in sick entrepreneurship: "Where there's war, there's brass." If we want a dose of realist tourism, why not a package holiday to one of HM's prisons?

• Donald Macleod is principal of the Free Church College, Edinburgh

Diane Abbott
It is hard to get inside the head of anyone who would pick Iraq for their holiday. I cannot imagine that they are interested in the archaeological heritage. Otherwise they would know much of it was looted during the war. I assume they would think that they were going on some sort of seaside holiday. So I would take a bucket and spade, a deckchair, a candyfloss machine and home-made dirty postcards featuring ladies in burkas in order to write "wish you were here" to friends and family. And I would also take the collected speeches of Tony Blair.

• Diane Abbott is MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Rob Penn
Without hesitation. Muslim hospitality is unparalleled and it would be an important step for the people of Iraq. When I cycled through Bosnia in 1997, I met anger - a skinhead chased me out of a bar - and consternation. "Don't leave the road," a Serbian policeman said. "The farmers dump the land mines there." But then people began to realise I was a tourist, not a soldier, war crimes investigator, journalist or aid worker. They took me into their homes and wept. I was, I understood, a symbol of transition and hope. If there were tourists, the horror was over.

• Rob Penn is a travel writer

1 comment:

RJAnalyzer said...

I've got to agree with Rob Penn. The return of tourism is a clear sign of stability and can be a positive symbol of success and hope for the future.

But I also agree it has to be done sensitively and securely. Any tourist injured or killed will send everything backwards. Any disrespectful tourist would only cause more problems.

I guess the real question is, if not now....when?