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Election in Sadr City Goes Smoothly

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

SADR CITY, Iraq, Dec. 15, 2005 – In April 2004, this section of Baghdad exploded. Troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division found themselves in a fight against a Shiia militia.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
View of Sadr City, Iraq, in the days preceding the Dec. 15 countrywide parliamentary elections. Sadr City, part of the East Baghdad area, is home to about 2.6 million people. U.S. Army photo

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

Men carrying rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 assault rifles challenged the Bradley fighting vehicles, Abrams tanks and the dismounted soldiers who fought through this crowded section of the city.

Fast-forward to December 2005, and the Americans are greeted as friends, and residents go out of their way to compliment the members of the Iraqi security forces for the roles they played in bringing democracy to Iraq.

Election day in Sadr City was a resounding success, with no incidents in the crowded area of 2.6 million people, 3rd Infantry Division officials said.

"Things have gone very smoothly. We have had great cooperation between the Iraqi police and the army," said a representative of the Sadr City District Advisory Council. He was speaking with Army Col. Joseph Di Salvo, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team. Di Salvo leads the coalition effort in East Baghdad, of which Sadr City is a part.

And it wasn't just the security effort that made the election a success. "Look around you; the people are being very cooperative too," Dr. Muhammad, another councilman, said. "The people have opened their homes to the police, soldiers and election workers."

Thousands of voters already had streamed through the school before Di Salvo arrived. Officials said that people arrived early to vote, including many older residents and those with infirmities. They said the police were "flexible and helpful" in their efforts to help all residents vote.

Dr. Muhammad said the residents of Sadr City looked on the election "as a feast, and we add it to the list of holy days we have throughout the year. We celebrate."

The councilmen all agreed that Sadr City has turned a corner. A large part of that is due to the hundreds of projects the coalition has sponsored in the city. Under Saddam Hussein, sewage ran in the streets, electricity ran for maybe four hours a day, water was contaminated with the sewage, and medical care was essentially nonexistent.

The coalition has cleaned and repaired the sewer system and installed dedicated electric lines to the pumping plants to ensure the sewers continue to work. They have rewired much of the city and, when terrorists stop blowing up the pylons getting electricity to Baghdad, citizens will have safe power in their homes. Most residents of the city have safe, clean drinking water and coalition contracts are rebuilding hospitals and clinics throughout the city.

"But the big accomplishment is what happened here today," Di Salvo said to the councilmen. "The brave people of Sadr City have defied the terrorists and come to vote."

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