First Published: 2003-07-15

 
Burger King in Baghdad
 

Military-controlled Baghdad international airport's Burger King claims to sell at least 6,500 burgers per day.

 

Middle East Online

By Ned Parker - BAGHDAD

US troops dig in for long haul

Check your doubts about American plans for nation building in Iraq at the counter of the Burger King takeaway where 40 soldiers sizzle in the midday heat for a flame-broiled Whopper with lettuce, tomato and cheese.

The odour of grease testifies to the Pentagon's belief that air conditioning, fast food, compact disc players and Coca Cola are essential to the survival of young soldiers far from their native soil.

"It's amazing what this stuff does for these kids," says Marie Cliff from Army Airforce Exchange Services (AAES), the Defense Department branch managing the military-controlled Baghdad international airport's Burger King and one-stop shopping center.

If June saw a spike in ambush-style attacks against Americans, it also witnessed the army open its first Burger King and beef up the merchandise at its shopping centre to provide soldiers with the creature comforts of home.

"We're a quality-of-life support group," says Cliff at this central hub of traffic for troops from the 1st and 3rd infantry divisions, all of whom make shopping and French fry runs. The Burger King claims to sell at least 6,500 burgers per day.

As divisions see their tours of duty extended indefinitely in the face of a violent campaign against their presence in Iraq, anything reeking of Americana is welcome to the troops.

On Burger King's first day in business in mid-June, the lines lasted more than two hours, but soldiers patiently waited for their burgers after months of plastic-sealed Meals Ready to Eat, with their set menu of processed Cheese Whiz and Beef Stew.

"One soldier just sat against a wall with his hamburger like a little boy," sighs Cliff.

Inside the 6,000 square foot (540 square metre) shopping centre, managed by AAES, Nintendo Play Stations have gone on sale in the last week, and a full supply of DVD films and compact discs, everything from albums by rapper Eminem to country singer Johnny Cash, have started to pour in.

Coca Cola and tortilla chips sell like mad, and the store plans on moving into a 20,000 sq foot facility by August.

"A month ago, things started to trickle in through the pipeline and now that'll start to mature," says Cliff, who wears combat fatigues although she is a civilian employee of the defense department.

"We're ready to move to a bigger facility."

As the United States has tightened its security grip on Iraq, the traffic of merchandise has jumped up, Cliff explains.

Goods are hauled in by truck from Kuwait, including copious amounts of hamburgers, onion rings and French fries for Burger King.

Cliff envisions expanding the store's selection of compact discs to include jazz and classical music and to start selling mountain bikes so soldiers can move faster around the airport.

"Of course, we have to go with the top sellers," she says, donning her Iraqi freedom hat.

She clearly sees this job as much more than managing a shopping center back in Colorado where she lives.

"I'm doing my duty," she says.

And the potent concoction of hamburgers, karate films, cigarette cartons and soda pop clearly have had the intended effect with soldiers.

Corporal Buckshot Blumer, a military policeman at Abu Gharib prison west of Baghdad, was happy to make a pit stop at the airport. He surveyed a gift shop stocked with rugs, cigarette lighters and the famous playing cards of Iraq's 55 most wanted.

"It's nice to get a little air conditioning," he sighed with a smile on his face as Burger King beckoned.

 

Heavily bombarded Eastern Ghouta awaits UN resolution

Russia pours cold water on UN bid to condemn Iran over missiles to Yemen

Saudi Arabia to boost entertainment in next decade

Dutch parliament recognises 1915 Armenian massacre as genocide

Blatter supports Morocco bid for 2026 World Cup

Turkey summons Dutch diplomat over Armenian 'genocide' vote

Turkey navy threatens to engage Italian drillship near Cyprus

Iran police shoving headscarf protester sparks social media storm

Syria regime continues to pound Ghouta as world stutters

UN Security Council to vote Friday on Syria ceasefire

Dubai says Djibouti illegally seized African port

Russia says Syria rebels rejected offer to evacuate E. Ghouta

UN diplomats press for Syria ceasefire without Russia veto

Iranian minister’s presence at UN rights meeting angers critics

Iran warns it will leave nuke deal if banks cannot do business

Qatar to plant thousands of trees to ‘beautify’ World Cup venues

Pro-Kurdish party says Turkey lying about 'no civilian deaths' in Afrin

African migrants protest Israeli detention policy

Egypt sentences 21 to death for planning attacks

Israeli handball teams in Qatar spark furious outcry from locals

UN report highlights S.Sudan journalist treatment

Palestinian dies after being shot by Israeli soldiers

Gulf states urge Syria to end Ghouta violence

Wanted Bahraini militants die at sea en route to Iran

Iran's Ahmadinejad calls for immediate free elections

Merkel calls for end to 'massacre' in Syria

Iraq urges FIFA to lift ban on hosting internationals

Carnage of Ghouta's bombs breaking families

Blockaded Gaza Strip forced to pump sewage into sea

African migrants start hunger strike over Israel expulsion

UN chief 'deeply alarmed' by Eastern Ghouta violence

Three militiamen killed in Libya car bomb attack

Russia denies ‘groundless’ accusations of role in Ghouta killings

Turkey says whoever helps YPG is 'legitimate target'

Morocco dismantles IS-linked terrorist cell

Turkey urged to end gas standoff with Cyprus

PKK attack near Iraq kills 2 Turkish soldiers

Netanyahu confidant to testify against him

Iran emergency teams recover bodies from plane crash site

Ten dead in more Syrian regime strikes on East Ghouta

Bahrain activist sentenced to 5 years for Yemen tweets

Lebanese president makes landmark visit to Iraq

US declares readiness to talk Mideast peace

Bloodbath in Syria's eastern Ghouta

Abbas calls for peace conference in rare UN speech