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The good news from Iraq

By Jeff Emanuel

Jun 27, 2006

Kidnapping, conspiracy, and murder charges were filed last week against seven Marines and a Navy corpsman (the term for an enlisted medical specialist) for the alleged April 26 killing of a 52-year-old disabled Iraqi civilian. The eight men are accused of forcibly removing the Iraqi man from his Baghdad-area home, shooting him, and then planting a shovel and AK-47 near his body to create the appearance that he had been caught in the act of planting an Improvised Explosive Device, or IED.

The Left - especially the so-called "mainstream media" - has jumped on this (just as they did with Haditha) as yet another example of America's failure on all sides in Iraq, and of its true lack of concern for human rights. As Jeff Jacoby wrote in the Boston Globe, "Hostile to the war and to the administration conducting it, the nation's leading news outlets harp on the negative and pessimistic, consistently underplaying all that is going right in Iraq." The Left and the media's obsession with any bad news they can get their hands on serves only to undermine the cause for which our troops are fighting.

Had the media been honest in their reporting of the Iraq war and its aftermath from the beginning, this instance of alleged American wrongdoing would be seen by the public for what it is: an (abhorrent) aberration, committed (if it turns out to be true) by a very small number of individuals in an honorable, heroic force. The lack of coverage given the positive side of postwar Iraq makes it necessary to point out the vast majority of developments in that country which show that this is an aberration - developments which should not need to be said (possibly for the first time to many) now, this far down the road.

For example:

It shouldn't have to be said that the people of Iraq are living freer than they ever have, able to voice opinions and to take part in activities that they dared not do under Saddam for fear of losing their lives, and that they are hopeful about their future. This is demonstrated by a poll reported by the Brookings Institute, which showed that, as of January 2006, 64 percent of Iraqis thought that the country was headed in the right direction, and 77 percent said that removing Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do. The same report revealed that, on an index of political freedom for countries in the Middle East, Iraq now ranks fourth (below Israel, Lebanon, and Morocco).

It shouldn’t have to be said that the Army Corps of Engineers and USAID have done amazing work in the last three years rebuilding - and in many cases improving on pre-war levels - Iraq’s infrastructure, completing over 2,900 projects since the end of major combat operations, including the renovation and construction of hospitals, the establishment of new police stations and Border Forts (39 of 45 planned forts along the Iran-Iraq border have been completed - and are manned by Iraqis), and the cleaning up of drinking water. A village near the Baghdad airport, for example, had a problem with negative water pressure, which allowed sewage to get into the drinking water. Coalition soldiers spent ten months working with an Iraqi company to remedy the situation, replacing the Saddam-era water pipes with a system which improved pressure and water accessibility for the rest of the village. "This is the biggest gift from the (Coalition) Forces to this village," said the manager of the Iraqi company that contributed to the project, himself a resident of the village. "People used to be very, very sick in the village. When the water pipes were rotten, sewage was leaking [into the water supply]. We're really honored to do this and leave this here as a symbol of sacrifice. [Coalition] Forces sacrifice their lives here to help us. It’s the least we could offer this village."

It shouldn't have to be said that electrical power generation and distribution is currently at a level 720% higher than it was in May 2003 (3,600 megawatts vs. just 500 three years ago), and the Army has been providing excellent training to Iraqis to enable them to operate and maintain the nation's power systems. Demand for electricity in Iraq has doubled, and the US's goal is to reach 6,000 megawatts of output (over 150% of the pre-war level).

It shouldn't have to be said that over 3,000 schools have been "rehabilitated," 9 million new textbooks have been distributed, and 36,000 teachers have been trained, or that 315 of 317 school-building projects in northern Iraq have been completed.

It shouldn't have to be said that Iraqis are now receiving excellent - and accessible - medical care courtesy of the US military. Nearly 100% of Iraqi children have been vaccinated, and the military is conducting regular clinics, such as a dental care clinic recently held by 101st Airborne and Army Special Forces medical personnel in the city of Amu Shabi. In another instance, a group of Army engineers also acted to save the lives of a number of residents of a small Iraqi village by sending tissue samples of a stray dog which had bitten five villagers (including a child) to the Veterinary Corps in Landstuhl, Germany to see if the dog had rabies. It did turn out to be rabid, and the soldiers were able to provide appropriate medical care to the bitten villagers.

It shouldn't have to be said that former terrorist strongholds within Iraq are currently the sites of numerous rebuilding projects. Sadr Al Youssifiyah, for example, was once a staging point for terrorists targeting Baghdad. After a joint US-Iraqi operation liberated the town, the rebuilding and improving began in earnest, beginning with the now-completed project to restore drinking water to the town. "Half a dozen projects are already underway in the wake of [the town’s liberation]," said a program manager from the 101st Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, the unit responsible for this city. "These projects are a mix of short and long-term solutions to the problems facing these people. Some of these projects are simple road repairs to facilitate civilian transportation, while others are complicated and longer term projects developed to repair local electrical networks over the long haul."

It shouldn't have to be said that Iraq’s economy is growing at a torrid rate, and is only expected to speed up in the near future. According to a State Department report, Iraq's 2005 GDP was 130% what it was in 2002 under Saddam (not only did it rise 2.6% in the last year, but it is expected to climb 10% in the coming year), and unemployment is 50% lower than it was in June 2003. Annual oil export revenues have increased over 300% from the prewar level of $200 million. More than 30,000 new businesses have been registered in Iraq since the fall of Saddam, and per capita income is now 240% higher than the $500 it was before the war. There are more than 5 million cell-phone subscribers now, as compared to virtually none under Saddam, and the country now has more than 2,000 Internet cafes…and a free press. USAID is also helping train Iraqis to become competitive in the job market, such as a recently-held carpentry workshop for young adults which focused on fostering leadership, independence and financial stability. The shops profits are used to purchase sports equipment, secondary school supplies, and other community-related items.

It shouldn't have to be said that America's soldiers in Iraq have gone vastly above and beyond the call of duty to help the people of Iraq. Army 1st Lt. Brian Cyr, for example, began a shoe drive last May after seeing that many Iraqi children - especially those in rural areas - had none. The project became a wild success, and Lt. Cyr and 28 of his 1st Cavalry soldiers were able to distribute over 3,000 pairs of shoes (donated by Americans in 11 states) during the two-month life of the program. Cyr wrote that "seeing children put on a new pair of shoes for the first time is something [he'll] never forget," also saying that this experience "has definitely shown my platoon that the majority of Iraqis are not the ones shooting at us." Another example is Army Captain Wendy Bernard, who wrote of the project known as Operation Helping Hands which was launched by the 874th Movement Control Team, her unit in Iraq, with the support of her Staten Island-based home Battalion. "Our operation has made tremendous strides," she writes, "and has included school kit donations, dental hygiene programs, school rebuilding operations, involvement in a local women's union geared to the empowerment of local women and the subsequent improvement of their lives. In essence, we have concentrated on the entire community and have found our work rewarding and gratifying, based on the smiles, hugs and kisses from the local children and adults."

This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg; there is so much more good news from Iraq which has regrettably been ignored, and must now be given the attention it deserves. Fortunately, several "new media" and talk radio outlets have done a consistently excellent job of getting the word out on the positive developments in the region, and still more information should come to light in the future as the improving situation gives the mainstream media less bad news to report from Iraq. Given the Left's constant harping on Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and this latest incident - the latter two of the three still being far from proven - it is supremely important that Americans be presented with the good news from Iraq, and given the information necessary to understand that the positives in that nation not only outweigh the bad, but that they do so overwhelmingly.

Jeff Emanuel, a Special Operations military veteran, studies Classics at the University of Georgia. He is also a contributing editor for conservative web log, and is a columnist for the Athens, GA Banner-Herald newspaper.

Copyright © 2006

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