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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

07 May 2004

Natsios Lists Accomplishments in Rebuilding Iraq

Op-ed column by USAID administrator

(This column by Andrew S. Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, was published in the New York Post May 7 and is in the public domain. No republication restrictions.)

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Iraq: Work To Be Proud Of
By Andrew S. Natsios

The last time I was in Iraq, I met with a delegation of graduate students from Baghdad's best universities. Two hours into the discussion, one student said something extraordinary to me. He likened us to "doctors" and Iraq to a "patient" who needed radical surgery: "You [Americans] have started the operation. We are on the operating table. You can't leave now. You've got to finish," he pleaded.

I let him know that the United States was committed to restoring Iraq to health and would stay through the period of convalescence.

As head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the agency at the forefront of reconstruction efforts, let me review what we've done in the first year.

USAID was charged with two essential tasks: humanitarian relief and reconstruction. Traditionally, it takes months to move from the humanitarian to the reconstruction phases of an intervention. We set out to do both at once. Careful planning and inter-agency coordination paid off. We worked closely with the military's civil affairs units and several key contractors and private relief groups and headed off the widely-predicted post-liberation humanitarian crisis.

We moved almost seamlessly to reconstruction. The need was enormous:

-- Our first priorities were water, sanitation, public health, essential services and infrastructure. Vast swathes of the country -- particularly in the largely Shia south -- were destitute. No new infrastructure had been built for more than a decade in the south, and very little basic maintenance had been done.

-- The draining of the southern marshlands was an ecological and human catastrophe, killing and sending hundreds of thousands into exile and destroying an immense and unique natural water filtration system, the fishing industry and water buffalo herds that provide dairy for the south.

-- Every statistical measurement of individual well-being dropped sharply in the last years of Saddam's rule. The data on infant mortality and maternal death rates, in female literacy and family income, in life expectancy, caloric intake, all pointed downward.

We've spent more than $3 billion so far -- a level of commitment not seen since the end of World War II and the Marshall Plan, to which USAID traces its origins.

Our accomplishments?

-- We have rehabilitated eight power plants and are installing three new ones. We are also replacing towers, stringing wires, rebuilding lines and installing new generators.

-- We have played a key role in restoring Iraq's transport and communication systems. Among other things, we have repaired the Baghdad airport and the country's deep-water port. We have rebuilt bridges, improved rail service and repaired the fiber optic network.

-- We expect child mortality and water-borne disease to drop sharply as a result of our commitment to repair and rehabilitate the water and sewerage system throughout the whole of the country. We are in the process of vaccinating 3 million Iraqi children. We are reequipping 600 health-care clinics, training doctors and nurses and distributing high-protein supplementary food rations to hundreds of thousands of pregnant and nursing mothers.

-- USAID has also helped uncover mass graves where as many as 400,000 Iraqi victims of Saddam's genocide campaigns lie buried. Hundreds of thousands of others, including untold numbers of children, died from deliberate neglect, indifference and politically motivated deprivation.

And we're helping the Iraqi Human Rights Association inventory the mass murder that took place under Saddam. A spokesman of the group put things very well when he said that what Iraq needs most of all is "not technicians and engineers" -- "but someone to rebuild our souls."

-- Which brings us to USAID's efforts to rehabilitate and restructure the Iraqi educational system so that it can shed the legacy of four decades of totalitarian rule and enter the ranks of the civilized world as a fully modern and productive nation.

-- We're also working to build democracy at the grassroots, empowering the many enlightened and talented people of Iraq, men and women, who were repressed and silenced under Ba'athist rule.

We have built local governments throughout the country, so they can deliver the essential services a modern Iraq needs. Our efforts have resulted in the formation of councils in 16 governates, 78 districts, 192 cities and sub-districts and 392 neighborhoods representing 80 percent of the country's population.

We've got a lot yet to do -- but what USAID's dedicated workers have achieved so far, sometimes at considerable personal risk, should be a source of pride for every American.

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(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

This page printed from: http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2004&m=May&x=20040507173327xjsnommis0.6444666&t=livefeeds/wf-latest.html

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