This is an interesting item from the Federation of American Scientists Web site: The Iraq Culture Smart Card (*.pdf file) designed by the Marine Corps to provide information for personnel serving in Iraq. An easier-to-read non-pdf version is available from Der Spiegel divided into sections (with German versions included).
It's informative in itself. And it provides a dramatic reminder of how difficult it is to fight a counterinsurgency campaign when you have to use American troops to gather intelligence and handle police actions like searching houses and breaking down doors to arrest suspects.
A few examples from the card give a good glimpse at this. Among the "Don't Do This" items are included the following:
Don't point with a finger; it is a sign of contempt. Instead, point with your entire hand.
Don't make the "OK" or "thumbs up" sign; they are considered obscene.
Remember early in the war when the TV cameras showed crowds of Iraqis giving the thumbs-up to American troops? Our Republican war fans cheerfully took this as a sign of how happy they were to have us there.
Don't ask for a single opinion on an issue, as Iraqis often first reply with the answer they think you want to hear, rather than an honest response.
This makes sense. Even in democracies, people will often dissemble about their political opinions in particular with people they don't know well. In a society that has been governed for a long time by a dictatorship with a heavy surveillance of the populartion, this is a survival instinct.
I wonder how many Western reporters follow this caution when they do their "ordinary Iraqi on the street" interviews?