Peace on Earth and goodwill to all men (and women). Meanwhile...
Iraqi Insurgents Shoot Down U.S. Helicopter in Baghdad
The fate of its two-member crew was unknown.
(...)A week of violence that has left dozens of soldiers and hundreds of Iraqis dead closed with U.S. commanders facing the specter of prolonged guerrilla warfare in the streets of Fallujah, continued rebellion in a half-dozen other cities and additional kidnappings of troops and foreign civilians.
(...)There were no signs of a respite in the violence on Saturday. The head of the Irbil office of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society and his wife were killed in an ambush on their car in the northern city of Mosul, officials of the organization said.
In the Baghdad neighborhood of Adhamiya, clashes lasted much of the day and peaked around noon. Residents reported seeing more than 20 tanks and at least two helicopters flying overhead and firing on a group of houses near a police station.
With no end in sight, Juan Cole interprets a Reuters story about seeking a negotiated end to the Shia confrontation, and thows in some extreme pessimism:
(...)several members of the Interim Governing Council met Saturday with Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, seeking a compromise that might end the violence in the south. Naseer Chaderji, a liberal Sunni nationalist, said, "Moqtada has regard in Iraq, mainly through his father. But he cannot be allowed to achieve his political goals through violence. The council members told him this and at the same time acknowledged that improving the south's standards of living was a legitimate demand. "
al-Hayat says that Adil Abdul Mahdi, the representative of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, had proposed that Muqtada dissolve the Army of the Mahdi, and allow its men to be melded into the new Iraqi national army, in return for which the arrest warrant against him would be suspended by the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Al-Hayat reports that US Viceroy in Iraq, Paul Bremer, rejects such negotiations, saying that Muqtada faces three possibilities: He can surrender, he can be arrested by US troops, or he can be killed resisting that arrest. I'd just suggest to Jerry that he be careful what he wishes for. Muqtada's family has been standing up to that kind of bullying talk for decades, when it issued from the Baath, and they are not the surrendering kind. If the US arrests Muqtada, it can only do so by desecrating among the most sacred shrines in Islam. If you want to see waves of attacks on American interests from Beirut to Tehran and from Kabul to Manama, just go ahead. And once the US has Muqtada, that will simply provoke daily demonstrations in all the southern cities demanding his release. If the US kills Muqtada, his followers will likely go underground and wage a long-term guerrilla war against the US, of the sort Mr. Bremer has failed to put down in the Sunni Arab areas after a year of trying. My advice to him (not that he is good at taking advice) is, if Chaderji can get him a deal, to take it. Bremer will be back in Washington on July 1, but the Iraqis and the US troops and all the rest of us will have to live with the results of his failed policies and his arrogant obstinacy for the next decade.
Meanwhile... the fallout from the PDB continues with headlines and morning talk shows ahead. From the WaPo:
President Bush was in an expansive mood on Aug. 7, 2001, when he ran into reporters while playing golf at the Ridgewood Country Club in Waco, Tex.
The day before, the president had received an intelligence briefing -- the contents of which were declassified by the White House Saturday night -- warning "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US." But Bush seemed carefree as he spoke about the books he was reading, the work he was doing on his nearby ranch, his love of hot-weather jogging, his golf game and his 55th birthday.
"No mulligans, except on the first tee," he said to laughter. "That's just to loosen up. You see, most people get to hit practice balls, but as you know, I'm walking out here, I'm fixing to go hit. Tight back, older guy -- I hit the speed limit on July 6th."
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, in her testimony Thursday to the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, spoke of a government on high alert for terrorism in the summer of 2001. "The president of the United States had us at battle stations during this period of time," she testified. Rice's talk of battle stations is part of the Bush administration's effort to counter an impression that it did not do enough about terrorism before Sept. 11; a Newsweek poll released Saturday found that 60 percent think the Bush administration underestimated terrorism before the attacks.
But if top officials were at battle stations, there was no sign of it on the surface. Bush spent most of August 2001 on his ranch here. His staff said at the time that by far the biggest issue on his agenda was his decision on federal funding of stem cell research, followed by education, immigration and the Social Security "lockbox."
You can't make this stuff up. But the juxtaposition of Bush coming across as Alfred E. Neuman ("Actual human beings said to resemble Alfred E. Neuman include Prince Charles, Ted Koppel, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush.") while Iraq burns is inescapable, whether you are deliberately looking to do it or not. This can't be doing good things to Rove's ulcer.
Thanks to Kos for allowing me and the gang to blog-sit for the week while he was otherwise engaged. Tomorrow things should get back to what passes for normal. My favorite comment was "Where the hell is Kos? Who the hell are you?" When you're blogging, it's important to be reminded that you don't have all the answers.