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Bruce Moore, a retired major general, is in charge of northern Iraq for the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.
Bruce Moore, a retired major general, is in charge of northern Iraq for the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)

SALAHADDIN, Iraq — To hear Bruce Moore talk — and he’s an optimist — the effort to repair and reshape postwar Iraq is incredibly daunting.

Municipal police departments have to be reconstituted, re-equipped and the staffs paid. The same is true, to varying degrees, for other government and civil entities, from hospitals and schools to electrical power stations and sanitation departments.

There are minefields to clear, buildings and roads to fix, property rights issues, the fate of tens of thousands of missing people and a “small” matter of teaching the people of an ancient land a relatively new concept — democracy.

There is also the issue of deciding which currency to use, at least on a temporary basis until a new system comes into play.

“Every day it’s getting better,” said Moore, a retired Army two-star general.

Moore is a regional director with the Pentagon’s Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid, or OHRA. The office is divided into three regions: south, central and north. Moore coordinates activities in the north, an area that includes the cities of Irbil, Kirkuk, Mosul and the region known as Kurdistan.

“I think the north will pretty much be finished before everybody else,” Moore said Friday. “The reason is obviously there’s not as much [war] damage. There is an economy up here. They don’t need the humanitarian assistance like they do in the south. So it’s possible that in two to three months we could be gone.”

Moore and his team, which late last week was 70 strong, are handling many of the tasks facing the northern region, such as coordinating with non-governmental agencies. Some of the broader issues, such as salaries for city employees, require the assistance of the ORHA staff in Baghdad, headed by Jay Garner, the director.

No one expects the job in Iraq to be completed once ORHA leaves, however, especially in the south. It takes time to build bridges, both figuratively and literally.

In a sense, just as the Army cleared the way for Garner and his group, those workers are setting the table for an indigenous Iraqi government and other follow-on agencies, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“I consider myself fortunate,” Moore said with respect to the issues facing the north. “There are some real problems in the south. These people up here, they more or less had their own freedom because of the [northern] no-fly zone. … They suffered prior to ’91, very badly, but in the last few years, the people in the south were the ones who were really suffering.”

In central and southern Iraq, Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party “controlled everything,” Moore said, while in the north the people “were pretty well independent.”

This region was so independent it formed its own autonomous parliament and collected taxes, something that was impossible outside of the Kurdish area.

Mosul and Kirkuk, which had remained under Saddam’s thumb, are the two cities that most concern Moore. As recently as the last few weeks, security was tenuous, especially in Mosul, where historically many of the Iraqi military officers came from.

Security is still a concern in both cities, but there are signs of progress.

In Mosul, for example, local leaders got together after the 101st Airborne Division arrived to discuss how to restore civil order. Eventually, they asked “the retired police chief to be in charge,” Moore said, because “everybody respected him, he was honest and everything.”

“As a result,” Moore added, “all the former policemen came back to work. So he’s now got 3,000 or 4,000 policemen working for him.”

Conditions have improved to the point where Moore and his staff are working to open satellite offices in Mosul and Kirkuk.

Besides security, Moore wants to ensure that civil employees get paid, a situation that appears close to resolving itself with the recent arrival of U.S. Treasury officials from Baghdad. Eventually, money from the sale of oil will fuel the reconstruction effort.

“In January, the borders were sealed off, so it stopped all trade,” Moore said. “They have not been able to trade with anybody, and that’s how they get their money.”

Money will enable Moore’s team – which includes personnel from departments such as State, Defense, Treasury and Commerce – to make an immediate impact, such as by replacing stolen police cars or improving drinking water.

But there are some things, the adage goes, that money can’t buy.

Thousands of complaints involving property rights are in offing. Moore foresees the establishment of a commission, similar to the one created in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He also expects the formation of a second commission, this one to deal with missing people. In the north, for example, tens of thousands of men disappeared without a trace, especially in the early 1990s.

Moore recalled a story he recently heard about Iraqi soldiers entering a village and taking all the men between the ages of 15 and 40.

The villagers left behind, Moore said, “never saw them again. That’s what they (the families) want to know. Where are they? Are they alive? Are they dead? They never came back. It’s pretty sad.”

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