U.S. administrators in Iraq moved to shore up critical infrastructure as part of a rebuilding effort critics say is long overdue. Criticism continued after the Pentagon awarded part of an initial $45 million communications contract to WorldCom/ MCI-despite the firm's $11 billion in accounting fraud and a bankruptcy filing last year. The Defense Department asked MCI to set up a limited cell-phone network, featuring about 20 towers to serve up to 20,000 customers. The system should provide communication for humanitarian aid workers and other contractors now entering Iraq.
But Pentagon officials also need to improve communication among their own security forces. Last week U.S. soldiers in Baghdad conducted a nighttime raid on headquarters of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), arrested 35 of its members, confiscated their weapons, and detained them for more than an hour before realizing the Iraqi fighters were U.S. allies.
The troops responded to reports of a firefight on the outskirts of Baghdad, where the INC engaged two vehicles carrying armed men who fired on them. But in a case of mistaken identity, U.S. forces arrested the wrong men when they arrived on the scene. A U.S. military liaison embedded with the INC, along with New York Sun reporter Adam Daifallah, finally convinced U.S. soldiers to let the good guys go. INC leader Ahmed Chalabi said, "There needs to be greater communication between the coalition and their Iraqi allies in order to prevent such misunderstandings in the future."