Iraq reconstruction yields many positives
While the last seven days were marked by an abbreviated work week in our nation's capital, the national media continued with a full schedule, and coverage of many of the issues currently facing the country continued at its normal pace.
Much of the talk centered on some of the most immediate national events -- the gubernatorial recall election in California, the continuing saga of "Ambassador Wilson v. the White House," and the good news about a continued economic turnaround and a slight drop in the nation's unemployment rate.
Lost in the shuffle, however, was positive reporting on the progress being made in the reconstruction of Iraq. We continue to be bombarded with news of military casualties, assassinations of political leaders and riots in the streets of many Iraqi cities.
However, what we're not hearing about are some of the major success stories coming out of Baghdad, Mosul, Tikrit and other large Iraqi cities. Take a moment to look at some statistics and recall when you may have heard about some -- or any -- of them in recent days:
Ninety percent of the public schools and universities in Iraq have reopened. It is expected that nearly 1,000 schools will be rehabilitated by the end of the year;
Ninety-five percent of the health clinics and all of the hospitals are once again open and providing much needed medical care to the public;
Electric power generation has been restored to 75 percent of pre-war levels;
Nine out of every 10 villages, towns and cities are governed by a council of local officials; and,
Water and sewage treatment facilities that were destroyed during the war or looted by Saddam loyalists are being restored.
Additionally, 22.3 million doses of numerous vaccines -- measles, tuberculosis, whooping cough, and many others like them -- have been sent to Iraq, which will provide much-needed vaccinations to 4.2 million children. Nearly 1.7 million metric tons of food -- enough to feed the people of Iraq for over three months -- has already been delivered by the World Food Program.
Now this news certainly isn't without first-hand witnesses to the level of success achieved to this point. These results are reinforced from members of Congress who have traveled to Iraq recently to see first-hand the progress being made.
Recently, I reported on the comments of Georgia Congressman Jim Marshall regarding the lack of attention being paid to the positive aspects of life after Saddam. In the past several days, several more members, including Washington Democrat Norman Dicks and Kansas Republic Todd Tiahrt, have also come forth with their own take on the situation in the Middle East.
Congressman Dicks told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a recent House hearing that his visit to the Iraqi city of Mosul made him feel that the efforts there "should be a model for the rest of the country. If we follow that, and if we can give those generals the resources necessary to keep up their effort, I think we can do this."
And Congressman Tiahrt related his experiences in this manner: "I heard an ABC News report on the radio on Iraq. The news radio report said there was chaos in the street -- the criminals ran in the streets and the Iraqis resented our presence.
In order for the reconstruction efforts in Iraq to be successful, it is certainly important the efforts underway receive our full support. Based on the recent comments of my colleagues in the House and many others like them, that support is growing.
However, another crucial part of a successful operation is making sure the funding is there to provide the tools for our forces in Iraq. Moreover, it is incumbent upon the United States and other nations who desire to see the return of a peaceful and democratic government in that country to provide the financial resources to assist those people in achieving that very goal.
We now have the details of the recent $87 billion supplemental appropriations request submitted to Congress by President Bush, and as with any spending measure there will need to be a responsible review of these items before there can be final approval of the funding.
Many critics of this request feel we've spent too much money already during our first eight months in Iraq. We have to consider, though, whether there is any cost too great when a world free from terror and despotism is the reward.
Past generations certainly felt there was no amount of money worth more than a free world. During World War I, for instance, the United States paid a total (in modern dollars) of $577 billion for only 18 months of conflict in Europe.
And during our four years of involvement in the Second World War, the United States government (again, in terms of modern dollars) spent nearly $5 trillion in the fight against the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan.
In the president's most recent request nearly 25 percent -- approximately $20.3 billion -- is allocated strictly for reconstruction and development in Iraq.
The work that remains will be difficult, but the end result -- a peaceful and stable Iraq -- will make all the effort worthwhile.