Thursday, August 05, 2004

The War Americans Don't See 

Good column from Krugman tonight on the media's depressingly predictable loss of interest in Iraq after the transfer of "sovereignty":
Incredibly, the same thing [that had happened to Afghanistan] happened to Iraq after June 28. Iraq stories moved to the inside pages of newspapers, and largely off TV screens. Many people got the impression that things had improved. Even journalists were taken in: a number of newspaper stories asserted that the rate of U.S. losses there fell after the handoff. (Actual figures: 42 American soldiers died in June, and 54 in July.)

The trouble with this shift of attention is that if we don't have a clear picture of what's actually happening in Iraq, we can't have a serious discussion of the options that remain for making the best of a very bad situation.

One thing is clear: calls to "stay the course" are fatuous. The course we're on leads downhill. American soldiers keep winning battles, but we're losing the war: our military is under severe strain; we're creating more terrorists than we're killing; our reputation, including our moral authority, is damaged each month this goes on.

So am I saying we should cut and run? That's another loaded phrase. Nobody wants to see helicopters lifting the last Americans off the roofs of the Green Zone.

But we need to move quickly to end our position as "an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land," the fate that none other than former President George H. W. Bush correctly warned could be the result of an invasion of Iraq. And that means turning real power over to Iraqis.
Good column, as we said. Maybe one-tenth as good as this harrowing post by Jeanne D'Arc of Body and Soul, "Iraq Becomes Afghanistan; or, How to Find an Invisible War":
Last night, my son, who's less of a news junkie than his mother, but considerably better informed than the average voter, told me that it occurred to him while he was reading the paper that morning that he had no idea what was going on in Iraq. There is still a war going on there, right?

For him -- and anyone else who doesn't have time to dig out the little buried articles, a brief update:
  • The war isn't over: Last month, the first month of Iraqi "sovreignty," was the fourth worst month, in terms of American casualties, in the 15 months of the war. Iraqi civilians? Who knows?

  • Speaking of sovreignty, meet the new boss.

  • The water is still full of sewage. In Sadr City, water comes out of the tap with threads of feces visible. Typhoid infection rates are up, and Hepatitis E, which used to be rare, is running rampant. The shortage of clean water is even worse in Basra.

  • Learning from the past:

    An Iraqi doctor left his war-battered country in April. His destination was Hiroshima, and the purpose of his trip was to obtain knowledge and data on radiation effects in the city once devastated by the first atomic bombing in the world.

    Hussam Mahmood Salih, 34, a pediatrician from Basra, said the number of child cancer cases jumped eightfold in the southern Iraqi city between 1988 and 2002, suspecting it was caused by the 1991 Gulf War, in which U.S. forces used depleted uranium shells.

    There are also reports in Iraq about newborn babies lacking limbs or craniums. Depleted uranium has been long blamed for such birth defects in babies believed exposed to radiation while in the womb.
  • "Crushed" apparently has a different meaning than you might think: Moqtada al-Sadr, whom "senior US commanders" believe has been "crushed," is still disturbingly strong. Who woulda thunk it?

  • How ironic is it that among the victims of Bush's war are Iraq's Christians, who are fleeing the kind of attacks and persecution that used to be as rare as Hepatitis E in Iraq, even under Saddam. (Personally, I'm waiting for Bush to argue that just as we have to fight the foreign terrorists who weren't in Iraq until he opened the door, we also have to defend the Christians, who were relatively safe before we got there.)
The above is only a sample. Please read the rest. (Link courtesy of Suburban Guerrilla, who is still accepting donations if you have a fiver to spare.)

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