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  • John Patten
    Jun 2, 2004
      Hi folks,

      I have been receiving more unsolicited papers,
      letters, snippets from various friends of friends of
      cousin�s workmates, regarding how we should be
      cheerleading Bush and his decisions in Iraq. I guess
      we�re all on email lists and addressbooks in one form
      or another. So of course I had to respond and write to
      many sitting on the fence. If I don�t, the pressure in
      my head gets above 40 p.s.i and may explode, and I
      just had the tan carpets cleaned. So please delete if
      your tired of it, I get tired of myself, but I�m back
      down to a normal 28 p.s.i., so that�s something.

      It�s no secret I�m not a big fan of Bush, I really
      think he needs to go, but also know a lot of good work
      goes on by talented people within the current
      government, armed forces, embassies and consulates,
      etc. I do think he has compromised that though and was
      the point of my letter and response. While German
      protestor marches comparing Bush to Hitler are a bit
      disingenuous, My Uncle wrote back with a quote from
      said madman, �What luck for rulers that men do not
      think.� It may be preaching to the choir here, but
      there was no �sitting on the fence lobby� with their
      own web-blog to write to, so I had to send it
      somewhere due to previous said p.s.i. issue. Feel free
      to circulate it if you also get adverts from the
      rah-rah lobby.

      These missives should die off soon, as I just got a
      good job back in Afghanistan and should be leaving in
      a couple of months as soon as (or if) security
      clearances go through. I will try not to get shot in
      the spleen or appear on CBS as an underfed hostage,
      but I can�t promise anything as I will probably be in

      Cathy and Don, just back from Kruger, will give
      details soon. Additionally, I saw a monkey.


      �The difference between me and the Surrealists is that
      I am a Surrealist.� Salvatore Dali

      �Don�t call me, I�ll call you.� Nelson Mandela,
      announcing his retirement from public life, June 1,


      Dear Friends,

      As I was forwarded the unsolicited email below
      regarding the Iraq situation I feel compelled and
      within my right to respond to it. Especially since it
      tries to influence your political thought. For me it
      illustrates part of the problem with our involvement
      in Iraq and the disturbing American tendency to rally
      around cheerleading for our country and leaders
      without critical thought or having a grasp of the real
      context of such situations, ironically lobbied for by
      the writer of the letter. While I do applaud her
      commitment to service, and friends would probably say
      she is a special person, I have to argue on the
      points. If we want to talk about facts, then let�s do
      it and be thoughtful about it.

      I am an American and have lived, worked or traveled in
      25 countries now, so I feel I can speak to the poor
      perception of us around the world, and the poor
      decisions which put us there. If it does not concern
      you, it should, because it is affecting you now
      already. I also spent a year and a half in
      post-Taliban Afghanistan. I will be returning shortly
      with the U.S. Govt. to advise on appropriate actions
      needed to be taken there on the humanitarian side. I
      was going to Iraq until the security situation became
      untenable for humanitarian agencies, especially for
      Americans. My former American housemates from
      Afghanistan have been in Basra and Baghdad for the
      past year (since evacuated), so while I would respect
      the writer for pointing out that she is living in the
      situation, I am privy to information and have been in
      contact with numerous individuals in the field there,
      who have a much different take on the situation. A
      civilian stationed on a military air base and working
      for the Department of Defense is by definition living
      in an insular security environment. Access to host
      country nationals in these situations is also mostly
      contact with the elites and educated of the
      population, with a financial stake in dealing with the
      foreigners. That is hardly a big picture view of the
      overall context.

      I commiserate with the writer on news reporting and
      that was certainly my experience and that of my
      colleagues in Afghanistan. Journalists love to stand
      in front of burning tanks and screaming mothers, but
      never seem to get out into the villages to access the
      real situation, as my experience was they were more
      concerned with their own standing within their
      organizations, and where they could smell awards (a
      cold dawn rises over the war-torn city!). As I live in
      South Africa now I mostly have access to other world
      news agencies that do a better job or reporting world
      issues. When I do see American news stations on the
      satellite I am appalled at their sheer simplistic
      approach and the absence of other vital stories that
      have context broadcast on the non-American stations.
      Your news there is formulaic to the point of �6:30-
      one minute sound-bite treatments of major world
      issues, 6:40- local domestic American stories, human
      interest story scheduled for 6:50 pm, usually about
      healthcare, drug prices or obesity, use anecdotal one
      man on the street interview, wrap up with brief,
      non-contextual inflammatory story to get your anger
      up, or cute animal story for the closing. Intersperse
      with commercials longer than the actual stories
      regarding every over-the-counter stomach gas or
      allergy remedy.� How is any American supposed to have
      an informed opinion anymore? The ability of American
      voter opinion and polls to be manipulated by short
      news clips, a speech, USA Today, or nods to patriotism
      is extremely disturbing to me.

      That is where I diverge from the writer. I felt in no
      sense does her letter �set the record straight.� These
      are complex political issues that can be diverted over
      talk of how many structures are built or increasing
      numbers of children in school, especially when it is
      solely from a perspective of what our military are
      doing, and the camaraderie created in such
      environments. While I am sure that good work is being
      done, including that which the writer stated,
      statistics do not really tell much of the story.


      I challenge the figure of �95%� of Iraqis wanting us
      there. Based on what measure? Maybe they would have
      had the situation been handled correctly from the
      start. But it wasn�t, and that is not the experience
      of my friends working there or by any reasonable means
      of polling the Iraqis themselves. They did not ask for
      this nor want the present situation, as they are more
      insecure now. All the talk now is of future
      �potential,� years down the road, something you were
      not sold. The administration had different rhetoric
      before the war if anyone even remembers that now.
      There has been massive impact on humanitarian agencies
      there, which were doing good work and have since had
      to evacuate their staffs from the country. That means
      that many meaningful and necessary projects cannot go
      forward, by agencies that were more involved with and
      had better understanding of the local context than the
      military actors, in addition to helping more people.
      Simple donations often do more harm than good, for
      complex reasons beyond the scope of this letter,
      which, brace yourself, I can see is already going to
      be way too long. But I�m rolling now. Previously
      peaceful areas like Basra, which are no longer, saw a
      cleric largely discredited by the local people, but
      who is now gaining supporters through U.S. actions.
      Many of the decisions taken by us have been tailor
      made for recruitment of people sitting on the fence.

      Long before the war in Iraq started last year, many of
      us in the humanitarian community in Afghanistan
      discussed and already knew there was no way they were
      not going in with military force. We could have
      written the calendar exactly as it has transpired to
      this point. With six months to go you see what
      milestones will need to be taken care of to reach your
      objective and push forward your agenda at all costs,
      i.e. how will you position yourself and manipulate
      information to insure you can overcome the UN, world
      opinion, domestic pressure, and sort out Congress. See
      how to amplify your points and minimize, divert, or
      outright ignore weak points. I�m surprised anybody
      found it surprising or thought there would be a last
      minute reprieve. We do not mobilize hundreds of
      thousands of troops and military hardware without
      using them. The pressure, financial, and political
      stake is too great. We knew the war would be over
      quickly. We also knew however why a year later we are
      faced with the current problems. The fact that it
      caught the Bush administration by surprise is
      dumbfounding. It means that he did not understand the
      context of the situation or the people there, which
      seemed to be apparent to many others in that context
      and around the world, or have a coherent plan to win
      the peace. It is patently obvious this was for a
      political agenda. Iraqi �freedom� is a secondary
      smokescreen. As long as it fit into our larger
      objectives, then fine. When they got caught out, they
      arrogantly derided dissenting opinion, thinking all
      the while that �now that we�re into it, people should
      come on board.� That I�m sure was actually said. There
      never was any real discourse on the issue, just
      manipulation. They think we�re stupid. Many are, or
      just do not care enough to challenge anything.

      I think the two most important jobs of a President are
      to keep your country out of war and address and follow
      sound economic policy. Bush has failed on both counts,
      and unnecessarily so. We are now more than 500 billion
      dollars in debt, with that debt rising rapidly. That
      will effect you in one form or another. The same
      manipulation occurred with the funding issue. First
      you say there will be sacrifice necessary, but we
      should be able to complete the task with 82 billion of
      YOUR tax dollars. When congress approves, wait a bit,
      then state, �Circumstances have changed, we need to
      approve additional funding.� The fact that this is so
      transparent is almost less of an issue than how
      Americans repeatedly buy it. As an aside, if you think
      your gas bill, double what it was before Bush, is not
      a result of the climate of fear and distrust he has
      created, then you really are not in tune with the
      issues. The industry is able to play on this,
      justified or not, and it is currently threatening the
      larger world economy.

      Words mean something. Every action by our country has
      a consequence, and almost universally, unintended
      consequences will occur. In this case they have more
      often been negative, with the possibilities not fully
      evaluated by our current administration beforehand.
      George Bush said he doesn�t do �nuance.� IT�S ALL
      NUANCE! Real leaders know this. His position means he
      can�t be bothered with trivial things like thinking.
      There is good reason more than 50 high level U.S.
      diplomats (i.e. Ambassadors and career diplomats that
      understand implications of foreign policy) have sent
      an open letter to Bush critical of his misguided and
      ad hoc policies. It has the feeling of making it up as
      they go to react to crises, not implement long-term
      strategic plans (he has also used the ad hoc approach
      to domestic economics such as the steel tariffs which
      had to be quickly repealed. It illustrates his
      inability to make appropriate decisions, which are
      more often based on political expediency. Did you know
      the dollar has lost 40% to most world currencies in
      the past year? Does that not disturb you? It should.
      By the way, are we still going to Mars?). There is
      also discord between agencies and Bush�s own staff. I
      have had discussions with a friend and colleague
      formerly in the Reagan administration regarding the
      approach taken by high level officials currently,
      people he is also highly critical of. Especially
      Rumsfeld, a big mistake on many levels. Please do not
      confuse necessary decisive leadership with making
      reactionary decisions in the absence of real and
      critical evaluation, with no regard for consequences.
      Bush has demonstrated that he was not prepared for
      decisions that arose due to his original policy.

      What prompted me to really write this letter is the
      disturbing final passage below, along with the
      previous necessary American emotive line thrown in
      about the tear-filled man shaking her hand. I�m sure
      he does not cry for the same reasons of the other 42
      million people:

      �I've met some wonderful soldiers serving in Iraq. As
      a nation, we should all be proud and supportive of the
      mission Operation Iraqi Freedom. I believe President
      Bush is doing a fantastic job because I know he's
      acting on information briefed him. If this is
      sometimes incorrect or omissions are committed, that
      is not his fault. I believe in my job, my country, and
      I want my grandchildren to always be able to enjoy
      their freedoms. That's why I'm going back.�

      This briefly sums up everything wrong with our foreign
      policy, and the ease to which American public opinion
      can be manipulated. I will address the points:

      1. Yes there are some very good soldiers doing a good
      job with the context and orders presented them. I have
      often defended them to the European NGOs and people
      that do not see as well what our embassies and
      diplomatic efforts do in a positive sense for people
      around the world. But soldiers are not the issue and
      we have to make a distinction between supporting
      people just trying to do their best given the
      situation, within the context and political leadership
      (there are also many vocal soldiers there that do not
      think they should be there, something overlooked by
      the writer). They are not the decision makers and
      should stay in the role of soldiering, and only when
      absolutely necessary. They do a lot that unfortunately
      is overshadowed by the stupid way this arrogant
      administration has squandered political capital and
      goodwill from other countries around the world,
      actually INCREASED our insecurity, cultivated more
      terrorism, encouraged hostility towards Americans that
      I deal with every day overseas, encouraged a lack of
      diplomacy, decreased adherence to and respect for the
      law on the part of other nations, harmed the economy,
      decreased our travel, security, investment and work
      options, and decreased our long-term economic and
      political aspirations, something that will take years
      to rectify, and ironically, have decreased our ability
      to enjoy our freedom. The issue IS the political
      context and our leadership. We spent two years on
      Clinton for lying, for what? That he didn�t want his
      wife to find out he was getting some on the side. And
      we impeached him for that, despite the fact we had a
      surplus since long gone, economic prosperity, and
      goodwill and standing in the world, even if I could
      argue with some of his decisions. Yet you were lied to
      about why we are at a major war, our guys are dying,
      our economy has gone down, the world hates us, it has
      effected our options, and there is less questioning on
      this? Are you serious? Are you not concerned the world
      hates us or even question why? Where are the
      priorities? A South African diplomat was recently
      kidnapped in Malaysia because they �thought he was
      American.� Other world travelers have been stopped in
      places by militants �looking for Americans.� That
      should concern you. Fighting terrorism cannot be done
      by emotional rhetoric and force alone.
      What the writer also does not realize is that use of
      military for humanitarian interventions can be very
      destructive to the climate of alleviating human
      suffering, the primary goal of any such intervention.
      It should be done in a neutral way, without political
      consideration, to those who are most needy. However,
      it has become politicized, and local people on the
      ground in any context are now confusing humanitarian
      and military agencies, a dangerous development that
      has led to increased targeting of humanitarians and
      less people receiving aid as a result of evacuations.
      It has become a very big issue, the protecting of
      humanitarian space. Soldiers doing a specific military
      duty, with limited knowledge of larger context due to
      the nature of their positions, should not be passing
      out books at elementary schools! When militants see
      this it is not a far stretch to start throwing
      grenades over the wall at the ICRC compound, which
      does happen. To illustrate my point, in emergency
      contexts the military often drops yellow food packages
      (that previously looked the same as cluster bombs)
      that are a useless untargeted aid strategy that is
      strictly for PR. Aid like this does not go to the most
      needy, or last past one day. That was not a strategy
      at all and it should be left to agencies that have the
      knowledge and experience. Also, another incident
      occurred today in Afghanistan with the targeting and
      killing of MSF workers. "We did it," said Haji Latif
      Hakimi, who claims to represent the Taliban. "We
      killed them because they worked for the Americans
      against us using the cover of aid work. We will kill
      more foreign aid workers," he told Reuters in Herat,
      the western city located some 75 miles west of Qadis.
      Military can contribute a lot to the security
      situation and logistically, but have taken over
      primary roles in aid, an enterprise that they are not
      really suited. There is currently no room in Iraq for
      the appropriate humanitarian agencies to operate.
      I am an American, and my opinion is just as valid as
      any of you and any military personnel. Like half of
      the U.S. population I do not have to support the
      administration, its actions, or the ongoing state of
      affairs simply because we were manipulated enough to
      the point where they are there now, we should support
      them. The administration counted on you to do that. I
      state categorically I did not support the Iraq action.
      It was wrong, based on lies, manipulative, illegal,
      diminished our world standing, and has absolutely ZERO
      to do with our freedom. It is shameful it has been
      manipulated as such. This is not similar to WWII. And
      don�t talk to me about the removal of Saddam Hussein.
      I would have put a bullet in his head myself. Iraq had
      no bearing whatsoever on our security previously, but
      it unfortunately does now. This elective action may
      endanger us from going into a situation where it
      genuinely is in the interest of our national security.

      If the standard simplistic American response is for
      someone to write to me and say well move to another
      country if you don�t like it, as often happens with
      someone that has a differing opinion, I can say I have
      little patience or tolerance for that. I�ve done a lot
      of work for my country, hopefully for the original and
      true values of what it used to stand for, not the
      lies, and do not tolerate anyone questioning my love
      of my country, or that I unquestioningly support our
      govt. because they know best, right? We are the
      government. Or at least are supposed to be in this
      democracy, er, I mean republic. I love it enough to
      say we are going down the wrong road. I have been held
      against my will at gunpoint in the mountains of
      northern Afghanistan. I actually supported our
      intervention there. However, the �my country right or
      wrong� argument and blind faith in misguided leaders
      is dangerous and has denigrated what our country
      stands for. This kind of disingenuous, unquestioning
      and misguided nationalism needs to die this century
      (the world over really) if we are to regain our place
      in a genuine leadership role in the eyes of other
      countries. We got strong through many appropriate
      decisions and values to get us there, but run the risk
      of moving backward now. Argue with me on the facts,
      but be assured I do not scare easily living in
      Johannesburg. I am here to chew bubblegum and kick
      ass. And I�m all out of bubblegum! 

      Other countries cannot fight us militarily. But what
      they can do is have a policy of non-cooperation. Many
      are currently looking for better economic prospects
      elsewhere, especially in regards to currency and stock
      markets, and are starting to employ emotional
      avoidance. i.e. �we can�t stand your arrogance and
      lack of diplomacy, so we will deal with someone else
      now.� The Roman Empire died out, as did the Ottomans,
      the British, and many others. We do not live in a
      vacuum and do not have carte blanche to do whatever we
      want in the world simply because we are currently
      strong. The arrogance and short-sightedness of this
      kind of thinking seemed the cycle of other empires,
      even if ours does not fit the definition, or has more
      an economic base. Can you imagine where we will be in
      2050? It�s not so far away. There are well over
      three-hundred other countries in the world that also
      influence our place in the world, but most Americans
      pay passing lip service to that or really just do not
      care, we�re just trained to say we�re the best without
      thinking very much about it. What other countries are
      actually starting to say now is that they cannot
      believe much of what we say, even when it is benign or
      actually true. We cannot talk of human rights without
      following our own standards. Nobody is going to
      believe us or take us seriously. There cannot be
      different standards for different people in the world.
      We have lost our credibility. That is dangerous for

      I do not agree with the liberal doomsayers either, but
      I think what can happen over time if we let people
      like these run our country is a gradual erosion of our
      influence in the world, our economic prospects, our
      opportunities, our civility, our quality of life, and
      our real values. If I lived in Europe I probably
      wouldn�t want to deal with us either. We will even
      reap blame that really was not even our fault, as it
      will be more convenient to scapegoat the U.S. It may
      be so gradual that you do not even see the tangible
      change. Then the people always screaming �We�re number
      one!� will be talking to themselves. Our grandchildren
      may not enjoy the same freedoms we currently enjoy, as
      there will be increased pressure (as is happening now)
      for more security measures and restrictions, caused by
      current policy, to further �protect� our freedom.
      Pretty warped. We have a great country, but we need to
      take our country back.

      2. President Bush is not doing a �fantastic job�. I
      believe he will go down in history as doing more
      overall harm to our country politically and
      economically than any president in the past half
      century. He is certainly the most polarizing and
      short-sighted, but my own belief is that he is the
      worst President we have had in my lifetime, on many
      levels. Even conservatives in his own party are
      concerned about his conduct. The confusion and climate
      of fear and manipulation he has created along with his
      cronies can be illustrated by a crowd of protesting
      Iraqis, who were entirely within their right, being
      pushed back by a young, confused, American soldier who
      was towing the party line he is told to, screaming at
      them, �We�re here for your fucking freedom!� which
      kind of sums up the whole fiasco and our
      misunderstanding of the people there. Of course it�s a
      long road for that country to get a grip in the next
      decade on its direction. But don�t allow that to be
      the pat response from this administration as to why
      they never really had a coherent long-term policy or
      strategy. It was not our decision to make in the first

      Less than half of Americans support Bush and his
      decisions, but he may be able to just manipulate
      enough emotion and public opinion to get re-elected,
      helped by an ineffectual Democratic party. We get what
      we deserve. I strongly challenge the statement that it
      is not his fault if he makes decisions on faulty
      information. That�s incredibly naive on behalf of
      people that are supposedly representing us. It�s his
      job to know! I guess the buck stops somewhere short of
      D.C. He was the one that put the structures and
      actions in place that created the climate for the
      present situation, yet he so easily and conveniently
      scapegoats and passes blame onto the security agencies
      that have a very tough job. He himself used only the
      intelligence that suited his needs, often inflating
      its importance, ignoring information that did not
      support his position, according to those that provided
      it. Then he blames them for his decisions! That is the
      kind of mickey-mouse leader some are defending. He
      only appears decisive because he has the minuteman
      approach to major policy decisions. He starts with the
      endgame in mind, and his inflated egocentric view,
      hoping to fit the puzzle pieces together against
      expert advice, eyeing his benign place in history as
      the savior of the Middle East. That is not real
      leadership and it is not going to happen that way. I
      implore you to give your vote to someone other than
      Bush. And please do not vote on single issues. It�s a
      big world of issues to address and we need some
      balance for the larger good. If you want me to
      cheerlead, I will do it for my America. Not for those
      determined to bring us all down with them, because
      they and their ilk cannot last.

      Solutions? Well, this is what they expected now isn�t
      it? We�re supposed to say we have to finish now what
      we started, it�s a long road, what else can we do?,
      etc. Perfectly played. I like many others could write
      thoughtfully on this topic, but it was clear the
      writer had little time for outside opinions of this
      nature or nuance. I�m at the point where I even think
      the bloated and ineffectual UN organizations need to
      be involved primarily. What we should not be doing at
      this point is handover on June 30th. Even the generals
      have voiced concern. You have to develop along
      measured milestones along the way, not pick an
      arbitrary date that people there see as having no
      legitimacy, along with the government we will impose
      there. The council and people are already grumbling.
      It is na�ve to think we will not have a heavy hand in
      the �newly sovereign� Iraq. Please. Mark my words from
      the speechwriters. Listen to the news and see how long
      it will take or how many times for Bush to be saying
      �We need to do better.� Pretty standard, along with
      �redoubling our efforts.� I�m sorry, but this way of
      conducting ourselves, along with a patchy coverage of
      projects, is just not good enough anymore.

      Wake up people. You are asleep and your TV is lying to
      you. Or stay asleep and go back to watching Buffy.
      Your grandchildren will not thank you.

      And yes, feel free to write to me. I will argue on the
      factual points, not emotional ones, with anyone.


      John P. Patten

      ps- If you would like more context on the Afghan
      situation my website is at:

      -----Original Message-----
      From: JandKPatten@... [mailto:JandKPatten@...]

      Sent: Saturday, May 29, 2004 2:58 AM
      To: bandmmayer@...; jbarley@...;
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      C0rd0n@...; SHAWDOW2@...; EmmePal@...;
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      emtilton@...; Zicks1@...
      Subject: Thought this interesting

      We have friend stationed in Iraq in the same camp as
      this person. Our friend's wife forwarded it to me,
      Ann Schneider
      So many people, so many opinions, so few facts!

      I am a Dept. of Defense civilian, home on leave in FL
      for my daughters
      graduation from BCC. My job as an environmentalist is
      primarily the
      protection of the environment and the disposal of DoD
      hazardous wastes. I volunteered to go to Iraq and
      last Dec. I was
      selected to set up the first disposal operations in
      the forward deployed
      area. I have been stationed at Balad Air Base, LSA
      Anaconda since 28 Dec
      03. On several occasions, my work has taken me to
      Baghdad. I extended
      by initial tour from 120 days to 155
      days, and on June 7th I'll go back
      to Baghdad for six more months.

      Being home in FL has been wonderful and sad at the
      same time. I'm
      appalled at the "news" as it's reported from Iraq. And
      just as
      disturbing is the lack of knowledge a lot of people
      have about what's
      really going on, why we're there and what it's really
      like. I'd like to
      set the record

      Ninety five percent of the Iraqi people want us there,
      and it's only a
      handful of insurgents with weapons, who are attacking
      our bases,
      convoys, and troops. The older generations say that
      although they may
      never see the freedoms we're trying to bring to their
      country, they know
      their children will enjoy the rights that we take for
      granted in this
      country. I've had the
      opportunity to meet and speak with day laborers
      coming on Anaconda, who are grateful for the work and
      pay they receive.
      Men have taken my hand w/tearfilled eyes and thanked
      me because they can
      now provide for their families which they couldn't do
      when Saddam was in
      power. I've met engineers, pilots and well educated
      men who, for the
      first time since Saddam took office, are returning
      from self imposed
      exile to their homeland and are able to find work on
      our many US

      Before I left Balad, I was able to donate $3500 worth
      of hospital
      disinfectant and dental amalgam to the local hospital.
      Our Balad team of
      doctors and medics make regular scheduled visits to
      the surrounding
      communities to provide medical care and assistance to
      the people, and
      teach new technologies to Iraqi medical personnel.
      People are being
      taught field sanitation and
      hand washing techniques to prevent the spread
      of germs.
      400,000 children have now received up to date
      100% of the existing hospitals are now open and
      staffed, compared to 35%
      before the war.

      On behalf of my organization, the Defense Logistics
      Agency and
      partnering with Army Materiel Command, we're
      sponsoring a local
      secondary school. We've received $65,500.00 dollars of
      Saddam's money to
      completely rebuild the school. Our school is only one
      of eleven schools
      being sponsored by different units on LSA Anaconda.
      School attendance is
      up 80% and for the first times girls are allowed to
      attend classes.

      Our facility engineers and Seabees are rebuilding
      outdated sewer lines
      and constructing a new water treatment plant which
      will serve not
      our area, but this is being done in every major city.
      Over 4.5 million people have clean drinking water for
      the first time.

      We're updating and constructing new power plants
      throughout the country
      and now the entire populace receives 2 times the
      electric power it did
      before the war. Over 400,000 people have telephone
      service for the first

      The port of Uhm Qasar was renovated so grain can be
      off-loaded from
      ships faster. Farmers are being educated on better
      methods and new
      technologies are being introduced.
      Local contractors working on our bases are for the
      first time able to
      receive lube oils, hydraulic and brake fluids for
      their equipment.

      The newly formed
      Iraqi Civil Defense Force trains on LSA Anaconda. The
      teams work and learn side by side with our soldiers
      and they are proud
      to be learning from us and eager to help in the battle
      against the
      handful of insurgents making life miserable in Iraq.
      Every day our
      troops are finding buried weapons and chemicals which
      must be disposed
      of. The dangerous chemicals pose a threat to the
      environment, health and
      safety of not only the Iraqi people but the world if
      they were to
      into the wrong hands.

      I've met some wonderful soldiers serving in Iraq. As a
      nation, we should
      all be proud and supportive of the mission Operation
      Iraqi Freedom. I
      believe President Bush is doing a fantastic job
      because I know he's
      acting on information briefed him. If this is
      sometimes incorrect or
      omissions are committed, that is not his

      I believe in my job, my country, and I want my
      grandchildren to always
      be able to enjoy their freedoms. That's why I'm going

      Bonnie Murphy
      DRMS Staff Officer
      Disposal Operations Iraq, Baghdad
      Thank you to Denise Caraballo for sharing this with
      all of us.

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