The Norman Transcript

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May 5, 2006

Iraq veteran calls progress in rebuilding 'inspiring'

Deputy regional coordinator speaks to area Democrats

By Althea Peterson

Transcript Staff Writer

Iraq may not be as good as the Bush administration depicts it, but it's not as bad as what you see on television, according to one Marine who has been there.

Gary Anderson, deputy regional coordinator for the United States Mission in Iraq, said from his own perspective, conditions are improving in Iraq. Anderson, whose first tour of duty was July 2004 to January 2005 in the Foreign Service, said some days are better than others. Anderson spoke as part of the Tyner Corn Bread and Beans luncheon Friday at Los Dos Amigos.

"It took us five years to finalize our constitution and even then, there were revisions afterwards," Anderson said. "While (Iraq) isn't going well every day, it is getting better than it was."

Some of the ways Iraq is improving are safety on the streets and support from Iraq's groups, Anderson said.

"The Kurds and the Shiites are very motivated," Anderson said. "They're very energized to the progress going on. The Sunnis are sort of in the middle."

Anderson said while conditions are not always perfect, the progress from both the United States and Iraqis is "inspiring."

"The people over there are dedicated and professional," Anderson said. "They believe in an Iraqi nation."

Anderson said one of the major differences between Iraq now and Iraq under former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is the freedom to vote, which is not something they take for granted.

"The look on their faces that day after they voted -- if you were there, you would see what it's all about," Anderson said. "Before, Saddam would say 'you're my guy, everybody will vote for you.'"

As for the future of Iraq, Anderson said it is not in the Bush administration's hands, nor is it in the hands of the soldiers fighting overseas. Rather, it is in the hands of the American voters.

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