Major’s Frustration:  A roundup of the past two weeks’ good news from Iraq

Thursday's Editorial   —   Posted on September 1, 2005

NOTE:  The following is a brief excerpt from Australian blogger Arthur Chrenkoff’s article of August 30, 2005.  The entire entry is 36 pages of good news.  Go to OpinionJournal.com to read the complete article.

(by Arthur Chrenkoff, OpinionJournal.com) – Maj. Joe Leahy is a civil engineer with the U.S. Army’s Engineer Brigade. He has been stationed at Camp Victory, outside of Baghdad, since November 2004–enough time to get frustrated. “We all know it’s a dangerous place,” he says. “But the thing that I want people to understand is that they only see those one or two instances in the country that are negative. You don’t really hear about the 100 things that have gone good.”

He adds, “One thing we’ve got to understand is that it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but we are doing something that’s getting better every day.”

Leahy’s good-bad ratio may be debatable, but many servicemen and their families and friends back home, not to mention the general public, have been getting frustrated lately with the media coverage of Iraq–enough so to cause some limited, though still welcome, soul-searching among major media outlets. Whether the coverage will improve as a result remains to be seen. In the meantime, here are the past two weeks’ worth of stories, some of which you might have missed.

Oil production and exports continue to improve:

Iraq has stepped up oil production from its southern oilfields by 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 2.3 mln bpd, a spokesman for the state-owned South Oil Company told Agence France-Presse.

“Production from the southern oilfields has been increased to 2.3 mln barrels per day from today,” said Samir Jassem Masquqi.

Southern Iraqi oil production was previously 2 mln bpd, of which 1.5 mln barrels were exported and the rest used for domestic consumption.

Iraq produces and exports from 450,000 to 550,000 bpd from its northern oilfields.

Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum said last week that oil exports and revenue had reached their highest levels since March 2003, when US-led forces invaded the country.

Crude exports rose 11 pct to 1.6 mln bpd in July, compared to 1.44 mln barrels the month before.

Oil export revenues reached 2.5 bln dollars in July, Ulum said.

Reconstruction. In Baghdad, major telecommunications infrastructure will be rebuilt and renovated:

As of October 1, works would start on rehabilitating what has been destroyed, during the bombing with American planes and rockets, of the telecommunication building and tower in Al Ma’moun region, west of Baghdad, or what has been known as “Saddam Tower” before April 9, 2003.

An Iraqi company would be in charge of the reconstruction, while a European company from Luxemburg would set the new designs for this building, which is considered as one of the most prominent landmarks of Baghdad, according to Javan Ma’sum, Iraqi telecommunications minister.

The minister added that the cost of rehabilitating the building and the tower reaches 20 million dollars, which are designated from the US aid to Iraq. She pointed out that a celebration would be held in Baghdad on this occasion, where the start of works that would totally depend on Iraqi expertise, would be announced.

Ma’sum noted that the design of the building and tower would be totally changed, where modernization and touches that reflect the Iraqi prospective of the project are domineering.

Electrical projects are progressing across the country:

More reconstruction projects in Sadr City started this week, including a $13 million electrical distribution project. When the project is complete, an estimated 128,000 more people will have a reliable source of electricity. The project includes installation of power lines, 3,040 power poles, 80 transformers, 2,400 street lights, and power connections to individual homes, complete with meters.

Construction started on the $3.8 million Al Rayash Electricity Substation project in the Al Daur district of Salah Ad Din province, located between Tikrit and Bayji. The project, expected to be complete in early December, will provide reliable service to 50,000 Iraqi homes and small businesses. An electric distribution and street lighting project in Daquq was completed on Aug. 17, providing new overhead distribution lines and street lighting in the community.

Meanwhile, in the capital:

About 2 million people will benefit from the Baghdad trunk sewer line, which was completed this week. Workers cleaned and repaired the Baghdad trunk sewer line and its associated manholes and pumping stations. The $17.48 million project restored principal sewage collection elements in the Adhamiya, Sadr City and Nissan districts of Baghdad, and will provide for the intended sewer flows to the Rustamiya wastewater treatment plant.

And in Basra:

Two million dollars of Iraq Reconstruction Program money was released to purchase electrical equipment for a Pump Station to upgrade Basra Sweetwater Canal system. This pump station will supply a constant and reliable source of water for two million Iraqis in Basra and the surrounding area.

Coalition troops. They’re active on the ground in Diyala province:

Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry, Task Force Liberty are working with the people of the Diyala Province to build schools, improve the water supply, pave roads and rebuild their local government.

Coalition Soldiers are providing Iraqis with money to improve their way of life and, in order to ensure projects in the Diyala Province are progressing on schedule, Soldiers conduct routine checks of these sites.

The work the Soldiers are doing is helping to rebuild the city services, said 1st Lt. Jeremy Krueger, civil-military operations officer for Task Force 1-30, and native of Pensacola, Fla.

“I think the projects in our [area of operations] are important,” said Krueger. “What we are doing is improving the infrastructure for this whole area that has been torn down over the last several years. It’s helping the population immensely. It is providing new schools for them, new roads, new water projects, water supplies that they have never had and also some of the projects are businesses that are going to provide some revenue for the area.”

The unit is still working on developing more projects in order to better the area, said Sgt. Maj. Matthew J. West, civil-military operations sergeant major for Task Force 1-30 and a native of Dallas, Texas.

We have 83 projects that have been submitted or are currently underway, West said.  (Emphasis added.) 

The troops continue to work on important water infrastructure projects:

In Iraq, where even water that comes from the tap could be contaminated with chemicals or sewage seeping into the ground, clean water is the most basic need of people throughout the country.

While there is an adequate supply of bottled water, water for cooking, cleaning and bathing is a precious commodity. In many cases, wells have not been dug deep enough to go below the contaminated ground water.

Under the $18 billion Iraq Reconstruction Program, 184 public works and water projects are planned, including 158 water treatment facilities, two sewage treatment plants and 11 water resource projects. The Corps of Engineers and Project Contracting Office program contracts the work out to local laborers, with the Corps of Engineers Gulf Region District overseeing the construction.

Read about some of the projects currently on the way, for example:

A massive $125 million water treatment plant in Ifraz will pump treated water about 20 miles southeast to the more than 900,000 residents of the city of Irbil.


The troops are also building roads:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region South District (GRS) has been working on modern asphalt roads in Najaf to facilitate agriculture sales and to provide better routes to village schools and hospitals.

“GRS is currently managing the construction of two village road projects in the Najaf Province,” said Art Bennett, GRS Transportation and Communication Sector project manager. “The roads serve small villages and local industries–in this case, cement and gypsum plants. The second project, or segment, parallels the Euphrates River.”

The intent of these projects is to provide paved roads for everyday use by the local population,” said Bennett.

The troops are working on Iraqi hospitals:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region South District estimates a Dec. 25 completion of a refurbishment and renovation project for the Najaf Maternity Hospital.
Engineers report the $8.2 million project is 30 percent finished.

The project began Oct. 25, 2004.

Renovations include a new sewage system, a new boiler for heating, ceramic tiles throughout all of the renovated portions of the facility and a new residents’ office. A reverse osmosis water treatment plant for the hospital is finished and is ready to be turned over to the hospital. An incineration system is also in the works.

And here’s an update on the Teaching Hospital:

From a bloody battlefield and one of the most dangerous places in Iraq to a safe, prosperous and growing community of over one-half million, the Najaf Teaching Hospital reflects the changes of the city of Najaf.

One year ago on August 27 the battle for Najaf ended.

A year ago the Najaf Teaching Hospital was closed. It had been looted and its medical equipment destroyed by the Sadr Militia who had used its eight floors as a military fortress. Its basement flooded, windows and walls riddled with bullet and mortar damage, to many in Najaf, the hospital looked hopeless.

Now the hospital is open, seeing hundreds of patients per day and housing 80 in-patients. It is a training hospital for 200 medical students, 50 pharmacy students, and 100 resident doctors who are looking forward to improved and expanded services.

This is a true success story brought about by a close partnership of Iraqi doctors and a U.S. team of doctors, engineers, project managers, contractors, and Soldiers and U.S Army Corps of Engineers civilians. When finished, the hospital will house a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, have computed tomography (CT) scan services, and have increased specialty surgical services including its first open heart surgical team.

The hospital will employ 1,250 people, in an area where good jobs are hard to come by.

The troops continue to support the reconstruction of the education system:

Approximately 18,000 Iraqi schoolchildren will sit in freshly refurbished schools when their new school year starts in about six weeks. Iraqi and U.S. government agencies announced Aug. 6 that renovations of 43 schools in the northern and southern provinces are funded for repairs, and contracts have been awarded for the work. As part of the Iraq Relief Reconstruction Fund, over $1.3M was set aside to continue a nationwide school repair program that addresses rehabilitating sanitary facilities, electrical and mechanical systems, and structural repairs to schools in Karbala, Dahuk, Najaf, Basrah, and Qadisiyah.

Baghdad’s Sadr City is now safer and better:

Patrols by U.S. and Iraqi Army Soldiers have resulted in safer streets for the citizens of Sadr City.

The once hotly-contested area is now patrolled by troops from B Company, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

On July 28 the Soldiers performed a neighborhood patrol designed to allow the Soldiers to become acquainted with their new neighborhood.

“The people we talk to in the neighborhood have been pretty helpful and want things to get better in Sadr,” said Sgt. Lee Minyard. “They’re starting to realize we’re here to help them.”

Minyard pulled security throughout the patrol, which took the dismounted infantrymen through the streets and alleys of Sadr.

“We tell people that it’s up to them to make a difference in their communities,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Brisley, section leader. “They’re so used to relying on one leader to make all the decisions, but they’re gradually taking the initiative.” (Emphasis added.) 

Perhaps one day the press will end its drumbeat of defeatism that so frustrates Maj. Leahy, so that he and his family and friends can open the newspaper and get a balanced picture from Iraq. Just remember where you heard it first.

Mr. Chrenkoff is an Australian blogger. He writes at chrenkoff.blogspot.com.

Reprinted here with permission from OpinionJournal.com.  Visit the website at OpinionJournal.com.

Questions

1.  Make a list of the types of rebuilding being done in Iraq.

2.  Make a list of the types of new construction being done in Iraq.

3.  This article contains just several of the 36 pages of Good News from Iraq posted by Mr. Chrenkoff at OpinionJournal.com.  Which of the examples was the most inspiring to you?  Explain your answer.

4.  After reading the article, what word would you use to describe your feelings about the U.S. military presence in Iraq?  Explain your answer.

5.  Based on the quotes from the military personnel in this article, how do you think they view the work they’re doing in Iraq?  Explain your answer.

6.  What do you think the constant negative reporting (without any mention of the good work being done) in Iraq does to the morale of the American soldiers stationed there?

7.  A June 2005 Gallup poll reported on in USA Today reveal that the majority of Americans want the troops to come home.  Do you think that majority would feel differently if the mainstream media made an effort to report on all of the progress being made?  (Do a google or yahoo search to find “Good News from Iraq” reported in the mainstream press.)  Explain your answer.

8.  The media has a responsibility to report the news, even if its bad news, or portrays our country in a negative light (Abu Gharib).  What about their responsibility to report the good news? 

9.  Write to your local newspaper or news channel and ask them to provide more reports on the good work being done in Iraq. (For a media contact list, click here.)