By Alan W. Dowd
A year after the US-led liberation of Iraq, the situation in the region is far better than what most feared. Even so, it’s not as good as some had hoped it would be. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of the good news—and there’s plenty of it:
-Saddam Hussein is in a prison cell, and 25 million Iraqis are free. They have already penned an interim constitution and will hold elections this December.
-The Iraqi contribution to postwar security is well over 200,000 men, outnumbering the US commitment by almost 100,000.
-There was no refugee crisis, civil war or humanitarian disaster. In fact, all of Iraq’s 240 hospitals are reopened, and 90 percent of Iraqi children are now immunized. New water-pumping stations are up and running, and Iraq’s oil pipelines are pumping 2.5 million barrels a day. Iraq’s oil wealth has generated $5 billion in the last 12 months to support Iraqi reconstruction efforts.
But nothing’s perfect, including postwar Iraq.
-Far more US troops have been killed since the fall of Baghdad than during the air-land-sea blitz that decapitated the regime in April 2003. Although the coalition has found WMD programs, the weapons themselves have proven elusive, adding credence to the theory that Saddam spirited his chemicals and bio-toxins off to Syria just before the war.
-Innocent Iraqis continue to be targeted and killed by foreign terrorists and regime leftovers.
-And perhaps not coincidentally, no unifying figure or group has emerged to lead Iraq’s restive populace. In other words, there is no Iraqi Hamid Karzai, to use Afghanistan as an example. This is just another indication of how total Saddam’s tyranny was.
Perspective Part II
In response to reports that gas prices had hit record highs this spring, Gregg Easterbrook of The New Republic conducted a comparative analysis of gas prices over several decades, factoring in inflation and real-dollar valuation. His findings are eye-opening and reassuring.
Easterbrook concedes that the national average for unleaded gas is well above $1.75, which is technically a record high. “But all that matters to consumers is inflation-adjusted cost,” he explains. And by this measure, today’s gas prices are the same as the postwar average. According to Easterbrook, “The actual US record price for gasoline occurred in 1981, when regular unleaded cost $2.80 in today’s money.”
In fact, in terms of the average American’s buying power, gasoline costs us half of what it cost the average American in the 1950s. Perhaps knowing this will ease the pump-side sticker shock this summer.
When President George W. Bush said America would track down the country’s terrorist enemies, no matter where they try to hide, he meant it. Any doubt of that was put to rest when US Green Berets arrived in Timbuktu to train and equip the armed forces of Mali as they battle an obscure Islamic terrorist group known as the Salafists.
As part of $7-million program, the US has sent trucks, communications and navigation equipment, uniforms, body armor, and intelligence data to Mali. The Green Berets reportedly arrived in the uncharted deserts of northwest Africa in late 2003. By deploying a small detachment of troops in Mali, the Pentagon hopes to prevent the region from becoming like prewar Afghanistan, which was a breeding ground for terror.
The Other Memorial
More than two years after the day that altered the skyline of Manhattan and charred the wall of the Pentagon, the organization charged with raising funds for a Pentagon memorial has only been able to collect $1 million toward its $20-million goal. As a consequence, although the design has been chosen and the architects are ready, the opening of the memorial project may be pushed back to 2006.
Some survivors and relatives of victims wonder if the memorial could be delayed into obscurity. As Brian Donovan, who lost his brother in the Pentagon attack, told The Washington Times, “If we’re talking five years after the fact, the memorial will lose its edge.”
As planned, the memorial will include 184 metal benches and pools of water to recall each victim of the Pentagon attack. For more information about the Pentagon Memorial Fund, visit http://memorial.pentagon.mil/.
Published monthly in the American Legion Magazine, Under the Radar provides a snapshot of current challenges in international politics, U.S. foreign policy and national security.