- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2003

Following a quarter-century of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial rule, which included three devastating wars, all of which Iraq lost, the Grinches in Congress and the media demand to know why Iraq has not yet evolved into an industrial democracy. After all, Baghdad fell April 9. Imagine that: More than seven weeks have elapsed, and postwar reconstruction has not been completed. Iraq is not yet a thriving, multi-party democracy. Electricity in Baghdad is not yet available 24/7.

At a nasty Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week, Sen. Joe Biden, the panel’s ranking Democrat, berated Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who broached the subject of Iraq’s immense oil reserves, the world’s second-largest. As Mr. Wolfowitz attempted to discuss the role that will be played by Iraq’s oil resources, Mr. Biden interrupted him, demanding to know, “What are the resources?” Then, Mr. Biden launched into his trademark lecture: “For us just to get to the point where we’re talking about 1 million barrels per day export,” the senator sneered, “there’s going be a need for a $5 billion investment in the oil fields to get to that point.”

Four days later, the New York Times, citing Thamir Ghadhban, the interim head of the Iraqi Oil Ministry, reported that Iraqi oil production had reached 800,000 barrels per day. By mid-June, Mr. Ghadhban projected, daily oil output would total 1.4 million barrels, of which 1 million would be exported. Relying mostly on equipment provided by a Halliburton subsidiary and Iraq’s well-regarded petroleum technical staff — which has performed awe-inspiring production feats since 1997 in the face of years of sanctions — Iraq’s oil output could reach 3 million barrels per day by year’s end, Mr. Ghadhban predicted.

Some perspective is dearly needed. It’s worth noting, for example, that more than two years transpired between the fall of Berlin in May 1945 and the speech by Secretary of State George C. Marshall announcing the European Recovery Program, which became known as the Marshall Plan. Nearly another year came to pass before the plan went into effect.

In the case of Iraq, despite the chaos that understandably erupted after the regime collapsed, significant progress has been achieved beyond the welcome developments in the oil fields. Last week the United Nations Security Council voted 14-0 (the rogue state of Syria abstained) to end sanctions against Iraq that had been in place since Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990. Not only did the resolution grant legal immunity through 2007 to the revenue generated by newly authorized oil exports, a development that will effectively protect Iraq’s petrodollars from creditors, but it also gave authority to the U.S.-led coalition forces over the formation of Iraq’s new government and the disposition of its billions of dollars of oil revenue.

In addition to granting international legal standing to the occupation authority, the resolution was greeted by the French ambassador as “a credible framework within which the international community will be able to lend support to the Iraqi people.” The German ambassador declared that the resolution placed those — like the Germans, French and Russians — who opposed the war “in a situation where we have to take action for the sake of the Iraqi people.”

Rebuilding Iraq will be an immense task requiring the leadership of America and the cooperation of the international community. It has just begun. Progress will at times seem to be nonlinear and haphazard. In this regard, while the media have become obsessed with Baghdad’s electricity problems, it happens that for the first time in a dozen years, electricity has become available all day long in Basra. Against the standard of Saddam’s failure to achieve this in 12 years, seven weeks hardly seems like failure.

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