BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqis should measure their progress by the freedoms they enjoy, not the services they don't have, the top U.S. civilian administrator for Iraq said Tuesday.
L. Paul Bremer (search) told a news conference that while Iraqis complain of unsafe streets and shortages of power, they must also realize that the fall of Saddam Hussein has made their lives better.
"Freedom matters," Bremer said. "I think it's important to ... look beyond the shootouts and blackouts and remind ourselves of a range of rights that Iraqis enjoy today because of the coalition's military victory."
Iraqi frustration over power outages and fuel shortages has boiled over in recent days. Summer temperatures creeping above 120 have exacerbated the problems.
Thousands of people rioted last weekend in the southern city of Basra (search) to protest fuel, water and electricity shortages. Crowds have also demonstrated in Baghdad and elsewhere demanding jobs they lost after Saddam's government fell in early April.
Bremer said the U.S.-led coalition planned to install more generators and restore refineries (search), and repeated promises that Iraqis would gradually regain control of their own security. But he said Iraqis should not forget how much the country has changed.
"Iraqis are free to stand up and denounce Saddam Hussein," he said. "I might add they are also free to stand up and denounce Jerry Bremer, as I judge from your reports they do quite often." Jerry is Bremer's nickname.
Bremer also rejected criticism that frequent attacks on U.S. forces -- mostly in the so-called "Sunni Triangle (search)" north and west of Baghdad -- indicate the coalition is struggling to keep control of the country.
"I don't accept the definition of a country in chaos. Most of this country is at peace," Bremer said. "We have a problem with attacks against coalition forces in a small area of the country by a small group of bitter-end people who are resisting the new Iraq."