Thursday, April 08, 2004

The grass is always greener....

Believe it or not, these signs are stuck in the dirt all over the Coalition Provisional Authority headquarters. (Is this why they call it the "Green Zone"?)

This picture and the following statements are taken from a blog, The View from Baghdad, written by a self-described Republican working for an international NGO in Baghdad, a person who's grown skeptical about just about everything there. I realize this is a long entry, but the thoughts expressed here are really quite compelling. I invite you to read them.

One entry earlier today was entitled, "I Reluctantly Join the Ranks of the Pessimists":

"The last email I received last night was one of my staff telling me he could no longer work for an American organization. The first phone call I received this morning was my good friend, Munqith Daghir, the top Iraqi pollster, telling me he has to cancel a meeting because of the security situation. He said that 25 of his relatives were killed in Fallujah overnight when a helicopter bombed their house.

I'm very afraid that the flood of images of Coalition killing Iraqis and the perceived neglect of Iraq's reconstruction, is going to combine to create a fundamental shift in public opinion, and convert the average Iraqi into an extremist - either political or religious."

This comment yesterday about the CPA is equally strong:

"I know lots of people at the CPA. 95% of them are well-meaning, and 75% of them are competent and 30% of them are pretty amazing people. Bremer, for instance, is one of the most hard-working, dedicated and smartest public figures I have met. I can say that for many of the top people I have encountered. However, CPA seems to be victim to an organizational inertia that overwhelms brilliance.

Part of it is completely out of the hands of anyone in Baghdad. There is a machine in Washington that spits out money, and nearly as I can tell it is completely arbitrary and sporadic in its functioning."

Finally, this entry from last Sunday, April 4th, under the title, "Disgusted:"

"If you have been reading, you know that I came over here because I thought that liberating the Iraqis and working to build the first democracy in the Middle East are the most important foriegn policy initiatives of a generation, and I wanted to be a part of it and make a difference.

I've been here since July of last year, and it has not all been a trip to Disneyland. One of the roughest points in my tenure here came about a month ago when my friend Fern Holland, her American colleague and her translator, Salwa Oumaishi were killed by renegade Iraqi cops. Salwa's sister worked for me, and I found myself thrust in the position of informing Salwa and her family, and subsequently acting as their advocate at the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Salwa and her family are the people we are here to help. Seven members of Salwa's family - sisters, uncles, cousins - work in some way for the Coalition Forces. They are proud to be working with us to liberate their people and build a democracy in Iraq.

For the past several weeks, I've been trying to figure out if Salwa's family is entitled to any benefits as a result of her death in the line of duty, aiding the Coalition Forces. Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), a large corporation heading up many of the logistical operations here, employed her in some fashion I was told (her family had no idea of her exact employment arrangements, as she spent all her days in a CPA office), and I was sent to KBR to talk to them about possible benefits.

The KBR official I was to meet didn't show for meetings on two different occassions. Yesterday, he finally decided to show up to talk to me.

I was told by him and his deputy that they had hired Salwa through a local Iraqi sub-contractor, and that organization would be responsible for any benefits. Then they told me that the head of that company had been arrested for an unknown reason, released and had probably skipped town.

They went on to tell me that KBR structures their hires to go through local sub-contractors so as to avoid liability in situations like this.

So KBR is actively structuring their organization to try to screw over Iraqis who risk, and in some cases give, their lives to help us in our efforts here.

If she was killed by Coalition Forces, my understanding is that she would be entitled to some $3000. But since she was killed working with the Coalition Forces, she gets nothing.

KBR, who has contracts in Iraq worth billions, is structuring their operations to save a few thousand dollars here and there by denying benefits to those Iraqis brave enough to work with us.

I left the meeting wanting to throw up."

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