Wednesday, June 28, 2006
There's been a lot of good news coming out of Iraq recently. Without addressing this morning's news that a big chunk of the Sunni insurgency may be willing to come in from the cold -- I don't yet know what to make of that -- at least some other important indicators are looking up. For example, oil production is at a post-invasion high. Did this make the evening news back in the States?
The article itself reveals, as usual, the mindset of the reporters who write on Iraq. Consider this bit:
But oil production has plummeted since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 as the system faced repeated insurgent sabotage, attacks on maintenance crews, alleged corruption, theft and mismanagement. The nation was producing an average of just 2 million barrels a day in April.
Production is down because of insurgent attacks and sabotage, for sure, and there has undoubtedly been corruption, theft and mismanagement. But is production down because of corruption, theft and mismanagement? Compared to that which prevailed under the Hussein family? The quantity of oil produced under Hussein was virtually irrelevant, because all the proceeds were stolen for the benefit of Ba'athist power. It would be very interesting to see whether in fact a larger proportion of Iraqi oil revenues inure to the benefit of ordinary Iraqis today, compared to 2002. I'd be amazed if they do not. The press legitimizes the kleptocratic Husseins when it contrasts episodic corruption today with the presumption that there was no corruption under the ancien regime. It was totally corrupt in the sense that all oil revenues were deployed to the benefit of the Ba'ath Party, and Westerners need to remember that.
Finally, read this article (bizarrely, originally from The New York Times!) about soaring enrollment in Iraqi schools.
Enrollment in Iraqi schools has risen every year since the U.S.-led invasion, according to Iraqi government figures, reversing more than a decade of declines and offering evidence of increased prosperity for some Iraqis.
Despite the violence that has plagued Iraq since the U.S.-led occupation began three years ago, schools have been quietly filling. The number of children enrolled nationwide rose by 7.4 percent from 2002 to 2005, and in middle schools and high schools by 27 percent in that time, according to figures from the Ministry of Education.
The increase, which has greatly outpaced modest population growth during the same period, is a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy landscape of bombs and killings that have shattered community life in parts of Iraq. And it is seen as an important indicator in a country that used to pride itself on its education system but that saw enrollment and literacy fall during the later years of Saddam Hussein's rule.
All is not sweetness and light, but this is great news by any measure. What is driving this? The oil revenue now actually benefits the Iraqi people:
Economics is driving much of the rise, officials say. Public sector employees, who make up almost half the work force in Iraq, according to the Ministry of Planning, used to collect the equivalent of several dollars every month under Saddam. Now, Iraq's oil revenue has been earmarked for salaries instead of wars, and millions of Iraqis - doctors, engineers, teachers, soldiers - began to earn several hundred dollars a month.
Income from oil covers more than 90 percent of the government's spending, officials say. American money finances investment and reconstruction projects, but no current costs, like salaries.
There is more than one way to tell a story, and this time the NYT did a better job than the Associated Press.