September 11, 2008

Bagpipes Play in Al-Hillah In Memory of 9/11 Victims

In Al-Hillah, Iraq, about 100 employees of the Regional Embassy Office and Babil Provincial Reconstruction Team held a special commemoration for the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on our country. Visiting Embassy Baghdad Ag Attache James Conley played a stirring rendition of "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes, while REO and PRT employees stood for two minutes of silence in the REO Garden beneath the flag at half-staff. Jim's willingness to bring his bagpipes on his trip to Al-Hillah permitted an especially poignant commemoration of this sad day, and reminded all that there is something in the sound of bagpipes that stirs emotions and strengthens resolve.

Security responsibilites turnover.

Here is a media report, the first on this topic of which I am aware, on the possible turnover of primary security responsibilities to the Provincial authorities, what we refer to as PIC (Provincial Iraqi Control).

Ministry says ready for Babel, Wassit handover
Baghdad - Voices of Iraq
Wednesday , 10 /09 /2008 Time 10:04:27

The Iraqi minister of defense, Abdelqadir Al-Ubeidi, on Wednesday said that Iraqi forces are preparing to take over full security responsibilities in the provinces of Babel and Wassit.

"Security forces continue their preparations to take on security responsibilities in Babel and Wassit from the Multi-National Force (MNF)," the minister said during a Baghdad-based press conference on Wednesday without giving any indication as to when such a handover could take place.

Anbar was the 11th and the latest Iraqi province where security responsibilities have been passed on to the Iraqi authorities.
Wassit, 180 km south of Baghdad, is in the east of the country. As it lies along the Tigris about midway between Baghdad and Basra.Prior to 1976 it was known as Kut Province.

Babel, 100 km south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, has an area of 6,468 square kilometers (2,497.3 sq mi), with an estimated population of 1,385,783 people in 2003. The provincial capital is the town of al-Hillah.

September 8, 2008

Visit to Hashimiyah and Cholera Outbreak

September 7, 2008. These are four members of the Babil PRT who travelled with me to Hashimiyah by helo. This photo was taken on the Polish Base in Diwaniyah (Camp Echo) where we stopped for ten minutes for refueling.

Iraqi province on alert for suspected cholera outbreak

HILLA, September 8, 2008 (AFP) - The central Iraqi province of Babel went on alert on Monday after four people were killed by cholera and 200 others were suspected of suffering from the disease, local officials told AFP.

"The laboratory reports from Babel health department indicate there are 200 cases of suspected cholera, vomiting and diarrhoea in the province," the provincial council said. It said the council head, Mohammed al-Masoodi, has ordered the water, electricity and health departments to go on alert in an effort to stop the spread of the disease. Local medics said four people have died from the disease, adding that most of the suspected cases were from Al-Hashimiyah area of northern Hilla, the provincial capital. Six cases of cholera have also been detected and 64 more suspected cases been reported in the southern province of Maysan, a member of parliament told AFP on Monday.
Notwithstanding the above AFP report on the cholera outbreak in Babil Province, the Ministry of Health has not officially confirmed the outbreak, which apparently has struck Hashimiyah in the south and perhaps a town in the north. Cholera outbreaks are not unusual in Iraq at this time of year.

I am sure that there is no cause and effect, but I visited Hashimiyah yesterday, as well as another town in that district called Shomali, which boasts the youngest judge in Iraq.

We have formed a working group on the PRT to monitor the cholera situation and coordinate with relevant entities, like the Health Ministry, local officials, Coalition units and the Embassy. This morning we visited the largest radio station in the region, where I did a live interview for 45 minutes on the work of the Babil PRT.

It seems that our local employees are hearing that the thing that most impressed some listeners wasn't hearing about how a specific project was proceeding or how the PRT worked with various government agencies. No, it was the simple gesture of a traditional Ramadan greeting of wishing for the listeners that God will return their prayers with health and safety.
I decided to join our local employees in the daily fast (no food or water) from sunrise to sunset. So you tank up early in the morning and hold on for the rest of the day.

September 8, Al Furatain Radio Station, Al-Hillah.
Interviewer to the right, interpreter in center and me on the left.