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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Lewis Lucke, USAID Iraq Mission Director
November 5, 2003

Lew will be here momentarily. Thanks for dropping by.

Lewis Lucke
I appreciate participating today. It is nighttime in Baghdad and probably about 70 degrees. It is a whole lot cooler than a couple months ago when it was 125 and I'm looking forward to participating in this forum.

Meghan, from Los Angeles County, California writes:
How does the Administration plan to reverse the effect on the American people of the media's portrayal of of the progress in Iraq? It makes me sick how biased almost every report on Iraq is. As a comic I saw put it, the "News", should be called the "Bad News," because the bad is all we hear about. Is there a way for you to spread the truth of what's really going on in Iraq?

Lewis W. Lucke
Thanks for the question -- a very pertinent one. We speak all the time to press, write reports, write press releases about what we do. Most of the time, however, a lot of the story on Iraq reconstruction progress does not appear. Part of the problem is that good news, as you say, does not apparently sell newspapers like bad news. Some of it, like fixing water systems or power or schools are longer term processes that don't make attractive sound bites like attacks on troops, for example. Progress on reconstruction in Iraq is profound and is being done with Iraqi participation and leadership.

Alexander, from United Kindom (essex university) writes:
Dear Mission Director, I have hard lots of complanints where I am from about the war in iraq. I am behind Mr President Bush the whole way as I have the highest respect for him. I was wondering If the infastructure of iraq is starting to stabalize and what the plan for the next few years is. Are the media blowing some of the iraqy situation out of all proportion because when I hear about it from people at university they seem to think it went terribly wrong. I would like a true view. I hope the demonstration about iraq don't cause Mr President Bush any trouble. I think even the people that rally against the war in Iraq wil have to admit it will come out to have a positive outcome. Yours sincerely Alexander Brown

Lewis W. Lucke
Have a look at the USAID web site to see some of the evidence of some of the progress achieved to date. On infrastructure, working with other parts of CPA and the Iraqis, we have helped restore power to pre-conflict levels, rehabbed more than 1600 schools in time for classes, got the port of Umm Qasr operational and open for commercial traffic, repaired airports, bridges, made emergency repairs to water systems, began large water and waste water projects and so on. There is a huge list of infrastructure accomplishments to date with much more to go. Saddam left Iraq in terrible shape from decades of abuse and neglect of even basic infrastructure repairs and maintenance.

Rebecca, from Clinton, NC writes:
What is the overall mood of the Iraqi people toward Americans?

Lewis W. Lucke
It depends a bit on where you are and who you are. The Kurds in the North seem to be the most favorably disposed to Americans and those in the South are as well -- the Sunni are the least positive towards Americans in general terms. However, most Iraqis are exceedingly happy that the former regime is removed; Saddam is gone and not to return. Iraq is full of talented and capable people who are increasingly running their own affairs and starting to realize some of the benefits of freedom and an open economy. Once the coalition has left Iraq and Americans have gone home, hopefully, most Iraqis will remember Americans as people who helped give them a chance to succeed as free people with an open economy.

Corey, from St. Louis, MO writes:
How do you expect to be successful in Iraq if the people of that nation will not support the United States

Lewis W. Lucke
We probably should not judge the attitudes of the Iraqi people based on exclusively what you see on the evening news. Our experiences with reconstruction programs in Iraq are that Iraqis are very much involved in these programs, support them and will be the key ingredient in assuring their success.

argery, from naples fl. writes:
What are we acomplishing in iraq to get them to stand on there own two feet so we can get our american boys home.?

Lewis W. Lucke
On the reconstruction side, we are committed to improving the lives of all Iraqis by providing assistance to restore and upgrade essential services and infrastructure, encourage economic growth, support democracy and restore health and education systems. We have devoted to date some $2 billion in U.S. assistance towards those aims and before the conflict, devoted millions more in food and humanitarian assistance in the event there had been a humanitarian disaster in Iraq, which did not happen.

Tony, from Del Mar writes:
Lew What is the one thing that you would like to talk about? What isn't being told that you would like to discuss?

Lewis W. Lucke
The real story in Iraq is about change. Changes represented by Iraqis being able to re-establish their economy, about essential infrastructure like power and water being restored, about schools reopening on time with rehabbed structures, books that no longer extol the virtues of Saddam and the Baathist party, and a health care system that again has the potential to be one of the best in the Middle East. It is also about new governance programs where ordinary citizens are coming forward in the name of their community to conceive and implement projects that provide social services like garbage collection, water service, and it shows that Iraqis are like free people everywhere – they care and are able to participate freely in their communities. This is citizen participation that did not exist before. This is the real deal.

Tramar, from Southampton writes:
What do you do as the mission director for IRAQ and when you are in IRAQ are you for us or against us? What the sense of being in IRAQ and the mission director. What are the duties of a mission director?

Lewis W. Lucke
I am for us -- I am us. As the director of USAID in Iraq I am in charge of overseeing the design and implementation of the $2 billion economic development program under Ambassador Bremer and the CPA. We implement and account for funds and try to assure results in all of our programs whether these be dedicated to improved health, education, port and airport repair, restoration of power and water, water and sanitation infrastructure, and so forth. We ultimately are accountable to assure that U.S. taxpayer money is well spent and we take this responsibility seriously.

Walker, from Marquette writes:
Nightline last night discussed local governance in Iraq. Have you found it is easier for local governance to work in some towns than others? What about the judges in Iraq? How difficult is it to find qualified judges?

Lewis W. Lucke
We have found that local governance works better in some towns and regions than others. We have seen a substantial receptivity to the idea of participatory government at the grass roots level in Iraq.

Local governance initiatives in Iraq are overcoming decades of rule by an oppressive government where Iraqis were deprived of inadequate infrastructure, and that set neighbor against neighbor and ethnic group against ethnic group.

By restoring a sense of civil society in Iraq, working with a number of Iraqi and CPA partners, we hope we are laying a foundation for peace, freedom and prosperity in Iraq.

For example, we've helped design an interim structure of government to represent the population in Baghdad neighborhood. Councils all represent Baghdad's 88 neighborhoods.

We have helped to established more than 200 neighborhood advisory councils covering more than half of the population of Iraq.

We've helped city councils and civil affairs officers in key cities prepare budgets for 2004 and we have awarded more than 829 rapid response grants totaling more than $40 million that serve as a mechanism to increase Iraqi participation in local governance.

Chris, from Cleveland, Ohio writes:
How does USAID award contracts?

Lewis W. Lucke
USAID awards contracts through a competitive process following U.S. government contract rules and regulations. A panel evaluates proposals submitted for potential contracts and these are evaluated on the basis of cost and technical merit.

All implementation contracts for USAID Iraq followed U.S. government requirements for competition.

Brian, from Dover writes:
Mr. Lucke, It appears that attacks against Americans have ramped up over the last week. You are in Baghdad -- is that what you are experiencing? Is there a sense of fear?

Lewis W. Lucke
There have been mortar attacks against the so-called Green Zone where the majority of CPA officials live and work. We are certainly concerned, but we are very determined to continue our efforts in Iraq and we do not see any cessation of our activities on the ground throughout the country. We have over 600 expatriate contractors and grantees working throughout Iraq and though security is always a concern, we are making a tremendous amount of progress in all areas of the country. The real story is one of profound change in Iraq.

Levin, from Cape May writes:
What is the most poignant memory you've had so far in Iraq? Any particular memory come up?

Lewis W. Lucke
The things that we have seen and experienced over the last six months are profoundly moving and rather extraordinary. We have seen grateful workers return to jobs at the port of Umm Qasr; we have seen schoolchildren return to schools in clean, safe and refurbished schools; and have been greeted by countless Iraqis especially in the South and North Iraq who are very grateful for their freedom.

Jack, from Stone Harbor writes:
I just read your bio Dr. Lucke and it is apparent you have been to many, many places across the world. Is this the most challenging experience you've had so far?

Lewis W. Lucke
I have worked in 8 different countries so far in my foreign service career, Iraq being the 8th, and this is clearly the most challenging experience of my career. But at the same time, it is very gratifying to be involved in such important work; to work with such dedicated colleagues in the USAID mission and other parts of CPA; to work with Iraqis who are at the same time grateful for their liberation and dedicated to making their country succeed.

I personally am grateful for the resolute President and Administration who acted not only in what I see to be the best interest of the United States but for the ultimate benefit of Iraqis who have lived under repression for so long.

Scott, from Ohio writes:
Do we really expect to set up a democracy in which the majority rules in Iraq? If yes, than how do we expect to keep the fundamentalists out of office considering they are the majority? Do we really think we can establish a Pro-American regime?

Lewis W. Lucke
At the end of the day, we really expect to Iraqis to define the kind of government that they wish to live in. Iraq is traditionally a sectarian country and even among many pro-Islamic Iraqis, there is not as much of a desire for a religious state as you might imagine. Probably we will see the evolution of a government in Iraq that will be participatory and certainly more democratic in nature than many of the skeptics may predict at this point. Many Iraqis are determined to make the most of this chance for self-government and self-determination.

Dave, from Tracy CA writes:
How have your operations been effected by the fact that many international Aid organizations have cut their efforts? Does the United States have to plan to most of the hard lifting ourselves?

Lewis W. Lucke
The truth is that most international NGOs with which USAID does business have remained in Iraq and continue to work. It is true that most of the UN agencies have decreased the level of their expatriate staff but many of their programs continue utilizing the efforts of their Iraqi staff. USAID has been gratified by the resolution of its contractors and grantees -- especially the NGOs that work throughout Iraq and continue to deliver services and work to the best of their ability despite concerns about security.

Lewis Lucke
It has been a pleasure trying to respond to some of the questions that have been posed. They have been good questions. Thanks for your interest. It certainly encouraging for those of us here in Iraq to know that there are knowledgeable and concerned people that want to know about our issues and the progress that we've achieved. To learn more go to this web site -- -- it will give you a more detailed accounting of the progress that we've made.

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