Thursday, April 10, 2003
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PROGRESS ON THE HUMANITARIAN FRONT:
PROGRESS ON THE HUMANITARIAN FRONT: As I said before, military victories in Iraq must be followed up with humanitarian victories. Umm Qasr, because it was liberated first and should therefore have the fewest security problems, is the harbinger for how things will proceed in the rest of Iraq.
In the 48 hours since I've blogged about it, how are things going? Actually, they're improving. Reuters reports that Umm Qasr is now open to merchant ships.
This Boston Globe story makes it very clear that CentCom knows perfectly well that they need to rebuild the infrastructure in the town. Some excerpts:
"The Seabees, as soldiers from the 1st Naval Construction Division are known, came to Umm Qasr to help make the port usable. They have now moved on to some goodwill projects, designed to improve quality of life in small but important ways in this, the US-led coalition's most secure nook in Iraq.
So far, the results are... successful up to a point, yet marked by difficulties...
During the Sunday visit, some of the locals complained adamantly that Umm Qasr's medical clinic lacked doctors, apparently because Ba'ath party-affiliated personnel had fled the town. But they thanked the Seabees for providing the children, many of whom were barefoot, with a place to play.
'All of these people in Iraq port Umm Qasr thank the soldier America and British,' 40-year-old Ibrahim Salman said in English. 'This is very, very good.'"
Buried in this CNN report about aid groups complaining about chaos in Baghdad is this Don Rumsfeld quote:
"'With the humanitarian aid now entering the country, he [Rumsfeld] said, 'that doesn't mean that the situation's worse -- that means it's better, and it is better.'
As an example, Rumsfeld cited the southern port city of Umm Qasr, which he said is beginning to flourish because of aid and border activity.
'Water supply is above prewar levels, a combination of U.K. pipeline and trucking,' he said. 'Electricity has been restored by U.K. engineers, sufficient food is readily available, medical facilities are sufficient and operating, UNICEF is providing supplies.
The port's cleared of mines and opened to limited operations, the channel needs dredging, [the] railway station is cleared by explosive ordnance detachment, [the] rail line is intact from there to Nasiriya, and they intend to open a line within seven days, which will allow movement of bulk water up the Euphrates Valley.'
Rumsfeld said he could give examples of similar progress in Basra and Nasiriya."
For those readers inclined to doubt Rumsfeld, this UN report on the humanitarian situation in Umm Qasr supports many of Rumsfeld's assertions. The opening graf:
"The first humanitarian assessment missions conducted jointly by UN agencies in the port of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq have identified a lack of clean drinking water as a matter of primary concern - a problem that predates the war, when the town’s needs were met by water tankers, IRIN learnt on Wednesday." (emphasis added)
Read the entire report. Umm Qasr is hardly a bed of roses. However, things are improving. For more news on the humanitarian situation in Iraq, click here.posted by Dan on 04.10.03 at 12:59 PM