StrategyPage reports that there is less rioting in Iraq than media accounts would have you believe:

Nearly all the demonstrations are held in front of the hotels journalists are staying in. The rest of Iraq is pretty quiet, although people are still steamed about lack of water and electricity. Despite that, coalition troops on patrol generally encounter friendly, or simply curious, Iraqis. Several decades of Saddam’s police state has discouraged tourists, and Iraqis from meeting, or even seeing, any foreigners. So the American and British troops on patrol are often the first foreigners most Iraqis, especially kids, have ever seen in the flesh. But all Iraqis know about America and Britain, as these nations have been the two favorite destinations of the fifteen percent of the population that has fled since Saddam came to power. Nearly every Iraqi has a relative in America or Britain, or a friend who does. So except for the few Iraqis working the foreign press for one reason or another, most Iraqis are happy to see America come to them, even if they couldn’t get to America.

This wouldn’t be the first time reporters overestimated crowd size by taking the small view. Not only do they often do this with domestic protests, it was part of the reason we went into Somalia in 1992, when mass starvation in Mogadishu was reported as a nationwide famine.

And, more evidence that we care more about the fate of the Iraqi people than Saddam:

Coalition engineers have discovered that Iraq’s infrastructure is basically falling apart. Saddam spent little on it during the 1980s, because of the war with Iran. During the 1990s, what money was available went to building palaces, military bases and not the power or water systems. So what you have now is a jury rigged system that has, for years, been on the verge of breakdown. American engineers, after examining the water system, and talking to Iraqi engineers, estimate that up to half the water is lost because of broken or elderly pipes. The electrical system isn’t much better, with many ancient, and inefficient, generators and a distribution system rife with power theft and wasted power. For the last few years, there have been brownouts throughout the country every Summer. While the bombing campaign did not target any of the power or water facilities, government and military buildings that were hit often resulted in damage to nearby water and power lines. These have had to be repaired in order to restore power and water to all neighborhoods.

So, apparently, it wasn’t US/UN sanctions that were responsible for the horrible plight of the Iraqi people but rather a corrupt regime. Imagine that. Which reminds me of the old joke about corruption in Africa, albeit with a different locale:

An Asian and an African became friends while attending Graduate School in the West. Years later, each rises to become Finance Minister of his country. One day, the African ventures to Asia to visit his friend and is startled by the Asian’s palatial home, the three Mercedes-Benzes in the circular drive, the swimming pool, the servants. ‘My God!’ the African exclaims, ‘We were just poor students before. How on earth can you afford all this now?’ The Asian takes his friend to the window and points to a new elevated highway in the distance. ‘You see that road?’ he says, and then proudly taps himself on the chest. ‘Ten percent.’

A few years later, the Asian returns the visit of his of his old friend. He finds the African living on a massive estate. There’s a fleet of dozens of Mercedes-Benzes, an indoor pool, an army of uniformed servants. ‘My God!’ says the Asian, ‘How do you afford this?’ This time the African leads his friend to the window and points. ‘You see that highway?’ he asks. The Asian looks and sees nothing, just an open field with a few cows. ‘I don’t see any highway,’ he says. The African taps himself on the chest. ‘One hundred percent!’

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.