While bloggers like Bill Roggio, Michael Yon, Michael J. Totten and many others provide exceptional reporting on the improvements that are occurring in Iraq due to the implementation of General Petraeus's counterinsurgency policy(Along with the help of Iraqi security personnel and everyday citizens), it's interesting to see that members of the MSM are finally noticing and reporting on these changes as well. Now while the media and government officials are right to focus on the decline in soldier/civilian death rates and IED incidents as a gauge of success, I believe it's far better to find articles that focus on the everyday Iraqis and their return to normalcy. So here are three articles that caught my eye and gives me a greater insight on the sea change that is emerging in Baghdad.
The first article that I came across was "How Persistance Pays for a Baghdad Baker" by Sam Dagher in the Christian Science Monitor, which notes that Hussein Faleh, a baker who works at The Vanilla Pastry Shop, endured the heated insurgency and is finally seeing his patrons returning for his high quality sweets and cakes with the current improvements in security. Now while Faleh has problems procuring basic but high quality ingredients(Which he has to order every two months from Jordan), a dependable source of electricity(he uses a generator when the power goes down), as well as reliable source of safe water(he uses bottled water- even fine cooks in America do this), Faleh continues to churn out these delectable treats for his steady flow of customers who visit more often due to the improved security. I guess when you're not having to worry as much for your safety, you have time for sweets.
The second article I came across was "Liquor stores return to Baghdad" by Christian Berthelsen and Said Rifai in the Los Angeles Times, which points out that liquor stores are returning to Baghdad due to the new Iraqi security policy that has placed the Islamic extremists at bay. Without having to worry about firebombs or armed terrorists shooting up these stores or killing patrons, the liquor store are now importing various beers, wines, liquors, and spirits, and selling them to an alcohol hungry populous. It's great to see the Iraqi people being able to buy and drink what they want, even more when you read what extents the Iraqi people are willing to go in order to partake is such libations. I particularly found these paragraphs in the article pretty interesting:
But even as Iraqis begin returning to liquor stores they still take care to remain inconspicuous. On a recent day outside a liquor store on Saadoun Street, two men with a case of Johnnie Walker in their car were removing the bottles from the brightly labeled box and stashing them under the seats and in other hiding places throughout the vehicle.To me, this article just shows us that the Iraqi people are working Joe's(Ali's in Iraq's case) who just want to live safe and secure and have some drinks to unwind from the day. This may be an oddity in the Arab world but I believe that it's one more guidepost to point to in how security is getting better in Baghdad.
Store owners are careful too. None of the new stores has a sign identifying it as a liquor retailer and most of the older ones have removed banners and advertisements. Universally, the stores keep all the merchandise behind the counter. In many areas, the curbs are blocked off with concertina wire to guard against car bombings, and security convoys pass frequently.
Nawar Sabah, 33, a government employee, stopped into Hindi's store on a recent day for a couple of Heinekens. Then, apparently calculating how much he could reduce his visits to the store, he asked for five. Then 10.
"Ever since the invasion, things haven't been the same," he said.
"People have to travel all the way across town in order to get drinks, and we all know the more you're out on the road, the more you're likely to become a casualty of some incident, if not actually a target." Some tipplers are particularly happy that the dry spell might be over.
A 47-year-old construction worker and Sadr City resident, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition he not be named, told of how he was beaten last year by the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to
Shi a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, after his brother complained to the militia about his drinking. Now that the Iraqi army has supplanted the Mahdi fighters, he said, he no longer has to hide his liquor under his car seat when driving into his neighborhood.
"The situation is now better than before -- I carry the alcohol in a black plastic bag and no one cares what I have in the plastic bag," he said. "I always drink, even at my work, at home at night, and even in the morning. I will never stop until the Judgment Day."
Now this might not mean much to an everyday American but it says something about how much the security has improved in Baghdad.
Finally, the third article I came across is "Rising trade and safer streets - now Baghdad needs a decent electricity supply" by Deborah Haynes in The Times, which provide some accounts of how the people of Iraq are able to go about their shopping, dining, and everyday activities without having to worry about constant bombings and gunfights sparking up in the neighborhoods around Baghdad. You know that things are getting back to normal when restaurants start seeing their patronage increase some three percent and real estate agents discover that their is a new found demand for homes in the area. Though it's true that the people of Baghdad lack a dependable 24 hour stream of electricity but such is due to a lack of infrastructure that accumulated during the twenty-plus year reign of Saddam. One can be rest assured such will become a chief priority with sustainable security. The thing I found so interesting about the piece is the final paragraphs in which The Times points out that the Iraqi public is crediting the Iraqi security forces for creating a secure environment. Here's a look:
People overwhelmingly credited the Iraqi Army and police, rather than the US military. Maha Yousef, a 36-year-old mother of two, said: “We thank the brave leaders of the Iraqi forces, especially the Iraqi Army.”
The atmosphere of calm has encouraged parents to allow their children to walk to and from school. “I can also go outside the house to study with my friends or play until 9pm,” said 14-year-old Raed Saleem, who was previously under strict orders to be home by 4pm. “I pray for Iraqi people to keep living in peace.”
I know that the US military deserves a good bit of credit for bringing about such a change in atmosphere but it doesn't bother me because it shows the growing trust in the security forces amongst the Iraqi people. No matter how we cut it, the success in Iraq will only occur when the Iraqi people have confidence in security forces of Iraq. This is just another example of why our forces must continue to have time to continue to implement the counterinsurgency of General Petraeus and his companions in the Iraqi military.
All in all, this is just a sampling of how things are improving in Iraq. I just wish that the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, CBS, and NBC would promote more of these stories rather than looking for the negative. Until then, I recommend you just dig for such news.