Tom Korologos

WASHINGTON — Native Utahn Tom Korologos didn't suffer a scratch during five months amid the chaos in war-torn Iraq while helping to direct its reconstruction.

But when he returned to lobby Congress for support, he fell down the Capitol's exterior stone steps. He suffered a nasty black eye.

"What was worse was that a policewoman ran up yelling into her radio, 'Elderly white male down, elderly white male down.' That (description) was more embarrassing than falling," says the 70-year-old Korologos.

But the black eye now gives Korologos a prop to describe Iraq.

"When people say, 'What happened to you?' I say, 'It's not as bad as it looks.' I tell them the same is true about Iraq."

But he complains that positive stories about progress in Iraq — and discoveries of more atrocities by Saddam Hussein — are not gaining much attention in the U.S. press. One of his main jobs now is to tell Congress about them and to help sell President Bush's proposal for $87 billion in spending to help Iraq.

Korologos is a senior counselor to Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, U.S. chief of reconstruction efforts in Iraq. As such, he helps advise efforts there — but has especially served as a liaison to Congress.

That's a natural for Korologos, who for decades was considered among the most powerful lobbyists in Washington — and maybe even its most influential. He also helped shepherd about 400 presidential nominees to confirmation through the years. In retirement, he answered a call to help his country in Iraq.

"We encourage as many members of Congress as possible to come to Iraq to see for themselves how it is going," Korologos says. "We've had 50 to 60 so far. Almost unanimously, they say it is enlightening to see that the coalition is indeed working, and they are shocked at the mass graves and squalor that Saddam created."

Korologos is spending two weeks in Washington to take his message to those who could not travel to Iraq, hoping to help pass the $87 billion in supplemental appropriations for Iraq efforts sought by Bush. He says lack of attention in the press to achievements there have made that job a bit tougher.

"There is a whole ton of success that we have every day that hardly sees the light of day (in the news media). It is sort of disconcerting," he says, realizing they are overshadowed as focus instead goes to soldiers wounded or killed.

"Indeed, the shooting of a soldier is a horrible thing — and we wake up every day hoping not to see another. On the other hand, a whole lot is happening — we've opened all the banks, universities and schools. We have 4,000 projects under way."

He added, "In the past 90 days, we have delivered 9,000 tons of medical supplies. . . . We've delivered more than 22 million doses of vaccine. Two hundred newspapers are up and running. The people have never had this much religious freedom. They have had more religious freedom in the past four months than in the past 40 years."

He says his real pet peeve "is the deafening silence from opponents about the mass graves" found from Saddam's regime. He says they complain about conditions now, "but they don't mention the 1.3 million people who are missing (from Saddam's years) and the 300,000 or 400,000 in mass graves."

He adds that only five months have passed since combat ended. And rebuilding takes time, as President Bush has warned repeatedly.

"But Americans are the most impatient people on earth. They want to see progress every day," he says. "Many are unhappy because it's only been five months since we've been there, and they wonder how come we're not out. Of course, they don't think about how we've been in Germany" for 60 years and Korea for more than 50.

Korologos has no precise time prediction about when Americans will leave, but says it will happen when "we figure out security, the economy is back on track and the security council (of local Iraqis) takes over."

Meanwhile, he is optimistic — despite some criticism in the media — that Bush's spending request will pass, all of it without cuts.

"We're going to have to jump through some hoops. But in the end, patriotism is there and they will pass it — in what form or shape is another question. . . . But the whole Middle East question revolves around this. In the end, I think they will all be patriots," he says.


E-MAIL: [email protected]