THERE is a reason Iraq has almost disappeared as an election issue. Here it is: The battle is actually over. Iraq has been won.
I know this will seem to many of you an insane claim. Ridiculous!
After all, haven't you read countless stories that Iraq is a "disaster", turned by a "civil war" into a "killing field"?
Didn't Labor leader Kevin Rudd, in one of his few campaign references to Iraq, say it was the "greatest . . . national security policy disaster that our country has seen since Vietnam"?
You have. And you have been misled.
Here is just the latest underreported news, out this week.
Just 27 American soldiers were killed in action in Iraq in October -- the lowest monthly figure since March last year. (This is a provisional figure and may alter over the next week.)
The number of Iraqi civilians killed last month -- mostly by Islamist and fascist terrorists -- was around 760, according to Iraqi Government sources. That is still tragically high, but the monthly toll has plummeted since January's grim total of 1990.
What measures of success do critics of Iraq's liberation now demand?
Violence is falling fast. Al Qaida has been crippled. The Shiites, Kurds and Marsh Arabs no longer face genocide.
What's more, the country has stayed unified. The majority now rules. Despite that, minority Sunni leaders are co-operating in government with Shiite ones. There is no civil war. The Kurds have not broken away. Iran has not turned Iraq into its puppet.
And the country's institutions are getting stronger. The Iraqi army is now at full strength, at least in numbers. The country has a vigorous media. A democratic constitution has been adopted and backed by a popular vote. Election after election has Iraqis turning up in their millions.
Add it all up. Iraq not only remains a democracy, but shows no sign of collapse. I repeat: the battle for a free Iraq has been won.
Now the task is one familiar to every democracy, and especially any in the Middle East: eternal vigilance.
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