This being Iraq, we can't have good news without equal or worse bad news. I heard this story on NPR driving in to work this morning, and in a nutshell it describes the absolute inability of an Iraqi police unit to defend itself from an insurgent attack. The story recounts how, in a village southeast of Baghdad, American forces fought for weeks to clear the area of insurgents. Finally wresting control of the area from the insurgents, they proceeded to construct a police checkpoint that would serve to secure the area. On the very day that the troops handed off security for the village to the Iraqi police-in fact, after a matter of only four hours-those police were swarmed by insurgents. After only eighty minutes of fighting, the police unit was utterly destroyed. Iraqi officials report that forty-two police died, thirteen were taken prisoner (some later found dead) and only a handful were able to escape to a nearby more secure police station. So in other words, weeks of fighting and a handful of dead American soldiers resulted in dozens of dead Iraqi police and a village under the control of the insurgents once again. This they refer to as "clear, hold and build" which I thought was last year's strategy, but then I'm not an expert about these things.
And for a gloomy look at the "big picture" here are the words of Timothy Garton Ash from the op-ed pages of today's LA Times:
For the United States, the world is now, as a result of the Iraq war, a more dangerous place. At the end of 2002, what is sometimes tagged "Al Qaeda Central" in Afghanistan had been virtually destroyed, and there was no Al Qaeda in Iraq. In 2007, there is an Al Qaeda in Iraq, parts of the old Al Qaeda are creeping back into Afghanistan and there are Al Qaeda emulators spawning elsewhere, notably in Europe.
Osama bin Laden's plan was to get the U.S. to overreact and overreach itself. With the invasion of Iraq, Bush fell slap-bang into that trap. The U.S. government's own latest National Intelligence Estimate, released this week, suggests that Al Qaeda in Iraq is now among the most significant threats to the security of the American homeland.
Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have done terrible damage to the U.S. reputation for being humane; this defeat will convince more people around the world that it is not even that powerful. And Bin Laden, still alive, will claim another victory over the death-fearing weaklings of the West.
Neo-cons and other war supporters will try to bog you down in details about the success of the "surge" or blather about fighting "evil Islamofascism" but the short and sweet of it is the world is a more dangerous place than it was when the towers fell on 9/11, because we made it that way. And now our only choice is to live with the consequences of our foolhardiness.