Of course, the human infrastructure of Iraq is proving somewhat less resilient at this point. And I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised at that. Rogue regime is a very catchy label, but I don’t think any of us had an idea what it really meant in practice. Murder, thievery, rape, brutality, torment: these were the actual tools of governance and statecraft in the regime of Saddam Hussein, for 35 years. Thirty-five years, three times longer than Adolf Hitler ruled Germany. The distortion of Iraqi society has been generational and profound, and fear in the heart of all Iraqis is deeply embedded and it’s going to take some time to recover and to rebuild, the impatient eye of the TV camera notwithstanding.
I think it is fair to say that the majority of Iraqis today want to press forward towards a better future, but there are those hardcore Baathist elements, the foreign fighters who have joined them who have a great deal of blood on their hands. I suppose it is understandable that they are doing anything they can to sabotage the process, to sabotage the progress. That this would be at the expense of the Iraqi people should come as no surprise. Mass graves we’re finding across that country offer an extraordinarily powerful witness to their lethal lack of concern for the lives of Iraqis.
But even with all the troubling news that continues to seep out of Baghdad and out of Iraq, there are encouraging changes on the ground, and Australia has done much to make that happen. Certainly with the professionalism of your military forces, but also through the ongoing service of numerous civilians, including those who are providing key oversight of Iraq’s Ministry of Agriculture. More than 45 nations have offered cooperation or support for military operations, including troops from more than a dozen nations who fought alongside the Americans, the Australians and the British.
Today more than 30 nations are providing troops and assets for stabilisation operations, and most significantly to me of all when you look at this region, Japan is looking into contributing assets to that effort. Thirty-six nations have pledged or contributed reconstruction assistance, a number that counts some $60 million from Australia and more than $100 million from Japan. Now, I know that’s a lot of numbers to throw at you. But they add up to a situation in Iraq that is, in fact, stabilising. Of course, there’s a difference yet to travel. There’s no question the people of Iraq are anxious to have their country back for themselves and to see it a better place. Indeed, that is what every nation involved in this coalition wants to see.
To date we have avoided any humanitarian crisis or large movements or flows of refugees. There is enough to eat, thanks to significant shipments of aid. And all of the country’s hospitals are now open. Twenty-two universities in Baghdad were not only opened but completed their school year. The lights are going on across Iraq. And we intend not only to bring power generation and water quality back to pre-war levels as soon as possible, but to repair and to upgrade those systems to the point that they are much better and much more reliable than they have been in decades.
And while the new Iraqi governing council is an important development, representative government really has to grow at the local level. And so for us who are involved in this in a day-to-day way, it’s very encouraging that all the major cities in Iraq now have city councils. Eighty-five percent of the towns in Iraq have town councils. Iraqi police are beginning to patrol Iraqi streets, and training has started for a new Iraqi army.
Indeed, if we look back to historical precedent, these developments are happening in a fraction of the time it took to reach comparable developments in Germany or Japan after the Second World War. And, of course, those two nations had the benefit of homogeneity in their society. They were not the polyglot that makes up Iraq. So while I won’t stand here and pretend to you that the situation is perfect. There are obvious immediate security challenges in some parts of the country and reconstruction shortfalls in other parts of the country. But with this sort of cooperation of nations, there is every reason to believe that Iraq will emerge from its season in hell and that the lives of all Iraqis will improve dramatically.