Progress being made through shared sacrifice in Iraq
By Congressman Joe Pitts
Every day, violence is prevalent in Iraq . We all know it. We have never denied it. The question is whether we will allow the murder of civilians to intimidate us into retreat.
Terrorists have made clear that they vehemently oppose a new Iraq . They know, as well as you and I do, that terrorism cannot thrive in a free society. Their ideology thrives under the tyrannical reign of a dictator like Saddam Hussein or radical clerics like the Ayatollahs in Iran . Attacks will continue until these terrorists are defeated.
Every day, Iraqis are assuming more responsibility in the effort to stop these attacks and transform their own nation. For instance in the effort to subdue the terrorists in Samarra , 2,000 Iraqi troops fought alongside 3,000 Americans to take the town back into government control.
Despite being targeted by lethal attacks, young men continue to line up by the thousands to serve as police officers or in the National Guard. Asked why he wants to serve when even signing up could be lethal, one recruit said, "If I don't join the army, who is going to defend the country from the terrorists?"
Iraq 's Port Authority has formed its own protection formation, the Rapid Intervention Force, to provide coastal security. Instructors from Jordan and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security trained 451 Iraqi students in a variety of classes to man the nation's borders.
Fifteen hundred recruits for the first three battalions of the Iraqi Police Service's Public Order Battalions are being trained to deal with large-scale public disturbances and insurgency incidents. The United States is working with NATO to train the Iraqi military.
The reconstruction effort is accelerating and Iraqis themselves are providing more direction and resources. Iraqi cabinet ministers have directed two billion dollars for reconstruction projects in four Iraqi cities: Tikrit, Kirkuk , Diyala and Suleimaniya.
Among the next round of projects financed from American, Iraqi and non-government sources, more than $900 million will go toward assisting in the building or renovating of 150 primary healthcare centers, 19 hospitals including a children's hospital in Basrah, and 1,200 schools including 16 new contemporary, secondary schools and five major Iraqi Ministry buildings.
Italy is funding reconstruction efforts in Nasiriya. In Baghdad , water sanitation is improving. Municipal authorities there signed a contract worth $260 million with a number of Western, Arab and local companies for the reconstruction of water, sewage, electricity and other city services.
An effort is underway to involve the private sector in the electricity industry. Iraq 's Ministry of Municipality and General Works has allocated $510 million for town planning throughout Iraq . The Egyptian government has offered its help and expertise to upgrade Iraq 's aging irrigation system.
A 25-member national Governing Council includes three women and Kurdish, Sunni, Christian, Turkmen, and Shi'ia representatives. The establishment of this body is a first and important move toward Iraqi self-government.
Plans for holding national elections in three months are on track. Prime Minister Allawi told Congress that elections could be held today in fifteen of Iraq 's eighteen projects. The European Union is spending $36 million in election preparations. The funds are being used for everything from training electoral officers to providing voter information. The U.S. State Department has launched a $10 million project to help more Iraqi women become involved in politics.
In education, old school textbooks from the Saddam era will no longer be used throughout the Iraqi education system and the Ministry of Education is currently printing 80 million copies of 600 new titles to be used in schools. "We want to have a real education, to be a progressive country. Education is very important to the reconstruction of our society. If you want to civilize society, you must care about education," Al Sa'ad Majid al Musowi, a businessman on Baghdad 's city council, told The Chicago Tribune last year.
The World Health Organization has allocated $41 million for school nutrition and early childhood care programs that will cover 1.7 million primary-school students. Eighty percent of Iraq 's several million students showed up for the first day of class.
The economy is following the same track. Traders work at the Baghdad Stock Exchange twice a week. In one four-hour trading session last month, more than 400 million shares were traded. This volume is nearly equal to pre-war levels. Opportunities abound for Iraqis to set up their own manufacturing companies to meet the demand for building materials. Iraqi authorities are considering a series of measures to encourage the growth of the private sector, such as low-interest start-up loans and tax breaks.
Trade between the United Arab Emirates and Iraq could reach $820 million by the end of the current year. Iraq is drafting plans to revamp the oil sector to maximize revenues and economic growth. The government is working with the private sector to modernize and expand air and rail travel.
I do not deny that challenges remain in Iraq and our fighting men and women face deadly attacks daily. But we cannot ignore the progress being made through the shared sacrifice of our allies for the cause of transforming Iraq .