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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Jim Golby, Army Captain: Getting Iraq To Work

I was going to add this to my previous piece showing the good news coming out of Iraq, but after reading the whole 2 pages article, I thought it deserved its own piece.

Let me start with the money quote here:

And, for once, it really seems to be about Iraqi freedom.

Jim Golby is an Army captain on his second tour of duty in Iraq and he has a story to tell, one that isn't seen in the death tolls, isn't seen in the media coverage of Iraq and isn't addressed in the news these days.

It is the story of Iraq getting to work, as he titled his piece.

I'm sick of hearing about all the horrible things that happen in Iraq without ever hearing about any of the good ones. That's not because horrible things don't occur here every day; they do. I've witnessed far more death and sadness than I wish anyone ever had to see. And it's not because I believe in some left-wing media conspiracy. If I'm affiliated with a political party at all, I honestly can't remember which one it is.

Rather, I'm sick of hearing about all the horrible things that happen in Iraq because I've been deployed here for more than 24 months since this war began, and I think I have a story to tell that's heroic, maybe even noble. It's not my story. In fact, I'm quite average, and I'm certainly not noble. But I've been blessed to serve with some amazing officers, noncommissioned officers and soldiers who have sacrificed another 15 months away from their families -- and, for once, produced something that I don't think looks all that bad, even in this desolate country.

That is how his article starts and he goes on to explain what his job entails on his second tour of duty, which is an initiative that the U.S. government calls the IBIZ. (Iraqi Business and Industrial Zone)

This is an initiative intended to give Iraqi companies better access to U.S. contracts, establish security to let Iraqi companies develop, and train individual Iraqis in skills such as carpentry, plumbing and electrical work. It consists of a contracting office, two Iraqi industrial plants -- one for producing concrete and the other for crushing rock into gravel -- alongside a shipping and receiving yard and a skills training area. It also has the potential to save the U.S. government a significant amount of money by using cheaper Iraqi labor for many jobs usually performed by other contracted foreign nationals.

That's it? you say. That's all we get? Plumbers? Carpenters? I understand your frustration. It's not the stuff of a box-office hit or a gripping novel. But it's heroic. And it's noble, and I'll tell you why.

Every day, soldiers here pull duty in numerous defensive fighting positions or in guard towers, risking their lives for this idea called IBIZ. Our soldiers run the access control and security systems that screen the Iraqis and the thousands of other personnel and vehicles that come through here each week. Or they sit in up-armored Humvees and oversee contractors who construct fences or barriers around the new concrete plant and rock crusher.

And, for once, it really seems to be about Iraqi freedom.

He speaks of his disappointment when he first returned to find that things hadn't improved much and how he was surprised the Iraqi's took Americans seriously anymore after watching the news that lamented on American deaths, ignoring the tragedies of the Iraqi's themselves.

Several Iraqis I talked to at the time expressed genuine concern about how much better Americans were living in Iraq than Iraqis themselves. But then things started to change. It didn't happen as quickly as I would have liked, but some Iraqis started to see that some things might be improving for them, too.

They saw some construction begin and heard a few comments from several U.S. soldiers about 35 good jobs that would be starting near the base. Many villagers probably wrote this off as another failed U.S. promise, but the construction continued and the talk grew more concrete. Finally, the project actually opened, and nearly 100 Iraqis lined up to compete for those jobs.

For once, Iraqis see hope and money, and they want both desperately.

In the first month after the contracting office opened in June, the Iraqi contracts in the province jumped by more than 20 percent and nearly $4 million. Villagers watched two Iraqi-owned plants go up in a semi-secure area in less than two months, grabbing several enormous contracts that typically would have gone to better-positioned Turkish firms. And 35 residents from four small villages received apprenticeships for on-the-job training as carpenters, plumbers and electricians, jobs that provide lunch and a decent salary by Iraqi standards.

Then he goes on further to show what the Iraqi's themselves have to say, something else our news refuses to report.

Here are some remarks sent to me recently by the Iraqi who owns one of the industrial plants:

"We and each honorable Iraqi should not forget each drop of blood that the US military dropped it for our sake to put us in right way to life and we should know that we owe much for the US people."

Then he tells us that he believes General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker when they say progress is being seen, because he, himself, is seeing that same progress.

...Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker are courageous men who believe that we are making progress. When they say that, I believe them because I, too, can finally see some results. I just hope that the investment in projects such as IBIZ hasn't come too late to make a lasting difference.

Read both pages, understand what he is trying to tell us, the American people.

It is not all about death and insurgents and al-Qaeda. It is about helping the Iraqi's become independent. Helping them learn what freedom is. Helping them take the reigns of their country.

It is not about what we see in the headlines every day, it is about the things that we don't see. The things we are not being told. The every day efforts that go unacknowledged.

And the heroes..... Iraqi and American alike.