Iraq's improvements in five years

March 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Iraq War has not gone as planned by President Bush. It's cost him his popularity and the political fortunes of his party. Even so, the president reiterated today, he made the right decision.

Five years into the Iraq conflict, two-thirds of America says it hasn't been worth it. The administration says public opinion doesn't matter. John McCain says we need to stay, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both say we need to get out. The situation on the ground is improving, and time is running out.

As he has from the day the bombing started, President Bush is once more predicting victory, on Wednesday in a speech at the Pentagon.

"In Iraq we are witnessing the first large scale Arab uprising against Osama Bin Laden, his grim ideology and his murderous network," said President Bush.

With the surge in U.S. troops, violent attacks in Iraq have gone down, from 180-a-day last June to 60-a-day this past January.

The number of U.S. soldiers killed is half of what the death toll was a year ago. But this morning Senator Barbara Boxer told reporters at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club, it's time come home.

"It is time to tell the Iraqis it is your turn. It is your turn to protect your own country. It is your turn to take responsibility," said Senator Boxer, (D).

The U.S. Army pushed back against that kind of criticism this week, telling reporters that Army led initiatives have rehabilitated 1,100 schools, built 137 new healthcare centers, provided drinkable water to 4.1 million Iraqis.

"Yes there've been improvements here and there and we're thrilled about it but when Dick Cheney has to sneak into the country that Ahmadinejad was able to ride in all his, quote un quote, glory. I think you've got a serious problem," said Senator Boxer.

In Baghdad Terry McCarthy is ABC's man in Iraq.

"When you go out in the streets of Baghdad you see a lot more people around, you see the shops are opening up again there's a lot more traffic," said McCarthy.

McCarthy says more than half of Iraqis polled by ABC News say their lives are improving. While 73 percent say they oppose the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, only 38 percent want the troops out now.

"Most Iraqis want Americans to stay here until security is guaranteed so they are split on that issue," said McCarthy.

McCarthy says political progress in Iraq is frustratingly slow, but we should be wary of U.S. political promises to get out.

"It does seem that if the violence continues to go down here, when the new president comes in the military commander in Iraq is going to be in a very strong position to say, 'Mr. or Mrs. President, now is not the time to reduce too quickly. We've made huge gains here and after all who wants to be the president who lost Iraq?' So I think that whatever is being said now on the campaign trail, when reality hits in January 2009, I suspect the military is going to be making a very strong argument to keep some troops here for quite some time rather than risk losing the gains on the ground they've already made," said McCarthy.

McCarthy says there are still large parts of Iraq without a steady supply of electricity and fresh water, and corruption continues to be a big problem.