Background: The New Iraq
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JIM LEHRER: The many struggles to bring life and liberty to the new Iraq. Ian Williams of Independent Television News begins with a report on life in Baghdad for some Iraqis right now.
IAN WILLIAMS: Trouble at the gas station. Petrol is a precious commodity and after filling his tank, there’s a canister or two in the back, to the anger of the pump attendant. With people fuming in the queue, the station managers already sent word to the local American base that things are getting out of control. They respond within minutes. And for the second time today, Lieutenant Justin Morseth dons his body armor and leads a patrol to the station to try and sort it out. Queue-jumping kids with armfuls of canisters see the approaching soldiers. The army gives chase. And the kids decide it’s best not to hang around. The petrol queue is then treated to an impromptu lecture on the etiquette of buying and queuing for petrol.
MAN: No good.
SPOKESMAN: Do you understand? It’s no good. No! Go up there and try to fill these up.
IAN WILLIAMS: To the hapless station manager, the American intervention is a short-term reprieve.
MAN (translated): When the U.S. soldiers come, everything is fine. When the soldiers go, it happens all over again.
IAN WILLIAMS: As for Lieutenant Morseth, this isn’t really what he was expecting when he came to Baghdad. His soldiers fought some of the fiercest battles on the way here, and they’re due to pull out next weekend.
LT. JUSTIIN MORSETH, U.S. Army: Yeah, they are ready to get out of here. Peace keeping they are kind of burned out and tired. Like the said the transition was a bit grueling at first with the people having so many uncertainties as to how the country is going to recuperate itself.
IAN WILLIAMS: So what has been most difficult — keeping the peace or winning the war?
LT. JUSTICE MORSTEIN: Keeping the peace. There’s still bad guys out there and you can’t distinguish them anymore.
IAN WILLIAMS: He says that after all the fighting, it’s very difficult to lower their guard when dealing with civilians.
IAN WILLIAMS: Dealing with the local people has not always been easy, not only on patrols like this, one of the stiffest tests came when word went out jobs were available. The jobs were as translators with the interim administration, but the hundreds who responded to a radio appeal have overwhelmed what passes as an application system. And they wait– lawyers, doctors, engineers– for an appointment outside the palace complex that houses the administration, angry at the lack of attention.
MAN: Every day.
MAN: Every day.
MAN: We all –
MAN: Come here and there. Nothing.
MAN (translated): They must need us. We are not about. Not right which come from abroad. We live here and know everything.
IAN WILLIAMS: The palace complex has become the focus for other petitioners and complainants. And in the searing heat, American patience soon runs thin.
SOLDIER: Right over there. Get out of here. Go, get out of here! Go. Go, man, I do not know.
IAN WILLIAMS: For job-seekers who do get through the gate, the next stage is in the vast hall of one of Saddam’s palaces, where they fill in their application forms under the watchful eye of the appropriately named Staff Sergeant Work.
STAFF SGT. DAVID WORK, U.S. Army: We’re trying to use the radio to pass word. The majority are using word of mouth. They are coming back the next day seeing if they were hired, seeing what happened with their application. They keep coming through and keep coming through.
SAM NUCKOLLS, Recruiter: I cannot sign contracts today.
IAN WILLIAMS: But the real point man is Sam Nuckolls, who conducts the job interviews, and he’s not having a good day.
SAM NUCKOLLS: If I have your papers in my hands right now, you say stay. Everyone else needs to go home.
IAN WILLIAMS: One brave soul had the temerity to ask why Mr. Sam is always so angry.
MAN: I wonder where you are always angry?
SAM NUCKOLLS: Why?
MAN: Yeah. They tell us to come here.
SAM NUCKOLLS: Do you believe this? This is why – (pointing to room full of people) –
MAN: Yeah, I know, okay, I understand. But if you are me, you would come here also at the same time. (Nuckolls leaving and slamming door)
SAM NUCKOLLS: Guiding these local Arabs around is like herding cats into closets except the cats don’t explain as much. Everybody wants the one minute and they do this with their finger and you say no and you walk away as fast as you can.
IAN WILLIAMS: For now, the palace complex that housed Saddam remains the center of power in the new Iraq. Jay Garner’s Office of Reconstruction is here, as are the headquarters of many U.S. Military units.