Opinions and Speeches

March 21, 2006

Good news in Iraq under-reported by the media
By U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
(As appeared in The Macon Telegraph)

After visiting with members of Georgia's 48th Brigade at Camp Adder near Tallil and Camp Anaconda near Balad in Iraq, we couldn't disagree more with The Telegraph's March 16 editorial, "Avoid the mushroom procedure." It is one thing to take issue with your elected officials, but it is another to dismiss the accounts of the military leaders who have waged battle on the front lines.

The bottom line is this: The progress that we witnessed firsthand and that our military leaders shared with us is being vastly under-reported by the media. Iraq is not on the brink of civil war, and there are numerous good news stories that Georgians and the American people aren't hearing because no one is reporting them.

Our troops continue to make substantive progress, and we saw this progress with our own eyes. According to military leaders in Iraq, the recent escalation of violence within the past several weeks is a result of one particular instance and they do not believe, and indeed there is no evidence, that the entire country is on the brink of civil war, as the media are reporting. While much more progress must be made, we refuse to ignore what we saw firsthand and we refuse to dismiss the intelligence from our own military leaders. Enormous progress has been made despite the efforts of insurgents who are working to prevent Iraq from becoming free and democratic.

In the past three years, consider these achievements. The Iraqi people no longer live under Saddam Hussein's brutal regime. The Iraqi people voted for a new Constitution and for the first time ever, democratic elections were held - with over 70 percent of the nation voting. Additionally, a significant portion of the country has been handed over to Iraqi security forces.

The members the 48th Brigade helped significantly increase the security and stability of the neighborhoods known as the "Triangle of Death" in southern Baghdad. Brigadier Gen. Stewart Rodeheaver told us that when they first deployed to Baghdad, his Humvee was fired on constantly. Now, after seven months of intensive efforts to work closely with the Iraqi people, Gen. Rodeheaver said he could walk openly through the market and talk freely with shopkeepers and townsfolk.

Additionally, we visited a U.S. base hospital where two Iraqi children who suffered from life-threatening burns were being treated. The families of these children were grateful for the life saving efforts of the American soldiers. The 48th Brigade has also helped restore electricity in many parts of the country that otherwise would have remained in the dark. Our soldiers have rebuilt water-treatment plants and built schools for Iraqi children -some of whom have never had a drink of clean water in their short young lives.

Our 48th Brigade troops are hiring local Iraqis in an effort to build the local economy. Doing so provides an alternative to Iraqis who would otherwise be employed by foreign insurgents to be lookouts and couriers or play other support roles for the terrorists to target our troops. Our troops also have arrested and neutralized foreign terrorists who are getting paid to infiltrate into Iraq, and we are cutting off their smuggling and supply routes. In the areas where they have accomplished these missions, we have seen vastly improved security and flourishing communities.

These are positive news stories that we witnessed firsthand. Yet, the media continues to report little but gloom and doom. We feel we have an obligation to share the good news with all of Georgia.

U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson represent Georgia.