Americans should be proud of U.S. achievements in Iraq


According to the Democratic National Committee, the current problems in Iraq are attributable to the president's "unrealistic goals, bad policies and incompetent political leadership."

Notable Republican legislators have changed their position on the war. Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska recently said that "the White House is completely disconnected to reality" and that "the reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

Although the death toll of more than 1,900 Americans frequently is cited by Mr. Bush's critics, U.S. achievements in Iraq are scarcely mentioned.

According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, a government agency created by President John F. Kennedy to offer assistance to countries in need, U.S. forces have vaccinated more than 3.2 million children and 700,000 pregnant women since 2003.

More than 600 health care facilities have been equipped with medical technology to treat suffering Iraqis. More than 2,500 schools have been renovated, and 8.7 million textbooks have been distributed to Iraqi children. An estimated $425 million worth of imported food has been delivered to the Iraqi people who were being denied such necessities under Saddam Hussein.

The U.S. government has installed 240,000 telecommunication lines and added 1,100 megawatts to the Iraqi electrical grid. American-funded water and sanitation projects exceed $520 million, improving health conditions for more than 11.8 million Iraqi citizens. Efforts to rehabilitate marshlands flooded with oil by the Hussein regime during the 1991 Persian Gulf war have begun in hopes of improving the environment.

On an economic scale, more than 77,000 public works jobs have been created in Iraq and more than 80 banks have become operational because of a U.S.-developed bank-to-bank payment system.

Perhaps the most significant achievement lies within the country's most recent draft for a constitution, which mandates that the Iraqi legislature have at least 25 percent female representation. That's quite a stride from Mr. Hussein's well-known policy to punish political activists by having professional soldiers rape their female relatives, as reported by Amnesty International.

To date, at least 26,165 Iraqi civilians have died since the U.S. invasion. Perhaps those deaths confuse Americans into thinking that if we simply withdrew our forces, the Iraqi insurgents would stop committing mass murder on their own people.

Although the current civilian casualties are great, they do not compare to the hundreds of thousands of needless, cruel deaths caused by Mr. Hussein's regime, which was infamous for genocide, torture and countless human rights violations. According to Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, methods such as electric shock, acid baths, penetration torture and severe whippings were only some of the ways Mr. Hussein punished civilians for speaking out against his regime.

America is not losing the war in Iraq. The freedom of an entire nation is not a loss, even when there is a loss of precious life. Our continued military presence in Iraq to shield democracy is essential to both Iraq and the United States as well as to the future of the Middle East. Impatience, selfishness and fear are not legitimate reasons to desert those we have pledged to protect. To abandon Iraq now would be to abandon our commitment to democracy and to our honor.

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is a recent graduate of the University of Florida School of Law, where he studied international law.

Columnist Thomas Sowell is on vacation.

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