Stuck between Iraq and a hard place

There seems to be a never-ending stream of stories about bad news in Iraq: every day there’s another suicide bomb and the impression that the whole country is descending further and further into violent anarchy with every passing hour. Maybe this is the case, but it seems that there are also a lot of positive things happening that, mysteriously, go unreported.

Here’s a letter to the Daily Telegraph, picked up by Norm:

During the past few weeks, I have done some careful research into what is happening in Iraq.

I have discovered that 47 countries have re-established their embassies there. The current Iraq government employs 1.2 million Iraqis. More than 3,100 schools have been renovated and 364 are being rehabilitated, with 263 under construction. Twenty universities and 46 institutes are operating. Some 4.3 million Iraqi children were enrolled in primary schools by the end of 2005.

The Iraqi police force has more than 55,000 fully trained and equipped officers and there are five police academies producing 3,500 new officers every eight weeks.

There are at least 1,190,000 mobile-phone subscribers. There is a fully independent media network of 75 radio stations, 180 newspapers and 10 television stations. Much normal life is going on, although we rarely hear about it.

I’d be interested to know how much of this is true and I’d be even more interested to know why it’s hardly ever covered in the media, when there’s no shortage of coverage on a daily basis.

Any ideas?

Centrist. Atlanticist. Dry liberal. Anti-totalitarian. Post-ideological pragmatist. Child of The Enlightenment. Toucan.

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8 comments on “Stuck between Iraq and a hard place
  1. ph says:

    It is quite possible that there are many good things happening in Iraq, but there are too many vested interests in showing that all things are going to pot.
    The stream of bad news has been an absolute godsend to the Muslim world, as it stokes up the fires of hate they have towards the west.
    I was in Norway recently and the poor Norwegians (bless their little liberal cotton socks) were completely baffled by the anti Norwegian feeling that there was now in the M.E. (the cartoons). They could not understand how quickly the Muslims turned against them, when over the last decade or so Norway has been in the forefront of searching for a respectable deal for the Palestinians, and have been pouring large sums of cash into the Palestinian authority.
    How little liberal regimes understand how diverse human nature can be

  2. H says:

    Why some of the statistics are not so fabulous as they may appear:

    There are about 30 million people in Iraq.

    About half of them are under the age of 19.

    4.3 million primary school attendees = probably about 50% (that is worse than most parts of Africa, and before the American occupation it was much higher.)

    What does it mean that mobile phone sales are high?

    In a country which is at the centre of the world’s attention there are a lot of media outlets – what a surprise!!!

    It takes 8 weeks to train a policeman??????!!!!!!

    Out of about 150 countries in the world who have embassies in nearly all countries, there are only 50 in Iraq??? That is a good thing?

    All these statistics are meaningless unless compared to something. Or with balancing data – so the government is employing 1.2 million ppl. How many people overall are employed or unemployed? How many did the govt employ beforehand? How many of those are employed in the army or police (seemingly quite a few), in the service of suppressing the citizenry on behalf of the occupying forces?

    My point is – the economy getting back on its feet after the current occupiers blew it back to the stone age isn’t news. And no evidence has really been put forward that things are getting better for the average iraqi. So don’t be too surprised if the very newsworthy beatings of innocents by bloodthirsty american soldiers continues to be the order of the day.

  3. Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) says:

    My point is – the economy getting back on its feet after the current occupiers blew it back to the stone age isn’t news. And no evidence has really been put forward that things are getting better for the average iraqi. So don’t be too surprised if the very newsworthy beatings of innocents by bloodthirsty american soldiers continues to be the order of the day.

    You do have a good point that raw numbers aren’t very useful without baseline data.

    However, I must take exception to that last paragraph. Iraq getting back on its feet IS news; big news. Just because the US is morally obligated to repair Iraq after the damage the US’ invasion caused doesn’t mean that the repairs are insignificant.

    Things approaching normal (and, hopefully, significantly surpassing it) is a GOOD thing, and something that people should be hearing about; they should be excited about the chance to make Iraq better than it was before, and every step taken towards that goal. The damage has already been done; it’s time for things to get better.

    I still am not quite sure whether I think the invasion was the right course of action, but I’m excited about the future prospects for Iraq.

  4. Citizen Sane says:

    H, I accept your arguments and recognise the need for caution when quoting statistics. But I agree with Justin: it IS newsworthy that the nation is being rebuilt, and it’s something we never get to hear about.

    Also, regarding your point:

    And no evidence has really been put forward that things are getting better for the average iraqi.

    Numerous opinion polls (I know, statistics again) repeatedly show that over 90% of Iraqis prefer living in the present day Iraq to life under Saddam. Even with everything that is going on, it is still preferable to living under the shadow of SH and his brutal police state.

    So there is evidence that things are getting better for the average Iraqi. Even under the “occupation”.

  5. H says:


    Firstly my point was – Iraq is still economically behind where it was under Saddam – it will be newsworthy when the economy (with the billions of dollars of aid from your taxes) gets above where it was before the Americans and British started bombing the place.

    As for the reliability of a poll taken under occupation during a military struggle. Well. In 1944, Hitler’s popularity in Germany (despite the war going terribly) was still in the 90% region, whereas in 1945, every german left standing seemed to have some story about how they hated hitler and were against all his policies.

    Of course I am in NO WAY suggesting that the occupation of Iraq is anything like Hitler’s policies, nor do I invite comparison or think it is worthy. I am trying to point out that while there are lies, damned lies and statistics, there is probably also another level which is statistics produced by an occupying force telling people how much the occupied love them!!!!

  6. sparx says:

    Since when has ‘good news’ ever made news, apart from the ‘and finally’ bit at the end?

  7. H says:

    Not wishing to drag this debate on forever but:

    Iraq facing civil war! I wonder why the good news isn’t getting out?,,1715873,00.html

  8. dw says:

    Sad but true, civil wars can clean house for sombody. Anybody think we should be picking a side? My limited understanding of this tells me that even a good outcome of a civil war will open a whole new can of worms in the whole region. I have to believe that US and British intellegence are aware of potential problems but no one responsible can advocate anything that promotes more death and suffering without some gurantee of a positive outcome. I personally am starting to see a positive aspect of terms like ‘final solution’ but that is still unacceptable until a few terrorists nukes go off. Our humanity restrains pragmatic options.

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