Thought I would surprise you all and write a little sooner than my usual 2 week intervals. Has been an interesting week. Started out having lunch with some members of the US Institute for Peace - led by their Chief of Mission here in Iraq and then with 4 of their employees all of whom are Iraqi and very much aware of what is going on outside the blast walls that surround the IZ. The USIP (http://www.usip.org/iraq/index.html) is the group that initiated the Iraq Study Group and essentially is a quasi-governmental congressionally mandated organization whose purpose is to encourage rebuilding and reconciliation. They work all over the world, Iraq, Israel, Sudan, etc... and seem to have a really unique and nobel mission. In addition to hearing about some of the real successes that are occuring around the country here (there are actually some good things), it was incredible to just speak with a bunch of local Iraqis voice what life is really like out there. We discussed the crushing unemployment (around 60%) and how that is driving a large part of the anger here. Also talked about some of the basics of life, they only have electricity in Baghdad for about one hour a day (so they only have water for an hour a day) - makes for some real discontent especially as it gets warmer. Under Saddam, there was electricity 23 hours a day. When asked pointedly "was it worth it", 3 out of 4 of them said yes. The fourth, definately not. He talked of the opinion that freedom is worthless without security - so with many thousands dead, he sees no reason for it. Great food, too. Made by one of the employees wife's.
That high point, was really the only good thing this week, though. As has been in the news, we lost 8 soldiers around Baghdad earlier in the week, and an upturn in casualties across the board. Saw a few of them here in the Hospital. It is humbling what these soldiers do on a daily basis and risk their lives for. I am never really one for sentimentality,and there are really places I would rather be - but it is really an honor to be able to care for these soldiers. It just reminds me every day of how lucky I am, and being here in the hospital is the least I could do
It still is a kick to the groin and very difficult to watch the Angel Flights fly out of here. I hope I never get used to it.
That's it for now.