Don't Panic! November 20 2003

Your war questions answered

Is anything going well in Iraq?

The White House is ticked off about how the war is going, so it's launched a couple of new offensives. The first is Operation Iron Hammer, a new military operation aimed at roughing up the people who've been blowing up foreign occupiers, and the Iraqis who cooperate with them.

The second offensive doesn't have an official name, but I call it Operation Operation. Operation Operation's aim is to keep the U.S. media from reporting all of the bad stuff that's happening in Iraq. To accomplish this, the White House and its buddies have been all over the press declaring their dismay over the natteringly nabobbed negative press coverage of the war. We keep hearing stuff like, "The war is going well. How come you don't report it when the planes land safely?" or, "Most of the country is peaceful. The fighting is isolated." I call this coordinated pissiness campaign Operation Operation because it reminds me of how, when I was a kid, I'd take the battery out of my Operation game. Basically, the White House wants total control of the public's perception of the war. They don't want buzzing buzzers or flashing red noses to undermine support for the war.

They have a point. This war was a lot more popular with the American public when the bulk of the media was firmly embedded up the White House's backside. Now that the press — particularly the TV newspersons from whom America gets most of its news — has decided to step out and have a look around, the coverage has gotten a lot more negative (aka realistic). The indubitable result: Public support for the war and the president is slipping.

But just because President Bush's shortsighted, poorly planned, poorly executed policies have backed the country into a corner — and 2,700 U.S. soldiers into hospitals and graves — that doesn't mean everything is going badly there. Some things are going well.

Saddam is no longer in charge of Iraq. That may seem stupidly obvious, but it's true — and it's the best thing to happen to Iraqis since, well, whatever the last good thing was. Some reports say he's orchestrating the guerilla war against American soldiers and the Iraqis who cooperate with them. That sucks for us, but he's no longer able to start wars or genocidal campaigns against Iraqi Kurds in the north, Shi'ites in the south, and the people he disliked all over. The fucker is responsible for the death of well over a million people. A recent report indicates that 300,000 Iraqis were murdered and buried in mass graves by Saddam during his rule. Less Saddam is, unequivocally, a good thing.

More Iraqis have access to potable water than did before the war. Consumer goods are in plentiful supply. Production of electricity has returned to pre-war levels. Democracy and freedom of thought are blossoming there. We're not talking 36D, more like training bra-sized — but a blossom is a still a blossom. Legitimate councils are in place in all but a few Iraqi towns. Iraq has a growing free press. Lifting the threat of torture and murder for criticizing the government has done wonders for the journalism profession; there are more than 150 newspapers published in Baghdad (sadly, not one of them runs my column).

Ninety percent of Iraq's courts are now open and functioning under a framework of law that's been formally stripped of the additions Saddam made to it during his rule. The Nov. 10 issue of The Weekly Standard reports that not only is school enrollment up 25 percent, but school curricula now include literature and philosophy courses Saddam didn't allow.

Iraq's brightest spot is the Kurdish north. Thanks to the U.S.-enforced No-Fly Zone that kept Saddam's air forces from attacking, the Kurds had a decade-long head start in establishing a free, decent, prosperous society. Kurdish society was no less tribal and clannish than the rest of Iraq's. If they can successfully make the transition out of Saddamnation, the rest of Iraq can as well.


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