Casualty report this morning: 3 Americans have been killed in the last 24 hours. 2 Iraqis charging American troops have been killed. 4 Americans were wounded in Ramadi.

There's a very nice article in the LAT this morning about Iraq's 'minister' of telecommunications, one Shakir Abdulla. Abdulla is a guerilla of the peaceful kind: a man who, with ad hoc equipment and an ever changing plan, is trying to put the telephone system back together again. With minimal help from the Americans, even though, presumably, some American slug is serving as an "advisor" to the group. As the article puts it:

"Like many Iraqis, Abdulla cannot understand how the governing U.S.-led occupation authority has allowed things to crumble so utterly.

"The coalition has a responsibility to create security. They created the situation that eliminated it," he said. "They must replace it."

In the meantime, the man must deal with a system that has no billing capability. A system that is more valuable in looted pieces than as a unit:

"So far, there has been little in the way of actual equipment delivered by the American overseers, Abdulla said.

"They are very cooperative, very nice people, but we didn't get any hard things from them," he said.

Repairing the telephone exchanges and building a new cellular system are, theoretically, not daunting tasks. The bombed-out exchanges can be worked around, and a skeletal wireless system is being installed.

"It is not only a technical problem," Abdulla said. "Technically, it's not very difficult. The difficulty is to have security. This is the most important issue."

An admirable instance of an enterprise being crushed, or that is one's pained sense, between a revanchist and accumulating Iraqi resistance and a clueless American occupation. And a brief glance at this newsletter article by a telecommunications group regarding the reconstruction of Iraq's system gives a much bleaker picture than the LAT. In fact, the two articles seem to be about two different worlds. According to Pulse, the Bremer people have been reluctant to start any national telecommunication project. They want such projects to be mounted in the indefinite future, by the Iraqis themselves. This heartening confidence in Iraqi autonomy, coming from the Bremer folks, is suspicious. Here's Pulse on the latest:

"Whether or not the State Department recommendation for a USAID contract will materialize is unclear. State has indicated that they are seeking to incorporate telecom infrastructure repairs into the already awarded Bechtel Capital Construction contract. If this were the case, the scope of telecom reconstruction would be limited to repairs and much smaller than indicated in the original State Department recommendations outlined above. Furthermore, to include telecommunications repairs under the already awarded Bechtel contract would require Congressional approval. In sum, the State recommendation seems to be a positive step, but the jury is out as to whether such a contract will happen any time soon -- if at all."

And here's the last graf, like the dying fall of some gut shot fat man:

"Circumstances under which future telecom contracts are issued are unclear. However, recent actions by the CPA and USG indicate that new contracts for large-scale telecommunications infrastructure will not be USG funded. Without USG funding, it is uncertain what company will be willing and/or able to pursue a contract that requires private or other forms of alternative funding. Iraq is far from being a safe/stable environment, and the cost of doing business there will be discouragingly high for the unforeseeable future." -- note: CPA=coalition provisional authority; USG=U.S. Gov.

The Iraqis have an uneasy feeling that the US purpose in Iraq is to render them perpetually helpless, a servile state . Reading PULSE's article, one understands how that feeling arises.