Monsignor Rabban al Qas, a Chaldean bishop in Iraq, was recently interviewed by a foreign journalist, who asked him, "Twenty-three Iraqis are killed every day in Iraq. Nearly two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, there is no security as yet. Is there still hope in Iraq?"
Monsignor al Qas replied,
"What the media portray is true: explosions, killings, attacks. But if you see
how much order, discipline, transport, displacements, and work have
improved, there is a change for the better compared to one or two years
ago. Now people understand there is a government, the structure of a new
state. Thousands and thousands of allied and Iraqi soldiers are present.
There is a constitution which is being drawn up, laws are being enacted.
The presence of authority is recognized. This was not the case before. And
Al-Qaeda integralists and terrorists coming from abroad seek to penetrate
Iraq precisely to destroy the beginnings of this social organization."
Almost everyday, we get reports from Iraq that a new terrorist attack has taken place. The pictures of explosions, gunfights and frightened civilians are broadcast over the world. Seeing all this terror it is easy to dismiss the U.S. liberation of Iraq as a complete failure. Apart from the Iraqi election in early 2005, very few successes have been reported in western media.
Of course, the problems in Iraq should not be ignored and it is important to remember that there's still a long way to go until the country is a working democracy where human rights are respected. But nonetheless, Iraq is getting better and we mustn't underestimate the huge improvements that have taken place there.
Any evaluation of development in post-war Iraq must be made in relation to how things were under Saddam Hussein. It is difficult to give an exact figure on how many people were murdered under his regime. But the following examples suggest that he was one of the bloodiest dictators in modern history:
* The Iraqi regime has repeatedly refused visits by human rights monitors.
From 1992 until 2002, Saddam Hussein prevented the UN Special Rapporteur
from visiting the country. When looking back at his reign of terror, it is easy
to understand why.
* Human Rights Watch estimates that Saddam's campaign of terror against
Kurds in 1987-1988 killed at least 50,000 people. The same organization
also claims that "senior Arab diplomats told the London-based Arabic daily
newspaper al-Hayat in October  that Iraqi leaders were privately
acknowledging that 250,000 people were killed during the uprisings,
with most of the casualties in the south."
* Hussein's regime carried out executions frequently. Some 4,000 prisoners
were killed at Abu Ghraib in 1984. Between 1997 and 1999 2,500 prisoners
were executed in a "prison cleaning campaign".
* Furthermore, an Amnesty International report written in 2001 says
"victims of torture in Iraq are subjected to a wide range of forms of torture,
including the gouging out of eyes, severe beatings and electric shocks...
some victims have died as a result and many have been left with permanent
physical and psychological damage.
The killings of civilians in Iraq today due to terrorist attacks must be seen in relation to these violent acts. Human suffering must never be ignored, nor neglected, but it is still obvious that the humanitarian situation in Iraq has improved remarkably since Hussein was toppled. When taking other aspects of human rights into consideration, such as freedom of speech, it becomes even clearer that Iraq has made huge improvements.
More than ten TV channels have been founded since the end of the Hussein regime; there are hundreds of newspapers and the Iraqi people are getting more access to foreign media. Needless to say, this would have been impossible under the reign of Saddam Hussein.
When looking at the political and economic development of Iraq, it becomes even more obvious that things are getting better rapidly. According to The Economist, the Iraqi economy grew more than 30 percent in 2004 and it is predicted to grow at 34 percent this year. Iraq's "New Dinar" currency, introduced in 2003, has been performing strongly and it has appreciated by about 25 percent against the dollar in two years. The country's banking system has been modernized and Iraq is taking steps towards a functioning market economy.
To be sure, a war for the future of Iraq is going on. Terrorists are killing both civilians and soldiers and it is still a violent country. But we mustn't forget that things were a lot worse under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and that despite the terror, Iraq is improving steadily. If things continue to move in this direction, Iraq will emerge as a peaceful and prosperous country in the near future.
Christian Sandstrom has been Vice Chairman of Fria Moderata Studentförbundet, the biggest pro-market student movement in Scandinavia. He holds a B.A. in economics and is currently finishing his studies in Industrial Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden.