WASHINGTON, D.C.So far this morning, police are concentrating on demonstrators, not terrorists. During a heavy rain, demonstrators briefly closed down the 14th Street bridge from Virginia to Washington at the height of the rush hour. This is the main commuter thoroughfare into the District, and even this short blockage led to traffic jams elsewhere in the city.
It is still too early to tell whether last night's "decapitation" strike was another botched bit of intelligence engineered by the much criticized CIA director George Tenet. Reports of Scud attacks in Kuwait put Israeli forces on heightened alert. The Special Forces chopper crash comes at a time when press reports out of the Middle East say the two Iraqi divisions defending Basra are negotiating surrender with U.S. commanders.
In the wake of all this, talk of an Iraq turkey shoot has stopped, at least in Britain. Today British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon warned that the war may take longer than first thought. "We all certainly hope that offensive operations will be over quickly," Hoon told the MPs in a speech at the House of Commons. "But we should not underestimate the risks and difficulties we may face against a regime that is an embodiment of absolute ruthlessness, with utter disregard for human life."
Meanwhile, the situation grows more complicated with first reports that the Iraqi military around Basra have set oil fields on fire. Reports say the area is coming under considerable bombardment.
Meanwhile, in D.C., rush hour subways are crammed as usual, with few police in evidence. Last night perhaps 50 demonstrators, accompanied by police marched up Connecticut Avenue and into Dupont Circle, but soon dispersed. This morning, police cars are parked across all the pathways into the Circle. A helicopter crisscrosses the cold and rainy capital. Police expect other demonstrations throughout the day.
Whether Robert Byrd's almost Shakespearian attack on Bush from the Senate floor yesterday will set off a tardy Congressional debate is hard to predict. In any event, it is too late. Dennis Kucinich, the liberal Democratic congressman from Cleveland and an outsider presidential candidate, attacked the war. "President Bush has launched an unprovoked attack against another country," he said. "Iraq does not pose an imminent threat to the United States or any of its neighboring nations. Iraq was not responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11."