The issue of protective clothing and properly armored vehicles has received a lot of press attention in the past year. The Pentagon insists that they have corrected the problems in that regard, and I have not spoken to any soldier or Marine hear personally that has expressed any concern. There are always improvisations by soldiers to make things better, like developing a better seat for gunners in Humvees. The initiatives are not always welcomed by superior officers, but they are fact of military life.
The debate about when the service men will come home is widely viewed as a Washington political discussion. The officers and their troops that I have spoken with are focused on getting on with their job. Privately I have been told by some that they don't agree with the mission or don't like being here, but that is a very small number.
Progress in the "war"? The war was declared finished almost three years ago. The politicians in Washington have never agreed on whether Iraq was part of the war on terror or part of a different agenda. There have been many reports from a number of news organizations about that.
Progress in making Iraq a fully functioning sovereign government is mixed. Our military leaders continue to work with the Iraqis to take full responsibility for the security of the country, but no one would say they are close to being able to handle that responsibility. Until that time, it is hard to see how U.S. troops could leave Iraq unless some other country or group of countries stepped in to fill that void.
While progress continues on many fronts, the overall perception from the average Iraqi is that there is a long way to go.
Luke Gruber from Pittsburgh: We are in this fight to give the Iraqi people freedom. What new freedoms [do] the Iraqi people have now that Saddam is gone? Please do the research rather than asking Americans in some poll. Americans don't know; we only hear about the trouble from media.
Answer: We are asking people that this weekend on the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. Many have told me privately that freedom means nothing to them in the current situation. But we have dispatched our staff from Kurdistan in north to the Shia areas in the south and will be compiling a full report on this in the coming days.
ABC News, in association with TIME magazine, did a comprehensive report on "Where Thing Stand" back in December. The report looked at a number of social, economic, and political issues with local reporting teams that crossed the country. There was also a very extensive poll done around that time. I would encourage you to look it up on the Internet if you want a comprehensive look at what Iraqis think.
Of course, since then, the sectarian violence has increased dramatically. The stalled formation of a permanent government has fuelled unrest here. Many of my Iraqi friends are looking to temporarily leave to safeguard their families. That says volumes about what freedom exists.
M. Mallard from Rexburg, Idaho: I would like you to report on the good things for once. The military men and women who come home tell us the majority of the Iraqi people like us and support us. As with anything in the U.S. it is the minority that squeals the loudest and the silent majority is never heard.