Spinning the Bloodshed in Basra
By Dan Froomkin
Thursday, March 27, 2008; 1:43 PM
There is plenty of reason to doubt the White House spin…
Bush’s Simplistic VisionBy Dan Froomkin
Friday, March 28, 2008; 1:36 PM
The new wave of violence sweeping Iraq is not just a powerful rejoinder to President Bush’s insistence that the U.S. troop surge has been a success — it’s also a reminder of how the problems facing that troubled country are much more complex than he will acknowledge.
In the vision Bush puts forward, there are just two sides in Iraq: The good guys and the bad guys; our team and an enemy who, as he put it in his speech yesterday, "will try to fill the TV screens with violence." To Bush, the people of Iraq need our help to save them from terrorists who intend to overthrow Iraq’s brave and unified government on their way to attacking America. That the current battle in Basra is essentially between rival Shiite militias fighting for political power doesn’t alter his narrative.
Bush yesterday said the Basra offensive shows Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s "commitment to enforce the law in an even-handed manner" and demonstrates "the progress the Iraqi security forces have made during the surge." he ultimate result, he said, would be that "terrorists and extremists in Iraq will know they have no place in a free and democratic society." But, increasingly, it looks like the result of the bloodletting in Basra may be the U.S. more actively taking up arms in the messy, multi-sided civil war that the surge, rather than resolving, has apparently only postponed.
Taking On a Bigger Role
The initial U.S. role in the Basra fighting — providing air cover and embedded advisers — appears to be expanding. Sudarsan Raghavan and Sholnn Freeman write for The Washington Post: "U.S. forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in the vast Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, and military officials said Friday that U.S. aircraft bombed militant positions in the southern city of Basra, as the American role in a campaign against party-backed militias appeared to expand. Iraqi army and police units appeared to be largely holding to the outskirts of the Sadr City fighting, as U.S. troops took the lead. . . .
"The clashes suggested that American forces were being drawn more deeply into a broad offensive that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, launched in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, saying death squads, criminal gangs and rogue militias were the targets.
"As President Bush told an Ohio audience that Iraq was returning to ‘normalcy,’ administration officials in Washington held meetings to assess what appeared to be a rapidly deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country"…