BAQOUBA, Iraq -- It is nearly Christmas, and most of the young Americans with whom we have spent this month are going to miss the holiday with their families. For many, it is their third Nativity season away from home since Operation Iraqi Freedom began in 2003. Though you may not have noticed it beneath your tree, the troops here have sent you a gift that is far more valuable than a new hand tool or iPod. It's a present that they made by hand with extraordinary care so that you can use it every day for the rest of your life -- and that your children can use after you are gone.
Haven't heard about this gift? It's no wonder. As things turned around here in the land between the rivers, Iraq disappeared from America's televisions and dropped off the front pages of our newspapers.
When our FOX News team was here in Iraq exactly a year ago, Sheikh Sattar -- the chief instigator of the Sunni "Awakening" -- was still alive, and the citizens of Anbar province were just beginning to cooperate with coalition forces. Last December, the city of Ramadi had a well-deserved reputation as the most violent place on the planet. The streets were full of improvised explosive devices, and there were daily attacks against U.S. soldiers and Marines by snipers, mortars, rockets and roadside bombs. At home, Republicans had taken a drubbing in the congressional elections, and the "experts" had decided that Iraq was descending into an abyss of sectarian conflict.
The masters of the mainstream media contended that the campaign in Iraq was "lost." The Associated Press, in a piece headlined "Many U.S. Troops in Iraq Oppose Escalation," baldly stated we were "embroiled in civil warfare between majority Shiite Muslims and Sunni Arabs that no number of American troops can stop." America's newspapers and television screens were full of stories about U.S. and Iraqi casualties, and liberal partisans were demanding that President Bush "bring the troops home -- now!"
Then in February, the first U.S. "surge" troops arrived in Iraq. Within weeks, U.S. casualties spiked, and the potentates of the press proclaimed that the additional troops were "too little, too late." Radical Islamic Web sites agreed and predicted the toll of dead and wounded would force the Americans to abandon Iraq just as they quit Vietnam, Beirut and Somalia. Osama bin Laden declared that the "American infidels" were being "driven from Mesopotamia."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.