I have a friend who has a friend (sounds sketchy, doesn’t it) who is currently serving in the military in Iraq. He is aware of the media’s portrayal of the situation over there and has written a letter to the editor of the Norfolk Daily News regarding that situation. Thought I would post it for your perusal.
A Different Perspective
I am writing to provide a different perspective of the current situation in Iraq. I have been in Baghdad since March 3rd of this year and am assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division as the division plans officer. This division arrived in April and replaced the 1st Armored Division.
Despite being continually reminded of the “deteriorating situation in Iraq” by many media sources, there are many signs of improvement in Baghdad ? just since I have been here. Close to one third of a recent graduating class from the Baghdad Police Academy was comprised of females. Civil flights take off and depart at all hours from both tarmacs of the Baghdad International Airport. Commerce is returning to Baghdad – as evidenced by the increasing traffic problems within the city – showing that people are getting out to conduct normal day-to-day activities once again. The Interim Iraqi Government has been established and an independent Iraqi Electoral Commission has been selected to oversee planned elections – all signs of positive steps toward self-governance. There are many projects that have been completed, or are nearing completion, that will greatly improve the lives of the local Iraqis. Although progress is not as fast as the Iraqis, or anyone, would like it to be, positive steps are being made to overcome 35 years of Saddam’s investment in opulent palaces. Power production exceeds pre-war levels – and distribution is more equitable than ever before, with the pre-war “haves” and “have-nots” receiving similar amounts of electricity instead of the all vs. nothing method of distribution practiced prior to war.
Our efforts throughout much of the city have transitioned to improving the essential services and basic infrastructure with the focus being on reducing the number and percentage of the population that is unemployed. This is being done through manpower intensive projects that improve the infrastructure, and through the restoration of key industries within the city that will provide long term, sustainable, employment for large numbers of citizens. Projects large and small, are being implemented to improve the sewer system and improve the quality and distribution of potable water to all residents of Baghdad and the surrounding area. A city-wide sanitation system is being emplaced to effectively deal with the recurrent and widespread trash problems throughout the city. Major industries in Baghdad are progressively being restored – including things such as asphalt plants, meat packing plants, milk factories, furniture factories, and agricultural improvements outside the city. The land around Baghdad is fertile and an irrigation system of canals exists, but it is in disrepair and simple civic projects such as the massive employment of ditch diggers has provided immediate jobs for many local citizens – and will have a long term positive impact on the future of farming outside of the city.
Despite the emphasis on civil-military operations, the 1st Cavalry Division continues to conduct combat operations in Baghdad against forces that include former members of Saddam’s regime, terrorists, and religious extremists. In conducting these combat operations, the professionalism, agility, and can-do attitude of today’s young Troopers is truly awe inspiring. Tankers trained to conduct maneuver warfare regularly conduct dismounted foot patrols in heavily populated, and densely compacted urban areas. Mechanized infantry battalions exhibit the same versatility – conducting operations mounted in Bradley Fighting Vehicles, HMMWVs, or dismounted in terrain as varied as heavily urbanized terrain in the interior of Baghdad, in desert or open farmland immediately outside of Baghdad, and even in triple-canopy jungle near the Tigris River. Units transition from supporting a civic project to conducting a combat patrol, and change from mounted to dismounted operations in the same day or same hour.
In addition to coalition countries, patriotic Iraqis are contributing to a better future for their country in a variety of ways. 1st Cavalry Division Troopers are assisting in training the Iraqi security forces – so that they can eventually take over all of the security responsibilities. These forces include the new Iraqi Army, the Police, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC), and the Facilities Protection Service.
These and many other good Iraqis are striving to build a better country and a form of government that is democratic in nature and respects the individual rights of the people over which it governs. This is no small task, and the insurgents, extremists, and terrorists want to prevent its realization. It is important to note, that the anti-Iraqi forces are in the minority of the populace – and the various insurgencies are not popular. They provide no vision for a better future for all Iraqis ? their purpose is only to return to a totalitarian form of government – Baathist or Islamic Extremists – that would only support the rights of a few and would oppress other segments of the populace.
Because the insurgents remain in the minority and conditions for many Iraqis continue to improve, the situation in Iraq is promising. It is not peaceful and tranquil yet, but words often used to describe it – like chaotic, deteriorating, and nightmarish – are words used by people who are not here or who have seldom, if ever, traveled outside of their downtown Baghdad hotel room. There are many obstacles that need to be overcome and there will undoubtedly be more difficult times ahead, with no guarantees of eventual success. However, right now, and in the immediate future, Iraqis need our help to realize a better and brighter future for their country. When sovereignty is turned over to the Interim Iraqi Government at the end of the month, we will be guests in this country and partners in establishing a peaceful and prosperous country. If we are unsuccessful in this historic and worthwhile endeavor, the true losers will not be the U.S. – it will be the Iraqi people.