Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Breaking news and untold news.

Every morning I wake up with an idea for something I want to blog about but an hour or two later "Breaking News" signs start flashing on the TV screen bringing news about a car bomb in Baghdad, a suicide attacker in Tikrit, an IED in Hilla and an assassination in Baquba and I frankly get little bit discouraged and a lot more saddened by these news and I begin to feel that it would be inappropriate to write about some regular stuff when there are people dying and suffering but these situations are happening over and over again and will probably continue to happen in the same frequency for days, weeks or maybe months and I realize that being paralyzed by these terror attacks and the pain they bring is exactly what they terrorists want to see.

So I have decided to keep blogging in the same manner regardless of the "Breaking News" which have proven to successfully be heart-breaking but I don't intend to allow them to be life-breaking.

Now back to the subject I originally wanted to talk about.
People inside and outside Iraq keep wondering why little progress is being made construction wise; why Iraqi cities still get poor power supplies? Why there is a deficiency in clean water in many places? Why sewer systems are incomplete? And a thousand questions like these are heard everyday.
I myself had similar questions but following the progress in one particular project gave me a better understanding of the situation and made me see some facts that I wasn't aware of.

The story began nearly two years ago in the summer of 2003 when an engineer friend of mine visited me at home; after a short random chat and a cup of tea he pulled out some papers from his briefcase and handed them over to me "could you please help me with some translation Omar?" he asked.
"Of course, what's this about?" I replied.
"The company I'm working for is trying to get a contract for preparing the location for a new power plant and I need to read and understand the tender" he explained to me.

Anyway, I translated the parts he wasn't able to understand; he thanked me briefly and rushed out to meet his boss.
A few months later, I was transferred to work in Basra, so passing by the construction site became something I do on regular basis as it lies just adjacent to the old "south Baghdad power plant" near the southern entrance of Baghdad.

The old six-unit south Baghdad power plant. The two new units are now situated to the right of the two shorter chimneys.

For over a year, I closely followed the progress of the work and I never allowed myself to sleep in that part of the 8 hour biweekly trip as some kind of strong passion appeared between me and that power station (sounds weird I know).
Later I got transferred back to Baghdad and began to pass through that street more often and every time I would drive really slowly to get more time near the construction site just to see if anything new had been added.

Recently, things began to take their final shapes; through out the past twenty months or so all I could see were vague metal and concrete structures that had no distinctive identity and it was rather difficult to know which was what.
A couple of months ago the two chimneys were all set. Shortly after that, fuel tanks were fully constructed in situ and just two weeks ago, the two giant turbines were set in place.

Last week, I met my engineer friend again and he told me that the two turbines will be experimentally operated on May 24 and if the experiment runs smoothly, the two new units would be connected to the grid adding 300 megawatts to the national power supply.
When I asked my friend how he feels about it he sighed and said:

"I feel really proud of being part of this; this time I wasn't working for material benefit only, I felt overwhelming happiness for doing something good in such a hard time. You have no idea my friend what we’ve been through to make this project work out. The work was suspended many times because of attacks; mortars hit the site three times, RPGs two or three times, small guns fire attacks happen every other while. We have lost 11 men in these attacks, 7 Iraqis and 4 foreigners and many others received death threats. It wasn't an easy job at all my friend. We also had to establish a 6 meter tall concrete wall to provide more protection for the workers and the station".

I was so touched by his story and we wondered together if people outside realize how the new Iraq is getting built. People here are working and at the same avoiding bombs and bullets. People head to their work stations every morning and they don't know what the roads are hiding for them. We went to the election centers not minding the risks of getting killed and Iraqi young men keep going to the recruitment centers although they realize that doing so might get them killed.
Many "experts" outside Iraq watch from a distance and enjoy counting our dead and they ignore what we're building here but I don't care because I believe that victory is near.

One of the two new units.

This gives a glimpse at what construction efforts face in Iraq, not to mention other factors like bureaucracy and corruption.
But let's take a broader look at the results; after two years of hard work, sacrifices and suspensions, the work is almost 100% done and next moth Baghdad will get more power and engineers like my friend will stand proud of what they accomplished but can anyone tell me what did they terrorists gain from attempting to stop the work!?

This short story represents one of a thousand unreported struggles where victory sided with our people and in the same way victory will be on our side in the greater war against the forces of darkness and terror.


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