Iraq war isn't over -- yet
"American liberty and freedom is the best freedom in the world...The freedom for the individual that is written into the American Constitution you do not see in such concentration in any other constitution in the world. The Americans are here in Iraq, so freedom is here too." -Sayyid Hussein Khomeini, the grandson of the late Ayatollah Khomeini.
"The water is our life...It is a gift from God to have it back." -Salim Sherif Kerkush, a Marsh Arab commenting on the successful return of water to marshes dried by Saddam Hussein.
Suicide car bombers are wreaking havoc across Iraq. Congress is clamoring for the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the implementation of a clear "exit strategy." Assassins have murdered senior Iraqi clerics and government officials. From the perspective of most nightly news pundits, the situation is dire and rapidly deteriorating. Fortunately, history offers a far better and less hysteria-prone conception of recent events.
Without a doubt, the reconstruction of Iraq has achieved astonishing progress on every front. Indeed, the United States, six months since the fall of Saddam's tyranny, is doing better than with the rebuilding of post-war Germany and Japan during the same period of occupation.
Consider this: At the end of the World War II, a conflict that engulfed the entire globe, Europe and the Pacific were in total ruin. Major industries were largely obliterated by relentless and indiscriminate allied bombing campaigns, debris and craters dominated the landscape and basic services were virtually non-existent.
In Germany alone, the situation was quite grim. The Ruhr Valley, the industrial bedrock of the German economy, was utterly shattered. Nearly every component of modern infrastructure was demolished, including hospitals, factories, schools, railroad networks and government ministries. Still worse, the bitter winters of Central Europe had a devastating impact on Germany due to severe shortages in fuel and coal. Famine and epidemics were also widespread problems confronting the Allied occupation authorities. Additionally, millions of Germans became refugees after fleeing from the Soviet advance.
Conditions in Japan were equally as calamitous. Just think about the damage caused by a March 1945 air raid against Tokyo: the incineration of 16 square miles with 83,600 killed.
Even with all of these monumental challenges, America was determined to set war-torn Germany and Japan on a new course. At considerable cost, we brought democracy and order to regions of the globe that had long suffered the consequences of totalitarianism, authoritarianism, political instability and internal strife.
The same must and will be done in Iraq.
Unlike post-war Germany and Japan, the reconstruction effort will not have to stave off massive food shortages, epidemics and swarms of homeless refugees. Iraq's oil fields were seized largely intact, as was its vital infrastructure. Furthermore, prior to the war, approximately 20 percent of the country was already out of the grasp of the Saddam regime in the form of a protected Kurdish enclave. Over the past decade, the Kurds have successfully forged independent and legitimate political institutions as well as security forces. Recently, I had the good fortune to speak with a Kurdish reporter from the Voice of America, who reminded me that trade and commerce within this de-facto Kurdistan is some of the most sophisticated and prosperous in the Arab world.
Throughout the rest of Iraq, the progress speaks for itself - reopened schools and universities teaching curricula free of Ba'athist propaganda, functioning hospitals and local clinics, and the formation of over 200 free newspapers and magazines. Shiite Muslims now enjoy the freedom to worship openly without fearing the lash of a Mukhaberat (intelligence force) officer. Confidence in our achievements is so widely recognized that Amir Taheri writes, "Although Iraq is by no means out of the woods, the transition from liberation to democratization is assured."
Yes, the ongoing attacks by Saddam loyalists and foreign jihadists produce a far different and darker picture. Certainly, it would be dishonest for the administration to brush these attacks aside as mere acts of "desperate" terrorism. They are organized and growing more lethal. But insurgencies are hardly invincible, especially those that seek to turn back the clock to a time when the rule of law was subordinate to torture chambers and rape rooms.
The administration must redouble its efforts to build up Iraqi civil defense, police, national army and intelligence forces. President Bush must send an unequivocal warning to Tehran, Damascus and Riyadh to swiftly clamp down on cross-border terrorism or face punitive actions.
The extension of democratic capitalism is a critical strategic interest for America and for the civilized world. Democracies rarely war with one another and never see international terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy. This is why we are in Iraq and, if we stay the course, victory is undeniable.