October 1, 2006

Ribbons and Strings and Lots of Nice Things

Hatched by Sachi

I was looking for more good news from Iraq; believe me, there's plenty for this post.

First from Bill Roggio, al-Qaeda's "Emir of Anbar" was killed by Task Force 145:

Task Force 145, the global hunter-killers of high value al-Qeda targets, is conducting a full court press in Iraq. The Kuwaiti News Agency reports al-Qaeda's Emir in Anbar province, Khalid Mahal, and Nasif Al-Mawla, his aide, were killed during an operation in the Thar Thar region. An American intelligence source will not comment on Mahal's death but did state “operations are ongoing."

Bill Crawford has a must-read recap of recent good news from Iraq at National Review Online. Here are some headlines:

  • 1,500 people attended the Iraq national reconciliation meeting;
  • Iraqi Kurds paid for a series of television ads thanking America for removing Saddam Hussein;
  • Iraqi security forces now number more than 300,000; nearly 70 percent of Iraqi battalions have the lead for security in their area of operations;
  • Tourism is returning to Dhi Qar province, which has many archeological sites; under Saddam, the area was closed to tourists and scientists;
  • Marines (with local assistance) captured a high-value insurgent leader during a raid in Saqlawiyah. Residents in the area cheer the Marines;
  • A top al Qaeda terrorist was arrested in Mosul; two others blew themselves up after being surrounded;
  • Thanks to modern insecticides, Iraqi farmers in Diyala had their best date harvest in years;

And congratulations to 1st Lt. Neil Prakash, who received the Silver Star for his part in the battle of Fallujah.

There is plenty more. But I want to talk about this ribbon cutting event:

Soldiers from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, took part in a ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 15 celebrating the re-opening of the Al Bawasil School in Muelha, a town in the northern Babil province, south of Baghdad.

Why is this important? A commenter on my last post said that good news -- such as opening a school -- is simply not "hot news." That may be... but when you look beyond the headlines, each case is unique in how our soldiers overcame the daily obstacles and bridged the divide between two cultures.

Al-Bawasil has many problems; for example, it needed a new middle school, since the closest was 10 miles away. In addition, the unemployment rate was very high in this area: people were eager to work, but there were no jobs.

Under ordinary circumstances, the solution would be obvious: hire all these out of work people to build a new school. But the local area insurgents wouldn't stop the violence against Coalition forces (CF) long enough to let them even start. Roadside bombs and terrorist attacks prevented the CF from getting involved at all in the civil affairs of al-Bawasil.

So what to do? Instead of just walking away in disgust (as most of us would have), the CF called upon the town council and negotiated a deal:

During a meeting with the town council in the spring, CF civil affairs officers brought up the school problems to the council and asked for a stop to the violence in exchange for refurbishment of the school.

“When the people in the area noticed we made the school a priority, the violence stopped,” said [Capt. Aaron] Scheinberg, (civil affairs officer, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment.) “People in the town are excited and surrounding regions are envious of the improvements made in Muelha.”

Rather than the CF dictating to the council what would happen, they bargained with them, making it appear as if the school were a payoff for stopping the violence. Then they hired the locals to do the actual work, of course, giving them jobs. The council members saved their faces and could even brag to the locals what a hard bargain they drove, forcing the Americans to build a school and give work to the local lads.

“Everything we used for the school is made in Iraq and is of the highest quality available in the country,” said Abdul Raza, Iraqi project contractor. “We took our time with this project and I ensured it received the best materials because the project is for the kids and the kids will be the future of Iraq someday.”

Coalition Forces (CF) prefer to hire local contractors and workers from the area because it is in their best interest to do a good job because they live there, said Capt. Aaron Scheinberg....

“It was easy for me to find workers because most of the people here do not have steady jobs,” said Abdul. “The people actually thanked me for giving them a job. A lot of times we had to split the work between two different groups because there were so many people willing to work to make some money.”

In Iraq, community involvement has its own unique dynamic: Americans supply the money, the Iraqis do the actual work, and the city elders get all the credit!

It's frustrating to me that the people in Al Bawasil have to be told that it's beneficial for them to stop shooting and bombing us while we're trying to help them; it seems so obvious. We can help Iraqis, and we do -- when they let us. One region at a time, we must convince them to help themselves.

After so many decades of brutal infantilization, it's not easy to suddenly grow up in a couple of years.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, October 1, 2006, at the time of 9:09 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Terrye

There are a lot of culutrual taboos to overcome to get them to help themselves. Such as trusting a foreigner.

I remember hearing a Shia say that when Saddam turned on them after the Gulf War he went up to the roof of this building and watched the sky, waiting for the Americans to come save them.

Strange isn't it? If we are not there, we betrayed them..if we are we have to constantly prove we will let them have it back someday.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2006 3:41 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dean Esmay

Keep in mind that one of the reasons they don't trust them is that we did encourage them to rebel against Saddam and then sat and did nothing while he cut them down in mass slaughter.

That's certainly not been forgotten.

The above hissed in response by: Dean Esmay [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2006 7:25 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

Thanks for this great story (and the links)-- I'm emailing a link to those of my friends most desperate for good Iraq news!

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2006 7:47 AM

The following hissed in response by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad

Great news!

Plus, it fits with my prior first Fallujah battle post: Harry Potter, Ender Wiggins... No help for Iraqi People

One of my main complaints is that AID is used, instead of Municipal Bonds, for reconstruction. Bush + Bremer should have set up such a system for locals to "own" the cash from bond issues, to reconstruct what they decide is a high priority. And if terrorists destroy it, they destroy Iraqi stuff, rather than American stuff.

The above hissed in response by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 2, 2006 3:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: dasbow

Modern insecticides, eh? I guess the old way of using a mix of sarin and mustard gas wasn't effective enough. Maybe if they used sprayers instead of artillery shells, it might have worked better.

The above hissed in response by: dasbow [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2006 6:04 AM

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