[C]ritics of the war are demonstrating a peculiar eagerness to declare certain matters settled. We certainly face difficulties in Iraq–but we have seen significant progress as well. In 2005, Iraq’s economy continued to recover and grow. Access to clean water and sewage-treatment facilities has increased. The Sunnis are now invested in the political process, which was not previously the case. The Iraqi security forces are far stronger than they were. Our counterinsurgency strategy is more effective than in the past. Cities like Tal Afar, which insurgents once controlled, are now back in the hands of free Iraqis. Al Qaeda’s grip has been broken in Mosul and disrupted in Baghdad. We now see fissures between Iraqis and foreign terrorists. And in the aftermath of the mosque bombing in Samarra, we saw the political and religious leadership in Iraq call for an end to violence instead of stoking civil war–and on the whole, the Iraqi security forces performed well. These achievements are authentic grounds for encouragement. And to ignore or dismiss all signs of progress in Iraq, to portray things in what Norman Podhoretz has called “the blackest possible light,” disfigures reality.