Sunday, September 2, 2007

An odd surge of hope in Baghdad

Times Online's Marie Colvin, in Baghdad:

"When the surge in this part of Baghdad began last March, the area was controlled by Mahdi Army followers of Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shi’ite cleric, who ambushed and killed coalition soldiers seemingly at will. The locals complied with their demands for money or out of fear. The second battalion soldiers who moved in were the first to base themselves in the area since 2003, the year of the invasion. They set themselves up in Base Rustamiyah, an old Iraqi army school, and implanted small companies of men in the worst neighbourhoods. By June they were engulfed in all-out war. Mortars and rockets pounded the base and its small outposts relentlessly. Soldiers were killed and wounded by snipers and roadside bombs. “It was more war than I ever want to see again,” said Major Brent Cummings, the second-in-command. Then the rain of mortars relented and during the past two weeks the roadside bombs, their enemy’s most potent weapon, have almost disappeared."

Stories like this are coming so often now that they threaten to become a bore. While the US media outlets and wire services issue a steady drum beat of "dire" conditions and "stark" developments, "underscoring the deeply unpopular" nature of this operation, Reports from Marie Colvin, Michael Yon, Michael Totten and Matt Sanchez tell a very different, and real, picture.