Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Iraq - Story From "The Front"

More, direct from Baghdad - Ralph Peters, New York Post

March 1, 2006 -- BAGHDAD, 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.
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.
At the edge of a clotted irrigation ditch, we pull in beside a small compound. As they do at every site, threatening or not, the troops flow smoothly into a defensive posture, making it look far easier than it is. But even before we can set up a hasty perimeter, we're attacked. By a horde of children. Rushing out from the edge of the slum.
Gandara (Lt.-Col. Joe Gandara, the commander of the Special Troops Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division's 4th "Cobra" Brigade) and his men are here to save the children's lives. The "minor" project is a nearly completed "compact sewage-treatment plant." Built from scratch for relative pennies, the plant will drain the sewage that routinely backs up into alleys and homes while further polluting a wretched water supply.

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