I’ve sort of reached a point of peace about this Presidential election. Not to be too mean, but I have begun to feel like it’s a referendum on the intelligence and attention span of the American people. It seems to me that to support President Bush at this point, you have to basically believe that everything reported in the news is simply untrue. Here’s an example, a quote from Today’s Papers:
The Washington Post and New York Times lead with the most violent day in Iraq in months. At least four suicide car bombings and “a series of tightly sequenced attacks” (NYT) killed dozens of Iraqis as well as three Polish soldiers. Early morning reports citing health officials say at least 110 were killed, including about 35 in Baghdad. About a dozen Iraqis were killed–including a young girl and an al-Arabiya reporter–when a U.S. helicopter fired on a crowd gathered around a destroyed Bradley armored fighting vehicle. Six GIs were wounded in the initial attack on the Bradley.
The military said the chopper only fired after it took fire from the crowd. The NYT leaves it at that. The Post, though, cites a Reuters cameraman at the scene who disputed that account, saying nobody in the crowd was firing. The al-Arabiya reporter who was killed had been broadcasting live and the footage played throughout the day. Spots of blood were on the lens as the reporter said, “Please help me, I’m dying.”
The Post says inside GIs retook the northern city of Tal Afar. They were expecting a big fight but met almost no resistance or guerrillas. “There’s some good news in there, and there’s probably some bad news,” said one commander. He added that there are plans on reinstalling a local council, but it’s going tough since the town’s 600-man police force has, as the WP puts it, “dissolved.” Despite the reported lack of fighting, early morning reports say 50 people were killed in Tal Afar yesterday.
The NYT mentions in passing that 10 Iraqis were killed in heavy fighting in Ramadi. Nobody else seems to flag it, but the fighting could have particular significance since the military in Ramadi had been boasting of a peace deal that could be used a model.
There was also what the LAT calls “hours of mortar fire” on Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone. There were no reports of injuries. Last month, as the NYT says, there were an average of 87 insurgent attacks per day throughout the country, the highest of the occupation.
The WP and LAT both report on departing swipes taken by the outgoing Marine general who was charge of the province around Fallujah: Lt. Gen. James Conway says he opposed April’s attack on the city—and the later retreat–but was overruled by higher-ups. “After the contractor incident, we were told that we had to attack Fallujah,” said Conway. “I think we certainly increased the level of animosity that existed, and we’re living with that.” Various news reports have said the White House ordered the invasion. Neither paper thinks Conway is Page One Worthy.
Nobody fronts rioting in the western Afghanistan town of Herat, where a mob sacked U.N. offices and at least four demonstrators were killed and another 50 wounded, apparently by Afghan soldiers. About a dozen GIs were also wounded by rocks. The mob was protesting—if you call it that—the removal of Herat’s governor (and warlord), Ismail Khan. “They were shouting ‘Death to America,’ ‘Death to Karzai,’ ‘Death to the army,’ ” said one Afghan soldier.
I think that there’s a widespread lack of understanding in this country of just how bad things are right now in Iraq. I have been saying for a long time that I think there’s a good chance that today is as good as it will ever be for us in Iraq, in other words, that things just get worse every day. Nothing in the months since I started saying that has changed my mind. I wonder what the polls would look like if there were widespread belief that our effort in Iraq had already failed.