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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Hope Is A Good Thing, Maybe The Best Thing

And no good thing ever dies. Oh, you knew that was Stephen King, originally from "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption", on which the movie was based.

Our source of inspiration this morning is Dexter Filkins, featured on the front page of the NY Times with this very encouraging story from the rest of Iraq.

Do check the photo and caption, which was front and center on the Times - no one can complain that they are burying this one.

A few excerpts, but I am wasting your time - go read the whole thing.

DIWANIYA, Iraq, Aug. 19 — As the area around Baghdad endured a week of repeated violence, a happier scene unfolded in this city, a two-hour drive to the south.

American soldiers, without helmets or flak jackets, attended graduation ceremonies of the Diwaniya University Medical School. At ease with the Iraqi students and their parents, the American marines laughed, joked and posed in photographs. One by one, the students walked up to thank them, for Marine doctors had taught classes in surgery and gynecology and helped draw up the final exams.

We like the Americans very much here," said Zainab Khaledy, 22, who received her medical degree last Sunday. "We feel better than under the old regime. We have problems, like security, but everything is getting better."

Words from a Marine Colonel:

The marines are even able to go beyond immediate postwar needs and move toward strengthening the civil society. They are supervising construction of a women's shelter here, and they make regular deliveries to a local nursing home. They have even set up a Rotary Club.

"We are in lock-sync with the Iraqis," Colonel Malay said. "We want what they want."

It is worth remembering that our differences with "the Iraqis" (who are far from monolithic) are not irreconcilable. We want out, they want us out, and the sticking point seems to be, what kind of society and government will we leave behind. Not at all hopeless.

However, this chap has discouraging words for free-marketeers:

Hassan Naji, a records clerk at the Diwaniya children's hospital, is critical of recent changes but only up to a point. Like many at the hospital, he is convinced that newborns are dying needlessly because the hospital lacks the electricity to run its sterile ward for premature babies. Before the war, an emergency line kept the electricity flowing.

Mr. Naji could produce few records on the recent infant deaths, attributing the inability to the new freedom brought by the Americans.

"Democracy has ruined this hospital," he said, sifting through uncollated notes and jottings. "In the past, people really worked at their jobs, if only because they were terrified of their supervisors. We kept the most accurate records. We had weekly meetings on the worst cases.

"Now, with all this freedom, no one cares anymore," he said. "We don't keep records anymore."


For all that, Mr. Naji said, he would not pine for the days of Saddam Hussein. "Never," he said. "The Americans did a great thing when they got rid of that tyrant. Things could even get worse here and I would still feel that way."

"Believe me," Mr. Naji added, "most of the people in Diwaniya would feel that way."

The story also glosses over some apparent OSHA and minimum wage violations. However, we are heartened.

Buried inside, the Times also reports on three British soldiers killed in Basra, and riots in the Kirkuk area.

Faux links to story, picture.

UPDATE: "in reality there is no situation in Iraq...". So I AM just dreaming this NY Times story! Actually, it makes more sense when he says it.

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