Good news out of Iraq must not go unnoticed
August 15, 2005
Amid roadside bombs, constitutional squabbles and even a blinding sandstorm last week, one wonders if anything is going right in Iraq. Plenty is, actually.
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 U.S. military fatalities in Iraq last month. 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, brookings.edu/iraqindex, the number of on-duty Iraqi security personnel has 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 10 suspected terrorists were caught in Ramadi on Aug. 3. In both cases, the Pentagon reports, citizens offered intelligence that helped Iraqis and their coalition partners nail these killers.
Civic-affairs work by uniformed personnel may have persuaded average Iraqis to furnish useful information. On Aug. 5, GIs and medics from the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Division, plus Iraqi police, performed health screenings on 200 Mosul children. They also gave these kids soccer balls.
During five such missions since mid-July, some 1,000 kids in Mosul received basic medical attention.
Infrastructure improvements also are encouraging. A new Kirkuk treatment plant began providing clean water to 5,000 people on June 27, the State Department says. Another 84 U.S.-led waterworks projects are under way in Iraq, while 114 have been completed.
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 Aug. 6. So far, 3,211 schools have been refurbished, and another 773 are being repaired.
Iraq's monthly oil exports have grown from $200 million in June 2003 to $2.5 billion last month. This is due both to higher prices and to the fact that fuel supplies have swelled from 23 percent to 97 percent of official production goals in that period. These key improvements also help explain why Iraq's gross domestic product 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 had 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 impressive 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 global outreach organization) last month trained 208 members of 70 political parties and 10 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.
The White House communications team -- hobbled by institutional bashfulness and a nearly terminal incapacity for self-expression -- must educate Americans and our 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.