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Chaos reigns in the Iraq you read about on the front pages of your newspaper, see on your television, or hear of on your radio - there's no denying with each passing day the news seems ever more grim. More death, more bombs, more wanton destruction, and descriptions of soul-numbing atrocity piled on atrocity that force us to question our very humanity. Here's a report that terrorists used a 10 year old child as a human bomb. Here's news that October was the "fourth deadliest month for US troops thus far". Small wonder that poll results indicate an increasing numbers of Americans believe the war was not worth the cost. The pre-invasion vision of a peaceful, prosperous, democratic nation standing as a beacon of hope in the desert seems little more than a pipe-dream, at best the result of self-delusion of a few spread briefly to many - an illusion that never had a chance in a cruel and dangerous world...
...except for in those areas where it's actually happening. In the northern regions of Iraq, the dream of post-Saddam prosperity is becoming reality:
ON THE ground, Dream City looks like nothing more than another walled compound in a country full of ruined army bases.It may seem fantastic, but it's not a fantasy. This is not Iraq without America, it's Iraq without "insurgents":
It is only when watching the promotional film that the future of this particular site is revealed as a complex of 1,200 luxury homes, a shopping mall, parks and schools: in short, a slice of Western suburbia grafted on to an Iraqi city.
The $300 million (?170 million) project, the brainchild of an Iraqi exile businessman, is quickly rising on the outskirts of Arbil, one of the boom towns of the Kurdish region of Iraq. The skyline of the region?s other main city, Sulaymaniyah, is also a web of cranes and semi-built apartment blocks, the main street a long building site of hotels, offices and houses rapidly shooting up to accommodate the sudden flood of workers to the area.
In Sulaimaniyah alone, there are 48 Turkish and 30 Iranian companies, as well as contractors from China, Singapore, the Gulf States and several European countries. They blast new roads through the mountains, build bridges, tunnels and underpasses and create the endless housing developments.Read the whole thing. This is what the efforts of terrorist forces in the southern regions of Iraq have prevented for those portions of the country - thus far.
About one hundred Arab companies have moved here from other parts of the country. The fact that the region ? impoverished and attacked under Saddam Hussein, then racked by civil war after gaining de facto independence in 1991 ? has no infrastructure provides investors with a blank sheet for vast building projects. The surge of investment is lifting the rugged region out of poverty and rushing it into the 21st century.
Next to the ancient souk in Arbil, where merchants sell honeycombs and goats? cheese and pistachio nuts in a hive of crumbling alleyways, a vast shopping precinct of four 30- storey buildings is going up, with 6,000 retail spaces. On the road between the boom towns, peasants still live in Iron Age villages of stone and mud-brick huts, grazing sheep and travelling by donkey. Even in the centre of Arbil, people live in hovels carved from the ruined facades of Ottoman mansions on the Qalal, a hilltop fortress that has been lived in for 7,000 years ? the world?s oldest continuously inhabited site.
There is little trace of sentimentality for the passing of the old ways. ?We feel really happy watching our city being rebuilt,? said Ahmed Abdelhadi, a retired teacher working at his son?s shoe shop in the winding alleys of Arbil?s souk. ?It used to be just sewage in the streets.?
But be assured that the Kurds see themselves as citizens of Iraq - part of a nation with a future, moving on from the horrors of the past. That vision was recently shared with Americans by Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan region of Iraq:
In recent weeks Iraq has passed three important milestones. The constitutional referendum on Oct. 15 was a powerful demonstration of Iraqis' desire to establish democracy and save a country still recovering from its disastrous history. Two days later the remains of 500 of my kinsmen were returned from a mass grave in southern Iraq for reburial in Iraqi Kurdistan. Another 7,500 of my kin are still missing after "disappearing" from a Baathist concentration camp in 1983 in the first phase of the genocidal Anfal campaign, which caused the death of 182,000 Kurdish civilians during the 1980s. Then, on Oct. 19, Saddam Hussein finally went on trial.These thoughts will be dismissed, this bright light will be ignored by those whose eyes are fixed on the darkness. Indeed, to rebuild is much more difficult than to destroy, and to turn and run may seem the easiest option of all. I'd like to say that these are crucial days in the history of Iraq - and by extension the world - but the truth is that every day in Iraq is a turning point in history, another day closer to the future, another step towards a world shaped by those with the will to make their visions and dreams become reality.
None of this would have been possible without the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq, an operation in which Kurds were proud partners. After the U.S. armed forces, our pesh merga was the second-largest member of the coalition. Today the security forces of Iraqi Kurdistan remain highly capable and reliable allies of the United States. By consistently working with the United States and reaching out to our fellow Iraqis, we have been at the heart of a political process based on equality and inclusion, on consensus and compromise.
Above all, we have taken the path of engagement because, like the United States, we need Iraq to succeed and avoid a repetition of the horrors of the past. We have therefore been engaged in Iraqi national politics and governance. Kurds have joined the new Iraqi military in large numbers. We have made unprecedented sacrifices. Time and again we have pursued political settlements by encouraging flexibility and consensus.
In Iraqi Kurdistan we have, for the past 14 years, accepted the idea that we are a diverse society. Ethnic and religious minorities -- Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, Yazidis and Turkomans -- all serve in the Kurdistan regional government and all have the right to educate their children in their mother tongues and to broadcast in their own languages. We firmly believe that the Middle East must accommodate all of its peoples and all of their languages and religions. Nor is Kurdistan alone in this regard. In the new Iraq, the Kurds see their role as bridge builders, as a community that has every interest in an inclusive political process that gives Iraq a better future while addressing the injustices of the past.
The restraint of the victims, the defiance of the millions who vote -- refusing to be drawn into the civil war fantasies of the terrorists -- vindicate the courage and vision of the United States and its coalition partners. Backing this fundamentally sound vision has been President Bush's moral understanding of the healing and dignity that democracy confers upon all men and women, an understanding that the Kurds share.
The United States has never wavered in its quest to help Iraqis build a democracy that rewards compromise and consensus. The ever-generous American people have paid a tragic price, the lives of their finest men and women, to advance the banner of freedom and democracy, a sacrifice for which we are profoundly grateful. We all know that democracy is the only solution to political problems, the only method by which grievances can be addressed. In this war and for these principles, the Kurds are true friends of the United States.
And another day of struggle between light and darkness.
I revisited some words I wrote from Baghdad on the day following the January elections - and I found there's nothing that doesn't still apply to every one of the days since, and the days to come:
So amidst the triumph, I saw yesterday as a Memorial Day, of a sort, for those many who fell to make it possible. Some might try and use those deaths for their own ends, or to justify their belief that we should never have walked this path. Such people don't believe in heroes. They can't even comprehend this simple fact; no one is more opposed to war than the soldier. He knows the cost and has seen the carnage. But as I wrote at the top of the sidebar long ago: The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior, who prefers to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day he stands fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Today we re-build broken things. Grab a hammer or get out of the way.