Democracy on March in Iraq, CPA Chief Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 5, 2003 "Democracy is on the march in this country," Paul Bremer said during a press conference here today, "and it's on the march at the grassroots level where it really matters."
Bremer is the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority. He escorted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on a tour of U.S. bases in northern Iraq. Rumsfeld and his party visited Tikrit and Mosul.
The coalition has set four priorities for Iraq: first, to restore security in the country; second, to restore essential services water, power, health care; third, to begin the process toward a free-market economy; and fourth, to move toward Iraqi self-government.
Even in the toughest area of the country there is progress, Bremer said. Tikrit was the home of Saddam Hussein. It is one of the angles of the Baathist Triangle that runs from the suburbs of Baghdad to Tikrit and down to Ar Ramadi. Some 80 percent of the attacks on coalition forces occur in this area. Even in this hotbed of support for the former regime, there is progress. The Tikritis have elected a city council that works with the coalition forces. Tips are coming in from Iraqis pointing out arms caches and dangerous individuals. Power, water and sewage projects are under way in the area.
The4th Infantry Division the most modern division in the U.S. Army is responsible for the region.
About 2,800 separate reconstruction projects are going on in the division's area, all geared toward helping the Iraqi people by rebuilding schools, digging wells, repairing roads and making other infrastructure improvements.
In the Mosul area, even more progress is apparent. The city the third largest in Iraq is the responsibility of the 101st Airborne Division. With equal Arab and Kurd representation, the Mosul city council was the first elected in the country with an Arab as mayor and a Kurdish deputy mayor. During the Rumsfeld-Bremer visit, the party drove from the local airport to the city hall. It passed through a busy, crowded market, greeted only by waves from the people. "It could be just about any city in the Middle East," said a CPA official.
Beyond that, 85 percent of the towns in Iraq now have elected councils. In July the Iraqi Governing Council was formed, and last week it appointed Iraqi ministers to run the executive branch of government. The ministers are, in effect, a cabinet.
The authority has spent more than $30 million on small-scale projects, Bremer said. "We are rebuilding 1,000 schools between now and when school opens in October," he said. "We have got all 240 hospitals in this country working, and 90 percent of all clinics working. All of the universities finished the school year. And all of this happened in five or six weeks in April and May."
But much remains to be done and it will be expensive. "In terms of spending, our major needs are to restore essential services," Bremer said. "Because this country's infrastructure was underinvested, because this country's capital was stolen and put in places like this (palace), because this country spent 10 times as much on the military, there is no reliable infrastructure here."
The United Nations estimates it will cost $16 billion over the next four years just to rebuild the water infrastructure to "marginally acceptable" levels, Bremer said. "At the time of the war, only 7 percent of the population of this country had access to sewage treatment," he said. "We are going to have to spend, according to my engineers, $13 billion in the next five years on power."
Saddam's neglect of the power system meant that Iraq did not have enough power even before the war. "In many ways, if we had come here March 19 without a war, we would still face many of the same economic problems we face now."
Bremer said the damage to the infrastructure is not the result of the war or even of U.N. sanctions. "It is the result of the colossal mismanagement of the great resources of this country," he said.
The money for these projects can come from donor nations, the U.N. oil-for-food program, frozen regime accounts, "found" money or from the sale of oil once that industry gets back on its feet, he said. "This is a rich country which is temporarily poor," Bremer said. "We have a goal of getting back to the pre- war maximum oil production level of 3 million barrels a day by October 2004."
If that goal is achieved, it will cover the cost of some of these programs, but capital expenditures will have to come from other countries, Bremer added.
Progress also is being made with a dramatic growth in Iraqi security forces. In addition to the 160,000 coalition troops (about 140,000 Americans and 20,000 from other countries), there are between 55,000 and 60,000 Iraqis providing security for pipeline, electrical lines, police work, for the borders and so on.
And Bremer said the number will grow, with 90,000 to 100,000 Iraqis in the various security organizations in a year as a reasonable expectation. This would come down to an Iraqi army of about 40,000, doubling the police force to 75,000, and bringing the Iraqi Civil Defense Force to a total of 18 battalions. In addition, Bremer said he expects the Iraqi border guard to jump from 2,500 today to 25,000 by the end of 2004.
All of these projections are estimates, and officials in the country say that change is inevitable. The road could be tougher than expected and changes could take longer and cost more. It could get easier, in which case the road may be traveled faster and with less of a toll, but change is coming, Bremer said. The coalition, he added, has the will to see things through.