Thursday, June 02, 2005

Rebuilding in Fallujah

During the battle for Falljuah, the ongoing cry from the more leftward leaning side of the political spectrum was the usual reliving of the Vietnam war. Our troops were simply driving in there and levelling everything, they said. They were conviced, at the time, that we'd go in there, kill everything that moved, make sure that no 2 stones stood on one another and then head back out, never looking back. The city was painted as a wonderful, happy, pristine place where children played and young lovers walked hand-in-hand in the moonlight, careless except for each other. Of course, the reality was that the place was a crumbling rathole under Saddam's regime and a murderously dangerous crumbling rathole under the terrorists who flocked there under Al Zarqawi. The media was positively bursting at the seams with stories about how massively destructive American forces were in the fighting with special note made of any tanks firing into buildings. Within hours, the media was proclaiming Fallujah "destroyed" with dire predictions of recovery taking years, if possible at all.

Micheal Fumento is an embedded reporter with 2nd Marine Expeditionary Unit in Fallujah and has an eyewitness account of the rebuilding efforts there and the very positive reactions from the citizenry.

::::::::As I traveled through the slowly repopulating city — about half of the original 250,000 are believed to have returned — I saw awesome scenes of destruction. But I also saw thriving markets, stores selling candy and ice cream, and scores of children delighted to see Americans. I did more waving than the beauty queen in the 4th of July parade and the kids squealed with delight when I took their picture.

“We’re mostly known for killing the bad guys” says Lt. Col. Harvey Williams, a reserve officer with the Marine 5th Civil Affairs Group. But killing alone can’t defeat the insurgency. Win over the populace or lose the war.

Williams and the 5th CAG is in charge of rebuilding the city in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers. He shows the value of drawing on a rich pool of reservists in that prior to be being called up he worked for General Electric, installing new power plants throughout the U.S.

Restoring and expanding access to electricity is top priority here, more so than access to running water because Iraqis pump water up from the mains to tanks on their roof. No electricity, no working pumps.

Williams and his counterpart at the Corp of Engineers, Maj. Daniel Hibner, don’t have the simple goal of restoring prewar Iraq. “The baseline is crappy so why go back to that?” says Williams. “We did do some damage but the repairs are taking these people far beyond where they were.”

The goals are ambitious but they’re being met. All of Fallujah is scheduled to have electricity by January 2006. The Marines have the responsibility for bringing power to the pole, while the Iraqis take it from the pole into homes and shops.

Progress on the potable water situation is moving even faster, he says and the rebuilding efforts are employing the locals, who are very happy with their well-paying jobs. The Marines are impressed with the Iraqis' engineering skills and are encouraging them to do more. That's the whole point: to give them the ownership of their future. Progress, though far from well-reported, is being made at a good pace.

Hat tip: Michelle Malkin