Friday, March 28, 2008

What's going on?

The most successful part of our excellent adventure in Iraq has been control of news. This success continues up to the present, the ridiculous statements of Feckless Leader are repeated without comment throughout the reporting cycle as somehow giving meaning to the events on the ground. The events on the ground are reported in a total piecemeal fashion, there is no attempt to go outside and see if things are changing other than in the 'official battles' in Basra and Sadr City. Even there, Maliki's collapse is painted over as best it can.

For example, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica is reporting (in Italian) that Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, a city of 500,000, is now wholly in the hands of Sadr after a brief battle left 15 dead. CNN, on the other hand mentions briefly 4 dead there, no mention of control, and quotes Iraqi Interior Ministry for that news. The Italians have an interest in Nasiriyah because they were stationed there (and lost 30+ troops), but there are cities throughout the south where there is no word on events. How many of these are now overtly in Sadr's hands?

Obviously reporting from Iraq is difficult, but the main problem is not lack of resources, it's the lack of will in pulling together known facts and putting together an assessment of the situation, even if that means having to contradict Feckless Leader.

As the bodies pile up, it's going to be more and more difficult to pull back from all out war. This certainly cannot be good news for McCain, nor for the (hopefully!) dying days of the Bush/Cheney administration. The Iraqi 'army', creation of the Greatest General EVAR Petraeus, is unequal to the task, it's basically unequal to any task except collecting its salary and being an unending fount of dollars for corruption. The US can bomb Basra into rubble, but without US ground troops, Basra will remain mostly in Sadr's hands.

Hard decisions are going to have to be made, Basra is a cash cow and letting 2mn barrels of oil per day go up in smoke is not an attractive option. Sadr has left the door open for negotiations, and that seems the only way out. Let's see how they spin that one!

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