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Bond: Future bright for Iraq, U.S.

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By Sharon Graves

By SHARON GRAVES

The News-Democrat

Maurey Bond has traveled the world and is pursuing his career in international business in the Middle East, but his Carrollton roots run generations deep.

His grandparents are Thomas and Mildred Bond of Carrollton, and he lived with them in their Seminary Street home while working on his worked on his master’s thesis. His parents, Patricia and Jack Supplee, grew up here.

After earning multiple college degrees, the 31-year-old headed off to Iraq to experience the culture and to help bring prosperity to the warn torn country – and to the United States, as well. He doesn’t wear a uniform or handle weapons, but his are needed boots on the ground to bring business and, maybe, peace to a troubled part of the world.

As business development director of the Iraq/American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, his role is to bring job fairs and business-to-business expositions to Iraq. Currently, he is traveling throughout the United States, Canada and Europe to recruit businesses and corporations for the first-ever Energy Expo and Conference set for Oct. 17-18 in Iraq’s capital city, Baghdad.

Following a crooked path

Bond, who recently returned to Carrollton to visit with his family, said it’s been a rather crooked path that led him to Iraq.  

 He enrolled in the Peace Corps for 2001, but that was postponed indefinitely after the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on Sept. 11  that year.

He decided to study law in Kansas, but soon realized his heart wasn’t in it.

He opted for officer training school through the Air Force, but a month before he was supposed to ship out as an Arabic linguist, he was accepted into a doctorate program – which, ironically, he didn’t finish.

But through the program, he made connections that led him to Iraq.  “If things had been different, I would have been in Iraq three or four years earlier in a totally different field,” he said.

At the October expo, Bond said participants will have opportunities to speak face-to-face with senior-level officials in the Iraqi Ministry of Oil. The event also will feature research and technical sessions, and seminars on how to do business in Iraq.

It was while he was in Carrollton working on his thesis that Bond found out about the Iraq/American Chamber and applyed for a position there.

“I decided if I could live in Iraq or the Middle East, the opportunity is there, the potential is there for an amazing career,” he said. “Every day is something new. I have high-level meetings with senior ministry officials weekly. I have access to CEOs of business. ... There is so much potential there that a kid from Carrollton can work half-way around the world.”

He said his work there ignites his patriotism for his own country.

“Every minute that I am there, I love America more because the people I’m working with are the best and brightest that America and the world has to offer. We are completely unified. We have the same heart, same mind,” he said. “It means the world to me to be a part of something that people are willing to give their life for. I drive down streets that Americans have died for. That’s the America I know and love.”

Bond knows safety is a concern for businesses that might send representatives to the expo in the fall, but says he feels safe living in Karada, Baghdad’s business district –in the “red zone.” He lives outside the Green Zone area, which is occupied and patrolled by U.S. and British forces.

“I live in the community,” he said. “I go through Baghdad all day every day and I feel as safe there as I do in any other American city.

“When I got to Baghdad I took my flack jacket off, I put it in the closet and I haven’t seen it since,” he said.  “Yes, there are problems and concerns, but there will always be individuals causing trouble. If you’re looking for a safe community with no violence and no crime you will never find it.”

Bond says he hopes the October expo will be even bigger and better than a business-to-business trade show he worked on when he first got to Iraq. “Hundreds of Iraqi businesses came together to promote business with the military, oil companies, and other businesses,” he said. “We had 280 businesses; we are expecting 600 businesses to attend the energy expo in October.”

A PASSION FOR IRAQ

Bond is passionate about the Iraq he has come to know and love and hopes possibly to raise a family there.

But, he said he believes the peace and security of the United States will depend upon a free Iraq.

“I can see incredible changes since I went there in February,” Bond said, adding that he wants Americans to know that if we give up on the war, we “risk nothing, but people over there risk everything. They want to fight.  The U.S. is over there believing in the future of Iraq, there is so much potential there. ... I cannot be at peace here, knowing what I know now.”

His time in Iraq has caused him to appreciate everything more. “I love my country more, I am more service-oriented, I love my family more and I am more resolved to who I am,” he said. “I am more content in knowing that what we’re doing is right.”  

Bond says that most of the trouble in the country is caused by “outside agitators” who “stir the pot and then they leave. I live with Shia, Kurds and Sunni, and they are all the same. They are the most amazing people. They understand where the influence is [coming from]; it’s to the East, and it’s outside [Iraq].”

Iraqi democracy is in its infancy, and anyone doing business there is dealing with bureaucracies. “In the past, the government did everything,” he explained. “They set the prices, and they were not worried about efficiency. Now they are part of a global community and they must compete, just like the United States must compete.”

When things are bad, Iraqis – like anyone, anywhere – tend to blame others. But, Bond said he believes there is a positive future for Iraq and the United States, if the U.S. stays to stabilize the fledgling country.

“People have agendas, but beyond rhetoric there are facts. The facts are inescapable. There is no argument in the progress that is happening. The facts are the facts, the numbers are the numbers. We are on the move; Baghdad is open for business, and the economic future of Iraq is bright.”

Bond estimates there is $500 billion worth of business contracts in Iraq. “Any contractor who goes there has so much potential to grow their business.”

“If you want a job in Carrollton, then support the cause in Iraq,” Bond said.  “What’s happening in Iraq affects pensions here.”   “Oil can be the engine for good for the world.”  “Oil can suppress or it can liberate people.”  “It is irreconcilable that the future of Iraq is the future of the U.S.”

When Bond speaks about the price of gasoline in the United States, he emphatically believes that fuel costs more because there are more people in the world raising their standards of living.

 “There is a price for prosperity,” Bond said. “That means you’re not the only ones anymore. The Chinese aren’t going to be picking the rice and riding the bikes anymore, they are going to live like you. And you’re going to pay more. The price is bigger than you know, and it has nothing to do with gas.”

It’s a lesson for Americans that people who once lived in poverty, tyranny and oppression are now liberated, Bond said. “And the opportunity [is now there] to own their own home, drive their own car, and own their own business, and everyone else deserves to have the same opportunity you have.”

“You want cheap gas, get a drill,” Bond said, frustrated by America’s unwillingness to provide for itself, by the fact that a new refinery has not been built in the United States in his lifetime, and the policy of selling oil produced in Alaska to Japan. “The oil is here.”  

Overall, though, the future is bright in Iraq, and he believes the children there can see that. “It’s going to be difficult for five, 10 or 15 years, but the next generation of Iraqis will have one of the fastest growing economies in the world.  

And he believes the future of Iraq is the future of the U.S. “The peace that we will have in Iraq – the beacon of peace –is amazing to see with my own eyes. There is nowhere to go but up.”