In a survey of "random politically-incorrect reasons to be optimistic on Thanksgiving day," Victor Davis Hanson asks "What happened in Iraq?":
Lost? Quagmire? Out by March 2008 which was the promise Obama gave when he announced his run in February 2007? General Betray Us? Somehow between Gen. Petraeus’s 2007 congressional testimony (Cf. Hillary’s “suspension of disbelief” slur) and the present calm, the US military essentially won the war. All the front-page stories in our papers that Americans in Iraq were incompetent, barbaric, mercenary, and Hitlerian suddenly ceased, and in their absence there was—nothing? About five times as many Chicagoans died violently in October than did US soldiers in combat in Iraq. Just as the hysteria peaked as gas was supposedly fated to hit $5 a gallon, but silence followed when it descended below $2, and just as we were warned that spiraling home prices had ensured an entire new generation of Americans were shut out of the American dream, and then even greater furor followed when prices fell suddenly and Americans were robbed of their equity, so too with Iraq, which we were to assume, would always be lost, but apparently never won. Like it or not, Gen. Petraeus will compare favorably with generals like Sherman, LeMay, and Ridgway who likewise somehow found victory when failure seemed certain. For all the tragedy and mayhem, the thought that Saddam Hussein is gone and just five years later there is a stable and successful constitutional government in the heart of the ancient caliphate seems as surreal as it is encouraging.
On the one hand, it is indeed good news that the month of October 2008 saw the lowest death rate of U.S. troops in Iraq for any month since the war began; that in face the murder rate in Chicago exceeds the death toll of U.S. soldiers in the entire country of Iraq by 141.
On the other hand, factoring in the deaths of civilians in violent incidents in Iraq, it is evident how much more must be accomplished.
Still, all things considered, civilian casualties in Iraq have greatly diminished from the high point in August 2007, in large part as a consequence of the "Troop Surge". And the Iraqi government appears to be confident in maintaining security to the extent that it has approved a landmark agreement that will see all US troops withdraw by the end of 2011.
What follows is a brief November roundup of additional Iraq-related news we can be thankful for:
- Wurwood Kindergarten School officially reopened its doors Nov. 21 in the Rasheed neighborhood of Salman Pak, neighborhood families feeling safe enough to send their children. The U.S. army worked with local contractors and sheiks to improve security and ensure the success of the school.
- The people of Al Tanoma, a city east of the Shatt Al Arab River, will soon open a new courthouse in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division, one of more than 65 courthouse projects throughout Iraq providing a foundation for a strong judicial system; 55 are already complete.
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has likewise overseen the renovation or new construction of nearly 1,100 schools throughout Iraq, with another 38 projects ongoing. Typical schools contain 12 classrooms, an administration section, a workshop, and bathroom facilities in a 3,500 square meter walled compound.
- More than 1,000 former Sons of Iraq (SoI) recently completed their first phase of training at the al Furat Iraqi Police (IP) Training Center in Baghdad
The SoI program was organized by Coalition forces in recent years, but the Iraqi government assumed responsibility over the program Oct. 1, in order to integrate the SoIs into the Iraqi Security Forces.
The SoI program has been very successful. SoI members paid a heavy price as they assisted Coalition forces in defeating the terrorists. The integration of the SoI into the Iraqi Police force demonstrates a positive commitment of reconciliation to the SOI by the Iraqi government.
- 186 U. S. servicemembers from across Iraq became U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony on Election day, while Nearly 300 servicemembers stationed across Iraq gathered at Holt Stadium to re-enlist on Veteran's Day, the largest mass re-enlistment in Joint Base-Balad's history.
- An abandoned amusement park, its carnival rides were unusable and the land was overgrown with weeds, was refurbished by 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and turned over to the Qahira neighborhood of the Adhamiyah District of Baghdad.
- In Baghdad, Iraqi Police are transitioning to become the primary Iraq Security Force, responding to incidents on their own with minimal support from U.S. Coalition forces.