- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Thecumbersome process of transitioning from decades of dictatorship and war to capitalist economy and democratic governance is an easy target for negative media reporting. Combine this with politically charged election-year rhetoric, and you might as well abandon all notions of objective reporting on Iraq.

For many Americans, the mere mention of Iraq produces significant mental discomfort. The usual reaction to this topic is one of disgust or disappointment. To what can we attribute this common but unfortunate reaction? In a word — the media.

Political biases aside, the revitalization of Iraq has produced some of the most stunning successes in the history of postwar reconstruction. Oddly, the media has ignored these successes in favor of marketable themes like violence, corruption and doom. Skewed media reporting is distorting Americans’ perceptions of historical events in Iraq and is quietly undermining democratic progress in this area of the world.

However, I am currently serving with the Army in Baghdad and I can say that Iraqis have witnessed things even fiction writers would have a difficult time imagining. In the last 18 months, we have seen the transformation of social, economic and political structures most countries struggle decades to achieve. The media, as well as historians, would do well to pay attention.

Security: In July, the first independent Iraqi army battalion assumed responsibility for its own area in the Al Rashid district of Baghdad (a story in itself). This battalion is operating at a level comparable to an American infantry battalion and serves as a model for future Iraqi forces. Roughly 65,000 Iraqis now provide for their own security. Iraqi Police, National Guard, Facilities Protection Service and the Iraqi Counterterrorism Task Force constitute a security apparatus that is the envy of Iraq’s neighbors. Neither Japan nor Germany achieved this level of military and police reconstruction in the 18 months following World War II.

Power, infrastructure, industry: The level of electrical production in Iraq exceeded prewar levels after only 12 months. What happened to that news story? The more significant fact is that the distribution of electricity is no longer denied to traditionally Shia regions as it was under Saddam Hussein. Seventeen-thousand miles of irrigation canals have been cleared, and they now irrigate fields planted with tons of genetically superior seed.

Employment: In the last six months, Iraq’s growing industry, security forces and civil projects have resulted in economic prosperity for thousands. Teachers earn up to 23 times what they earned 18 months ago. Similar figures apply to doctors, soldiers and civil servants. In the last six months, more than 15,000 new jobs were created in the Al Rashid district of Baghdad alone.

Governance: Iraq stably attained sovereignty after 15 months — an unprecedented achievement. Neighborhood, district and city councils have empowered thousands of Iraqis to make positive changes in their local communities. The councils enabled the formation of viable political parties and have set the stage for successful elections in January.

Will the media continue to ignore Iraqi progress and cover the situation here in a way that causes American decision makers to abandon their support for these initiatives? With the American people as the decision-makers this fall, this question figures prominently in the minds of Iraqis.

Just ask any Iraqi.

Capt. Luis M. Alvarez is stationed in Baghdad, Iraq.

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