October 2, 2005 | New York Daily News

This Just In: Good News from Iraq

By: Richard Z. Chesnoff.

I once had an editor who used to cynically quip, “There's no news like bad news!” He would have loved Iraq: unrelenting terrorism, an insatiable casualty rate and an estimated 200 billion of U.S. tax dollars down a bottomless drain – all this at a time when we could use serious help back on our own devastated Gulf Coast.
There's no denying the torrent of bad news out of Iraq. Yet buried beneath it is a steady stream of good news, positive developments that rarely make the evening TV shows, the front page headlines or even the back pages.

I'm no Pollyanna. But whether you support our presence in Iraq, or think we should be pulling out tomorrow, it's vital to see the bright side of Iraqi events before deciding our efforts in that long suffering land are valueless.

Take, for example, the way brave Iraqis continue to defy bloody attempts by pro-Saddam terrorists to sabotage the upcoming Oct. 15 constitutional referendum and deny Iraq democracy. Like the January presidential vote, registration has been exhilaratingly high across the country – even in provinces with heavy “insurgent” presence.

In Anbar and Salahuddin, approximately 75% of eligible voters recently signed up to vote. Iraqis are also beginning to take over the heavy burden of their own defense. Our 149,000 troops clearly remain vital to any semblance of order, but the Iraqi army is making strides: It already boasts a counterterrorist unit and a commando battalion.

Iraq's once-powerful Air Force is back in the skies with three operational squadrons that already include nine reconnaissance and three U.S. C-130 transport aircraft that operate around the clock under Iraqi control. Even the Iraqi Navy is afloat again, with 39 patrol craft and a full navy infantry regiment.

Some members of Congress loudly disagree, but top Iraqi officials and several senior U.S. military chiefs believe that we may be able to safely withdraw substantial numbers of our troops by year's end. The Iraqi police force already has more than 55,000 fully trained and equipped police officers.

And suicide bombings at recruiting stations haven't frightened away long lines of new candidates for Iraq's five police academies; they now produce more than 3,500 new police officers every eight weeks.

Then there are the 4,730 schools that have been renovated or constructed; the more than 4.3 million Iraqi children in primary school; the publication of 51 million new Saddam-free textbooks for Iraqi schoolchildren; and the 70 universities, colleges and research centers now operating in Iraq.

Such progress has even triggered a steady “brain drain in reverse” – thousands of educated Iraqi expatriates who are returning home to teach and participate in the New Iraq.

During my first visit to Saddam-controlled Iraq in 1988, there was no free press and there was brutal oppression – especially of Kurds and Shiites. Today, there's a successful semi-autonomous Kurdistan, a politically powerful Shiite majority, plus an independent media with 75 radio stations, 180 newspapers and 10 television stations.

And best yet, Saddam Hussein is about to go on trial. Consider all this next time you feel that we're making no headway in Iraq.


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