al-Sadr calls for attacks on U.S. troops
BAGHDAD - The renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged the Iraqi army and police to stop cooperating with the United States and told his guerrilla fighters to concentrate on pushing American forces out of the country, according to a statement issued Sunday.Thomas Ricks explains that there are two clocks, one in Iraq and one in Washington and that those clocks are not in sync.
The statement, stamped with al-Sadr's official seal, was distributed in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Sunday — a day before a large demonstration there, called for by al-Sadr, to mark the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.
"You, the Iraqi army and police forces, don't walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your archenemy," the statement said. Its authenticity could not be verified.
In the statement, al-Sadr — who commands an enormous following among Iraq's majority Shiites and has close allies in the Shiite-dominated government — also encouraged his followers to attack only American forces, not fellow Iraqis.
"God has ordered you to be patient in front of your enemy, and unify your efforts against them — not against the sons of Iraq," the statement said, in an apparent reference to clashes between al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters and Iraqi troops in Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad. "You have to protect and build Iraq."
"The time scale to succeed is years," said John J. Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary, while "the time scale for tolerance here is 12 months for Democrats and 18 months for Republicans."I would guess that Mr Hamre's time scale is overly optimistic.
This brings us back to April fool, John McCain and his Baghdad comedy act. That is the subject of Frank Rich's commentary today.
Sunday in the Market With McCain
JOHN McCAIN’S April Fools’ Day stroll through Baghdad’s Shorja market last weekend was instantly acclaimed as a classic political pratfall. Protected by more than a hundred American soldiers, three Black Hawk helicopters, two Apache gunships and a bulletproof vest, the senator extolled the “progress” and “good news” in Iraq. Befitting this loopy brand of comedy — reminiscent of “Wedding Crashers,” in which Mr. McCain gamely made a cameo appearance — the star had a crackerjack cast of supporting buffoons: Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who told reporters “I bought five rugs for five bucks!,” and Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, who likened the scene to “a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime.”Yes John McCain's comedic appearance in that Baghdad market can only strengthen the resolve of those who want the debacle over soon. And Rich points out you can also see desperation from the White House.
Five rugs for five bucks: boy, we’ve really got that Iraq economy up and running now! No wonder the McCain show was quickly dubbed “McCain’s Mission Accomplished” and “McCain’s Dukakis-in-the-Tank Photo Op.” But at a certain point the laughter curdled. Reporters rudely pointed out there were 60-plus casualties in this market from one February attack alone and that six Americans were killed in the Baghdad environs on the day of his visit. “Your heart goes out to just the typical Iraqi because they can’t have that kind of entourage,” said Kyra Phillips of CNN. The day after Mr. McCain’s stroll, The Times of London reported that 21 of the Shorja market’s merchants and workers were ambushed and murdered.
The political press has stepped up its sotto voce deathwatch on the McCain presidential campaign ever since, a drumbeat enhanced by last week’s announcement of Mr. McCain’s third-place finish in the Republican field’s fund-raising sweepstakes. (He is scheduled to restate his commitment to the race on “60 Minutes” tonight.) But his campaign was sagging well before he went to Baghdad. In retrospect, his disastrous trip may be less significant as yet another downturn in a faltering presidential candidacy than as a turning point in hastening the inevitable American exit from Iraq.
As if to confirm we’re in the last throes, President Bush threw any remaining caution to the winds during his news conference in the Rose Garden that same morning. Almost everything he said was patently misleading or an outright lie, a sure sign of a leader so entombed in his bunker (he couldn’t even emerge for the Washington Nationals’ ceremonial first pitch last week) that he feels he has nothing left to lose.
Incredibly, he chided his adversaries on the Hill for going on vacation just as he was heading off for his own vacation in Crawford. Then he attacked Congress for taking 57 days to “pass emergency funds for our troops” even though the previous, Republican-led Congress took 119 days on the same bill in 2006. He ridiculed the House bill for “pork and other spending that has nothing to do with the war,” though last year’s war-spending bill was also larded with unrelated pork, from Congressional efforts to add agricultural subsidies to the president’s own request for money for bird-flu preparation.
Mr. Bush’s claim that military equipment would be shortchanged if he couldn’t sign a spending bill by mid-April was contradicted by not one but two government agencies. A Government Accountability Office report faulted poor Pentagon planning for endemic existing equipment shortages in the National Guard. The Congressional Research Service found that the Pentagon could pay for the war until well into July. Since by that point we’ll already be on the threshold of our own commanders’ late-summer deadline for judging the surge, what’s the crisis?
The president then ratcheted up his habitual exploitation of the suffering of the troops and their families — a button he had pushed five days earlier when making his six-weeks-tardy visit to pose for photos at scandal-ridden Walter Reed. “Congress’s failure to fund our troops on the front lines will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines,” he said. “And others could see their loved ones headed back to the war sooner than they need to.”
His own failures had already foreordained exactly these grim results. Only the day before this news conference, the Pentagon said that the first unit tossed into the Baghdad surge would stay in Iraq a full year rather than the expected nine months, and that three other units had been ordered back there without the usual yearlong stay at home. By week’s end, we would learn the story of the suspected friendly-fire death of 18-year-old Pvt. Matthew Zeimer, just two hours after assuming his first combat post. He had been among those who had been shipped to war with a vastly stripped-down training regimen, 10 days instead of four weeks, forced by the relentless need for new troops in Iraq.
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