Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

“Somebody has to do it.”

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** **

December 09, 2004

“Somebody has to do it.”

While billions of US taxpayer dollars have been awarded in lucrative
contracts to companies such as Bechtel and Halliburton subsidiary
Kellogg Brown and Root, there are few signs that any reconstruction has
actually taken place in war torn Iraq.

The infrastructure is in a state of collapse, with 70% unemployment.

One reason for this incredibly high rate is that out of $1.5 Billion in
contracts paid out of Iraq’s funds, 85% has gone to US and British
companies who rarely hire Iraqis.

Iraqi firms, by contrast, have received 2% of the contracts paid for
with the same Iraqi funds.

Fadl Abid Oda, 30 years old, has taken it upon himself to do something
that western companies in Iraq have failed to do.

In a tiny room off a busy street in the Orfali district of Baghdad, Fadl
stands in his small library.

“Anyone can take a book from here,” he says, “People can take smaller
books for three days, six days for larger books. But anyone who wants to
read here in the library, it’s ok, he can get any book he wants.”

There is a shelf of tattered books on one of the walls. The front of the
library, which is actually an old vegetable stall, opens to the street.
The 8 chairs which line the 12’x12’ room are filled with people reading

While companies like KBR have been investigated for overcharging the US
government $61 million for importing fuel into Iraq, Fadl is pleased
with his project.

“We are working on very little finances, so we are trying to connect
with anyone who can get us any book,” he says while waving his hand
across the small bookshelf, “The budget for this project is now $200. We
do this by taking 75 cents per month from people who read here. We try
to bring even CD’s for computers, and anything else that is cheap.”

Hashim Ashure, a 24 year-old who regularly visits the tiny library, sits
in one of the old chairs with a book in his hand.

“My reading is not that good, but we are learning about reading and
writing and how useful it is. Before I was a soldier and it was a very
difficult life and I didn’t have any time to read,” he says while
shifting an old book back and forth in his hands, “But now it is very
useful for me, and I like to come here everyday at night to read. I find
it is very fun and it’s beautiful to learn. I feel like I was blind before.”

Last January Bechtel Corporation was awarded another contract which
included repairing Iraq’s electricity grids. While the contract is
valued at up to $1.8 Billion, most of Baghdad averages less than 6 hours
of electricity per day.

Fadl bends over to light the two small candles on his table.

“We can’t really call this a library, but this is the best we can do.
Somebody has to do it,” he says while holding out his arms. “It is a
small place with a few chairs, with one table, and we have a little bit
of books. We wish that our library will help educate people. We want to
educate all the youth in my neighborhood.”


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