Even though Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Mike Pickens narrowly escaped a car bombing in Baghdad, he says many parts of Iraq are peaceful and he wouldn’t mind returning, the Associated Press reported.
“But if I went, I sure wouldn’t stay for long,” said Pickens, who worked in Iraq for two months designing insurance laws that comply with international codes. The laws have been approved by the Iraqi finance minister.
“We were not over there to force a new insurance law on them,” Pickens said. “We were there to convince them of its merits and show them how it would benefit the consumers, the country’s economy and their businesses.”
Pickens worked for Bearing Point of McLean, Va., in drafting insurance laws and building a training system for insurers. He has helped design programs in Egypt, India and China.
In Iraq, Pickens worked with a Great Britain insurance regulator and officials from Baghdad’s seven insurance companies. He used saved-up leave time so his work wasn’t at the expense of the state.
Pickens wouldn’t say how much he was paid, but said he’ll file with the government that he earned more than $12,500.
Pickens came home June 28 to his family—his wife Melissa, and children Mary Catherine, 12, and Rob, 8. He said they were relieved with his return from a country where private contractors have been killed.
On May 6, Pickens was seconds away from a car bombing at a checkpoint that killed Staff Sgt. Hesley Box Jr. of Nashville, a member of the Arkansas National Guard 39th Infantry Brigade. The explosion also killed five Iraqi civilians.
“That’s the thing you don’t ever know,” he said. “That’s what people are so concerned about.”
But many parts of southern Iraq and areas of Baghdad are usually peaceful, Pickens said.
“Once you are over there, you feel more in control of your situation than I had expected,” he said.
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