Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Friday, October 21, 2005

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

by Senator Larry Craig

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” For generations, the United States hasn’t just talked about it, but has helped numerous nations secure that right by supporting the advance of democracy.

It has been over a year since the Iraqi people gained their independence from tyranny and oppression. Their progress and perseverance stand as a beacon in a region filled with uncertainty. But with success also comes great opposition. Insurgents, realizing their inability to stop the spread of democracy, grow increasingly desperate. The war they wage relies strictly on terror and the blood of innocent victims. They have masterfully devised a way to steal the headlines and put skepticism in the minds of many.

While the media has done its job of reminding Americans how terrible war really is, we are missing out on the substantial progress that has been made in the now-liberated nation.

Nearly 25 million Iraqi citizens have been freed and now have a sovereign government. We must not forget that more than eight million citizens went to the polls in January, defying threats of death. On October 15, millions of Iraqis returned to the polls to ratify a new constitution. Just days later, Saddam Hussein’s trial for the murder of nearly 150 Shiites began. These are strong indications that the rule of law is taking root, but our accomplishments in Iraq go beyond lofty ideals. Some very tangible achievements have vastly improved the lives of Iraqis and put them on the road to prosperity.

Recent statistics from the Department of Defense and State Department highlight some of these achievements. Membership in the Iraqi Security Force currently totals over 200,000, and this figure will move even higher by the end of the year. Major operations conducted by Iraqi forces have succeeded in ousting terrorists, and many Iraqi police and military units took the lead in providing security for the constitutional referendum. Reports indicate that more and more Iraqi civilians are cooperating in the capture of insurgents by offering tips.

Iraq’s infrastructure has also made remarkable gains. Not only have roads improved, but key airports in Iraq are now functioning and are connecting major cities. With over 100 railroad projects scheduled, nearly half have been completed and are serving the people.

Key advancements have been made in education and health as well. More than 36,000 secondary teachers and staff have been trained in programs funded by USAID. Over the next year, it is predicted that an additional 100,000 teachers and administrators will receive training. Notably, more than 3,400 schools have been renovated with hundreds more undergoing rehabilitation. More than 110 primary health care facilities have been renovated, not including the 12 regional trauma centers the World Bank is currently sponsoring. Since Iraq’s liberation, more than 3 million children under the age of five were vaccinated.

A few months ago, major sewer and water projects broke ground. Areas that never had underground sewage lines will now be free of sewage in the streets. Most important, these efforts to improve the quality of life have also created new jobs for many locals. The employment of Iraqis has fueled the economy and undercut broad support for the insurgency. All these advancements indicate that the political and economic wheels are churning in the right direction.

However, there are those who ask why we have not pulled out of Iraq. President Bush said it best when he reminded Americans that “we fight today because Iraq now carries the hope of freedom in a vital region of the world, and the rise of democracy will be the ultimate triumph over radicalism and terror. And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand.”

Iraq symbolizes more than just the liberation of a people. It represents the global war on terror and what is at stake. A safe Iraq means a safer America, and the Idaho National Guard and active-duty servicemembers have helped the cause. Skepticism here at home will simply fuel the enemy. Specifying a pull-out date will merely send the message that insurgents need only to wait us out.

Instead, our nation must display patience and an unbreakable will. Democracy is taking root in Iraq. We must stand behind our troops and the Iraqi people. Most important, we must stand united.

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