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Argument: Iraqis are better off economically as a result of the war

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Richard Miniter. "Was the Iraq War Worth It?" Hudson New York. September 2, 2010: "Since liberation, Iraq is better off by any measure: economics, politics, or security.

Under Saddam Hussein, the average Iraqi was among the poorest in the Middle East, with no access to cell phones, private bank accounts or satellite television. Appliances, like refrigerators and air conditioners, were scarce and more costly than in the United States. Mechanics who fixed cars could only dream of owning one. Hospital administrators' offices were cooled by air conditioners, but not the wards where sick children tried to sleep.

After liberation, economic misery sharply declined. Iraq went from being a nation with some of the highest tariffs in the world to being the one with some of the lowest—slashing the costs of goods across the board. "Big-ticket" items suddenly came within reach of ordinary Iraqis. A huge used-car market sprang up: enterprising Iraqis hitchhiked to Jordan or Syria, bought a used car, drove it to Baghdad and sold it for a small profit. Soon car sellers became so numerous that virtually any Iraqi who wanted a used car could have one for about $1,000.

When I first saw the clothing and food markets in Southern Iraq in July 2003, the locals were proud of the large variety of foreign products. While it might have been better than in Saddam's days, it still seemed pretty East German. But when I returned to those same markets in June 2006, there were stores crowded with new fans, washing machines, and dishwashers from China, Korea and Japan. Prices were lower than in eastern Europe for comparable goods, and some merchants were even extending credit.

For the first time, people were buying air conditioners and washing machines.

The Paris-based OECD captures the trend with a single number: per-capita income in Iraq tripled from 2003 t0 2006. Today, it is higher still.

Home prices are still rising in Baghdad (and apparently in other major Iraqi cities), suggesting that demand is greater than supply. And people are buying.

Private banks accounts are now allowed; many Iraqis will proudly show you their ATM cards.

Food shortages are a distant memory, and private-sector jobs, while still outstripped by government jobs, and jobs created by government contractors, are growing.

Overall, the people of Iraq are far better off economically than they were under Saddam's failing Stalinist economy."

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