Iraq: 3 years and counting
Sunday will mark the three-year date since troops from the United States and Great Britain invaded Iraq.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting President Bush’s approval ratings at 37 percent; support for the war hovering around 61 percent, and fear of civil war in that nation is spreading.
Meanwhile, Truckee soldiers and their families are talking of an Iraq much different than the one portrayed on the evening news.
“News on television is a visual event, and not only is it visual, but it’s competitive,” said Truckee resident Russ Mann, who spent six months in Iraq working as a private contractor. “As a consequence we constantly see pictures of flames and explosions and bodies and things that titillate.
“What we don’t see are new schools, new hospitals, and civic action.”
Mann said the average Iraqi civilian wants exactly what Americans do.
“He wants a job, he wants a house, he wants his kids to go to school,” Mann said. “When I was there, things were going relatively well on the person-to-person level.”
While in Iraq, Mann, a nurse at Tahoe Forest Hospital, provided medical care for a team of more than 100 American and 1,000 Iraqi carpenters and contractors who were working to build a new base for the Iraqi army. Mann said that while he was there he had extensive contact with the locals, and conversations frequently focused on family life, religion, life in America, and cultural differences over topics of politics and war.
“I had good relations with the Iraqis I worked with directly,” Mann said. “Though I think some were disgruntled with the political level. There was a lot of frustration with how long it took to get business done.”
And for Iraqis, according to Mann and others, getting business done means rebuilding an infrastructure that Saddam Hussein and his regime let crumble.
“They’ve made a lot (of progress). They have drinking water, they have sanitation like regular plumbing. Saddam’s people laid waste to all that stuff,” said Truckee resident Dennis Cook who has a son serving in Iraq and another serving in Afghanistan.
“The media doesn’t show the photos that I get my hands on ” the smiling people. We’ve done a lot of good and we’ve helped a lot of people,” Cook said. “The media paints a picture that the Iraqis don’t want us there, and that is not true.”
Progress was a word repeated by PFC Adam Pepper, son of Truckee local Cathy Harry. Pepper, who was home on leave after five months in Iraq, and has seven more months to go, said that his undisclosed mission was also going well and that the civilians he has met have not been hostile.
“All the kids we meet love us, which is good because down the road, hopefully, they will remember us and things will change.”
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