Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Surge Is Surging By 7,000 Troops

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Despite the spin, Bush's decision to overtop the "surge" by as many as 7,000 additional troops is an implicit admission of failure:

US officials have been arguing in recent days that violence has fallen in Baghdad, where the joint security crackdown is now in its third week but one apparent result is that Sunni insurgents appear to have fled the capital for outlying areas, such as Salahuddin and Diyala, where direct attacks on American forces are up 70% since last July, according to official figures.

The grim news from Hilla reinforced the sense that Sunni violence is being re-focused with terrible effectiveness against the Shia. The largest group of yesterday's victims - 79 - were queuing up in Hilla at a checkpoint en route for the holy city of Karbala for a religious ceremony when two attackers detonated their explosive belts, local police said. It was the worst attack since one in the capital last month, when 130 people died in a truck bombing.

"I saw one of the suicide bombers. He was about 40 years old. He blew himself up and I saw parts of bodies flying around," one witness told Reuters.

"I watched the second bomber run into the crowd and blow himself up. Everyone around him was shredded to pieces," said another, describing scenes of chaos, with sandals and tattered clothes lying among pools of blood and refreshment tents on fire.
The assault on the pilgrims - heading for Saturday's Arba'een ceremony at the Imam Hussein shrine in Karbala - had echoes of last February's landmark attack, claimed by al-Qaida, on the Shia shrine in Samarra. That was the trigger for openly sectarian violence that many now see as close to fully-fledged civil war.

This latest anti-Shia atrocity came as hundreds of US troops continued their push into the slums of Sadr City, home to 2.5 million of Baghdad's poorest residents as well as fighters loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr. On Monday a suicide car bomber hit the city's famous book market, killing at least 38 shoppers. Mr Maliki called that "a new message to the world that the terrorists oppose humanity and knowledge".

At least 24 Iraqis were killed in other violence yesterday, including eight Shia pilgrims killed in the Baghdad area of Dora when gunmen pumped bullets into a minibus. In Mosul, in northern Iraq, meanwhile, dozens of Sunni militants reportedly linked to al-Qaida stormed a jail and freed up to 140 insurgent prisoners.

Officials said as many as 300 men led by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq, attacked the city's Badoush prison and overwhelmed police.

Kevin Drum writes, "This is the Democrats' first chance to oppose the surge in a serious, non-symbolic way: they can refuse to approve the additional $2 billion. Even if the Pentagon goes ahead and reallocates money from some other account to fund the extra troops, this would still be a concrete way to oppose any further escalation. But do they have the spine to do it?"

Of course not.

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