In a flip, Damien Cave has the best piece (a "news analysis") in this morning's New York Times and Richard A. Oppel Jr. has the worst.
Oppel's piece runs on the front page and is entitled "Falluja’s Calm Is Seen as Fragile if US Leaves." It opens with what should have required a remark but apparently didn't: Falluja's chief of police (Faisal Ismail Hussein) waving around a photo of bucket containing a severed head. If anyone doesn't grasp it, that's not how you sell yourself to the press. (But Oppel appears not to notice.) If you're supposedly restoring order to a region, you shouldn't come off like a nut job who would keep a photo like that let alone wave it around to the press.
Falluja's always been a difficult region for the Times because they did so much to lie about what happened there. Actually, a few did attempt to get bits and pieces of truth out there. But there was Dexy with his 'award winning' rah-rah that took hold. (He will hopefully be stripped of the prize at a later date.) There's a vehicle ban, Oppel tells you. He even tells you about the concrete barriers that divide the destroyed city in 10 sections. He neglects to tell you about the retina scans. Maybe he feels that informing the US public the city has been divided (by the US) into ten sections gets the point across that there is no freedom in Falluja, only punishment? If so, opening with a nut case put in charge of the city waving around a photo of a severed head was the way to go.
But elsewhere he's repeating the myths that if US forces leave Falluja the city will fall apart. The city fell appart (and was largely reduced to rubble) because the US destroyed in November 2004. Men and boys were slaughtered. Those lucky enough to survive (many of whom fled before the slaughter) often now live in 'tent cities' -- well outside Falluja -- in abject poverty.
The 'success' has to do with Falluja being destroyed, with Falluja being turned from a city (even a destroyed one) into a nightmare vision of a police state.
It doesn't matter what the US does or what al-Maliki does. Falluja's going to pop. And when that time comes, if the US is still on ground there, it won't matter that they're present.
Foreign forces can't destroy a city and enforce their ideas of order and expect it to last. (In the US, apparently a hurricane can do the first part and the White House can get away with it.) (Can and still has.)
The walls will come down. Not by US choice but by the decisions of the citizens of Falluja.
Turning to Damien Cave who, again, offers the best thing he's done all week (I'm referring to last week, but I haven't been to sleep yet so it's still last week). It's entited "Iraqi Premier Stirs Discontent, Yet Hangs On" and, repeating, it's Cave best writing. He deserves praise for it.
Martha notes this from Megan Greenwell's "Iraqi Leaders' Talks Yield Scant Results" (Washington Post):
Iraq's top five government leaders began a review of the country's de-Baathification law Saturday but appeared not to have reached an agreement on that topic or any of the other critical issues that have plunged the country into a political crisis.
[. . .]
The lack of concrete results from meetings this week diminishes hopes of creating a unified government by Sept. 15, when President Bush and Congress are to receive a report about conditions in Iraq.
Gareth notes the BBC's "UK troops 'stretched but winning'" where General Sir Richard Dannatt says the UK troops are stretched (but 'winning'! -- he must have missed the Times of London today):
His comments came as Defence Secretary Des Browne denied claims the government is failing in its duty to UK troops who put their lives on the line for their country.
The Royal British Legion had said the Military Covenant - guaranteeing troops fair treatment in return for forgoing other rights - is not being upheld.
Shadow Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said: "We face the problem that in Britain the government has overstretched our armed forces without giving them sufficient resources to do the job they're being asked to do."
He went on to criticise the level of commitment from Britain's allies.
Dr Fox said: "Our international allies, particularly some of our European allies and Nato, simply have not been stepping up to the plate in an international operation of this nature."
From Sarah Baxter and Michael Smith's "Britain faces Iraq rout says US" (Times of London):
A MILITARY adviser to President George W Bush has warned that British forces will have to fight their way out of Iraq in an “ugly and embarrassing” retreat.
Stephen Biddle, who also advises the US commander in Iraq, said Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias in the south would try to create the impression they were forcing a retreat. “They want to make it clear they have forced the British out. That means they’ll use car bombs, ambushes, RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] . . . and there will be a number of British casualties.”
The comments coincide with British military estimates that withdrawal could cost the lives of 10 to 15 soldiers.
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