Skip to comments.The Real Iraq
Posted on 07/18/2003 9:57:27 AM PDT by cc2k
July 17, 2003 --
Open up almost any American or European publication these days, and you'll be bombarded with grim news about "horrific" conditions in Iraq - and America's "poor handling" of the post-war reconstruction effort. All of which, it is claimed, is made all the more tragic - because President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair maliciously exaggerated the threat from Iraq. They may have won the war, but they're losing they peace.
Author and Middle East expert Amir Taheri spent several days on the ground in Iraq last week and found reality to be starkly different from what is so ubiquitously reported.
Here is a first-hand account of an Iraq that is rapidly moving forward in nearly every aspect of life - political, economic and cultural. And a people that, while understandably skeptical after decades of tyranny, is nonetheless hopeful - and grateful for their liberation.
- THE EDITORS
'THE Iraqi Intifada!" This is the cover story offered by Al- Watan Al-Arabi, a pro- Saddam Hussein weekly published in Paris. It finds an echo in the latest issue of America's Time magazine, which paints a bleak prospect for the newly liberated country. The daily Al Quds, another pro-Saddam paper, quotes from The Washington Post in support of its claim that "a popular war of resistance" is growing in Iraq. Some newspapers in the United States, Britain and "old Europe" go further by claiming that Iraq has become a "quagmire" or "another Vietnam." The Parisian daily Le Monde prefers the term "engrenage," which is both more chic and French.
This chorus wants us to believe that most Iraqis regret the ancien regime, and are ready to kill and die to expel their liberators.
Sorry, guys, this is not the case.
Neither the wishful thinking of part of the Arab media, long in the pay of Saddam, nor the visceral dislike of part of the Western media for George W. Bush and Tony Blair changes the facts on the ground in Iraq.
ONE fact is that a visitor to Iraq these days never finds anyone who wants Saddam back.
"We see our liberation as the start of a friendship with the U.S. and the U.K. that should last a thousand years," says Khalid Kishtaini, one of Iraq's leading novelists. "The U.S. and the U.K. showed that a friend in need is a friend indeed. Nothing can change that."
Even the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr now says that "some good" could come out of the coalition's presence in Iraq. "The coalition must help us stabilize the situation," he says. "The healing period that we need would not be possible if we are suddenly left alone."
Yet another fact is that all 67 of Iraq's cities and 85 percent of the smaller towns now have fully functioning municipalities. Several ministries, including that of health and education, have also managed to get parts of their operations going again. The petroleum industry, too, is being revived with plans to produce up to 2.8 million barrels of crude oil a day before the year is out.
The flower stalls along the Tigris are also making a comeback.
"Business is good," says Hashem Yassin, one florist. "In the past, we sold a lot of flowers for funerals and placement on tombs. Now we sell for weddings, birthday parties and gifts of friendship."
The free-market economy is making its first inroads into Iraq's socialistic system in a number of small ways. Hundreds of hawkers are offering a variety of imported goods and making brisk business by selling soft drinks, often bottled in Iran, and biscuits and chewing gums from Turkey.
Some teahouses, in competition to attract clients, offer satellite television as an additional attraction. Every evening people pack the teahouses to watch, and zap and discuss, what they have seen in an atmosphere of freedom unknown under Saddam. It may be hard for Westerners to understand the Iraqis' exhilaration at being able to watch television of their choice.
But this is a country where, under Saddam, people could be condemned as spies and hanged for owning a satellite dish.
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