Pilot Guest Editorial

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The 'other' stories in Iraq

In recent days, the actions of a very small number of U.S. soldiers have marked our country with a scarlet letter. This is isolated behavior that can, must, and will be investigated by the Pentagon under the direction of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The handful of soldiers who committed this appalling abuse are not representative of the U.S. military and will be punished for their crimes.

These incidents have sparked understandable anger across the globe, yet I have to ask - where was this international outrage when American contractors were butchered on the streets of Iraq and hung from bridges as cheering crowds looked on? Where was the world's fury when mass graves of hundreds of thousands of Saddam's murdered victims were uncovered? Where was this collective outrage when the unthinkable stories of torture and abuse of millions of people under Saddam's regime finally came out? Where is the international outrage every time Osama Bin Laden broadcasts another message threatening more attacks like 9/11?

Our troops are making sacrifices to put an end to the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein and other tyrants whose tortured and murdered victims number in the hundreds of thousands. And while the media seems to rally behind the negative, there are incredible stories to be told in Iraq and Afghanistan. Behind every one of those stories is an American soldier.

More than 65% of Iraqis live off the land, and the U.S. Army is helping Iraq set up their first farm co-operative on "Saddam's farm" near where Hussein was captured in Balad. His Ministry of Agriculture used to operate the 400-acre farm, but its produce benefited only Saddam and his family. The co-op will serve an area that is home to 1 million people and 150,000 farming families, and will also see construction of the region's first supermarket, gas station, and slaughterhouse for processing meat.

You'll find American soldiers helping Iraqi children by repairing leaky roofs at their rundown schools, donating their own money to provide food and health care for their families, or even just volunteering as a coach for an Iraqi children's soccer team. Investing in the children is an enjoyable responsibility for our troops who know that they represent Iraq's future.

Iraq is finally forming its first free press corps with the help of coalition forces. Twelve Iraqis recently graduated from a public affairs course offered by our troops, the result being a dozen people who are paving the way for a direct exchange of information between the future government of Iraq and its people.

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands more of these amazing stories. I am proud of our soldiers who go above and beyond to give the Iraqi people a fighting chance at freedom. The United States toppled one of the most murderous dictators in world history; let's not let the actions of a few overshadow that which should be the most important issue at hand.

Steve King, Kiron, represents northwest Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives.