- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2003

While it is admittedly difficult to exaggerate the tasks that confront the U.S.-led occupation powers in Iraq, it is hard to overstate the depravity of the regime that the occupation has replaced. Beyond the Iraqi Kurds who were victimized by Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons in the north and the thousands and thousands of Shi’ites who were brutally exterminated in the south at the close of the first Persian Gulf War, there are the recently discovered killing fields that cumulatively comprise tens of thousands of murdered victims, many of them children and many of them buried alive.

As Charles Krauthammer cogently observed not long ago: “The toppling of Saddam Hussein freed 25 million people from 30 years of torture, murder, war, starvation and impoverishment at the hands of a psychopathic family that matched Stalin for cruelty but took far more pleasure in it.” So, let this be understood: Iraq’s pervasively broken condition did not develop overnight and cannot be put together in short order.

But the conditions in Iraq that greeted the victorious army have been improved in many important respects. Indeed, many of the achievements can be measured in the postwar potential catastrophes that were prevented. There has been no refugee crisis. There has been no humanitarian crisis. Starvation has not occurred. And a health crisis has not developed.

Just as you are never likely to read in your daily newspaper a headline declaring “No Murders in U.S. Capital Over the Weekend,” it is the nature of journalism not to report on a calamity that hasn’t occurred.

While it is important to appreciate the potential catastrophes that have not evolved, it is equally important to acknowledge the undeniable improvements that been achieved under such difficult postwar conditions. With power available virtually 24 hours a day now, the electricity situation in Basra is better than it’s been in a dozen years. In Baghdad, electricity is available 18 to 20 hours per day. Not only have gas lines precipitously declined, but Iraq has begun exporting its oil again. Schools are reopening in Baghdad, where 12 hospitals are functioning.

The 100,000 criminals released by the regime before its collapse and the militarized remnants of the Ba’ath Party and the Republican Guard have been engaged in widespread lawlessness. Progress, therefore, has not been achieved without cost. In southern Iraq on Tuesday, six British soldiers were killed. Iraqi fighters, who almost certainly have been joined by assailants from other Middle East countries, have killed at least 18 Americans since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major combat. Nearly 40 other Americans have also died in Iraq since May 1 in accidents and non-military operations.

In the aftermath of major combat, it is heart-breaking to learn that American and British soldiers continue to pay the ultimate price and to know they will do so for some time to come. As September 11 proved beyond doubt, however, the war against terrorism is both a necessary and just cause. American and British lives have not been lost in vain.

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