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What a difference a year makes

Posted by Richard on March 20, 2007

Michael Totten is doing some consulting work in Kurdistan, and he's produced a long report on the area, illustrated with lots of wonderful pictures. He reminds us that parts of Iraq are nothing like the chaos and hell that the MSM dwells on every day, and have in fact made remarkable progress in the past year or so:

Fourteen months ago I flew to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, from Beirut, Lebanon, on the dubiously named Flying Carpet Airlines. Flying Carpet's entire fleet is one small noisy plane with propellers, cramped seats, and thin cabin pressure. Only nineteen passengers joined me on that once-a-week flight. Everyone but me was a Lebanese businessman. They were paranoid of me and of each other. What kind of crazy person books a flight to Iraq, even if it is to the safe and relatively prosperous Kurdistan region? I felt completely bereft of sense going to Iraq without a gun and without any bodyguards, and it took a week for my on-again off-again twitchiness to subside.

Last week I flew to Erbil from Vienna on Austrian Airlines to work for a few weeks as a private sector consultant with my colleague Patrick Lasswell. This time I didn't feel anything like a fool. Almost half the passengers were women. Children played on their seats and in the aisle with toys handed out by the crew. We watched an in-flight movie and ate the usual airline lunch fare served by an attractive long legged stewardess. The cabin erupted with applause when the wheels touched down on the runway. The pilot announced the weather (sunny and 60) in three languages and cheerfully told us all to have a great day. Have a great day may seem an odd thing to say to people who just arrived in Iraq, but this is Kurdistan. I did, indeed, have a great day.

Read the rest. Totten is far from a Pollyanna. He doubts that the Sunni and Shia Arabs will be able to live in peace (but he admits his predictions about the Middle East have been wrong before). Totten thinks that the Kurds, on the other hand, have a very bright future. His report certainly contains plenty of evidence to support optimism.

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