Mobile Alabama Register "> Keeping Apace: (IRAQ) AMERICA'S GREAT WORK

By Mike Marshall, Editor Mobile Alabama Register, visiting Iraq and writing about the Alabama National Guard troops there. June 20, 2004
Forwarded by 1stAdmPAO

BAGHDAD - From broadcasts by unabashedly anti-American al Jazeera to unabashedly flag-waving Fox TV, a thousand journalists will attempt to tell the world what happened in Iraq today.

Their accounts, of course, will vary widely, but they'll all have something in common: Every media outlet will begin by telling you about the biggest bombing of the day. No matter their bias, TV stations and newspapers around the world lead off with tragedy, calamity and conflict because that's what the public wants first, that's the market.

While there's no shortage of destruction for journalists to cover here in Iraq, lost in the rubble is this unarguable fact: The United States is doing great work here, work that every American should celebrate.

So for this Sunday morning, I have compiled a short list of those accomplishments. This comes from reports supplied by the Coalition Provisional Authority's public affairs office, as well as my own brief experience here.

More than 32,000 secondary teachers and 3,000 school supervisors have been trained, and 72 million textbooks have been printed, now free of Baathist propaganda. More than 2,500 schools have been rebuilt.

Palm tree nurseries have been planted in 18 different parts of the country so that Iraq might once again dominate the date market.

Baghdad's already horrific drivers are now often chatting on cell phones as they careen down the highway. Even regular telephones had been denied to all but elite government officials.

Iraqis will soon be able to charge it. Visa cards are to make their debut as part of a restructuring of the banking system.

Satellite TV dishes, illegal under Saddam's rule, have sprouted even in villages outside the city.

More than 250 primary health care clinics have been built and more than 30 million doses of children's vaccine have been distributed.

According to the Iraq Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, unemployment is hovering at a seemingly dismal 25 percent. But that compares to 65 percent unemployment before the war.

More than 350 metric tons of high-protein biscuits have nourished children and breastfeeding mothers. Some 575,000 metric tons of wheat have been distributed to Iraqi's poor, preventing the mass humanitarian emergency that typically follows war.

About $100 million has been targeted for the renovation of sewage treatment plants and pumping stations.

From now on, suspected criminals will be provided with a public defender and will appear before a judge within 24 hours. Coerced confessions, common during Saddam's rule, are no longer admissible in court.

A massive advertising campaign is under way to teach Iraqis about the democratic process denied them under Saddam. The overall message being aired on radio and TV stations, including al Jezeera, is that the future of a free and democratic Iraq will depend on the participation of its people.

Town and city councils, nonexistent under Saddam, have been informally elected in 600 communities. The insurgency has threatened those leaders with death, and several have been assassinated, yet the councils continue to meet.

Despite the insurgency's attacks, peak electrical power output is what it was before the war, but that power is much more reliable. Several more power generators are expected to come on line in the next three months. Demand has never been greater, as many Iraqis are purchasing their first air conditioners and big appliances.

The deep-water port of Umm Qasr has been cleared of ships sunk during the Iran-Iraq war. Now 40 freighters per month are off-loading there. Railroad tracks have been repaired so that the cargo can be shipped into the country's interior.

These humanitarian projects are costing U.S. taxpayers $3.3 billion, representing the largest U.S. foreign aid package since the Marshall Plan.

I had a quick conversation yesterday with an Iraqi electrical engineer employed by the Ministry of Electricity, and as she was saying goodbye, she also said this: “Please tell your people that we love that Americans are here, and that all of the educated people in Iraq feel this way.”

She said the challenge will be communicating the truth about the Coalition's good work and intentions to poor Iraqis, especially those living in rural areas. “Please tell your people that we love what you are trying to do here. Most of all, we love that Saddam is gone.”

Iraq faces an uncertain future, but this much is clear: Saddam's regime brought torture chambers, mass graves and appalling repression.
We brought hope.