There was a distinct sense of "whistling past the graveyard" in this week's dog and pony show trotted out by President Bush and his commander in Iraq, General Dave "I'm NOT coached, dammit!" Petraeus.
It seems they were hoping that lull in the action in Iraq meant the surge was working. Guess again:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Militants stepped up attacks across Iraq on Sunday, killing at least 30 people in a spate of bombings and shootings that followed a threat by al Qaeda to launch a new phase of violence.What's particularly troubling about this new wave of violence is that, nominally at any rate, Shi'a leader Muqtada al-Sadr is in control of that region around Baghdad, while Al Qaeda has traditionally been a Sunni-based organization. If Sadr and Al Qaeda (either in Iraq or bin Laden's organization...they are not the same people) have made a deal, then the recent calm in the country was merely an adjustment and planning period for far deadlier attacks and far more sectarian violence, as well as violence aimed at American troops.
The U.S. military announced it had caught a suspected al Qaeda militant believed to be responsible for the killing last week of a key Sunni Arab tribal leader in Anbar province.
Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, who met U.S. President George W. Bush two weeks ago in Anbar, was killed in a bomb attack on Thursday near his home. He led an alliance of tribes that helped U.S. troops push al Qaeda out of much of the vast western area.
Suspected al Qaeda militants shot dead 14 people in the predominantly Sunni Arab town of Muqdadiya north of Baghdad and torched at least 12 shops in the town, Iraqi police said.
Keep in mind, as well, that Iraqi summers are hot, as hot as the deserts in the American Southwest, hundreds of degrees hot. It would be foolish to believe that the respite in attacks was not at least in part the result of that oppressive heat.
Which is now breaking as fall and winter approach.
An al Qaeda-led group, the Islamic State in Iraq, said on Saturday it was launching a fresh round of attacks to mark the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which started late last week.Just so. Desperate for any sign, any hint of progress in Iraq to hang his legacy on, Bush has tried to nail Jello to the wall. Surprise, surprise, the Jello is dripping off.
A sustained campaign of violence would undermine U.S. and Iraqi assertions that a seven-month security crackdown had disrupted the Sunni Islamist network's operations in and around the Iraqi capital while also reducing attacks from other groups.
Bush, announcing a limited withdrawal of around 20,000 U.S. troops by July, last week said the cuts were possible because U.S. forces had made significant progress in improving security and "ordinary life is beginning to return" to Baghdad.
The right wing spin this week, if the Sunday talk shows are to be trusted, is that the Democrats in Congress were "disrespectful" of Petraeus and that the full page Moveon.org ad mentioning "Petraeus/Betray Us" was treasonous.
My opinion? The Democrats didn't go far enough in hammering Petraeus' credibility and the Moveon.org ad probably was more truthful than we know. At the end of this session of Congress, barring a miracle spine transplant into Democrats, Bush will leave office with precisely as many troops in Iraq as when the Democrats took over on a promise of troop withdrawals.
We ought to hold them accountable for that.