The following is excerpted from Mr. Chrenkoff’s April 11 article on OpinionJournal.com:
(by Arthur Chrenkoff, OpinionJournal.com) – What a difference two years can make. Commenting on the news that Saddam Hussein’s nemesis, leader of the people Saddam liked to gas, has now been elected President of Iraq, Mohammed Saleh, a 42-year old Kurd interviewed by the media on the streets of Kirkuk, had this to say: “Today Jalal Talabani made it to the seat of power, while Saddam Hussein is sitting in jail. . . . Who would have thought.” ...
But while the momentous political events once again monopolized the headlines for the past two weeks, a lot of other positive developments have been taking place across Iraq, mostly out of the media spotlight. Here are some of these stories:
This Iraqi action aims to do good and bring people together at the same time:
Shiites and Sunnis sat side byside as blood filled bags through plastic tubes, hoping their donation will help whoever needs it. Dozens of Iraqis, from all walks of life with different sectarian and ethnic backgrounds, lined up Sunday outside a blood donation station set at the headquarters of the Iraqi Islamic Party which initiated the blood donation campaign.
“The goal of such a blood drive is to achieve the unity of the Iraqi people, under humanitarian actions,” [said] doctor Alaa Maki, also a member of the party. . . . “The donated blood will be distributed to all Iraqis no matter who they are and we also call for other Iraqi parties and humanitarian institutions to do the same to save the lives of Iraqi patients and wounded people while living together in peace,” said Maki while busy helping the donors.
The Iraqi National Center for Blood Donation is facing an acute shortage of blood since the tide of violence in the already war-ravaged country sees no sign of easing away. The Iraqi hospitals are also in need of medicine and medical appliances. The blood donation campaign, designated to help address the problem, is expected to last for several days. “Nothing can better fraternize the divided Iraqis than blood,” [said] doctor Abdul Wadod Khaled.
Bryon Johnson from Camp Speicher near Tikrit reports: “These folks, they’re incredible. …They’re doing some really cool stuff here. Just in this area alone, I counted 93 schools that they’re working on. They have 22 electrical plants or power stations. Seventeen railroads. Nine health clinics. Eight fire stations. Four court houses. That’s just what I know about.”
Task Force Baghdad is meanwhile working together with local contractors on a variety of projects. Local roads are being widened not only to improve traffic, but also make it more difficult for the insurgents to plant roadside bombs; in other areas a water station is being renovated and water pipes laid in order to provide water to several neighborhoods.
The troops are also assisting with the development of the education infrastructure:
Millions of dollars in Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Funds are being spent to repair and reconstruct schools throughout Iraq. The majority of the reconstruction work is being done by local Iraqi companies.
“The future of any country lies with its children,” said Linda Carter, construction representative for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Kirkuk area office. “Schools are instrumental in the proper development of our children. It’s difficult to learn in buildings that are overcrowded and in disrepair.”
Currently, over $2 million is being spent on 38 school renovations in the province of Kirkuk. There is an additional $1.4 million available that is expected to be used on eight more schools. That contract is currently out for bid. So far, three schools have been completed, and an additional eight are scheduled for completion this month.
The schools being reconstructed were selected from a priority list provided by the province’s Director General of Education. The DG provided a list of 80 schools in need of renovation and repair. The plan is to do as many schools as possible with the available $3.4 million.
Support for Iraqi health services also continues:
The four Humvees rumbled down the street and turned into an empty lot. The soldiers dismounted, scrutinized the dirt and rocks for hidden bombs, and scanned windows and rooftops for hidden gunmen.
Then, one Humvee pulled up to a driveway and backed up to a building where some men and boys were waiting. The building was a clinic, and inside the Humvee were boxes of medical supplies.
“They go through 100 syringes a day,” said Dr. (Capt.) Mike Tarpey of the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment.
Supporting health care is a priority for the 42nd Infantry Division, which began its one-year deployment to Iraq in February. While U.S. troops provide most of the muscle and means, they also try to bring local Iraqis into the mix. The men at the clinic were local officials and clinic workers, who it is hoped will get some credit for the delivery.
Here’s a similar action:
As the convoy pulled into the Janain neighborhood, people started to come out of their houses. The speakers on top of the psychological operation’s Humvee announced the Soldiers’ arrival. The message was simple–the Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, were there to provide medical assistance to the residents. The medics set up a makeshift aid station to treat the residents as an area was cordoned off with concertina wire March 9.
The Army Corps of Engineers is managing the renovation and rebuilding of hospitals in the south of the country. As one of its recent projects, under a $10 million contract a 260-bed maternity and pediatrics hospital in Tallil will be thoroughly renovated. “Every portion of the 260-bed hospital will be touched,” says Bob Hanacek, a resident engineer. “The contract also includes new operating suites, tons of new medical equipment, and many donated medical supplies. We are re-equipping the entire facility.”
There is also time for private humanitarian initiatives, such as this fine effort to help those with missing limbs:
One day last year, while driving a Humvee along the dusty roads of Baghdad’s Green Zone, Capt. Steve Lindsley spotted two young Iraqi men, both amputees and tottering on makeshift crutches. And so, Lindsley found the first two patients for Operation Restoration, his makeshift prosthetics clinic for Iraqi civilians funded in part by Plymouth, Minn.-based Otto Bock HealthCare.
Ali, 14, had lost his right leg above the knee in a hit-and-run traffic accident seven years earlier. And Taleb, 20, was a child when his leg was amputated below the knee, because of complications from a cancerous tumor. Neither had ever received proper prosthetic care.
Lindsley, of Monroe, La., was deployed to Iraq as a logistics officer with the Mississippi Army National Guard’s 112th Military Police Battalion. But his civilian job as clinical manager at the prosthetics and orthotics clinic at Mississippi Methodist Rehabilitation Center was never far from his mind.
“While in the Green Zone, I started seeing Iraqis walking around; some of them didn’t have limbs. That was where I decided that I needed to try to help,” he said.
So Lindsley and his friend, Sgt. Chris Cummings, set up a free clinic in the huge basement kitchen of one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces. “The palace has been bombed and wasn’t in very good condition, the lighting was poor, the electrical substandard,” Lindsley recalled. “We made do.”
The helping doesn’t stop when the troops go home:
When Joseph Yorski was serving a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq, he noticed Iraqi police had little protection compared to his peers in the New Britain [Conn.] Police Department. Upon his return, the officer decided to help fellow law enforcement officials by spearheading a movement to outfit Iraqi police with old, surplus equipment instead of following regular procedure, which calls to destroy it.
Yorski, a member of the 143rd Military Police Company and an 11-year veteran of the Police Department, oversees property. He said he took matters into his own hands when asked by acting Chief William Gagliardi to destroy surplus police equipment, which ranges from riot gear to reflective vests.
Teaming up with America Supporting Americans–a nonprofit organization that encourages law enforcement agencies and individuals to donate used police equipment–Yorski collected an extensive amount of gear that will be shipped to Baghdad.
As the Iraqi Minister for human rights, Bakhtiar Amin, said about the proceedings of the National Assembly: “There will be a place in jail for Saddam and the 11 to watch the TV to understand their time is finished, there is a new Iraq and that they are no longer ruling the country; so they can understand that in the new Iraq, people are elected and they are not coming to power by a coup d’Ã©tat.”
The reaction? “Saddam Hussein watched the televised election of Iraq’s new president from his jail cell yesterday and was ‘clearly upset,’ a senior official said.”
Wasn’t it all worth it for that alone?
Mr. Chrenkoff is an Australian blogger. He writes at chrenkoff.blogspot.com
Go to OpinionJournal.com for the complete article.
1. What is the main idea of Mr. Chrenkoff’s commentary?
2. List several positive developments in Iraq described in the article.
3. Why don’t we see these stories in the mainstream media? Be specific.