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The Globe and Mail
1 Year, $79,000,000,000, 11,000 Dead, 77,000 New Jobs, 30,000,000 Vaccinations, 34 Suicide Bombs, 0 Weapons Of Mass Destruction, 1 Jailed Dictator
By PAUL KORING
March 6, 2004
Washington DC -- A brutal regime has been toppled, its tyrant imprisoned, but a year after U.S. President George W. Bush launched the war, Iraqis live with new fears as their future unfolds under foreign occupiers.
The verdict on a year of lightning-fast war and snail-slow peace can be nothing else. The bold prediction of victory that Mr. Bush made last March 19, as tanks rumbled north and the first bombs fell outside Baghdad, came true.
"This will not be a campaign of half measures," he said from the Oval Office.
But few are speaking of total success.
Over the past year through the sprint to Baghdad, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the rise of suicide bombings and the rage of civilians there have been some undeniable signs of progress. Iraq's oil production has returned to prewar levels, with the revenue going to a new government rather than the Hussein family. Electricity is reaching more homes than ever. Hospitals are stocked with medicines. There are well-funded schools and universities operating across the country. And there has been a noticeable decrease in daily violence, this week's attack on Shiites a horrific exception.
From the outset, the war was seen as the easy part for the United States. It was even easier than most expected. General Tommy Frank's bold, flexible, overwhelming force vanquished an Iraqi army that was ill-equipped, dispirited and greatly outgunned. A deadly rain of smart bombs decimated Iraq's army and forces in U.S. tank columns advanced with such speed that they out sprinted lumbering tanks.
In the end, the biggest challenge was a shortage of diesel fuel, not Iraqi resistance. But the clumsy toppling of Mr. Hussein's statue in a Baghdad square didn't unleash any outpouring of "liberation" fervour among Iraqis. A society brutalized by decades of war, want, isolation and totalitarian rule confronted a new era with a mix of sullen acceptance, suppressed hopes and deep mistrust of U.S. intentions.
Iraqis who had lived in the constant fear, yet well-ordered certainties, of a police state were thrown into the chaos of crime, darkness, lack of water and joblessness. In Baghdad, the first five months of U.S. occupation coincided with a sweltering summer, mostly without electricity.
Today, much of Iraq is calm, and a new normality is emerging. Occupation forces are receding to the outskirts of most cities, replaced by hundreds of thousands of new Iraqi police and security forces.
But in Baghdad, and the so-called Sunni Triangle to the north, heartland of the Baathist regime, the fissures are deep.
A Sunni minority fears that its reduced representation in the upper echelons of government will make it Iraq' s new oppressed group. Attacks on U.S. troops are backed by the tacit, if not active, co-operation of many ordinary Sunnis. Yet even those attacks, on a daily basis, have fallen to half what they were at their peak last autumn, as the resistance sets its eyes on easier targets, notably the police and others regarded as American stooges.
Outside of Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle, far from the news media's attention, the rhythms of routine daily life have resumed.
Iraq's future remains precariously balanced on a double-edged sword. Last week, for the first time in 30 years, millions of devout Iraqi Shiites were free to mark Ashura, the mourning ritual that is the cornerstone of their faith. Free from the grinding terror of Mr. Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime, they were mercilessly attacked by suicide bombers in what was clearly an effort to foment sectarian civil war. Nearly 200 were killed.
The occupation of Iraq by U.S. troops was always going to be harder, longer and less popular at home than the war. But as it grinds on with a steady trickle of body bags and no obvious end in sight, it's also clear the Pentagon spent far less time preparing an exit strategy than it did on military victory. In quick order, "Shock and Awe" was supplanted by "Improvise and Hope," as U.S. units were forced to become aid workers, anti-terrorist sleuths and police, in a language and culture that few GIs understood.
Mr. Bush then needed to go cap in hand to the United Nations seeking its political assistance to see the occupation through to the creation of a new Iraqi government. This was not unexpected.
By some measures, rebuilding Iraq and sowing the seeds for civil society has progressed rapidly. Japan, Germany, Bosnia, Haiti and East Timor serve as signal reminders that nation-building takes decades, not months, and that there are perils to pulling out the props of nascent states too soon.
For that reason, when Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, hands over power to an interim government on June 30, the transfer of sovereignty will be largely symbolic. At least until elections next year, and probably for long after, Iraq will remain a de facto U.S. protectorate, with its government and its inevitably shaky federal structure dependant on American military might.
Elegant constitutions are no guarantee that a representative and accountable government will thrive. After the First World War, Germany's Weimar Republic was a model democracy but crushing economic burdens and a sense of bitter grievance begat Hitler.
Transforming Iraq, a state arbitrarily carved out of the collapsed Ottoman Empire, into a functioning federal democracy when its entire history has been of struggle among Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis remains an enormous challenge.
Mr. Bush's war didn't just finish the job that his father had aborted a decade earlier. It also caused a rift with old alliances, rocked the UN and ended the unified, global support for the President's "war on international terrorism."
While Washington tried to paint Iraq as a rogue state that supported terrorists and might even supply them with weapons of mass destruction, traditional allies such as Canada, France and Germany balked at its call to war. Relations between Washington and Paris reached a nadir not seen for decades. Repairing them is under way. Mr. Bush and German Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder took tea recently, and French and U.S. troops are standing shoulder to shoulder in the streets of Port-au-Prince.
Still, there is lingering mistrust that Mr. Bush's unilateralist streak will surface again, sidelining the UN Security Council for another "pre-emptive" war.
At home, as abroad, Mr. Bush's credibility hinges less on progress in Iraq than whether the war was fought on false pretences. The stunning absence of any Iraqi germ or poison gas warheads, the missing Scud missiles, the moribund nuclear-weapons program in sum, the reality that Baghdad was not an imminent threat, points either to a colossal intelligence failure or, worse, a deliberate misleading of the public.
If the spies got it wrong, then Mr. Bush's new doctrine of pre-emptive war to prevent rogue states from obtaining weapons of mass destruction will be seen as deeply flawed. Such a doctrine must be predicated on spies being able to correctly assess emerging threats.
If the Bush administration disregarded a divided intelligence community, choosing instead to spin the Iraqi threat, then the President is guilty of deceit. In either case, the hectic months of bitter diplomatic wrangling and hurried UN weapons inspections now look like an unseemly rush to war.
The trial of Saddam Hussein is likely to take place this fall, in time to be played out before the November presidential election. It will shed some light on why Baghdad persisted in behaving as though it had a banned weapons program, even if it didn't.
Mr. Bush has also quietly abandoned the stark "You are with us, or you are with the terrorists" clarity that underpinned his post-Sept 11, 2001, war policy.
Iraq, Iran and North Korea, the rogue states targeted for their weapons of mass destruction, are all being dealt with differently. Iraq was invaded and Iran was forced to admit to suspicious nuclear programs in its dealings with the UN, while Mr. Bush has enlisted the Chinese and the Russians in a joint effort to pressure Pyongyang.
Meanwhile, Libya has confessed to a nuclear-weapons program, at the same time exposing Pakistan, one of Mr. Bush's key allies in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, as a state that had officials who trafficked in nuclear technology.
Mr. Bush's supporters point out the success of one pre-emptive war has put other rogue states and their dictators on short notice. But as the realities of a messy world take hold again, the President's foreign policy is again being shaped by doable compromises rather than blunt, militaristic ideology.
His administration is in talks with North Korea, and from time to time has some good words to say about Iran. It even looks close to shaking hands with Libya.
At home, Mr. Bush is in the fight of his life, his approval rating at the lowest level of his presidency.
Mr. Hussein rots in a cell. His vicious playboy sons are dead and his family has fled. The delusional despot who fancied himself as a latter-day Saladin faces trial for war crimes, perhaps genocide.
As a result of all this, the violence of war and struggles of peace, the world may actually be a safer place today than it was in March of 2003. There is a renewed global effort to contain nuclear proliferation, and a greater determination to force rogue states to abandon weapons of mass destruction.
Americans will go to the polls this November to render their verdict on Mr. Bush's war, the unfinished change of regime in Iraq and whether the claimed "grave and gathering threat" was a chimera.
History's judgment will take far longer. British voters dumped Winston Churchill less than two months after Hitler's defeat. Even the success of that war, launched to save Poland from totalitarianism, could not secure Churchill's job. Nor did anyone much care that Poland was still under totalitarian rule, albeit Stalin's not Hitler's.
Similarly, the success of facing down communism in Korea, Berlin and Cuba was not enough to ensure U.S. support for the same fight in Vietnam, which became a hated war that ruined the presidency of Lyndon Johnson.
History's verdict may eventually find Mr. Bush's war to oust Saddam Hussein as just and worthwhile. But that verdict will depend on the state of Iraq and the Middle East a generation from now. It will come long after he has left the White House, one term or two.
The cost of war, the price of peace
A year after the United States and Britain launched a war in Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power, the cost continue to mount-as do the benefits for many Iraqis.
Question: Do you think the Bush administration deliberately misled the American public about whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, or not?
Yes, deliberately misled
May 30-June 1, 2003; 31%
Jan. 29-Feb. 1, 2004; 43%
Question: Iraq has facilities to create weapons of mass destruction before the war.
Certain is true
Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 2003; 46%
Jan. 29-Feb. 1, 2004; 28%
$79 billion (U.S.): Cost of the war (as of Friday, March 5, 2004);
3,000: trucks daily on the main route between Baghdad and Jordan;
6.36 trillion: new Iraq dinars printed. 4.62 trillion dinars in circulation
77,000: public works jobs created;
$12.7 billion (U.S.): raised for Iraq from foreign governments (as of Feb. 27, 2004);
60,000: soccer balls sent to Iraq by U.S. government to help "bring life back to normal"
25%: of Baghdad residents expressed the hope for a united and prosperous Iraq, free of sectarian unrest.
2.8 million b/d was the pre-war oil production. It is now up to 2.3 to 2.5 million b/d.
Suicide bomb attacks
A total of 34 suicide bombs (pedestrian and vehicle) in 27 attacks since last August
684 people killed of which;
76 Iraqi security and police;
540 Iraqi civilians;
30 Coalition forces;
38 International of UN non-uniformed personnel.
International fatalities as of March 2, 2004;
194: Non-combat related
457; Hostile fire
Coalition forces: 651
U.S. Military wounded: more than 3,000
Iraqis: 8,305-10,149 (based on estimates, including soldiers killed in the war)
Access to media in Iraq
Question: Which type of these media channels do you have in your home, in working condition?
TV set; 75.%*
In-home telephone; 23
In-home telephone (not operating); 20
Home computer; 7
Home access to Internet; 1
Access to internet outside home; 1
Satellite cellular mode telephone set; 1
Question: How often do you read daily newspapers per weed? How often do you listen to the radio per week? How often do you watch TV per week?
1-6 times per week
Read newspapers; 37%
Listen to radio; 25
Watch TV; 15
Income since the war
Increased a lot 6%
Somewhat increased 22%
Remained the same 40%
Somewhat decreased 22%
Decreased a lot 10%
By the numbers;
Number of U.S. forces personnel killed in Iraq, by state;
26; New York
21; Illinois; Michigan
19; Florida; Ohio
15; Arizona; Indiana
14; Georgia; North Carolina
13; South Carolina; Tennessee
11; Massachusetts; Missouri; New Jersey
10; Iowa; Washington; Wisconsin
9; Mississippi; Oregon
7; Colorado; Kentucky; Maryland; Nebraska; Puerto Rico
6; Connecticut; Kansas
5; Louisiana; North Dakota; Vermont
4; Wyoming; Delaware; Minnesota; Rhode Island; South Dakota; Utah
3; Arkansas; Idaho
2; American Samoa; Dist. Of Columbia; Maine; Nevada; New Hampshire; West Virginia
1; Alaska; Hawaii; Montana; New Mexico
TV channels choice
Question: Do you watch (name of channel) at least once a week?
Iraqi News Network TV; 85%
Al-Hurriyah (Cord Sat); 20
Abu-Dhabi Satellite; 19
BBC World; 7
Kuwait Satellite; 7
In need of demolition or rebuilding; 1,343 or 9%
Needing major rehabilitation; 5,970 or 40%
SOURCE: UNESCO AND UNICEF