Jewish World Review March 12, 2004 / 19 Adar, 5764
A year into Operation Iraqi Freedom , only the most blind of partisans can deny
that significant progress has been made in Iraq
It's been almost exactly a year since Operation Iraqi Freedom began, a good
time to assess the progress that's been made, and the problems that remain.
The failure (so far) to find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in
Iraq has been a blow to the credibility of the Bush administration, and an
embarrassment to the CIA. But if they were passing on to us bum scoop, they
were hardly alone.
At this time last year, antiwar Democrats and many of our most prominent
media personalities were predicting that Iraq would be a "quagmire" in which
thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis would be killed,
hundreds of thousands would become refugees, and the Arab "street" in
neighboring lands would explode in an orgy of anti-American violence. None
of this happened.
The Iraqi Governing Council has approved a provisional constitution that
provides for democracy and a bill of rights. There is nothing like it
anywhere else in the Arab world. The U.S. plan to hand over power to Iraqis
on June 30 is on schedule, and the UN has blessed a timetable for elections
and for the writing of a permanent constitution.
Resistance continues in Iraq, but is much diminished from last fall. In
November, 82 American soldiers were killed in action in Iraq. In February,
that number had fallen to 20. Saddam Hussein is in custody, and his sons
are dead. Most of the senior officials of Saddam's Baath party are also
either dead or in prison.
Efforts by the al Qaida affiliate headed by Abu Musab al Zarqawi to spark a
civil war between Shi'ia and Sunni Muslims so far have failed. The Shi'ia
did not respond in kind after suicide bombings in front of two mosques on
the holiest day of Ashura killed at least 172 and injured more than 500, and
Sunni clerics in the Baathist triangle led demonstrations against the
There was a silver lining even in the darkness of Feb. 14, when heavily
armed guerrillas attacked a police station in Fallujah, killing 23 Iraqi
policemen. The outgunned Iraqi cops refused help from the 82nd Airborne
Division, requesting only that they be resupplied with ammunition.
Recruitment for the Iraqi police, the Civil Defense force, and the new Iraqi
army remains strong.
Unemployment is still high, but is diminishing steadily. Wages are soaring.
Shops are filled with consumer goods, which are flying off the shelves.
Nearly a million more Iraqis have cars since Saddam was ousted.
Public services are better than ever before. Electricity is on in Basra 23
hours a day now, compared to just 2 under Saddam. Despite frequent sabotage
and a deteriorating physical plant, oil production has nearly attained
The liberation of Iraq has had ripple effects elsewhere. Syrians demanding
human rights staged a sit-in at the parliament building in Damascus March 8,
a protest that would have been unthinkable a year ago.
"Support for violent Islam is waning in almost all Muslim countries," wrote
Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria. "Discussions from Libya to Saudi Arabia are all
about liberalization. Ever since Sept. 11, when the spotlight has been
directed on these societies and their dysfunctions laid bare to the world,
it is the hard-liners who are in retreat and the moderates on the rise."
Some of the hard liners are changing their tunes. Libya has agreed to give
up its weapons of mass destruction, and has permitted U.S. and British
experts to come to that country to dismantle them. (They found that Libya's
nuclear program was far more advanced than most Western intelligence
services had suspected.)
Libyan strongman Muammar Khadafy made it clear what was behind his change of
heart. "I saw what the Americans did in Iraq, and I was afraid," he told
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Many problems remain. The resistance in Iraq, though weakening, is still
active. The tenuous peace among Shi'ia, Sunni and Kurd may yet break down.
But the wonder is not that there are no serious problems. The wonder is
that there aren't more of them. Only the most blind of partisans can deny
that significant progress has been made. And however hard the remaining
steps toward a democratic Iraq may be, it seems pretty clear the hardest
steps already have been taken.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
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