Via Allah at Hot Air, if this doesn't fill you with pride for America, nothing ever will. Keep in mind, this is a New York Times reporter drawing a stark contrast between the Iraq of 2006 and its present-day incarnation. The transformation is miraculous --a testament to the power of tenacity in the face of virulent opposition, unshakeable faith in a noble mission against formidable odds and an unwavering commitment to the cause of freedom, no matter the cost:
Two years ago, when I last stayed in Baghdad, Karada Mariam was like the whole of the city: shuttered, shattered, broken and dead.
Abu Nawas Park — I didn’t recognize that, either. By the time I had left the country in August 2006, the two-mile stretch of riverside park was a grim, spooky, deserted place, a symbol for the dying city that Baghdad had become.
These days, the same park is filled with people: families with children, women in jeans, women walking alone. Even the nighttime, when Iraqis used to cower inside their homes, no longer scares them. I can hear their laughter wafting from the park. At sundown the other day, I had to weave my way through perhaps 2,000 people. It was an astonishing, beautiful scene — impossible, incomprehensible, only months ago.
When I left Baghdad two years ago, the nation’s social fabric seemed too shredded to ever come together again. The very worst had lost its power to shock. To return now is to be jarred in the oddest way possible: by the normal, by the pleasant, even by hope. The questions are jarring, too. Is it really different now? Is this something like peace or victory? And, if so, for whom: the Americans or the Iraqis?
There are plenty of reasons why this peace may only amount to a cease-fire, fragile and reversible. The “surge” of American troops is over. The Iraqis are moving to take their country back, yet they wonder what might happen when the Americans’ restraining presence is gone. The Awakening, a poetic name for paying former Sunni insurgents not to kill Americans or Iraqis, could fall apart, just as the Shiite Mahdi Army could reanimate itself as quickly as it disappeared. Politics in Iraq remains frozen in sectarian stalemate; the country’s leaders cannot even agree to set a date for provincial elections, which might hand power to groups that never had it before. The mountain of oil money, piled ever higher by record oil prices, may become another reason to spill blood.
But if this is not peace, it is not war, either — at least not the war I knew. When I left Iraq in the summer of 2006, after living three and a half years here following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime, I believed that evil had triumphed, and that it would be many years before it might be stopped. Iraq, filled with so many people living so close together, nurturing dark and unknowable grievances, seemed destined for a ghastly unraveling.
And now, in the late summer of 2008, comes the calm. Violence has dropped by as much as 90 percent. A handful of the five million Iraqis who fled their homes — one-sixth of all Iraqis — are beginning to return. The mornings, once punctuated by the sounds of exploding bombs, are still. Is it possible that the rage, the thirst for revenge, the sectarian furies, have begun to fade? That Iraqis have been exhausted and frightened by what they have seen?
“We are normal people, ordinary people, like people everywhere,” Aziz al-Saiedi said to me the other day, as we sat on a park bench in Sadr City, only recently freed from the grip of the Mahdi Army. The park was just a small patch of bare ground with a couple of swing sets; it didn’t even have a name, yet it was filled to the bursting. “We want what everyone else wants in this world,” he said.
Read the whole thing. Then credit George W. Bush and John McCain for refusing to buckle to political pressure and demonstrating that true statesmenship involves a willingness to incite irrational hatred from those who stand to benefit the most. While America's elites rest comfortably in their ivory towers, true patriots both in Washington and on the battlefield quietly do the right thing, even if it means loss of life and limb. God bless them all.