A bombing on Monday evening killed 43 people near the Imam Hussein shrine in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, penetrating one of the most secure perimeters in Iraq. Iraqi police officers at the scene and several witnesses said it had been carried out by a female suicide bomber, but the police chief later said the bomb had been hidden.
The explosion, the deadliest attack in Karbala in nearly a year, overshadowed a Baghdad visit by Vice President Dick Cheney, who met with Iraqi and American leaders and extolled what he described as "phenomenal" security improvements in the country.
The above is from Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Qais Mizher's "Bombing Kills 43 in Shiite Holy City in Iraq" (New York Times). "Phenomenal" security improvements? On the day of the mass bombing in Karbala (as well as others acts of violence resuting in the reported deaths of over 70 Iraqs) and the announcement of two US service members being killed? Cheney wasn't traveling through Baghdad by himself or with the just the usual White House detail. As Hannah Allem and Qassim Zein detail in "Cheney cites 'phenomenal' Iraqi security progress as bombing kills 40" (McClatchy Newspapers), Cheney wasn't seeing Iraq:
Cheney spent Monday in a tightly choreographed hopscotch, moving at least six times for high-level meetings. In the fortress-like Green Zone compound, which houses the U.S. and Iraqi headquarters, he met Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki; Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq; and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
Maliki said his talks with Cheney focused on negotiations for a long-term U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that would replace the United Nations mandate for foreign troops, which expires at the end of the year.
Traveling under military guard along roads that had been swept for bombs and were lined with security forces, Cheney ventured a mile or so outside the Green Zone to call on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Abdelaziz al Hakim, the head of the powerful Iranian-backed Shiite party known as the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.
Cheney intended to press Iraqi leaders to pass an oil law that could help persuade international energy firms to invest in production, U.S. officials said. He also was urging Iraqis to stick to their goal of October elections and discussing mutual concerns about neighboring countries such as Turkey, Syria and Iran.
While Cheney and John McCain (US Senator and GOP presidential candidate for 2008) played dumb, Jeff Mason (Reuters) reports:
Democrat Hillary Clinton charged on Monday the Iraq war may end up costing Americans $1 trillion and further strain the economy, as she made her case for a prompt U.S. troop pullout from a war "we cannot win."
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but voters now say the economy is their top issue in the campaign for the November presidential election.
Clinton, the former first lady who is trying to convince voters she has foreign policy gravitas, criticized both her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, and the Republicans' choice, Arizona Sen. John McCain.
She said the war has sapped U.S. military and economic strength, damaged U.S. national security, taken the lives of nearly 4,000 Americans and left thousands wounded.
"Our economic security is at stake," she said. "Taking into consideration the long-term costs of replacing equipment and providing medical care for troops and survivors' benefits for their families, the war in Iraq could ultimately cost well over $1 trillion."
It has already cost $500 billion.
Clinton said that while Obama insists he will withdraw U.S. troops in Iraq within 16 months of taking office, his former foreign policy adviser, Samantha Power, had said he might not follow through on the pledge.
"In uncertain times, we cannot afford uncertain leadership," Clinton said.
Below is "Ending The War In Iraq" from Clinton's site:
Hillary Clinton has announced her plan to end the war in Iraq and urged President Bush to act immediately.
"Our message to the president is clear. It is time to begin ending this war -- not next year, not next month -- but today.
"We have heard for years now that as the Iraqis stand up, our troops will stand down. Every year, we hear about how next year they may start coming home. Now we are hearing a new version of that yet again from the president as he has more troops in Iraq than ever and the Iraqi government is more fractured and ineffective than ever.
"Well, the right strategy before the surge and post-escalation is the same: start bringing home America's troops now."
If President Bush does not end the war, when Hillary Clinton is president, she will. Her three-step plan would bring our troops home, work to bring stability to the region, and replace military force with a new diplomatic initiative to engage countries around the world in securing Iraq's future. Hillary has been fighting every day in the Senate to force the president to change course. And today she described how she would bring the war to an end.
Starting Phased Redeployment within Hillary's First Days in Office: The most important part of Hillary's plan is the first: to end our military engagement in Iraq's civil war and immediately start bringing our troops home. As president, one of Hillary's first official actions would be to convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, her Secretary of Defense, and her National Security Council. She would direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home starting with the first 60 days of her Administration. She would also direct the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to prepare a comprehensive plan to provide the highest quality health care and benefits to every service member -- including every member of the National Guard and Reserves -- and their families.
Securing Stability in Iraq as we Bring our Troops Home. As president, Hillary would focus American aid efforts during our redeployment on stabilizing Iraq, not propping up the Iraqi government. She would direct aid to the entities -- whether governmental or non-governmental -- most likely to get it into the hands of the Iraqi people. She would also support the appointment of a high level U.N. representative -- similar to those appointed in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kosovo -- to help broker peace among the parties in Iraq.
A New Intensive Diplomatic Initiative in the Region. In her first days in office, Hillary would convene a regional stabilization group composed of key allies, other global powers, and all of the states bordering Iraq. The- mission of this group would be to develop and implement a strategy to create a stable Iraq. It would have three specific goals:
Non-interference. Working with the U.N. representative, the group would work to convince Iraq's neighbors to refrain from getting involved in the civil war.
Mediation. The group would attempt to mediate among the different sectarian groups in Iraq with the goal of attaining compromises on fundamental points of disputes.
Reconstruction funding. The members of the group would hold themselves and other countries to their past pledges to provide funding to Iraq and will encourage additional contributions to meet Iraq's extensive needs.
As our forces redeploy out of Iraq, Hillary would also organize a multi-billion dollar international effort -- funded by a wide range of donor states -- under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to address the needs of Iraqi refugees. And as we replace military force with diplomacy and global leadership, Hillary will not lose sight of our very real strategic interests in the region. She would devote the resources we need to fight terrorism and will order specialized units to engage in narrow and targeted operations against al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in the region.
The e-mail address for this site is email@example.com.
richard a. oppel jr.
qais mizherthe new york times