Gini's Online Newsletter
Rants, Raves, and Reviews

An excellent report from Iraq!

OUR Humvees splashed through troughs of sewage, between ponds of filth that covered several acres. Shanties crowded on accidental islands fringed with stands of reeds. A stall selling brilliant vegetables did a brisk business at the edge of the sludge.
The Risalah slum is home to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis no one ever cared about. No one. Until the U.S. Army arrived. And tried to make their lives better. We were on our way to inspect a "minor" project to change the lives of the poor.
Slum life in Baghdad is grim, yet colorful. Garish shop-front ads blaze through layers of dust under the midday sun. Black-robed women scurry past loitering young bucks. Bent old men laze in castoff plastic chairs. Garbage is everywhere, in phenomenal amounts. It's a world of instant dilapidation.
According to the media, our three-vehicle patrol should have gotten nothing but hostile glares. Instead, we got a surprising number of friendly waves. The turret gunners remained alert, but all we saw were simple human beings trying to get on with their lives.
I rode with Lt.-Col. Joe Gandara, the commander of the Special Troops Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division's 4th "Cobra" Brigade. In two decades of service, Gandara's never faced a tougher job than this one: hands-on oversight of 45 "immediate-impact projects" strewn on both sides of the Tigris River. He does everything from monitoring new construction to struggling to convince Iraqis that maintenance really is important (the Iraqis run the gamut from the risk-your-life dedicated to deadbeats — Gandara sorts out the latter over time).
From top to bottom, Baghdad's culture is broken. It often seems to be every man for himself, and damn the world. Yet, that first impression deceives: More and more Iraqis are stepping up to build a better society.
Saddam didn't just ravage the physical infrastructure — he wrecked the moral infrastructure, too. The recovery will be long and often painful. But the patient wants to get better, something that's easily lost amid skewed headlines.

Read the rest, here.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006 :: ::
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