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Morning Report 12/6/04Now Playing in Baghdad


Guys and dolls, followed by anti-mayhem

The chorus is getting louder: This morning’s New York Times, rounding up an especially ugly weekend in Iraq, says “a series of increasingly brazen attacks” has “deepened the sense of growing mayhem” in Baghdad.

Appeals to delay the January 30 election are pouring in from several quarters. Is it too late to postpone our own presidential election?

Just as in Vietnam, the U.S. solution in the face of growing intransigence is to send more Americans overseas to be killed. Even if you count the number of Beanie Babies headed to Iraq (see photo), more Americans are needed for the job of spreading democracy there.

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Arizona schoolgirl Alison Goulder (left; her family behind her) answers the pleas of General Richard “Quag” Myers (right) for reinforcements in Iraq by donating Beanie Babies in a Pentagon ceremony last week. Only those Iraqi children who survive the bombs and bullets will be allowed to play with the dolls.

Judging by this morning’s stories, what’s needed aren’t Beanie Babies. You might want to donate some Chucky dolls instead. As usual, the Washington Post‘s main war story is meatier than the Times‘, today focusing on the Iraqi resistance’s “rising campaign of intimidation” and including this passage:

The dispersion and guerrilla tactics of the militants, U.S. officers say, will draw U.S. forces into more classic counterinsurgency operations characterized by focused raids, along the lines of the recent sweep through the northern part of Babil province led by U.S. Marines. Such troop-intensive operations are the reason behind the decision announced last week to boost U.S. forces in Iraq to 150,000.

But while the U.S. military has plans to pursue militants as they attempt to regroup, commanders appear frustrated by their inability to defeat the intimidation. An internal assessment of the U.S. strategy in Iraq, prepared for Army General George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, concluded last week that “no silver bullet” exists for this problem.

Interesting that an Army general would talk about a “silver bullet,” considering that Pat Tillman is the Bush Error’s most famous lone Ranger—thanks to the Army. See this morning’s “Army Spun Tale Around Ill-Fated Mission,” the second installment of Steve Coll‘s probe of Tillman’s death last April in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, in an alternate universe, SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, according to a Pentagon press release, told Fox factotum Bill O’Reilly last Friday that assistance by Iraqis has been invaluable in contributing to the current situation:

“The people in Fallujah started giving assistance to the troops and to the Iraqi forces up there fighting,” Rumsfeld said. Now, they’re aiding the coalition and Iraqis in Mosul, he added.

Perhaps thinking of his new colleague Bernie Kerik, who “trained” Iraqi police back in 2003, Rumsfeld had special praise for Iraqi National Guard and police troops, saying:

“The Iraqi security forces are out there fighting. They’re not sitting in their barracks hiding.”

He’s right. Many of them are running away.

¶ Blog of war

Thanks to the BBC, we have an organized, daily glimpse of what life in Iraq is like. Go to Iraq Log to read blogs from Baghdad and elsewhere. Here’s a passage from this morning’s post by Samir Ali, a Sunni Muslim who is a 29-year-old doctor at a Baghdad hospital:

The U.S. troops are always around, and it makes me almost nauseous. I feel that they have the same feeling toward Iraqis. They look scared. I am not scared. But I have to save people, and believe me, if an injured American came to the hospital I would treat him. This is very different from the killing of an injured person in the mosque in Fallujah.

Another Baghdad blogger, Rana Imad, just got back online after a harrowing trip to Babylon, south of the city, for the funeral of a relative who had died. A medical student and Shiite Muslim, Imad returned to Iraq from Great Britain after last year’s U.S. invasion. Imad’s post gives a taste of just how the chaos is getting on people’s last nerve and they start hungering for anyone—anyone—to take control:

I was thinking about how I felt the day that Saddam was captured. I was very happy. I remember dancing, and we were all very optimistic that everything would be better soon. I hated him so much. But you know, in spite of everything, I began to admire him—he managed to take control again in the country after the first Gulf war within a few months. We never had such anarchy as we have now—killing in the streets, car bombs, explosions every day. He really had control. In the past, we had only one enemy to avoid: Saddam and his men. Today, we don’t know our enemy—there are so many groups divided up.

Like Ali, she sees the tragedy of Iraq written on faces:

There are severe petrol shortages at the moment and getting around is more and more difficult—petrol costs much more, and taxi fares are much higher. We are an oil-producing nation and we don’t have oil for heating our houses. People are becoming desperate, and you can see anger and frustration in their faces. As we wait for a better tomorrow, everything seems to be getting worse day by day.

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