"We're making progress toward peace. We're making progress toward an ally that will join us in the war on terror, that will prevent al Qaeda from establishing safe haven in Iraq, and a country that will serve as an example for others who aspire to live in freedom."It was quite a rosy picture he painted of the prospects for the Iraqi people.
A year has now passed. That's enough time to assess the accuracy of Bush's predictions. It seems clear now that they were far off target.
The UN reported the number of Iraqi civilians that were killed in October 2006. It was 3,709, the highest tally since the beginning of the war. Considering that 101 Iraqi civilians were killed today, and recent counts have been as high or higher, November is well on track to surpass October's count.
The killings are not the only staggering numbers. The UN also reported that Iraqi civilians are leaving the country at a rate of 100,000 per year. Since the beginning of the war, 1.6-million Iraqis have fled their homeland.
The favored targets of insurgents are journalists, physicians, professors, politicians and the like. How Iraq could become "a country that will serve as an example for others who aspire to live in freedom" without professionals such as these, Bush has failed to say. It's also unclear how the Iraqi children can go on to replace them considering that many of their schools failed to open in September.
The jury is still out on whether or not Iraq will become that safe haven for al Q'aeda that Bush was convinced it would not become. Nonetheless, the fact that the majority of civilian killings are caused by sectarian violence rather than terrorist attacks is little consolation to the Iraqi people. Meanwhile, a Defense Department official said that the force in Iraq could be increased by 20,000 troops or more over the next few months to quell the growing violence.
Sadly, the state of affairs in Iraq has not turned out to be anything like what Bush described a year ago. Worse yet, for those who say it's only because more time is needed for the peaceful democracy to develop, all indications are that Iraq is headed in the opposite direction.