As the world awaits Gen. David Petraeus’ progress report on President Bush’s troop surge, even war critics concede that deploying 30,000 additional GIs has improved Iraq’s security. Largely overlooked, however, is how increased safety has helped U.S. soldiers and contractors rebuild the country’s physical and institutional infrastructure.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) has performed much of the Pentagon’s $11.4 billion in reconstruction. So far, it has concluded 3,014 of 3,387 planned projects. The ACE’s Web site (www.grd.USACE.army.mil) highlights most of the details and comments cited here.
– While terrorists blasted holes in highways and water pipes, America has paved 38 new roads. Once 41 total projects are done, Iraqis will ride 265 miles of fresh thoroughfares. Already, 3.1 million Iraqis enjoy 142 million new gallons of purified water daily. Eventually, 300 million such gallons will flow daily to 5.2 million Iraqis, some of whom routinely fill buckets at distant wells.
The ACE announced Wednesday that it completed a $266 million facility to bring drinking water to 500,000 Iraqis in southern Dhi Qar province. This should combat water-borne diseases that often kill children up to age 5.
– While Islamofascists built roadside bombs, car bombs and bomb vests, America stayed busy building or rehabilitating 77 primary health-care centers and 16 hospitals, through Aug. 20. Eventually, GIs will have finished work on 142 primary-care centers and 25 hospitals to serve up to 6.5 million Iraqis.
“In my opinion,” said one Iraqi project engineer who helped the ACE construct four hospitals in southern Maysan province, “providing these new and additional medical services will help reduce the infant mortality rate of the area.”
– While Muslim radicals deliberately machine-gunned boys and girls on school buses, U.S. troops through Aug. 29 had renovated or built 810 schools, supplying classrooms for 324,000 students. As part of a $1 million effort, the ACE last month finished rebuilding a soccer field, cafeteria, plumbing and air conditioning at the student center of Baghdad’s Mustansiriya University, founded in 1234 A.D.
– While fanatic Muslims kidnapped Iraqi women for arranged marriages, American forces have helped female Iraqis thrive in engineering, business and law enforcement.
The ACE encourages Iraqi women to participate in training and networking seminars for entrepreneurs who hope to bid on construction contracts. Among 40 companies at one such event in July, 10 were women-owned.
“Women are a part of this society and together everyone who had an unfair chance during the last regime can now take advantage of their new opportunities within our new country,” said an Iraqi businesswoman named Luma.
Meanwhile, the ACE is erecting a three-story facility for female cops in An Najaf province.
“The objective for building the $134,000 female-training police station is to help advise, organize and train Iraqi female officers on basic infantry tactics, from squad to battalion level, to further enhance the Iraqi police stations,” said Army Lt. Col. Jan Carter.
“As an Iraqi woman, I wish I could see more changes in the Iraqi community,” one female cop remarked. “I joined the Iraqi army to participate in the noble mission of restoring security in Iraq. I want to see all the Iraqi people happy and living in peace.”
– Through July, America had spent $435 million on 404 Iraqi security and justice facilities including 154 border forts, 91 police stations, 32 courthouses and four major prisons.
Of course, these are more than just Iraqi pork-barrel projects. These concrete baby steps forward after 35 years of Baathist tyranny are drawing Iraqi hearts and minds toward America. U.S. efforts increasingly counteract the frustration Ahmed Raja Al Assan expressed in a Wednesday dispatch by a Pentagon public-affairs specialist, Sgt. Mike Pryor.
“The terrorists are trying to kill us, kill our families,” Al Assan said. “We want to fight back.”
“A key aspect of U.S. counterinsurgency strategy is to provide security, then basic services as soon as possible, while there is a strategic window in which we can prove our worth to the local public,” says Pete Hegseth, an Army reserve officer who served 11 months in Baghdad and Samarra and now leads Vets for Freedom (www.vetsforfreedom.org). “It’s one thing to kick out the bad guys,” Hegseth tells me. “It’s another to prove that we are better.”
Bush’s troop surge is helping America deliver that proof.
(New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. E-mail him at deroy.murdock(at)gmail.com.)