Infrastructure Projects Changing Minds in East Baghdad
When Americans first rolled into Baghdad, Sadr City was called Saddam City. The area was a Shiia Arab stronghold, and not an area full of Saddam supporters. Raw sewage ran down the middle of the streets. The sewage contaminated the water coming into the homes. Residents, if they were lucky, got four hours a day of electricity and they hooked into the grid on their own; one block in eastern Sadr City was hooked to the grid by barbed wire.
Driving through Sadr City was an experience. Humvees were hub deep in raw sewage, and the smell was indescribable, [Lt. Col. Jamie] Gayton said.
Who are we to impose our values on a sovereign nation, anyway? Just because we don’t like raw sewage running in the streets of American cities doesn’t mean we should force others to give up raw sewage in theirs.
For sewage, 15 pumping stations were totally rebuilt, and dedicated power lines went to them. “They can now run 24 hours a day,” Gayton said. The lines themselves were blasted clean with high-pressure water, contractors repaired lines that had collapsed, and another project built three two-kilometer-long “force” lines. The forces lines push sewage to the main sewage disposal line.
Now there is no sewage in the streets of Sadr City. “This is a project that benefits everyone,” Gayton said. “Now, if it rains, it may still back up, but the infrastructure is in place to handle the load. The completed sewer projects ran $61.4 million.
The proper way to handle this would have been to wait for the locals to start their own sewage projects, then support them in their efforts, rather than blasting in and taking over. You cannot fight sewage with a tank or an air strike. You cannot fight a war on sewage.
Water is another area of improvement. The coalition has completed almost $20 million worth of water projects. The projects have upgraded the main networks in the city, and local contractors are now hooking up homes to the system. “This is new, because in the past, water didn’t go into the houses,” Gayton said. “You walked to a community spigot.”
The project places taps in each house. The homeowner can then hook up the water to an internal plumbing system.
Another project is building a large water treatment plant on the northern edge of the city and upgrading the water network to the rest of the city. Further, to tide the city over until the large water treatment plant goes online, the coalition has emplaced 27 compact water purification units. These units produce 15,000 liters of pure water a day, and the units are interspersed throughout the areas with no clean drinking water.
Again, what gives us the right to impose our system on those who don’t share our culture? We must be careful that so-called “clean drinking water” doesn’t offend the sensibilities of those who have lived their whole lives without it. Did anyone even bother asking the Iraqis if they even wanted this “clean drinking water” in their country? Can Arabs even grasp the concept of “clean drinking water”? This whole thing makes me think Rumsfeld hasn’t done his homework once again.
Electrical work continues in the city as well. The coalition has funded efforts to upgrade the network and tie homes into the electrical grid. In the past, homeowners tapped into the grid where they could. Gayton said these hook-ups resemble spaghetti, and he said he watched as one of the lines melted under a load of electricity. The coalition is providing the material for these upgrades, and the Baghdad electrical company is handling the installation. Electric projects are pegged at $139 million.
See? In the past, Iraqis could tap into the grid wherever they wanted. Now they’re being forced to submit to the US-imposed system of electricity redistribution. America has confiscated the barb wire of Iraq under the guise of an “improvement project”. This is just one example of the subtle colony-building of the US Hegemonic Empire.
The improvements include rebuilding hospitals, building and equipping clinics, rehabilitating schools, building a fire station and building a community center for the city. “All of these have an immediate impact on the community,” Gayton said. “And we can see a drop in the number of incidents since the projects have come on line.” Division officials said there has not been an improvised explosive device attack in Sadr City for months.
Sure there hasn’t. I’ve seen the headlines. Things are terrible in Iraq. Therefore, any good news from government sources must be a lie.
The process also has strengthened grassroots community groups. Gayton said he works all projects in conjunction with district advisory councils. “We sit with them and go over what they really need,” he said. “There is only one rule: everyone has to benefit from the project.”
The neighborhoods have learned to horse-trade among themselves for projects.
There you go. Playing one faction against another. Thus are sown the seeds of civil war.
But there is more to East Baghdad and Gayton’s area of responsibility than Sadr City. He has projects moving forward in Rustamiyah and in Salman Pak. The coalition is funding rehabilitation or emplacement of neighborhood sewer networks.
Remember the US Hegemonic Empire? If you don’t think it’s spreading, you’re kidding yourself. Pretty soon we’ll be hearing lies about how attacks in Rustamiyah and Salman Pak have dropped off, as well. Just wait.
Over the next month, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team is turning over responsibility to the 506th Brigade Combat Team. The 506th will inherit the projects and continue driving forward with them, Gayton said.
The irony here is delicious, isn’t it? The 506th’s greatest claim to fame is the “Band of Brothers” story. The unit was just recently re-activated. Now, a regiment with a proud history forged fighting yesterday’s Nazi is playing the role of iron-booted stormtrooper for today’s.
No wonder things are going so badly in Iraq.