Perception and Reality in Iraq
“Nothing’s changed,” maintained Hamdi Abdul Rahim, a senior engineer at the grain processing plant next to the port. “There has been no improvement,” said Saddam Abdul Karim, an accountant for an import-export company. “Just maintenance. That’s all they did,” said Falah Habsi, a director general at the Iraqi Transportation Ministry who is charge of reconstruction projects.
After billions of dollars of Iraqi money and foreign aid have been spent and thousands of consultants brought in, the Coalition Provisional Authority can point to a long list of tangible accomplishments. But occupation officials say one of the biggest challenges they have had to confront is convincing Iraqis that the right things are being done for their country — and for the right reasons.
According to occupation and Iraqi ministry officials, telephone access is now 20 percent greater than before the war, thanks to a new cellular network. For the first time in years, schoolchildren have received new math and science textbooks, about 60 million of them. Water and sewage treatment plants that in the recent past have done little to contain the spread of disease are being repaired. Provincial cities that were once without power 24 hours a day are now receiving some electricity. Wages have increased tenfold or more for some government workers. And a in poll released this week by ABC News, most Iraqis interviewed said their lives had improved since before the war.
Yet Peter Bingham, the Coalition Provisional Authority’s senior adviser on maritime issues, said it may take years before the full value of the work that has been done becomes clear to Iraqis. He said an overhaul was necessary to rid the country of the favoritism, corruption and dependence on the state that dominated life during President Saddam Hussein’s rule.
Interesting. Still, it should be no surprise that the Iraqi people aren’t fully appreciating the progress being made, given that we haven’t managed to communicate most of this to our own public.