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Jun-22-2008 22:22printcomments

Small Steps of Progress in Rebuilding Iraq

A children's hospital in Basra and an orphanage in Irbil are under construction, but even combined, these large scale U.S. projects will serve less than 300 people.
Members of the Gulf Region South Corps of Engineers and Sharon Steele of Project HOPE, pose in the main entryway to Basra Children's Hospital. Photo: Joanna Fox/U.S. Army

(SALEM, Ore.) - I have written several times about the tragedy of George W. Bush squashing the Afghan Children's Fund after just a couple of years of operation, in 2005. We dropped bombs all over Afghanistan in an effort to rid the country of the Taliban which we absolutely have not accomplished based on the latest casualty reports, (see: Navy and Marine Casualties Surge in Afghanistan) and while we have improved things, we have not been able to accomplish our goals there as the necessary money and resources have been sent to Iraq, a nation that we attacked over lies and falsely planted propaganda.

In a way it has come to define our country, and our President who is nothing but a blowhard that talks big and yet performs little. We are much better at blowing things up than we are at putting them back together, and that in itself is anything but the mission of a God fearing nation.

After spending two months in Afghanistan covering the war there, I know personally how excruciating life is for kids in that cold country. It is something most Americans could never even start to imagine.

In Iraq, similar problems exist from what I am told, but I have not been there yet so I have to rely on information that is sent to me, rather than from first-hand knowledge.

Joanna Fox with the U.S. Army in Iraq, sends out news releases frequently, and today she wrote about how the Basra Children's Hospital. The Gulf Region South Corps of Engineers is working with Iraqi construction firms to build the hospital, while Project HOPE, is adding its own support by donating equipment.

I can only applaud the effort, but it is sad that "donations" are required to take care of the problems that our nation created. It seems only fair that the U.S. government should back the entire thing, but they are not. In fact, part of the money for the hospital comes from selling uncirculated Iraqi coins that were seized by U.S. and British authorities from Iraqi banks.

But it isn't just the U.S. and British governments that have their hand in Iraq; one entity has already been able to reduce the amount of food Iraqi's are able to eat in the wake of our invasion. in February 2008, it was announced that Iraq had to scrap a food program by this month, in order to comply with the World Bank. reported that the Iraqi government had decided to end the rationing food program which has saved millions of Iraqis from starvation. "The decision, the government said, was in line with the obligations it has made to the World Bank," the report stated.

H.O.P.E. for Iraq

Project HOPE is a fifty-year old organization that has worked to make health care available for people around the globe – especially children. They are one of the groups that was able to access Burma to assist people in the recent cyclone that devastated that military junta ruled country.

"It’s in our name: Health Opportunities for People Everywhere." the group state on their Website. The hospital project in Basra began in 2003 and is still under construction.

Joanna Fox says the group has taken on the responsibility of equipping the facility and training the hospital staff.

"Sharon Steele works with Project HOPE and visited the Basra Children's Hospital June 20th. She went on a tour of the site with GRS engineers and architects to examine how the facility is progressing."

The good news is that nine Iraqi construction firms are working together with coordination by GRS to build the hospital.

Fox reported that, "Once completed, the hospital will have over 90 beds for patients and on site housing for staff. BCH will operate primarily as a pediatric cancer treatment facility. The help of Project HOPE for equipment and medical training for the staff keeps the hospital on schedule to open for patients in February 2009."

New Facility for Orphans and Elderly at Irbil

As we reported just yesterday on, children in war torn parts of the world are subject to far greater levels of abuse than children in nations that have not for example, been attacked and militarily occupied. (see: Reports Indicate Rising Trend of Violence Against Children in Strife-Torn Countries)

While it will take care of a fairly limited number of people, the center, slated for completion at the beginning of September, is progress for Iraq. It will provide care for 145 orphans and 60 elderly people. That sounds like a small number, but maybe you have to be there. It seems like creating a facility that could hold several times that amount of people might have been a better idea. The Irbil Orphanage and Senior Center replaces an older facility that was built in the 1960's. The U.S. government shut that orphanage down and it is not clear what they did with the residents, or if there were more than 145.

"This is a packaged project consisting of an administration building, a multipurpose center and resident buildings," said Jalal, the chief engineer behind the project. What makes this a unique project is the local government wanted to give the residents a home-like environment while they stay at the center, Jalal said.

I think we can all read a great deal from the order that these things are listed in. It sounds typically American in nature, with the "administrative building" listed first, and the places where people actually live listed last.

It only accommodates a couple of hundred people, but this new facility will have amenities like a swimming pool, an art room, a multipurpose hall, soccer field, and realistic infrastructure to aid the elderly, says Midhat, the project manager for the center.

"We talked to the directors to see what they needed," Midhat said. "They expressed the need for a swimming pool." The residence for the elderly is equipped with an entrance ramp, an elevator and handrails to assist them when using the restrooms. The senior center is also staffed with nurses to assist the elderly when needed. "This is a humanitarian project," Midhat concluded. "This is a gift for our people."

The administrative offices still reek of capitalism and it seems like that is the last thing the people of Iraq need right now, especially considering that all of the destroyed orphanages and hospitals were functioning before we attacked Iraq, and that is a fact regardless of what the right wing media pundits falsely report.

I suppose that anything backed in concept by the Bush Administration could only be done with an obligation to created space for U.S. companies so they can eventually charge the Iraqi people for services they had before we destroyed them with our unilateral attack.

A growing number of Americans like Congressman Dennis Kucinich contend that Bush's war in Iraq is illegal and that Bush and his team are all criminals guilty of the highest and most severe crimes known to man, played out by one of the nations that had earned a true reputation as a responsible big brother to other lands. Now we are viewed as ruthless killers, oppressors and as people who create civil wars and destabilize entire regions of the world.

In the meanwhile, at least a few projects in Iraq like this are moving forward, even if they take years and have to be funded by donations and non government entities.

I want to state for the record that this is my perspective. I use sources like the Joanna Fox blog which can be found at: for information the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Today, in addition to his role as a war correspondent in Afghanistan where he spent the winter of 2006/07, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators. Tim's coverage from Iraq that was set to begin in April has been delayed and may not take place until August, 2008. You can send Tim an email at this address:

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Henry Ruark June 23, 2008 7:04 pm (Pacific time)

To all: NEVER forget, either, that Reagan via Iran/Contra and U.S. intervention to upset first ever democratic election there, whether entirely-so or not better/than/ever/before, was provocation that initiated this current mess-up...which was "new-style" "preemptive war" chosen in OUR interests as part of Bush-dream for rebuilding MidEast OUR way...per continued emphasis throughout WHAT HAPPENED.

Vic June 23, 2008 9:09 am (Pacific time)

Wow.....sobering article. Thanks again, Tim.

sts June 23, 2008 6:41 am (Pacific time)

No kidding. Most people dont know, or will not accept, the fact that hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed. Then they wonder, why would a woman be a suicide bomber? Well, maybe because the U.S. killed her innocent husband and children? What would YOU do? One of the bases the U.S. is building is on Iraq's sacred lands. Meantime, the U.S. levees, and infrastructure are falling apart, and the dollar is worth 2 cents. This is outright craziness. As Ron Paul says so eloquently "we have never won a war that was not mandated by the rules of the Constitution" Thank you Salem-News for bringing this to the attention to the people. Main stream news certainly wont.

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