Spending time in the United States after a tour of Iraq can be a disorienting experience these days. Within hours of arriving here, as I can attest from a recent visit, one is confronted with an image of Iraq that is unrecognizable. It is created in several overlapping ways: through television footage showing the charred remains of vehicles used in suicide attacks, surrounded by wailing women in black and grim-looking men carrying coffins; by armchair strategists and political gurus predicting further doom or pontificating about how the war should have been fought in the first place; by authors of instant-history books making their rounds to dissect the various fundamental mistakes committed by the Bush administration; and by reporters, cocooned in hotels in Baghdad, explaining the carnage and chaos in the streets as signs of the countrys impending or undeclared civil war. Add to all this the days alleged scandal or revelationan outed CIA operative, a reportedly doctored intelligence report, a leaked pessimistic assessmentand it is no wonder the American public registers disillusion with Iraq and everyone who embroiled the U.S. in its troubles.
It would be hard indeed for the average interested citizen to find out on his own just how grossly this image distorts the realities of present-day Iraq. Part of the problem, faced by even the most well-meaning news organizations, is the difficulty of covering so large and complex a subject; naturally, in such circumstances, sensational items rise to the top. But even ostensibly more objective efforts, like the Brookings Institutions much-cited Iraq Index with its constantly updated array of security, economic, and public-opinion indicators, tell us little about the actual feel of the country on the ground.
To make matters worse, many of the newsmen, pundits, and commentators on whom American viewers and readers rely to describe the situation have been contaminated by the increasing bitterness of American politics. Clearly there are those in the media and the think tanks who wish the Iraq enterprise to end in tragedy, as a just comeuppance for George W. Bush. Others, prompted by noble sentiment, so abhor the idea of war that they would banish it from human discourse before admitting that, in some circumstances, military power can be used in support of a good cause. But whatever the reason, the half-truths and outright misinformation that now function as conventional wisdom have gravely disserved the American people.
That's just the opener. Taheri then goes on to catalog what are, for him, the key signs that Iraq has made substantial--even unbelievable-- progress since its liberation. Among the signs are:
(1) the lack of refugees departing Iraq--which over the decades has been a sure indicator that things were not going well. In fact Taheri notes that more than 1.2 million Iraqis have returned to the country since 2003;
(2) the continuing flow of religious pilgrims to the holy sites in Iraq in Karbala and Najaf--which, under Saddam had ceased altogether; and the return of exiled clerics;
(3) the value of the Iraqi dinar which had tanked at the end of Saddam's rule is now making significant progress against the US dollar;
(4) the increased level of activity of medium-sized businesses in Iraq;
(5) the Iraqi economy per the IMF is now the "best in the region";
and (6) the loquaciousness of the Iraqis, who--once silent under the Saddam regime-- now are talking to everyone openly about their hopes and fears.
These seem like pretty significant changes to me, but of course will hardly convince those who are determined to make Iraq into a "quagmire" and convince the American people how hopeless it is there. These people are unreachable by factual arguments.
From the other side of the argument, note how the U.S. military has met all its recruitment goals and has record re-enlistment--despite the highlighting of dissatisfied soldiers in major newspapers; the opposition of military recruitment on many college campuses; and the overemphasis on familes of fallen soldiers, who make it clear they are opposed to the war.
I notice we are seeing fewer and fewer articles about Iraq at all--either in the print or TV media--(except for the occasional bomb going off and smoking car hulk)as the MSM has been mainly preoccupied with other news items that can better show the Bush Administration in a mostly negative light.
Despite the real obstacles that keep getting thrown in its path, freedom and democracy in Iraq are succeeding. Read all of Taheri's article.
UPDATE: Almost as if to deliberately counter Taheri's piece, there is an article in the NY Times today--with the melodramatic title "As Death Stalks Iraq, Middle Class Exodus Begins"(which sounds suspiciously like the headlines they use to talk about Detroit and other urban areas of the US)--except, as noted by Cori Dauber, what they are really reporting on is an exodus from Baghdad..not all of Iraq. But the article is framed to suggest that this is a phenomenon impacting the entire country. Dauber also comments that they have no data to support such an overarching conclusion. (Does an exodus from Detroit or D.C. mean that the entire middle class is leaving America?)
However, the Times piece itself is a data point supportive of my own thesis--that the MSM is dedicated to putting the worse possible face on every current aspect of Iraqi society. Iraqis have reasons to be upset with the slow-moving pace of their new governemnt, and until that government coalesces and starts doing what it needs, it will disaffect many there. How is that different from any other free country, where citizens can leave when it is in their interest to do so? As I mentioned in the comment section to this post, the fact that the MSM and the left desperately want to believe Al Qaeda and chaos are winning is like a beacon of hope to the murderers and terrorists. They know they have lost militarily and politically; but they are hoping that their useful idiot brigade here in the U.S. and elsewhere can pull out a victory for them despite defeat.
UPDATE II: Gateway Pundit has a lot more information on the Times story.
UPDATE III: Wretchard has more: The Face of Defeat. (hat tip: doug)