DAMASCUS, Syria -- On a recent chilly afternoon, Bahija Jawad, an Iraqi grandmother living here, was out for a stroll when she noticed drivers looking for passengers to fill several large, white GMC trucks destined for Iraq.
"Baghdad! Baghdad! Rides to Baghdad!" the drivers called. Jawad began to feel faint at the mention of her beloved hometown, which she fled earlier this year after gunmen forced her from her home.
"When I heard those drivers, I could barely stand, and I started to cry," Jawad, 61, recalled this week at her apartment in Damascus. "One of the boys came up to me and said, 'Auntie, it's OK if you don't have the money. I'll take you for free.' I told him it wasn't a matter of money. We just can't go back now."
Despite reports of more Iraqis returning to Baghdad in response to the drop in violence there, there's no flood of Iraqis leaving Syria to go home. Interviews with refugees and aid workers indicate that most Iraqis share Jawad's opinion -- that the current letup in violence is fleeting and that it's wiser to stay put than return to neighborhoods still controlled by the same unpredictable militants who forced them to flee.
The numbers bear that out. While estimates from aid groups indicate that 60,000 Iraqis have returned home from Syria, Jordan and other Arab countries, that number represents only 2.4 percent of the 2.5 million Iraqis who've fled their country.
The above is from Hannah Allam's "Baghdad may be safer, but few Iraqis in Syria risk returning" (McClatchy Newspapers). 60,000 is the high end estimate and Baghdad is not safer. There was no strategy to improve life for Iraqis, there was only a PR strategy intended to clamp down on the public's opposition to the illegal war. While the lies of the 'Great Return' are now being exposed, a smaller wave of Operation Happy Talk goes unchecked and the failure of the escalation -- a built-in failure -- is ignored. The smaller wave?
Martha notes Ann Scott Tyson and Sudarsan Raghavan's "Gates Cautiously Upbeat on Iraq:
Secretary, on Visit, Says Stability, Democracy 'Within Reach'" (Washington Post):
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Wednesday that a stable and democratic Iraq is "within reach." But he cautioned that threats remain, pointing to insurgent efforts to create a stronghold in northern Iraq as U.S. commanders seek more than 1,400 additional Iraqi and U.S. troops there.
Gates, who during Senate confirmation hearings a year ago stated that the United States was neither winning nor losing in Iraq, was unusually upbeat in his remarks. He said several recent trends have given him hope, including the lowest levels of violence since early 2006, a substantial increase in the number of displaced Iraqis returning to their homeland, rising international investments and the willingness of more than 70,000 Iraqis to volunteer to protect their neighborhoods.
What the article doesn't note is that yesterday didn't exist in a vacuum. It notes the violence that went on, as do other articles we'll note in a second; however, that's not the issue. When Bully Boy gives a speech many spend time explaining the coded meaning and how what could sail over the heads of many or only raise an eyebrow is actually a coded message to his tiny base. Gates' trip to Iraq doesn't exist in isolation. The visit and the remarks have one meaning to those who attempt to follow the illegal war. It has another meaning for those Gates has been speaking to, speaking to outside of the national press' attention. The Killeen, Texas speech was only one example. Those who saw Gates selling the illegal war away from the national press -- either saw him in person or any of the soft reports covered by local news -- are nodding along with Gates and remembering his comments about the 'negativity' of the national press. This photo-op was the big finish to the tour he's taken to recently to resell the illegal war.
Here's a bit of reality about yesterday, from Jamie Gumbrecht and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers):
Just before U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters in the Green Zone Wednesday that safety and security for Iraq are within reach, a car bomb rocked a nearby neighborhood in what appeared to be the deadliest blast in Baghdad since September.
Police said at least 14 people were killed and 33 were injured when the bomb exploded around 5 p.m. in Karrada, a bustling Shiite-majority neighborhood that abuts the Green Zone.
Here's some more about yesterday, from Paul von Zielbauer (New York Times):
Shortly after the explosion, incinerated bodies of passengers were visible in the smoking shell of a public bus. The blast also killed several street vendors; human remains, including those of a motorcyclist ripped in half, were scattered over a wide area, witnesses said.
The blast also wounded 33 people, the authorities said.
In Mosul, the car bomb detonated around 9 a.m., shortly before Mr. Gates's plane arrived. One person was killed and seven were wounded, a Mosul police officer said. The bombing appeared to have been directed at an Iraqi police patrol, the police said.
In Baquba, a suicide car bomb detonated at the entrance to a bus station, killing five people and wounding 20 others, a local police officer said. And in oil-rich Kirkuk, a bomb left in a parked car near the city's southern gate killed two people and wounded 10 others, the Iraqi police there reported.
Also Wednesday, the military announced that two American soldiers had been killed in Salahuddin Province, north of Baghdad.
The escalation did not 'work' in the most basic of terms. It did 'work' in terms of the p.r. and that was the goal all along. Before it began, long before it began, in August of 2006, it was publicly stated what would happen -- an area would find lower itself with lower violence while other areas saw violence rise. Michael Gordon (New York Times) sort of, kind of gets at that point today. The point was more clear in an NPR report yesterday where it was treated as an aside. We'll go into it in today's snapshot.
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ann scott tyson
paul von zielbauer
the new york times