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Stanley Consultants' Craig Johnson in Baghdad

People wear their patriotism in different ways. Although I've never been the type to make a lot of noise about it, I'm proud to be an American and proud of what this nation has accomplished both at home and abroad. After having worked on our cover story on the rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure—Iraq's public works—that pride has intensified. Whether you agree with the United States having gone to Iraq in the first place, or even if you think the result has not been worth the expense in lives and treasure, few could argue against what we are doing to improve the quality of life for Iraq's people. The $18.4 billion dollars that Congress approved for rebuilding will, for years to come, pay dividends in the good will it generates throughout the Middle East.

Every person we spoke with who had gone to Iraq to work on the infrastructure improvements was extremely proud of the work being done, but they also agreed that we are only solving the urgent problems. Craig Johnson with Stanley Consultants, who led the initial assessment team, told me that “the amount of money there was to spend will not raise the Iraqi infrastructure to anything approaching American standards. Period.”

So when I hear that the American Society of Civil Engineers has given the United States' infrastructure a grade of D, I have to wonder how Iraqis interpret that. Do they think, how can they help us if they can't even keep their own infrastructure running? My question is, a grade of D compared to what? Are we grading our infrastructure in comparison to Iraq's or India's? Or are we comparing it to the infrastructure we wish we had?

The continuous chanting that our infrastructure is “crumbling” begins to make my patriotic public works blood boil. There's no place in this country where I wouldn't drink water from the tap and be confident it was safe. Sure, there are some potholes and congested areas in cities, but we all calculate travel times based on average speeds of 60 mph.

I don't mean that we should blithely accept the deficiencies in our roads and treatment systems. Real problems exist and it's going to take a lot of money and hard work to solve them. But there's just as much reason to be proud of the infrastructure we've built in the United States as there is in the infrastructure we are rebuilding in Iraq and occasionally we should celebrate our accomplishments instead of flagellating ourselves over what remains undone.

Bill Palmer
Editor in chief