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January 03, 2005

Good News From Iraq

As the NY Times paints the usual gloomy, one-sided picture of events on the ground, Arthur Chrenkoff provides some balance with a roundup of good news from Iraq. A few highlights:

A poll of almost 2200 Iraqis showed growing hopefulness about the upcoming elections. Surprisingly, most were more concerned with economic issues than the continued violence plaguing their country. One might almost get the impression (despite the continued sniping of Maureen Dowd and Bob Herbert) that things were getting better:

The poll, conducted Nov. 24 to Dec. 5, found improvements over the last two months in Iraqis' feelings about the country's direction and, to a lesser degree, about the interim Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi...

Nearly 54 percent said Iraq is generally headed in the right direction--compared with 42 percent in late September and early October--while 32 percent said it's headed in the wrong direction. . . .

More than 71 percent of those polled said they "strongly intend" to vote, and 67 percent said they believe Iraq will be ready to hold elections by the end of January, compared with 24 percent who said the country won't be ready.

Although insurgent hotspots like Fallujah and Mosul were not included in the survey, many Iraqis are determined to have their day at the polls despite the threat of violence:

As insurgents target election infrastructure, Ali Waili, a 29-year-old taxi driver from Karbala, speaks out for the silent majority: "I swear to God, even if they burn all the elections centers, we will still go and vote. . . . We have been mistreated for a long time, we have been tortured for a long time."

And although the US media continue to focus on trouble spots like Fallujah and Mosul, much of Iraq is peaceful:

As Iraqi refugees and exiles are coming back, many areas of their homeland don't resemble the chaotic picture seen every night on the news. Kuridstan remains peaceful and buzzing with activity; an example of what the rest of the country could aspire to: "Western businessmen move freely around the region's capital, Irbil, and American soldiers eat in restaurants without their body armour. In the crowded foyer of the Sheraton, Kurdish businessmen and politicians discuss reconstruction work." It's not just peace and growing prosperity, but also the free intellectual climate that is attracting people to Kurdistan:

Kurdish students living in Iraq's neighbours are flocking to universities in the Kurdish areas to escape repression at home and to benefit from the opportunities they say the region offers. The University of Sulaimaniyah alone has so far accepted more than 110 Kurdish students from neighbouring countries, mainly Iran and Syria, under a programme that reserves five per cent of all places at Iraqi Kurdish universities for high school graduates educated elsewhere.

In economic news:

The International Monetary Fund estimated Iraq's economic growth for 2004 to surpass 50%, and the country continued to enjoy low inflation, a stable currency and strong foreign exchange reserves.

The Iraqis are feeling optimistic about the business climate:

Eight of 10 Iraqis businesses say Iraq's economy will grow over the next two years, and almost half felt the business climate was better than under Saddam Hussein, according to a recent survey. "Security is the first concern, but people thrive in the midst of catastrophe everywhere," said John Zogby, whose organization conducted the poll on behalf of an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. . . .

Pollsters conducted face-to-face interviews with 454 Iraqi owners or managers between Oct. 17 and Dec. 3, a period of major violence as U.S. forces battled guerrillas for control of Fallujah. They found almost 70 percent were optimistic for post-Saddam Iraq...

Iraq has awarded the first post-war oil contracts, with more contracts to be let after the elections in January.

Also, a second international airport is expected to open in Basra in July, with a third planned for Najaf.

We don't read any of this in the newspaper (nor will you hear about it on the TV) but these are astonishing developments. There are also wonderful things happening with Iraq's water and sewer infrastructure as well as improvements in the areas of security, education, health care, and humanitarian aid.

Check it out.

Posted by Cassandra at January 3, 2005 05:38 AM

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How early do you get up in the morning?!

Posted by: Jack at January 3, 2005 07:04 AM

There are also wonderful things happening with Iraq's water and sewer infrastructure as well as improvements in the areas of security, education, health care, and humanitarian aid.

Yikes - how much prozac, xanax, paxil, etc. do you take to believe that Uncle Sam has caused a net improvement in the water, sewer or electricity infrastructure in baghdad, for example?

Sure, Sam's making progress fixing the shit he blew up. But you're an ephing lunatic if you think of this as a gift from Uncle Scam.

Posted by: troll at January 3, 2005 06:56 PM

Jack, I get up at 4 or 4:30.

Monsieur Troll, I don't need any prozac. Saddam let those systems stagnate for 30 years. We're pouring millions of dollars into them for the first time in years.

Try educating yourself - information is a wonderful antidote to ignorance.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 3, 2005 06:59 PM

The problem with the infrastructure also was that the only places with any was those places where Saddam was located. If he was in Bagdad, it had all the electricity it needed, to the exclusion of the countryside. If he went to a palace elsewhere, power and water was diverted. They didn't have enough for everyone, but Saddam always had his. That benefited those around Saddam. When we went in, we first rationed the limited resourses in a more "fair" manner -- which benefited the previously ignored but was "bad" to the prevously favored. We have been building up supplies and capacity since. Get a clue troll.

Posted by: KJ at January 4, 2005 10:33 AM

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