ON PROGRESS IN IRAQ?
By Jack Kelly - Article from The Washington Times
The commentary by Doug Saunders of Toronto's Globe and Mail began in
a fashion familiar to readers and viewers of the Western news media:
"Six months before, the world had cheered as the statues of the
dictator came crashing down. The Americans had seemed heroic. But now
things were going very badly. The occupation was chaotic, the American
soldiers were hated and they were facing threats from the surviving
supporters of the dictator, whose whereabouts were uncertain.
"Washington seemed unwilling to pay the enormous bill for
reconstruction, and the president didn't appear to have any kind of
workable plan to manage the transition to democracy. European allies,
distrustful of the arrogant American outlook, were wary of cooperating."
Doug Saunders was writing not of Iraq in September, 2003. He was
writing about Germany in November 1945. His article provided something
rare in the news media today: perspective.
Biased, unbalanced news accounts are giving Americans a false picture
of what is going on in Iraq, and are harming our prospects of creating a
democracy there, said Georgia's Rep. Jim Marshall, after a visit to that
The news media "are dwelling upon the mistakes, the ambushes, the
soldiers killed, the wounded," Mr. Marshall said. "Fair enough. But it is
not balancing this bad news with the rest of the story, the progress made
daily, the good news. The falsely bleak picture weakens our national
resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation and emboldens our enemy."
Mr. Marshall's comments could be written off as just another
Republican defense of the embattled president. Except Mr. Marshall is a
Democrat, one of the few in the Copperhead party to put the welfare of the
country ahead of short-term partisan advantage.
"Outside of Baghdad, things really aren't as bad as they look on the
news," said UPI defense correspondent Pamela Hess in an interview last
week with CSPAN upon her return from Iraq. "Now, naturally on the news,
we're gonna focus on where the troubles are, because that's what makes
news. But there are places in Iraq where things are going pretty well. You
can't say 'just fine' because the power is down, there is no phone
service. But things are pretty peaceful. People are patient and are slowly
rebuilding things back together."
Last week, I covered the return to Pittsburgh from Iraq of a Marine
reserve military police company. These Marines made the march of Baghdad
with the 1st Marine Division, and spent the bulk of the postwar period
escorting convoys between Basra and Najaf. Each of the seven Marines I
interviewed said that more than 90 percent of the Iraqis they encountered
The accounts of these Marines square with those of most other
servicemen returned from Iraq, and with my own experiences as a reporter
embedded with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in western Iraq, and with
the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad. But it's a story you hardly ever hear
on the evening news.
Iraq is a dangerous place. Saddam Hussein is still at large, as are
thousands of his diehard supporters. They've been joined by hundreds,
perhaps thousands of foreign terrorists. Though these "insurgents" cannot
challenge the U.S. military for control of any part of the country,
they'll be able to conduct remote ambushes and terror bombings for months
But viewed in historical perspective, things in Iraq are pretty good,
and getting better. The insurgents are a tiny, and dwindling, minority.
Most of the country is at peace. Nobody is starving. Signs of reviving
economic activity are everywhere. In no country in the Arab world are
Americans as popular as they are in Iraq.
Contrast this with Germany in November 1945: "Six months after VE
Day, the New York Times reported that Germany was awash in unrest and
lawlessness," Saunders wrote. "More than a million displaced persons
roamed the country, many of them subsisting on criminal activities."
Iraq hasn't been transformed into Switzerland in less than six
months. No reasonable person ever expected that it could be. But an
unrealizable ideal should not obscure the significant progress that has
Jack Kelly, a syndicated columnist, is a former Marine and Green
Beret and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the
Reagan administration. He is national security writer for the Pittsburgh