Kevin McCullough

The nation and economy known as the new Iraq is succeeding, and those who dispute this are simply lying.

Call it whatever you'd like - a quagmire, a country torn by violence, the next Vietnam, etc. - but it is dishonest to say is that this nation is not a success. Government corruption, uncontrolled militias, and (as the drive-by media likes to remind us) daily attacks using improvised exploding devices - but it is not an economy going under.

Take yourself back to the days following 9.11. Do you remember the near stand still our economy experienced? The airline industry down for days and the markets went into the tank. I can only surmise that similar bumps in our economic stability would be felt if we were seeing radicals crossing the borders from our neighbors (and who knows - they probably are), and decided once here they would blow up policemen, military check-points, and the passing civilians on a daily basis.

Despite the violence the economic growth in Iraq is defying all expectations by nearly any observer.

Want proof?

The leading cell phone company Iraqna is set to take in nearly $520 million in revenues in 2006. That follows a record year in 2005 of $333 million. The leading export of Iraq is producing nearly $41 billion in revenues. In 2004 there were only 8,000 registered companies with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - today there are over 34,000.

While we in the U.S. are thrilled to hear about GDP (gross domestic product) coming in at around 4% (so much so that it begins to bring down our national debt faster than expected), imagine enjoying Iraq's GDP growth of 13% in 2006. Which followed a record year in 2005 of 17%.

Since 2003 the salaries of average Iraqis have risen in excess of 100%. In addition the Iraqi government has slashed the income tax rates from 45% to just around 15%. That has resulted in the average Iraqi family being able to develop long term nest-eggs (we call them IRAs).

Gasoline is only .56 cents a gallon. It wouldn't be that high except that Iraq decided to payoff some of its debt to the World Bank and are using energy profits to do so.

In addition much of the formerly centralized organization of the economy has been turned over to private sector endeavors and while some government sectors have seen a spike in unemployment, private sector unemployment is hovering around 30%. (High to you and me, but still better than in the Saddam era.)

There will be many who will read this latest round of good news and dismiss it out of hand. But thinking people will understand that this growth did not happen in a vacuum.

Are there still significant challenges before the Iraqis? Yes, and there will be for decades - but the violence so reported in the daily news grind does not begin to give one even a slight glimpse of the entire picture.

The militias need to be disbanded. Iran needs to keeps it nose out of the Shia population, and the Saudis out of the Sunnis. But while these debates are occurring don't miss what's happening behind the scenes. Every single day 25 million Iraqis are going to jobs, coming home, paying bills, putting some into savings, educating their children - and living in freedom.

Those who still disagree will argue that their freedom was not worth the cost in the numbers of lost American lives. And they do so dishonestly - knowing that we've lost fewer lives in the Global War on Terror than in any other armed conflict America has fought in (based on the numbers of American citizens and the percentage serving during war time).

But some things are more valuable than life, and freedom is just such a treasure. Honorable people have always recognized this, and in turn expressed tremendous gratitude for the sacrifice made. Dishonorable people have always preferred tyranny to freedom, and the most dishonorable believe in freedom only for themselves.

The Global War on Terror has been and will continue to be a tough, log slog, in Iraq the news has not been the best in recent months. Yet there is good news, and it deserves to be noted.

Iraq will succeed. The terrorists will fail. And the longer the arm of freedom can reach, the more both statements will be proven true.

And in an economic sense - we need no greater proof.