Two lines of mention. PSD, the unsung heroes
Shh! It's good news
IN a selfish way, I'm glad just one newspaper reported just one line of Major-General Jim Molan's speech two weeks ago.
What better proof of what I've argued so often – that you are not being told the good news from Iraq.
As Australia's top soldier there confirmed, that battle for freedom is going far better than many folk want you to think.
"I am positive about the situation in Iraq. The war in Iraq is winnable," Molan told Canberra's United Services Institute, to the huge indifference of the media.
We needed to hear that, but what do we hear on the news instead?
"Australia is caught in the Iraq quagmire," moans Opposition Leader Kim Beazley. "John Howard . . . has involved us in the Iraqi quagmire," gloats his foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd.
"Iraq quagmire," dutifully chants the Age's Iraqi correspondent, "Journalist of the Year" Paul McGeough.
I've long said such scare-mongers are wrong -- irresponsibly wrong -- but what would I know? I've never been to Iraq.
But Jim Molan has. Not just that, until recently he was chief of operations for the entire coalition army in Iraq, which, with Iraqi forces, numbered as many as 300,000 soldiers. Molan did not spend his time in Baghdad lolling in the cocooned safety of some luxury hotel. He travelled around and out of the city with an escort of Australian and American bodyguards, soon learning he was a prize target for terrorists.
Good luck and bad shooting helped him to survive, he says. So he's no innocent about the dangers in Iraq, even if he admits "being shot at, or being in the close proximity to rockets or mortars or a car bomb is, I have found out late in my career, initially exhilarating".
What, then, did he see after the smoke cleared that makes him optimistic?
The general admitted in his speech that when he joined the coalition headquarters in April last year, he found the battle against the terrorists and insurgents wasn't going so well.
The coalition couldn't co-ordinate its efforts to fight, to rebuild and to help create a new government. Some of its members were pulling out or wobbling. It had next to no trained Iraqi troops to help. And it had been "humbled by Abu Ghraib".
For four months it wallowed, Molan said, but -- click -- "from August 2004 we hardly looked back".
Just look, he said.
"When I arrived (in Iraq), I was part of an occupying force. When I left a transitional government was in place and was looking to write a constitution.
"In April 2004, the coalition had only one Iraqi battalion it could use in the first fight in Fallujah.
"By April 2005 there were 99 deployable combat battalions in the Iraqi Security Forces, about two-thirds with some form of combat experience."
But for Molan, even that wasn't the best of the news.
"What gave me most comfort was that there were indications that the people of Iraq were turning, if not always enthusiastically to the coalition force, but at least away from the terrorists. And those positive signs seem to be continuing." Surveys back him up.
IT'S true the cost has been terrible.
Many Iraqis have been murdered by terrorists desperate to kill this new-born democratic Iraq -- a symbol of freedom the dangerously pent-up Muslim world badly needs, but which the Islamist extremists fear.
"But the terrorists have also paid a high price," said Molan, and not just because their networks had been "severely reduced".
Molan checked off a long list of the terrorists' failures -- they'd failed to kill Iraq's new leaders, to stop Iraq forming an army, to stop the crucial January elections, and much more.
He had a dig at the media: "Despite the tone of much popular commentary, this would seem to indicate that the coalition and its Iraqi allies must have done something well in the last year."
Television pictures might still make you think all Iraq is in flames, but Molan said the insurgency hadn't spread beyond the Sunni provinces, and even there its support was weakening.
"I am satisfied that this is not a new Vietnam -- the insurgency is not widely popular, nor is it widespread," he declared.
So can Labor now end its deceitful scare-talk of a "quagmire", which would so comfort our enemies? Or does Beazley think the general a fool?
Molan is as sure as I am that this fight for Iraq is indeed a noble cause.
"We need to keep in the front of our minds that the enemy in this struggle are indeed evil . . .
"The themes that occur to me after one year of the closest scrutiny of my enemy was the constant misuse of religious shrines, mosques, and medical facilities such as hospitals and ambulances, a willingness to use terror and intimidation, and no thought of offering a constructive alternative for the Iraqi people."
And to think that the Melbourne Writers' Festival invited as its guest speaker on opening night Tariq Ali, the British Trotskyist who demands we back this fascist insurgency. What sickness is in our culture.
Molan said his time in Iraq reminded him of something I suspect many in our cultural elite have suicidally forgotten -- "that there is still truth in the hackneyed saying that freedom is not free, but must be purchased and re-purchased with blood and sacrifice".
He isn't pretending that victory in the battle for a free Iraq will be easy or sure from here, even though our strategy is good. The Middle East is too unpredictable, and war too uncertain.
"But," he said, "I am cautiously optimistic."
And he added: "There has been extraordinary sacrifice and great achievement in a righteous cause to help a nation that is important to the world, both for itself and for what it represents. Let us not waste that effort."
That was the speech of an Australian general summing up his year in Iraq. There was more, of course, not least on how the lessons our soldiers are learning there may one day be critical in battles closer to home.
How sad that most Australians were not told a single precious word of it. heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,15930445%255E25717,00.html