Sunday, March 28, 2004

Just under a year ago, Baghdad fell. A great day, or so you would think — especially after the idiotic predictions of how the city would be a new Stalingrad, with coalition troops fighting street to street for months on end.

But, instead of even a moment of sheepish embarrassment, all the experts — the United Nations, the French, the world’s media, the nongovernmental organizations and the left in general — simply galloped on to even more idiotic predictions of doom.

On April 12 last year, I wrote a column mocking the global naysayers’ latest Top 10 Quagmires Of The Week.

If it seems cruel to dredge them up, I do so because, the current ballyhoo from Democrats would make you think the administration policy in this area has been a disaster. It hasn’t. Indeed, for 2 years now, the naysayers to the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice approach to the war on terror have been close to 100 percent wrong on everything.

John Kerry, in his macho way, told Rolling Stone, apropos the Iraq war, that he never expected President Bush to f*** it up so much. In fact, Mr. Bush didn’t asterisk it up at all. It’s one of the least asterisked-up operations in history.

The freak-show left prancing around on the anniversary demonstrations is one thing, but sensible people of all persuasions ought to be able to give the administration real credit for it did in Iraq these last 12 months.

Here are 10 predictions of doom from the conventional wisdom of a year ago, followed by some of my comments at the time, and a note on how things have turned out:

(1) “Iraq’s slide into violent anarchy” (The Guardian, April 11, 2003). Say what you like about Saddam Hussein, but he ran a tight ship, and you didn’t have to nail down the furniture.

I predicted: “A year from now, Basra will have a lower crime rate than most London boroughs.”

One year on: Almost. According to the BBC, Basra is booming and its citizens are flush with new spending power. Despite Saddam’s decision to empty the prisons of petty criminals on the eve of the war, in February British authorities reported crime in the city has fallen by 70 percent.

(2) “The head of the World Food Program has warned that Iraq could spiral into a massive humanitarian disaster.” (The Australian, April 11, 2003)

One year on: No humanitarian disaster. Indeed, no “humanitarians.” The NGOs fled Iraq in August and nobody noticed, confirming what some of us have suspected since Afghanistan: The permanent floating crap game of the humanitarian lobby has a vastly inflated sense of its own importance and is prone to massive distortion in the cause of self-promotion.

(3) “Iraqis now waiting for Americans to leave.” (Associated Press, April 10, 2003)

I predicted: “There will be terrible acts of suicide-bomber depravity in the months ahead, but no widespread resentment at or resistance of the Western military presence.”

One year on: The suicide-bomber depravity gets more depraved even as it gets more impotent. But there remains no widespread popular “resistance,” except in the minds of the left’s armchair insurgents. An anniversary poll found only 15 percent of Iraqis want immediate withdrawal of coalition troops.

(4) “If Saddam is not found dead, or caught alive, it will be the worst of all possible closures for the war against Iraq.” (Roland Flamini, UPI, April 10, 2003)

One year on: Saddam is in jail. His sons are dead. All but nine of the Pentagon’s deck of cards now fall into one or other of those categories.

(5) “Iraq was a new country cobbled together from several former Ottoman provinces, its lines drawn by the Europeans.” (Mark Mazower, the Independent, April, 2003). It’s a phony state; you can never make a go of it.

I wrote: “There’s nothing in the least bit ‘cobbled’ about it. … As long as you respect its inherently confederal nature, it’ll work fine.”

One year on: Seems to be happening. The coalition transition and new constitution both respect the realities on the ground.

(6) “Turkey is concerned that a Kurdish capture of Kirkuk could help bankroll moves to establish an independent Kurdistan.” (Agence France-Presse, April 9, 2003).

I predicted: “Nothing to worry about…. They’ll settle for being Scotland or Quebec rather than Pakistan.”

One year on: The new constitution formally enshrines them in the same semi-autonomous federal relationship as Scotland has with the United Kingdom and Quebec has with Canada.

(7) “Rather than reforming the Muslim world, the conquest of Iraq will inflame it.” (Jeffrey Simpson, Toronto Globe and Mail, April 10, 2003)

I predicted: “Despite the best efforts of Western doom-mongers to rouse the Arab street, its attitude will remain: Start the jihad without me.”

One year on: In Iran and Syria, it’s the thug regimes that are under pressure. In the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat is broke, and the suicide bombers have lost their sugar daddy. In Libya, Col. Moammar Gadhafi has thrown in the towel.

(8) “Looting is always unsavory. Let’s hope the Americans don’t pilfer the oil.” (Brenda Linane, the Age of Melbourne, April 11, 2003)

One year on: The only folks pilfering the oil were those officials and cronies living high off the hog from the U.N.’s disgusting Oil-For-Food program, a sewer of corruption that ought to force the resignation of Kofi Annan.

(9) “Weapons of Mass Destruction. Remember them? Not a single one has yet been found.” (Bill Neely, Independent TV, April 10, 2003)

One year on: They were found. In Libya. Close enough for me. And, thanks to the suddenly cooperative Colonel Gadhafi, we now know a lot more about A.Q. Khan’s role to disperse Pakistani nuclear technology throughout the Muslim world.

(10) “America is already losing the peace.” (Everyone.)

I predicted: “In a year’s time, Iraq will be, at a bare minimum, the least badly governed state in the Arab world and, at best, pleasant, civilized and thriving. In short: not a bad three weeks’ work.”

One year on: Iraq’s provisional constitution is the most progressive in the Arab world. Business is booming. Oil production is up. The historic marshlands of southern Iraq, environmentally devastated by Saddam, are being restored. In February, attacks on coalition forces fell to the lowest level since the liberation. In a BBC poll, some 56 percent of Iraqis say their lives are much better or somewhat better than a year ago; 71 percent expect their lives to be better still a year from now, and only 6.6 percent say worse. Eighty percent of the country is pleasant and civilized, and the Sunni Triangle will follow. Not a bad year’s work.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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