Rebuilding an Iraqi Library
At the American Library Association's June 2005 Annual Conference, ALA Council passed a resolution calling for an American withdrawal from Iraq. As I noted at the time, the resolution is a monument to moral and intellectual bankruptcy. It argues that after withdrawing from Iraq, the US should pay the United Nations to "rebuild" Iraq's libraries. Yeah, that should work. I'm sure that, after we leave, Al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq, and the Iranian-sponsored Mahdi Army, would be happy to build modern libraries where people are free to read whatever they want. Yes, and I have some great beachfront property on the Outer Banks I'm looking to sell.
Anyway, I couldn't help but think of that ALA resolution when I saw this e-mail that blogger and independent journalist Michael Yon sent to Instapundit:
Am in the city of Hit, out in Anbar Province, with Task Force 2-7 Infantry. 2-7 took over this section of Iraq on 08 February. The area of operations comprises approximately 4,000 square km with an estimated 100,000 people. On 30 Jan, as the last of the previous unit departed, 3 mortar rounds landed about 50 yards from where I sit, wounding about 8 of the departing soldiers. Since that time, there have been no mortar attacks on base – and only one possible small mortar attack in the entire 4,000 sq km. The last battalion took nearly 150 wounded and 15 killed in action in 14 months. They fought very hard while building the ISF, and I hope those soldiers, Marines and others would be happy and proud to know that their efforts set the conditions for the current success here. Following a major clearing operation that 2-7 IN executed with Iraqi Police when they initially took over, the guns are mostly quiet now. IEDs are still a threat but are few. Over the first one-hundred days, 2-7 has taken one wounded Soldier, and unfortunately a Marine was killed by an IED.
Otherwise, 2-7 hardly have fired their weapons. Today, I accompanied LTC Doug Crissman, the commander, to three meetings with Iraqi police and civilian leadership. The meetings were important but thankfully more administrative than combat oriented. Subjects included police recruitment and local politics, and actually seemed more difficult to navigate than "simple combat." And to think that only in January of this year, this city was a daily battle. Today, there are clear signs of development and the civilian population was out shopping. In addition to basic services being restored, the city of Hit has rebuilt its library. Citizens had stored away the books during the war here. They are preparing to re-stock the library. Glenn, you know that I do not hesitate to deliver bad news. I have no bad news to deliver today. The town of Hit clearly is doing much, much better. "Anbar the impossible" might be possible after all.
You can read more about conditions in Hit in this followup message from Yon.
Now, it may come as a shock to find out that Iraq might actually not be a hopeless quagmire. However, as filmmaker and blogger J.D. Johannes notes, "(m)ost of what people think they know about Iraq is wrong". The situation there is, of course, horrific in many ways. However, it is also far more complicated, and far more susceptible to change, than most people realize.
In the meantime, I wonder what condition Hit's library would be in if ALA Council had its way and our forces weren't there to help rebuild it.