Inside Iraq

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Several years back I was asked by the mother of a soldier who was killed in Iraq to go there with her. The Department of Defense was facilitating her trip to see the hospital where her son and other soldiers were ambushed and killed. I wanted to go but my station was worried. In the end, they wouldn't allow me to make the trip -- security concerns. I was upset. I thought if this mother is brave enough to travel to a war zone -- I should be, too. But also...I wanted to see for myself what was really going on.

We hear so much about the war. We hear that the situation is getting better and then worse. We hear that the surge is working -- for now. Sorting through all of this, as a journalist and as a person can be tough.

I wonder, has Iraq really become the #1 breeding ground for terrorists (as has been reported in recent weeks) where the average person on the street resents Americans?

I recently had this conversation with a documentary filmmaker named Raied Khayoun. Raied fled Iraq ten years ago and hasn't seen his family since. He now lives in Phoenix. His dream was to make a movie, not about the war but about the people inside Iraq.

Raied went to Iraq with Penelope Price, a documentary filmmaker and teacher. She's fearless. Any student who takes her film class at Scottsdale Community College is very lucky.

They traveled to the northern region of Kurdistan, not exactly where the fighting is fierce. But it could be -- very soon. Depending on what happens when the elections are held in Iraq later this year to figure out how the land and oil should be distributed. That election could very well determine much of the future of Iraq, and what role the U.S. will play. Whether we stay or go: And if we stay -- for how long?

Raied was pretty frank, he has no idea what will happen next. But one thing he seems sure about, the people he says don't hate us. Actually Raied says most are grateful. He talked to me about what life was life before and after Saddam Hussein. Before, they had one newspaper. Now he says they have 122. Before, they had one state run television station. Now they have satellite TV and unlimited stations. Cellular phone use, internet use... all of it he says will help to transform the country. Before, there was one political party, Saddam's Baath party. Now there are more than 100.

I asked him if he has hope... if he really has hope. He looked me square in the eyes and said without hope there is nothing. Raied believes when this war comes to an end, a better country will emerge.

Hearing this at least makes me feel better.

I keep thinking about that mother who traveled to Iraq to see the hospital where her son was ambushed. He was killed by those who hate us, there is no doubt about that. But I think we need to remember, they are the minority. Her son was fighting for the majority.

See my story, Inside Iraq featuring Raied and Penelope on my Facebook page