Deanna from Champaign, Ill.: What's life like for the soldiers? I know there is alot of good things going on. What are they? Too much focus on violence -- yes, violence happens. This is a war, but it does not need to be the focus.
Answer: Good things that have happened:
Freedom to travel has been restored.
Freedom for Shias to worship on their religious holidays.
No fear that Saddam's henchmen will come and arrest people. There are more cell phones and Internet connections and contact with the outside world. The marshes are being refilled and a way of life for the Marsh Arabs is being restored. Improvement of salaries and pensions (wages have gone up). The fighting Kurdish factions have reconciled to form a unified regional government.
There have also been a lot of improvements to try and bring the country back to pre-war levels. But most Iraqis don't see that as progress, they see it as rebuilding and many are frustrated by the slow pace and the constant set back due to the security situation.
There are small things that happen every day; simple acts that bring happiness for an individual or group. An ice cream store, a traditional musician performs, a play for children, a new Internet café as examples. More than we here in Baghdad ever see or hear about, I am sure. Those are what keep the people going.
David from Del Rio:
What is the president doing to counterattack the I.E.D. threat in Iraq? Upgraded armor is not enough!
Answer: From our reporting with the military there have been a number of things the U.S. military has done to try and lessen the threat from I.E.D.'s. They deploy three models of bomb disposal robots. They have given some of the troops who are returning for duty specialized training in the United States to recognize the threat. The Iraqi army is being trained to deal with road side bombs too, relieving some of the burden from the U.S. troops. But it remains the weapons of choice. More than 575 U.S. troops (around a quarter of all U.S. fatalities) have been from I.E.D.'s.
Christine from Albuquerque: Has anyone seen Osama Bin Laden? I am guessing he must be in Iraq since that is were the troops are. Isn't capturing him the reason why our men and women in the Armed Forces were told they were going to the Middle East?
Answer: If the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden were known I am positive that they would go and get him. It is widely believed that he is in hiding in the mountainous region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but that is known not for certain.
President Bush formed his coalition to attack Saddam because the administration believed that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction that could be used against the United States and other western targets. There have been (and continue to be) some efforts to link Saddam and Osama's al Qaeda organization. But most reporting continues to find no link between the Saddam regime and Al Qaeda, and certainly there is no evidence that Saddam and Osama ever met.
But, remember long before the war in Iraq, the United States has maintained a military presence in the Middle East. We have troops and bases in numerous Persian Gulf countries, as well as in the Horn of Africa and Turkey on the fringes of the Middle East. The idea being that a military presence in the Middle East helps stabilize the region as a whole, and protects the supply of oil coming from the region.