Tuesday, December 6, 2005

The first in a series of editorials on underreported good news from Iraq.

If Washington seems increasingly pessimistic about Iraq these days, Iraqis themselves aren’t. In fact, 47 percent of Iraqis surveyed by the International Republican Institute in October said that the country is headed in the right direction (37 percent said it wasn’t). That’s a higher percentage than last year, when 42 percent of Iraqis thought so (45 percent did not) — despite the problematic ongoing security problems. Here are some of the underreported reasons why.

• Education. Primary-school enrollment has jumped 20 percent over the Saddam years, according to the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index. In a country where 22 percent of adults never attended school, according to the International Monetary Fund, this is a momentous change. It’s also a change going almost entirely unreported by U.S. news organizations. A Lexis-Nexis search for the terms “Iraq” and “school” or “schools” in the last month in the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle turns up 331 articles. None is about schools in Iraq. The terms “Iraq” and “Ministry of Education” show up only four times in the last year. Only one story covered the Iraqi education ministry.

• Gross Domestic Product. Iraq’s GDP rebounded by an estimated 50 percent in 2004, according to the IMF, mostly due to increased oil revenues. About one-third of Iraqis are unemployed — an alarming rate — but this is sigificantly better than two years ago, when half or more of Iraqis were unemployed. A Lexis-Nexis search shows that the terms “Iraq” and “GDP” or “Gross Domestic Product” appeared together in the above papers in just 10 articles in the last month. Only two actually discussed Iraq’s GDP.

None of which readers of major American newspapers would know unless they consult other sources.

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