Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

WAR -- The Money [Part 18]

Is our mission in Iraq garbage detail? If this is the case, and if it will lead to some relief for the suffering Iraqi people, so be it. But after five long years and 100s of billions of dollars, it is fair to expect that we would be beyond these kinds of efforts. We entered this unplanned, ideologically driven war with nothing but an airy dream of “democratizing the middle-east.” Now we appear ready to spend months, or years, and billions more, picking up the garbage. There has to be a better plan for using our brave military personnel and our “put it on the national debt tab” dollars.
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April 22, 2008
In Sadr City, Basic Services Are Faltering
By MICHAEL R. GORDON

BAGHDAD — Even as American and Iraqi troops are fighting to establish control of the Sadr City section of this capital, the Iraqi government’s program to restore basic services like electricity, sewage and trash collection is lagging, jeopardizing the effort to win over the area’s wary residents.

For weeks, there have been reports that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is preparing to move ahead with a multimillion-dollar program to rebuild the southern swath of Sadr City, which is currently occupied by Iraqi and American troops.

But almost a month after American and Iraqi forces pushed into the area, there are no signs of reconstruction. Instead, the streets are filled with mounds of trash and bubbling pools of sewage. Many neighborhoods are still without electricity, and many residents are too afraid to brave the cross-fire to seek medical care. Iraqi public works officials, apparently fearful of the fighting, rarely seem to show up at work, and the Iraqi government insists the area is not safe enough for repairs to begin. . . .

Residents have repeatedly asked American troops during patrols why the garbage cannot be removed and basic repairs made in the areas the Americans control, especially since the most intense fighting appears to be over in these sectors. . . .

As a stopgap, the Americans are undertaking a $400,000 program to distribute large trash bins and employ up to 200 local Iraqis. More than 90 have been hired, but some of the workers have failed to show up and some of the results, Captain Carter acknowledged, have been poor.

The trash collectors are outfitted with yellow vests. On Monday morning, a soldier asked for an “eyes on” report over the tactical radio on how many workers were picking up trash along a major thoroughfare.

The reply over the radio was not encouraging: “They started at 20, but are down to 4.”

HERE for The New York Times article

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