The mainstream media is failing in its reporting on Iraq. The American people are being fed a steady stream of negative stories about Iraq that in no way represent reality, and even if a positive story is reported it can be hard to spot. The New York Times reported on the ratification of the Iraqi constitution by attempting to calculate how many “yes” votes would have needed to change to “no” in order for the constitution to have failed. The week the ratification of the constitution became official was the same week the number of U.S. fatalities in Iraq reached 2,000. Some papers in the U.S. reported the casualty “milestone” on their front page, and completely ignored the story about the ratification of the constitution. Is it any wonder that more and more Americans are starting to believe that removing Saddam was a mistake? In stark contrast, 71 percent of Iraqis believe that Iraq will achieve long-term stability through the democratic process. The truth is that great things are happening in Iraq every day.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Iraq is that the U.S. “broke it” when we invaded, but the reality is that Iraq was a broken country long before we arrived. Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of education, where only one in six Iraqischool children had textbooks under Saddam. A huge effort is underway to repair the Iraqi education system. In the Sulayminyah province of Iraq, which includes the city of Mosul, seven of the area’s ten schools have undergone $354 million worth of renovations, benefiting more than 6,000 Iraqi school children. The repairs included new paint, sewer and electricity upgrades, new bathrooms, and ceiling fans in the classrooms. Across Iraq, more than 2,500 schools have been renovated or received repairs. In addition, USAID is training 100,000 primary and secondary teachers throughout the country.
A similarly impressive effort to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure is also underway. Opponents of our efforts in Iraq often point out that prior to the invasion Baghdad had a continuous supply of electricity, but that today supplies are intermittent. What they don’t say is that Saddam achieved steady supplies of electricity in Baghdad by poaching it from other areas of the country. The truth is that Iraq’s electrical grid, roads, bridges, health system, water systems, and oil infrastructure had been neglected for more than a decade. Not since the Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe has the world seen an effort as massive as the one now underway in Iraq, and many signs of success go unreported in the MSM: Iraq’s power output is now higher than pre-war levels, and oil revenues in September of this year were the highest in Iraqi history. Here is a short list of individual reconstruction projects announced over the past two weeks:
In Baghdad, the first of 120 new family health centers was opened. The clinics will be located in areas where access to healthcare is usually nonexistent;
15.65 km of roads in Samawah have been paved;
A suburb of Mosul is getting a new underground sewage system. When completed it will provide service to half of Mosul’s 1.5 million residents;
Also in Mosul, a new electrical substation will provide power to 6 million Iraqis;
A new primary school is being built in the Qadisiyah governorate;
In Babil, a new $4.9 million electrical substation will provide electricity to 20,000 Iraqis;
In Ninewah, an electrical plant that had not been used in for several years now provides 50,000 Iraqis with power thanks to a $3 million renovation; and
15,000 Iraqis have been hooked up to a new water-distribution system in Baghdad. In all, more than 100 km of new water lines have been laid in Baghdad.
Iraqis are often the ones doing this work. The Iraqi Contracting Office monitors over $18 billion in reconstruction projects all across Iraq. This amount includes $520 million for water and sewer treatment, $1.2 billion for the electrical grid, $100 million for agricultural revitalization, and $45 million to repair the seaport at Umm Qasr. Thousands of projects have been completed since the fall of Saddam, but the American people never hear of them.
Progress is also being made in the fight to secure Iraq. One of the stated goals of the terrorists in Iraq is to prevent democracy from taking hold, and yet they were only able to launch 19 attacks on polling places during the October referendum, down from 108 during the January election. Evidence like this makes it hard to believe the mainstream media when they tell us that the “insurgency” in Iraq is growing stronger. A few days before the election, Iraqi security forces reached an important milestone: 200,000 soldiers and police on duty. Many are now fighting alongside U.S. forces, and several dozen battalions are capable of taking the lead in an operation. Security for seven provinces in southern Iraq was handed over to Iraqis in August of this year, although it wasn’t reported anywhere here in America. In north-central Iraq, half of all security operations are now conducted by Iraqi forces, and in Baghdad Iraqis have primary responsibility for four of the city’s districts. The crime rate dropped 90 percent in Najaf after Iraqis were given responsibility for security. Iraqi civilians are also stepping-up in the fight for a free and democratic Iraq by calling tips in to coalition and Iraq forces. A national tip-line was recently installed to make the process easier.
Iraq’s economy is starting to reflect the optimism felt by the Iraqi people. A poll conducted by the Center for International Private Enterprise showed that 77 percent of Iraq’s businesses believe the national economy will expand over the next 24 months, 54 percent expect sales to increase during the next 12, and 69 percent are optimistic about the future of Iraq’s economy. The Iraqi dinar has stabilized since it was first introduced, and the multi-national forces in Iraq now pays Iraqis in the new dinars instead of U.S. dollars.
The story of Iraqi Airlines mirrors the growing fortunes of the economy as a whole. The airline’s first flights out of Iraq in 14 years started in September of 2004. In August of 2005, the airline announced that it would begin direct flights to Dubai. In September of 2005, flights to Turkey resumed for the first time since 1991. Just this week the airline announced that it is expanding beyond the Middle East with flights to London and Frankfurt.
Perhaps the most promising news to come out of Iraq since the fall of Saddam is the Iraqi government’s recent offer of assistance to Pakistan to aid in relief efforts after the recent earthquake in Kashmir. After decades of being a pariah on the international stage Iraq is rejoining the community of nations. Liberals would describe this as the ugly face of American imperialism. I call it progress, and although there is still plenty of hard work to be done, the American people can be proud of what we have achieved in Iraq.
–Bill Crawford blogs at All Things Conservative.