Answer: The United Nations has had a limited part in the rebuilding of Iraq since its Baghdad office was attacked and U.N. Special Representative Sergio de Mello was killed. They shut down their operations and removed their international staff. They did send assistance to help organize the recent elections, and now they do maintain a small staff in the country.
In regards to the oil-for-food program scandal, the view of the Iraqi government has been to accept whatever international assistance can be provided and they have welcomed the United Nations here. The task of returning this country to a functioning society is their priority.
What is reported from Iraq by ABC News is not what we think our viewers and readers want to hear, but what is happening. I understand the criticism that we have received, but in fact-based reporting we, here, can be confident in what we are doing
April 7, 2006 — Today's answers are from Baghdad Bureau Chief Clark Bentson.
Carl from La Quinta, Calif.: Please balance your reporting and show us the improvements to the area and the gains made with the people. All we ever hear is the negative. There is more to the operation than just bombs, bullets and death.
Answer: Your suggestion that the negative news dominates our coverage is one that many journalists from all organizations hear often.
You are correct that the horrific news dominates the coverage from here. But by its very nature and the frequency of attacks, it is bound too. We don't avoid good news.
There are a number of things happening that demonstrate progress here. The elections would be the shining example. Outside of Baghdad the coalition has had successes in various areas of the reconstruction effort. In regards to ABC News reporting, Bob Woodruff told our viewers about a courageous ice cream store owner that defies odds to stay open, and Elizabeth Vargas showed people a ballet school that still functions. But Iraqis will tell you that things are bad and getting worse -- particularly in Baghdad.
Electricity hours in the capital are the same as three years ago. Petroleum exports are not nearly where they should be. Gas lines are still hours long. Medical conditions are worse; doctors have fled or have been threatened. And imagine being fearful to buy bread, to go to your place of worship, or to let your kids play in a park for fear of being kidnapped.
The U.S. military endures dozens of threatening incidents from insurgents each day. The Iraqi security forces face even more. The coalition forces, led by the United States, some brave nongovernmental organizations (that refuse to be identified because of security fears), and the struggling Iraqi government do work hard to make this country better, or more accurately, try to return Iraq to prewar conditions.
Despite the happiness an individual act can bring like a delivery of soccer balls to a school, a new generator for a village, a clinic for a neighborhood on its own doesn't merit its own story on a news broadcast.
I have been working in Iraq for years now. Last year I spent six months living here. I have great respect for the work the coalition forces are doing and many Iraqi friends. I would love to tell you that it is getting better. But, it is not. As journalists we have to tell you how it is.