Amid roadside bombs, constitutional tensions, and even a blinding sandstorm last Monday, outside the blogosphere (see here and now here) one wonders if anything is going right in Iraq. Plenty is, actually, although the mainstream media rarely mention such good news.
The journalists’ maxim, “If it bleeds, it leads,” prevails. Major news outlets correctly focus on the depressing consequences of the Improvised Explosive Devices and car bombs responsible for 70 percent of July’s U.S. military fatalities in Iraq. Terrorist assassinations of civil servants and police officers obviously deserve coverage. But it honors neither America’s soldiers nor Iraq’s selfless patriots to overlook the achievements they share in this new republic.
The growth of locals in uniform is a positive military development.
According to the Brookings Institution’s indispensable “Iraq Index”, on-duty Iraqi security personnel have risen from 125,373 in January to 175,700 today. They fight beside Coalition forces against terrorists and Baathist holdouts. One joint raid nabbed 22 alleged insurgents in Yusufiyah on July 25 while another ten suspected terrorists were caught in Ramadi on August 3. In both cases, the Pentagon reports, citizens offered timely intelligence that helped Iraqis and their Coalition partners nail these killers.
Civil-affairs work by uniformed personnel may have persuaded average Iraqis to furnish useful information. On August 5, GIs and medics from the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Division, plus Iraqi police, performed health screenings on 200 children in Mosul. They also gave these kids soccer balls. During five such missions since mid-July, at least 1,000 of Mosul’s kids have received basic medical attention.
Most Iraqis actually see the overall security situation improving. A July 12-17 Tips Hotline survey of roughly 1,200 Iraqis in Baghdad, Basra, Diyala, Irbil, Najaf, and Salah Ad-Din found that 75 percent of respondents believe their security forces are beating anti-government fighters. Twenty percent saw the security situation as “somewhat worse” than in April, and 14 percent found it “much worse,” but 46 percent considered it “somewhat better,” and 16 percent described it as “much better.”
The deaths of 54 American troops in July were maddening and painful tragedies, one and all. But these fatalities were considerably below the 137 GI deaths recorded last November, though only 36 were killed last March.
Infrastructure improvements also are encouraging. A new Kirkuk treatment plant began providing clean water to 5,000 people on June 27, the State Department reports. Another 84 U.S.-led waterworks projects are underway in Iraq, while 114 have been completed.
As Saddam Hussein relaxed in his palaces, his subjects in Kamaliya lived without sewers and relied instead on trenches that often overflowed onto the streets. Now, with Coalition assistance, 8,870 of Kamaliya’s homes will receive sewage treatment. Some 600 local workers will be paid to complete this $27 million project. U.S. government-funded projects employed 110,005 Iraqis in early August.
Some 18,000 pupils will study in rehabilitated classrooms when they go back to school in mid-September. According to U.S. and Iraqi officials, 43 more schools were slated for renovation on August 6. So far, 3,211 schools have been refurbished, and another 773 are being repaired.
Iraq’s monthly petroleum exports have grown from $200 million in June 2003 to $2.5 billion last month. This is due both to higher oil prices and to fuel supplies having swelled from 23 percent to 97 percent of official production goals in that period. These key improvements also help explain why Iraq’s GDP increased from a World Bank estimate of $12.1 billion in 2003 to a projected $21.1 billion in 2004.
Iraqis who endured Baathist censorship now enjoy a vibrant, free press. Commercial TV channels, radio stations, and independent newspapers and magazines have zoomed from zero before Operation Iraqi Freedom to–respectively–29, 80, and 170 today.
Internet subscribers have boomed from 4,500 before Iraq’s liberation to 147,076 last March, not counting the additional Iraqis who use Internet cafes. When Saddam Hussein fell, Iraq had 833,000 telephone subscribers. In July, that figure soared 356.4 percent to 3,801,822.
In the political arena, women hold seven of Baghdad’s top 40 ministerial positions. While Iraq is more than 17.5 percent female, this is an impressive level of political involvement for women in the world’s most sexist region. Among others, women run Iraq’s ministries of communications, environment, public works, and human rights.
America’s National Democratic Institute (a donkey-dominated global outreach organization) last month trained 208 members of 70 political parties and ten NGOs from across Iraq. They studied U.S.-style campaign skills including knocking on doors, canvassing petitions, and organizing rallies. In another workshop, activists learned how to promote their parties’ agendas on TV during two-minute and even 30-second sound bites.
Though he opposed the decision to go to war, Cato Institute senior fellow Tom Palmer traveled to Baghdad for the second time last April to address 61 members of Iraq’s parliament on individual freedom, limited government, and the rule of law. The entire legislature later received printed copies of his Power Point presentation titled “Building Democracy in the Land of Civilization.” Cato also distributed throughout Iraq the first Arabic translations of its pocket-sized booklets that feature the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
Palmer now spearheads Cato’s latest project pertinent to the region: Misbahalhurriyya.org. That’s Arabic for “Lamp of Liberty.” Once it’s fully functional on August 18, this website will feature market-oriented perspectives on current policy debates as well as the classic views of Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Voltaire, Frederic Bastiat, and other libertarian luminaries. Intellectuals in Iraq are helping Cato develop and manage this website.
Despite the Left’s ceaseless lies to the contrary, America’s 138,500 GIs do not fight alone in Iraq. A multi-national force of some 23,000 soldiers still stands shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. and NATO. As of July 25, soldiers hailed from Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, South Korea, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
While Americans, Coalition allies, and Iraqi patriots perform these admirable deeds, and many more, terrorists there know just one word: “Destroy.” They interchangeably demolish people and property in their quest to turn Iraq into a 1980s-style Beirut as big as California. These mainly foreign murderers contribute absolutely nothing positive. They neither construct, nor maintain, nor clean anything that does not go “Boom!” Last September 30, suicide bombers killed three dozen children who gathered around U.S. soldiers as they gave away candy at the celebration of the opening of a Baghdad water-treatment facility. These Islamo-fascist butchers must be eliminated as thoroughly as Orkin dispatches rats.
The White House communications team–hobbled by institutional bashfulness and a nearly terminal incapacity for self-expression–must educate Americans and allies more effectively on what works in Iraq.
While journalists should not whitewash Iraq’s mayhem, they should cover the accomplishments of U.S. personnel, soldiers from the 27 other nations with boots on the sand, and the Iraqis who are rebuilding their country–never mind the evildoers’ blasts and billowing smoke.
–Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Fairfax, Virginia.