It has been a while since I have written to my friends about what's really going on here in Iraq. The news you watch on TV is exaggerated, sensationalized and selective. Good news doesn't sell.
The stuff you don't hear about? Let's start with Electrical Power production in Iraq. The day after the war was declared over, there was nearly zero power being generated in Iraq. Forty-five days later, in a partnership between the Army, the Iraqi people and some private companies, there are now 3200 mega watts (Mw) of power being produced daily, one-third of the total national potential of 8000 Mw. Downed power lines (big stuff, 400 Kilovolt (Kv) and 132 Kv) are being repaired and are about 70% complete.
Then there is water purification. In central Iraq between Baghdad and Mosul, home of the 4th Infantry Division, Water treatment was spotty at best. The facilities existed, but the controls were never implemented. Simple chemicals like Chlorine for purification and Alum (Aluminum Sulfate) for sediment settling (The Tigris River is about as clear as the Mississippi River) were in short supply or not used at all - and when chlorine was used, it was metered by the scientific method of guessing. So some people got pool water and some people got water with lots of little things moving in it. We are slowly but surely solving that. Contracts for repairs to facilities that are only 50% or less operational are being let, chemicals are being delivered, although we don't have the metering problem solved yet (It has only been 45 days).
How about oil and fuel? Well the war was all about oil wasn't it? You bet it was. It was all about oil for the Iraqi people because they have no other income, they produce nothing else. Oil is 95% of the Iraqi GNP. For this nation to survive, it MUST sell oil. The Refinery at Bayji is at 75% of capacity producing gasoline. The crude pipeline between Kirkuk (Oil Central) and Bayji will be repaired by tomorrow (2 June). LPG, what all Iraqi's use to cook and heat with, is at 103% of normal production and WE, the US ARMY, at least 4th ID, are insuring it is being distributed FAIRLY to ALL Iraqi's.
You have to remember that 3 months ago, ALL these things were used as weapons against the population to keep them in line. If a town misbehaved, gasoline shipments stopped, LPG pipelines and trucks stopped, water was turned off, power was turned off.
Now, until exports start, every drop of gasoline produced goes to the Iraqi people, crude oil is being stored, the country is at 75% capacity now, they need to export or stop pumping soon, thanks to the UN for the delay. ALL LPG goes to the Iraqi people EVERYWHERE. Water is being purified as best they can, but at least it's running all the time to everyone.
Are we still getting shot at? Yep
Are American Soldiers still dying? Yep, about 1 a day from the 4th ID, mostly in accidents, but dead is dead.
If we are doing all this for the Iraqi's, why are they shooting at us?
The general population isn't. There are still bad guys, who won't let go of the old regime. They are Ba'ath party members (Read Nazi Party, but not as nice) who know nothing but the regime. They were thugs for the regime that caused many to disappear in the night and they have no other skills. At least the Nazis had jobs they could go back to after the war as plumbers, managers, engineers, etc… these people have no skills but terror. They are simply applying their skills and we are applying ours. There is no Christian way to say they must be eliminated and we are doing so with all the efficiency we can muster.
Our troops are shot at literally every day by small arms and RPGs. We respond and 100% of the time, and the Ba'ath party guys come out with the short end of the stick. The most amazing thing to me is that they don't realize that if they stopped shooting at us, we would focus on fixing things and leave. The more they shoot at us, the longer we will stay.
Lastly, realize that 90% the damage you see on TV was caused by IRAQIs, NOT the war. Sure we took out a few bridges from military necessity, we took out a few power and phone lines to disrupt communications, sure we drilled a few palaces and government headquarters buildings with 2000 lb laser guided bombs (I work 100 yards from where two hit the Tikrit Palace), he had plenty to spare. But, ANY damage you see to schools, hospitals, power generation facilities, refineries, pipelines, was ALL caused either by the Iraqi Army in its death throws, or the Iraqi civilians looting the places. Could the Army have prevented it? Nope. We can and do now, but 45 days ago the average soldier was lucky to know what town he was in much less be informed enough to know who owned what or have the power to stop 1,000 people from looting a building by himself.
The United States and Britain are doing a very noble thing here. We stuck our necks on the world chopping block to free a people. I've already talked the weapons of mass destruction thing to death. Bottom line - who cares? This country was one big conventional weapons ammo dump anyway. We have probably destroyed more weapons and ammo in the last 30 days than the US Army has ever fired in the last 30 years (Remember, this is a country the size of Texas), so drop the WMD argument as the reason we came here, if we find it GREAT, if we don't, SO WHAT?
I'm living in a “guest palace” on a 500-acre palace compound with 20 palaces with like facilities built in half a dozen towns all over Iraq that were built for one man. Drive down the street and out into the countryside five miles away (I have) and see a family of 10 living in a mud hut herding two dozen sheep. Then tell me why you think we are here.
Eric Rydbom, Major, Engineer
Deputy Division Engineer
4th Infantry Division
Forwarded by 1stAdmPAO.