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Home | The Sunni Heartland | The Unexpected War | Paying the Price


National Public Radio sent correspondent Deborah Amos and producer Tom Bullock to cover the post-war situation in Iraq for seven weeks. Upon their return, they produced this hour-long special for American RadioWorks.

The most dangerous part about Iraq is getting there.
by Deborah Amos

The route to Baghdad, Iraq, for journalists, international aid workers, and anyone interested in conducting business in Iraq, begins in Amman, Jordan. From there, the drive to the Jordanian / Iraq border is just a couple of hours on a badly maintained road. Once inside Iraq, the highway becomes impressive, a testament to the oil wealth of the last 30 years. Before Saddam squandered his country's fortune on wars and palaces, he built Iraq's modern highway system. These days, there is much danger on that well-built road.

Every day, someone is robbed on the main highway into Baghdad by Mercedes-driving, AK47-toting highway bandits. It is very easy pickings. Those coming into the country have cash, lots of cash, and visitors to Iraq usually are carrying expensive satellite phones. Since the war, most domestic lines are down.

Why can't the U.S. military protect the stretch of road? It is true that U.S. soldiers have plenty to do in Iraq, and protecting journalists is not high on their list of priorities, but there are other travelers on the Amman-Baghdad road, important travelers who can play an important role in rebuilding Iraq. The Bush administration encourages business people to take advantage of the new opportunities in the new Iraq. But how can business grow when the main road to the country is so risky?

It is the simple problems of the country that raise so many questions about the planning for post-war Iraq. The danger of the main highway to Baghdad is a major problem. So is providing electricity for the population; dependable, clean water and security. As the temperatures soared in the country, the lack of basic services became a source of political tension, and prompted many Iraqis to sour on the American-led occupation. The power lines are vulnerable to sabotage, and the U.S. military says it is not its job to protect the power grid. They do not have enough troops.

However, basic services are such an important issue that it should have been a priority of protection, or failing that, the focus of creative solutions. American-funded electric generators would have gone a long way to win the hearts and minds of the population.

These a just a few examples of the a problems that are so hard to explain in daily news dispatches, but are at the heart of the tensions in Iraq. It is the motivating factor is putting together this RadioWorks special.

We spent seven weeks in the country, from late May until the middle of July. It became increasing clear that the American-led occupation is in danger of losing the peace. So, we felt it was important to revisit those moments when the small problems of post-war Iraq started to become the big problems of post-war Iraq.

In the months since we left the country, Iraq has become a focus of a national debate. Are there enough troops in Iraq? Can U.S. taxpayers afford the 80 billion dollars to stabilize the country? Do Americans want to pay the price? As the debate heats up in Congress, as American families weigh the costs to service men and women, as American citizen soldiers consider the price of signing up for Iraq, it is important to know what is happening in the war after the war.