Iraq - 2004 and now
All the talking heads who tell people how bad the situation in Iraq is was not in Iraq in 2004. When I was in Iraq in 2004 thing was really bad. Early that year we lost physical control of al-Fallujah, then a string of cities and towns in al-Anbar province fell into the hand of terrorists. From ar-Ramadi to the border with Syria, we had no physical control. Terrorists had complete freedom of movement from Baghdad to Syria. They controlled most of al-Anbar province. In al-Qa'im near the border, there was a sign in English: "Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Qa'im."
Al-Anbar was not the only lost province. The fall of al-Fallujah had a domino effect. It inspired terrorists everywhere to duplicate Zarqawi success. As-Samarra in Salah ad Din province fell; followed by Tal Afar in Niwana province. Baquba (in Diyala province), thirty minutes from my base camp, al-Zarqawi attempted to take the city. The fight for the city last a week, two soldiers from my unit died on the first day of the battle, known unofficially as the Battle for Baquba. It took several days of heavy fighting and three 500 pounds bombs to disloged Zarqawi fighters from the city. We almost lost the city. Iraqi workers who are employed in my base did not show up for work for more than a week because there was fighting everywhere.
Muqtada Sadr took advantage of the situation and started his insugency. First al-Najaf fell; then it was Karbala, then al-Kut. In al-Kut, there was a small U.S. force there. The base fell. People arrived at my base camp with the clothes on their back. Throughout the South, Mahdi Army of Muqtada Sadr roamed freely.
2004 was a desperate year. It was the year of the Twin Insurgency. To call the US presence in Iraq an occupation was grossly exagerated. We barely controlled half of the country. The other half was firmly in the control of terrorists. They ruled their areas like mini-states. They even had Sharia court. People are worry about a future Islamic Caliphate in the Sunni Triangle. There was an Islamic Caliphate in Iraq in 2004 with Zarqawi as its head of state and al-Fallujah as its capital.
But that Caliphate is no more. Now, all the cities and towns I mentioned are fully in the control of the US or Iraqi government. There are still violences and Iraq is not out of danger yet. But thing had improved signficantly since then. Iraq has an democratically elected government. It has an Armed Forces.
If someone tell you that thing has gotten worse in Iraq, ask him where he was in 2004. Wherever he was, he was certainly not in Iraq.