Tomorrow's NY Times quotes Condi Rice and Ryan Crocker with remarks that I'd find ludicrous, even comical, if their deceptiveness weren't masking with happy-talk the ramping-up violence in Iraq, specifically in Baghdad and Basra - and quite probably, as the LA Times indicates, Najaf. Ms. Rice is chirping up in a manner that has me afraid she's going to start making remarks a la her famous "birth pangs of a new Middle East" comment during the Israeli demolition of much of Lebanon's infrastructure (and hundreds of its people) when it went after Hezbollah there in summer of 2006. Specifically, she quotes Iraqi PM al-Maliki as referring to the heightening violence in Baghdad's Sadr City as a "political spring." She perhaps is channeling her putative expertise as a Sovietologist (by any academic standard, she was a very minor one) to associate what's happening in Baghdad with the famous "Prague Spring" of 1968. That, some of us remember, was a short-lived political liberalizing in Czechoslovakia that ended tragically when the USSR invaded the country. Or perhaps she sees US troops about to do the same thing if the Iraqi Shia nationalist Muqtada al-Sadr calls up his Mahdi Army forces to resist the US forces and the "Iraqi army" on the streets of Sadr City. Muqtada, by the way, now threatens full-out war. Condi, when so informed, said that she wasn't sure whether to take him seriously. This is the same Condi, of course, who was taken completely by surprise when democratic elections in the Palestinian territories brought Hamas to power in 2006.
My use of quotation marks around "Iraqi army" is deliberate, if you hadn't already guessed - and this is where I take issue with ambassador Crocker, whom the NYT also quotes as saying that to be a serious political player like the ISCI party, Muqtada needs to forswear his Mahdi army militia. After all, says Crocker, ISCI's Badr Force militia have largely joined up with the supposedly nationalist, sect-unaffiliated Iraqi Army - which in Crocker's eyes (or at least for public consumption for the compliant mainstream media, not to mention his bosses in the White House) seems to mean that, but, of course, they've renounced any ties to the leadership and agenda of ISCI.
I want to scream, "Who do you think you're kidding?!!" Unfortunately, thousands of Americans who are too pre-occupied with keeping their houses and/or their jobs, or maintaining their Facebook pages, will take some comfort from Rice's and Crocker's public optimism - and Sen. McCain will likely seize on their comments to bolster his candidacy.
I fear, though, that the bottom may be about to fall out, and I fear that thousands of Iraqis - and a lot of US troops - are going to pay the price. But if the bottom is indeed about to fall out, how fitting that it happen on Mr. Bush's watch.
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