October 10, 2003


Iraq Math: Visible Gains Minus Losses (IAN FISHER, 10/10/03, NY Times)

[T]he events of today underscored the limits of the huge American effort here, illustrating how the steady beat of violence and uncertainty overshadows many of the very real American advances here.

That mixed record is reflected in the view of many Iraqis. They believe that the United States has, in fact, made Iraq better than under Mr. Hussein but that American promises, so far, have been greater than what has been delivered. [...]

In his news conference, Mr. Bremer listed what he called America's achievements (although many of his comparisons were from immediately after the war, when services were far worse than before it began): 40,000 police officers on the streets; 13,000 new reconstruction projects; more electricity generated now than before the war; 1,500 schools renovated; 22 million vaccinations; 4,900 Internet connections รณ not to mention freedom of speech, virtually nonexistent under Mr. Hussein, and an end to torture, which was commonplace.

"I am optimistic," Mr. Bremer said. "We have made an enormous amount of progress here in six months, more than I think anybody could have safely predicted, in many places beyond what our plan was."

The changes are visible. The streets are cleaner. Shops are flooded with goods pouring into Iraq now that the borders are open again. Those who have jobs -- and tens of thousands are working for the Americans, directly or indirectly -- are largely paid better than they were.

But as the attack on Thursday again showed, there is another list of statistics: 92 American soldiers killed in combat since President Bush declared major hostilities over in May; nearly 100 dead at a suicide bombing at a Shiite shrine in Najaf; 22 dead at a bombing at the United Nations headquarters here; at least 17 dead in a bombing at the Jordanian Embassy.

Something interesting seems to have happened at the Times. Mr. Fisher, whose story on Shi'ite pilgrims and their relatively good interactions with US troops we noted earlier in the week, appears from his by-line to have just been rotated into Iraq in September, maybe even just in late September, and it looks like he may have been surprised not to find a complete disaster there or else just went in with an open mind and found both positives and negatives to report. At any rate, it's worth watching to see if they may have a frontline correspondent who's going to provide balanced, sometimes even upbeat coverage. Given that all of America's opinion makers rely on the Times, a more positive angle on Iraq in its pages really does matter.


Iraqi Army Takes Shape as Recruits End Training
(IAN FISHER, October 5, 2003, NY Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 10, 2003 12:08 AM

A very perspicacious observation, Orrin.

Posted by: Paul Cella at October 10, 2003 8:51 AM