Thursday, March 11, 2004

The best news: Between February 19 and March 2 not a single American soldier was killed in Iraq.

This is testimony to the fact that the American military units operating there - even in the midst of a huge movement of soldiers as the old U.S. force of 130,000 is replaced by a fresh new force of 110,000 - have ground down the opposition Sunni guerrillas to a much more manageable level both in terms of numbers and effectiveness.

This wasn't achieved with a few big battles or a few massive sweeps, but rather by a slow, steady weeding out of the bad guys, taking them down or out by ones, twos and threes and primarily doing it with information provided by Iraqis who want to see an end to this war and a future for themselves.

It doesn't hurt that the tribal leaders of the minority Sunni Arab population of central Iraq - which has provided most of the guerrilla recruits and sheltered them - have begun to realize that the only thing standing between them and extermination by their blood enemies, the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south, is the U.S. Army and now the Marines.

The awful days of the Ramadan offensive in November, when the Americans suffered record numbers killed and wounded in a seemingly endless series of roadside bombings, are no more. With luck and hard work they may not come again.

A new life is coming to many parts of Iraq. Shops have more goods to sell, people have more money to spend and inflation is beginning to work its way back down. Iraqi oil production now is around 2.3 million to 2.5 million barrels a day, or almost pre-war production levels of 2.8 million barrels, thanks to $1 billion in infrastructure repairs paid for by the American taxpayer.

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