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Profile: Laith Amir
Laith Amir was a participant or observer in the following events:
Shortly after the March invasion and occupation of Iraq, Iraqis become increasingly concerned about US plans for reconstruction. Iraqis fear the US will contract American companies to rebuild the country’s infrastructure instead of using native skill and labor. The former regime’s Ministry of Housing and Construction has a staff of some 4,000 employees who have been showing up to work daily since mid-April. Akkel Ansari, a ministry engineer, tells the Washington Post that he and other engineers have already begun drawing up plans to rebuild the country’s bombed-out buildings, bridges, and roads. The engineers are ready “to start repairing their damaged country as they did after the 1991 Persian Gulf War,” the Post reports. Iraqis say they are fully capable of rebuilding their country. According to Ansari, the damage is far less severe than that of the First Gulf War. Ansari tells the Washington Post, “The damage was much greater in 1991. More than 150 bridges in Iraq were destroyed in that war, and we rebuilt them all in one year.… But in this war, theft and burning caused more destruction than the bombing. We can put the pieces together again, in less time than 1991. We are ready to start.” Ministry employees say the only help they need from the US is money for salaries and help recovering equipment that was stolen during the mass looting (see April 9, 2003) that accompanied the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government. The amount needed to pay the monthly salaries of most ministry employees would be well under $100. But the US refuses to meet with the engineers. When Ansari goes to a hotel where US Army civil affairs officers are located to request funding for their work, US soldiers guarding the facility point a gun at his face and tell him to leave. Laith Amir, a chief engineer with 24 years of experience testing soil before buildings are constructed or rebuilt, tells the Post: “This is our life’s work. I love my job, and I would like to do something for my country. But we need help and financing. There is no government, no ministries. People have to be sure they will be paid.” [Washington Post, 4/26/2003]
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