Other news from the Iraq front
An Iraqi dentist's daily news and comments on the situation in post-Saddam Iraq
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U.S. Central Command in Iraq
See also Blogs on the War in Iraq.
April 2004: Here is a comment on the work environment I have encountered during the month I have spent in Baghdad. Much of my work in Iraq involves coordination with Iraqis. We have frequent meetings with our counterparts at the Ministry of Electricity. Actually the Ministry of Electricity was destroyed after the invasion, completely burned to the ground, all records lost. Now they are housed within the vast Ministry of Oil. The Ministry of Oil is not in the Green Zone. I did not know before I came to Iraq that people would be leaving the Green Zone as much as they do, nor could anyone have realized how dangerous the situation in Iraq would become.
No civilians in positions like mine leave the Green Zone unless they are escorted by a military convoy. (Some contractors have private guards, such as Fabrizio, the brave Italian who was assassinated two weeks ago. Those people travel in armored vehicles with heavily armed chase vehicles.)
Getting to meetings at the ministry involves planning 48 hours in advance to arrange for construction of a convoy. There are usually two armored humvees in front, two to five SUVs, and one or two humvees in the rear. Each humvee has a crew of four or five. There is a gunner with two 50-caliber machine guns. All carry AK 47s and pistols, complete communication gear, and boxes of extra ammunition. I estimated that they have at least 2,000 rounds of ammo in the humvee.
Everyone, including me, wears helmets and 40-pound steel-plated flak jackets. The trip takes 15 to 20 minutes. It usually goes smoothly when we are moving along. When we get stuck in traffic, two of the crew jump out and clear our way through the traffic. That is a scary job. I have not encountered any incidents either to or from the ministry. Each safe trip is a successful trip.
Convoy arrives at Ministry of Oil.
Yesterday I was able to ride in one of the humvees. Attached is a picture of me (in my flak jacket, helmet in hand) talking to the Commander of the convoy, Nickerson, before everyone was ready to go. The second picture is a photo I took from inside the humvee of the convoy coming through the Red Zone as it arrived at the Ministry of Oil. The third picture is one of me ready for work.
I have not mentioned the convoys in earlier e-mails because there was no need to worry my family any more than they probably already are. Everyone who works with the Iraqi people does it. I did it only six times, and I have only one more, the trip to the airport.
This week we have been working against the lengthening odds of making the 6,000 megawatts of power by the end of June. Two major contractors, GE and Siemens, announced that they were stopping work and pulling their crews out of Iraq because of the deaths on their crew and the continuing danger for the workers still at the job. This means that the contractors who were dependent on these crews will probably have to stop work also.
Ready for work.
When I first did this, I asked myself how could I possibly justify risking my life to establish a Public Utilities Commission in Iraq? That is the wrong question. It is not the point. The point is that everyone, especially the soldiers, are risking their lives every day to play their small part in helping this country work again. If my part did not work, it doesn't really matter. However, if none of the parts worked, the whole costly effort would be a waste. No one here is prepared to let that happen.
(The author is Mary Clark Webster, the former Massachusetts Commissioner of the Department of Public Utilities, which is now the Department of Telecommunications and Energy.)
|News from the
Arthur Chrenkoff's roundup of the past two weeks' good news from Iraq, OpinionJournal.com of the Wall Street Journal, October 25, 2004.
Abdul Haq Foundation
Khalilzad urges a green thumb for war-wracked Afghanistan: "I remember when I was a child, Kabul was green." U.S. embassy funding a program to plant 750,000 trees.
U.S. State Department's progress report on Afghanistan
News and information on the War on Terrorism
A Million Thanks: An Internet project to help people express their appreciation to the men and women serving in the U.S. military forces
Federal Bureau of Investigation
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States (the 9-11 commission)
The TWA Flight 800 Investigation (not a government Web site)
U.S. Department of Defense News
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Justice
U.S. Department of State Country Background Files
The Search for International Terrorist Entities (SITE) Institute: "The Search for International Terrorist Entities (SITE) Institute was founded in response to the growing need to educate the public on matters surrounding terrorism. Our mission is to facilitate the comprehension of the underlying threat of terrorism, the sources of terrorism, and the prevention of terrorism. Working with the media to provide accurate and unbiased information, the SITE Institute has become one of the most respected organizations researching terrorism."