Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Revel in the Irony


Two blocks from the new American outpost in Ghazaliya, one of Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhoods, a fight was raging. Shiites were battling Sunnis, the latest skirmish in a sectarian war that has left this area a wasteland.

On Friday morning, it became an American fight, too, after a few rounds whizzed by Sgt. Sergej Michaud’s head, and he and three other soldiers returned fire.

The battle would rage for nearly an hour, with mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades exploding near the soldiers, who in turn laid down heavy fire, eventually driving the attackers away.

Previously, that would have been the end of it, with the soldiers moving on to their next patrol area and eventually returning to their base. But this time, the Americans were staying, defending their new home in a neighborhood where the rule of law had been driven out by the reign of the gun.

Their outpost here, a cluster of fortified houses officially designated a joint security station and unofficially called the Alamo by some of the soldiers, is a test case for President Bush’s new Baghdad security plan. The strategy envisions at least 20 more facilities like it in other troubled neighborhoods, all jointly staffed by Iraqi and American forces.
This is the only answer we have in Iraq: the rule of law has been replaced by the reign of the gun (and who started that, hmmmm?). Now we, the "good guys," will restore the rule of law by...the reign of the gun. Presumably the bigger gun.

Should I remind the soldiers that the Alamo was a failure and a slaughterhouse, in a fight for the right to own slaves? No, perhaps not.

This is Bush's vision, in a nutshell. The bigger gun imposes order, and order gives rise to law, and law gives way to freedom and freedom gives rise to prosperity. It's civics for 5 year olds. 5 year olds have no concept of civil war, you understand:

As residents began arriving to offer information, a man who lived next to the new station, a Sunni and former police commander, loaded his family’s possessions into a pickup truck.

He was happy that the Americans were there, he said, but he was afraid that they would attract constant attacks, so he was moving to a different part of the neighborhood. As he packed up his family, he noticed a young boy loitering. The man became enraged, pointing two fingers at his eyes, then pointing at the boy, yelling, “Mahdi! Mahdi!”

The man explained that both the Mahdi Army and Al Qaeda were sending spies to see who was feeding the Americans information. The boy slipped away.

At the same time, Iraqi Army soldiers were starting to move into the outpost. They arrived in the late afternoon, one truck with a flat tire towing another truck that was not working.

Maj. Chasib Kattab, a boisterous Shiite who commands the Iraqi unit of two companies, about 200 men, started to provide information. But, in a likely hint of things to come, all his tips involved Sunni fighters. He had nothing to say about the Shiite militias.

He also seemed eager to fight. When he told the Americans about a car that was likely to be used as a bomb, he asked whether American helicopters would be able to destroy it. Told that, at night, they could make out the shape but not the color, Major Chasib seemed to think that was good enough. “They should just shoot it,” he said.

Captain Peterson had to explain that was not how things worked, aware that his partner’s decisions would affect how the Americans would be perceived.
As Corporal Callahan, a US medic, says: “The adults, they are going to do what they are going to do.” Even 5 year olds know that. But this is worse than if 5 year olds were in charge. This is blind stupidity pretending to be policy.
Over the course of three days spent with the 105 soldiers here — Company C of the Second Battalion, 12th Cavalry — four American vehicles were hit by roadside bombs near the outpost. No soldiers from Company C were wounded, but they know the fighting will intensify.

“I’m a juicy target they are just trying to figure out,” said Capt. Erik Peterson, 29, the commander at the outpost.
The "surge" in 25 words or less.

I can't stand it. I just can't stand it.

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