One year after the United States and our allies launched the Iraq
War, Spain's newly elected Socialist prime minister says he
considers the war a failure. In fact, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero
calls it "a disaster."
Perhaps his views are colored by the tragic loss of life his
country recently suffered. But to see if he's correct, let's recall
what President Bush said at the start of the war. "American and
coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to
disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave
danger," he announced on March 19, 2003.
By that standard, it's difficult to agree with Zapatero. The war
clearly accomplished the critical objectives the president laid
The most obvious success: Saddam Hussein's corrupt government is
out of power, and the dictator is in custody. This is no small
feat. After all, Saddam survived other wars, including the 1991
That conflict brought crushing United Nations sanctions to Iraq.
For more than a decade, Saddam defied a series of U.N. resolutions,
even as his country's economy collapsed. Women and children
starved, but Saddam lived in luxury, maintaining dozens of
presidential palaces. His complete control of Iraq's military and
police organizations kept him safely in place.
Today, freedom is allowing Iraq's economy to boom. The unemployment
rate has plunged from at least 50 percent at the time of the U.S.
invasion to around 25 percent. Far more goods are available now,
including high-tech imports such as satellite dishes,
refrigerators, computers, modems and cell phones.
Imported cars are also flowing into the country -- and that's
actually causing some problems. As ABC News reported recently,
"traffic and other transportation problems have become a major
concern. In central Iraq, people ranked this their second-highest
priority." Rest assured that Iraq's incoming government would
rather deal with the problem of too many cars on the road than too
few. Cars mean commerce, and that's a good starting point for a
A new government, run by Iraqis, will be in place this summer. All
sides have agreed to an interim constitution that guarantees
fundamental rights, including a bill of rights with freedom of
speech, freedom of assembly and, most notably, freedom of
We'll hear a lot about difficulties in the months and years to come
as Iraqis finally begin to exercise democracy. That's because
democracy itself is messy. Even minor problems frequently generate
loud debate. But again, that's a good problem to have. Loud,
democratic debate means problems are being solved with words
instead of guns. That's a far cry from the way problems were solved
under Saddam -- when dissenters were executed or locked away for
Finally, as President Bush predicted, the war in Iraq has helped
make us safer.
Not only is Saddam himself finally disarmed after decades of
obstructing U.N. inspection teams, but other terror-supporting
regimes are starting to fall into line. Earlier this year, Libya
decided to give up its quest for nuclear weapons and rejoin the
community of nations.
The International Atomic Energy Agency learned that Libya's nuclear
program had been growing since the early 1980s and had succeeded in
producing a small amount of plutonium and assembling the basic
components to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon.
Small wonder that Muammar Qadhafi opted to give up his nuclear
program now. He realized that President Bush was serious about
taking down terrorist-supporting regimes, and he decided to finally
get on the correct side of history.
The Iraqi people are optimistic. For the first time in decades,
they've got a real say in their future, and they're confident
democracy will take hold. When it does, Iraq will serve as a beacon
of freedom to the entire Middle East.
Quite a change. Not bad for a year's work, don't you think, Mr.