Morning Report 8/4/05
In Village of the Dam, More Tragedy for 'Lucky Lima' Marines

Haditha deaths threaten to make Ohio a real-life battleground state in 2006

Sgt. Stephen D'Alessio/U.S. Marines

Looking out from their Humvee, 'Lucky Lima' Marines from Ohio hunt for roadside bombs last April in Haditha

In the midst of stifling heat, Iraq—and even the Bush regime—are in danger of being flooded.

The Iraq debacle has just gotten a dam site worse, with the deaths of 14 Marines and their interpreter, blown up while trying to protect a key region of western Iraq from being swamped by the Euphrates River.

Peter Slevin of the Washington Post captured the grief of Ohioans—these Marines were based there—but for the full picture, read his colleague Ellen Knickmeyer's brilliant May 12 story on an earlier tragedy that befell "Lucky Lima." (Knickmeyer also wrote this morning's main story on the new bombing.)

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More than two years after the unjustified U.S. invasion, this chaotic war has completed a full loop.

On April 1, 2003, before the U.S. even conquered Baghdad, Army rangers captured the crucial Haditha Dam, 150 miles northwest of Baghdad. Here's why it's crucial: The dam supplies hydroelectric power—one-third of the country's entire power output, in fact. Fearing that Saddam Hussein's forces would sabotage the dam, causing not only a major, permanent power outage but also a historic flood, the U.S. quickly seized the area.

Now, we can't hold it. And that puts not only Iraqis, our troops, and our whole scheme in danger—more importantly to the Bush regime, the GOP could even be threatened in Ohio in next year's congressional elections.

As insane as it seems, Democrat Paul Hackett's loss on Tuesday in a special election in Ohio to fill a vacant congressional seat bodes ill for the Bush regime and the rest of the GOP.

Hackett, the first veteran of this very Iraq war to run for Congress, narrowly lost, garnering 48 percent of the vote in a district that is overwhelmingly GOP. As the Cincinnati Enquirer put it:

    That was a surprisingly narrow margin in a district where President Bush won with 64 percent in November and former Rep. Rob Portman regularly garnered 60 percent to 70 percent of the vote.

    Democrats in Washington and Columbus Wednesday talked up the results—with almost the same talking points.

    Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean called the race a "wake-up call" for Republicans.

Let's face it: Only the current Democratic Party leadership, shaken recently by labor woes put in context by my colleague Tom Robbins, could possibly get excited about a loss. But the fact is that Hackett did very well—and his campaign tactic was to call George W. Bush a "chicken hawk," among other things. Hackett's not really much of a Democrat, but as James Dao of the New York Times noted in a profile of the race late last month:

    Mr. Hackett has been bluntly dismissive of Mr. Bush, saying the United States should have focused on capturing Osama bin Laden instead of invading Iraq so quickly. In a public forum, he called Mr. Bush the biggest threat facing the United States, a remark that has infuriated voters, Republicans say.

An increasing number of voters, however, are weeping. Iraqis blown up a hundred at a time in Baghdead get no rhythm in the mainstream, but the U.S. press is just full of stories this morning about grieving Ohioans.

The Los Angeles Times, among many papers that descended on Brook Park, Ohio, led with this:

    Crisp American flags and emotionally worn spirits Wednesday filled the streets of this working-class town, headquarters of a Marine battalion that this week lost 19 young men in Iraq.

    Families and neighbors waited anxiously to hear the names of the 14 members of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, who died Wednesday while on patrol near Haditha, about 130 miles northwest of Baghdad. Military officials said the reservists' armored vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

    On Monday, five Marines from the same battalion who had been trained as snipers were killed in an ambush near the Syrian border.

The anguish was clear:

    "How much more are we expected to give?" asked Nancy Chase, 47, a schoolteacher who came to place flowers and flags at the entrance of the battalion's headquarters.

    "We are patriotic people. We love our country. But how many lives are enough?"

Most of the U.S. press won't report it, but Iraqis feel the same way.

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