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Americans Help to Rebuild Mosul University Book Collection

By Pfc. Chris Jones, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

MOSUL, Iraq, Oct. 20, 2003 – A book drive spurred by Company A, 501st Signal Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) [] led to the donation of 1,200 textbooks and novels to Mosul University, a school which had many books destroyed under the censorship of the former regime.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Iraqis look over books donated to Mosul University in an effort coordinated by the Army's 501st Signal Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Army photo by Pfc. Chris Jones
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

While at Mosul University on a project to restore a computer lab, Capt. James Riley, Company A commander, met with a professor, and they discussed the possibility of rebuilding the school's library. Riley then called his former college, Vermont's Norwich University, and spoke with the school's president, Dr. Richard Schneider.

In a matter of days, Schneider started a book drive that had citizens of central Vermont flooding the mail system with books on science, history, philosophy, psychology, computer science and economics, as well as a few novels.

"The response was overwhelming," Riley said. "[Vermont] libraries, schools and bookstores all pitched in." Riley and his team began boxing and categorizing the books.

"The military facilitated this," Riley said during the presentation ceremony Oct. 16, "but this came from American citizens helping Iraqi citizens educators in America helping educators in Iraq."

Many of the books in the university were destroyed or heavily censored, Riley said. "You'd see a lot of books that asked, 'If Saddam has five apples and he loses two, how many apples does the great Saddam have left? (Iraqis) didn't really want to read those anymore," Riley said.

Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, 101st commander, presented Dr. Jazeel al-Jomard, Mosul University vice chancellor, with an economics book. Petraeus, once an assistant economics professor at the U.S. Military Academy, said he hopes to one day see a thriving, completely self-reliant Iraq.

"I present this economics book to vice chancellor al-Jomard with hopes that the Iraqi people will grow to prosperity," Petraeus said. "This country is blessed with great resources. Now with new books come new possibilities."

Accepting the textbook, al-Jomard said, "We want our university to be independent and powerful. Soon, we are going to start a new future, and we will never forget who backed us up. We will never forget what our friends have given us."

According to Petraeus, 900 more books will arrive soon from a university in Wisconsin.

"I hope (Iraqis) can find some truth in these books, some history they probably didn't see before," Riley said. "They've been fed a view of the Americans, westerners and others outside their little area that probably wasn't altogether accurate."

(Army Pfc. Chris Jones is assigned to the 40th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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