February 16, 2006

THE RULE (via Ali Choudhury):

To the Scene of “Massive Reconstruction”: Kurdistan today. (Q&A by Stephen Spruiell, 2/16/06, National Review)

Michael J. Totten has written extensively on the Middle East and the conflict in Iraq for outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, TCS Daily, and his own blog, michaeltotten.com. Totten just returned from two weeks in Iraq, and for the next three weeks he’ll be blogging about his travels there. Totten spoke by phone with National Review Online's media reporter, Stephen Spruiell, from Beirut, Lebanon on Wednesday. [...]

Totten: : [S]ince Kurdistan is quiet, there are going to be a lot of things happening there that can’t happen in those other places. Things that are positive and things that I didn’t know were happening until I got there.

NRO: Such as?

Totten: Massive, and I mean massive, reconstruction. In Sulaymaniyah, there are 300,000 people living where three years ago there were only half as many. Like all massive urban immigration, most of the people are settling on the outskirts. But unlike in the most of the third world, the outskirts aren’t slums. They are so nice, in fact, that you might not believe you were in the Middle East. You would look at some of these pictures and swear that this wasn’t the Middle East at all.

The only exception is Halabja. Halabja still looks like a third-world country. This is the city that was gassed by Saddam Hussein. It was totally destroyed and had to start over at zero.

NRO: Why aren’t we hearing more about this kind of rebuilding in the U.S.?

Totten: The only thing you can really do is feature pieces or blogging. There’s not much wire-agency news that comes out of there. If I were a wire reporter, there would only have been one story I could have filed during the entire two weeks I was there. That would be the unification of the two Kurdish political parties to form one. In Erbil you had the Kurdish Democratic party, and in Sulaymaniyah you had the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. They had parallel governments, parallel administrations, and they are merging together to form one unified government.

But that’s a pretty big reason you’re not going to read about Kurdistan in the New York Times or Washington Post. But you can get it in periodicals. National Geographic had a terrific article about Kurdistan last month. It’s places like that where you’re going to get good reporting on Kurdistan.

NRO: Some people who were against deposing Saddam Hussein are now discounting Kurdistan’s success by saying, well, under Saddam, Kurdistan was protected by the no-fly zone, so Kurdistan would have been fine without U.S. action.

Totten: That’s not true. What people say and what you just said… and I didn’t realize that it wasn’t true until I got there. Almost all this construction I’m describing happened post-invasion. For two reasons. First, all of Iraq, including Kurdistan, was under sanction. The reconstruction was not economically possible. The second reason is that nobody had any confidence when Saddam was in Baghdad. Nobody could be sure that he wouldn’t come back. And it should be noted that not all of Kurdistan was protected by the no-fly zone. The city of Sulaymaniyah was not protected by the no-fly zone ever. Saddam could have rolled back in there and no one would have been there to stop him.

The hysterical ranting about Islam as an iredeemable death cult and other such nonsense requires you to ignore the lived life of all but a few Muslims.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 16, 2006 10:20 AM

Totten has pictures of the "Dream City" real estate development in Kurdistan on his blog. Nice place. If the commute weren't so durned long, I might take a serious look at that one house.

Posted by: Mike Morley at February 16, 2006 11:24 AM

well said, neville.

Posted by: toe at February 16, 2006 12:21 PM

Please don't use the Kurds as an example of traditional Islamic culture. They are a diverse and tolerant people who have been harshly treated by orthodox Islam because of it.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at February 16, 2006 12:30 PM

Tee-hee. Well-adjusted Muslims aren't real Muslims, only the few whackjobs are.... You Islamophobes are a riot.

Posted by: oj at February 16, 2006 12:36 PM

Well adjusted people are well adjusted people. The Kurds haven't been violently abused over the years, mainly by their brother Muslims? It would seem that one might ask why?

Posted by: Tom C.,Stamford,Ct. at February 16, 2006 2:08 PM

Ethnicity. They're mountain Irish.

Posted by: oj at February 16, 2006 3:51 PM

Totten's reporting for the past few months has been very good. His visit to no-man's land in Cyprus, with pictures of high-rises and homes that have been empty since 1974 was fascinating.

Mountain Irish - I like that. I suspect Barzani might, too.

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 16, 2006 7:23 PM