This country loves forgeries. They aren’t very good at it, but they love insisting that their forgeries are in fact authentic. Whether it be watches, DVD’s, or identification, they love to make knock offs.
I see a lot of Iraqi ID’s in a day, and the phrase above, which literally translated means “get Identification new”, is a sentence I have mastered. I utter it several times a day, and then smile as I hear the onslaught of excuses. “No meestah, is good ginsea!” “Not fake, I’m from Basrah, this is how Basrah ginseas are.” ”Iraqis only get one ginsea, you cannot get new one.” Sometimes, they get a perplexed look, and say “how could you know this?” as an incredulous Iraqi wonders how an American infidel could possibly tell that the piece of paper in my hand was not legally issued by any Iraqi government office. I am not going to get into the specifics of how we identify the forgeries, but I will say that if they ever master “spellcheck” my job will get a lot harder.
Add to this an apparent cultural belief that if you forge the document yourself, that somehow makes it authentic. Many times I have turned someone away because the picture on their ID was unrecognizable, for instance they are 30 years old and the picture is of an 8 year old. The next day they are back, with the same ID, and a current picture of themselves laminated right on top of the old one. When I explain that this is not adequate, they indignantly point to the picture and say “But this is me! I change it!” They simply cannot understand how I can have a problem with that logic.
They get these fakes from local Souks, or markets, that look like a cross between the sets of Casablanca and Mad Max. These outposts of capitalism give me confidence that freedom can work here, because they certainly have the instincts for it. According to rumor, any document can be created in 15 minutes for 5 dollars, as long as you are not too picky about the quality. I joked with one of my NCO’s recently that if he needed to get his passport renewed, he should do it in the Market, as long as he didn’t mind a passport from the “Unitted Stats of Amrika”.
By the way, if you see me back home wearing a Rolex, rest assured: “is real meestah, very good watch!”