Friday, August 25, 2006

Bush's press conference in blue. Link.

Washington Post article, "Sadr's Militia and the Slaughter in the Streets," in black. Link.
"These cases do not need to go back to the religious courts," said the commander, who sat elbow to elbow with a fellow fighter in a short-sleeved, striped shirt. Neither displayed weapons. "Our constitution, the Koran, dictates killing for those who kill."

His comments offered a rare acknowledgment of the role of the Mahdi Army in the sectarian bloodletting that has killed more than 10,400 Iraqis in recent months. The Mahdi Army is the militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, now one of the most powerful figures in the country.

The United States of America must understand it's in our interests that we help this democracy succeed. [...] If you think problems are tough now, imagine what it would be like if the United States leaves before this government has a chance to defend herself, govern herself, and listen to the -- and answer to the will of the people.

Before Feb. 22, when the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra unleashed a wave of sectarian killing and retribution, U.S. authorities and others believed the primary force behind Shiite death squads was the Badr Brigade, the militia of another large Shiite organization, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. But since the bombing, the Mahdi Army appears to have taken the lead in extrajudicial trials and executions, according to Joost Hiltermann, a project director in Jordan for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

For suspected enemies taken by the Mahdi Army, the outcome is swift, with guilt and punishment already determined, the commanders said.

The Maliki government has been in power for less than six months. And, yes, the people spoke. I've cited that as a part of -- the reason I cite it is because it's what the Iraqi people want. And the fundamental question facing this government is whether or not we will stand with reformers across the region. It's really the task. And we're going to stand with this government.

Obviously, I wish the violence would go down, but not as much as the Iraqi citizens would wish the violence would go down. But, incredibly enough, they show great courage, and they want our help. And any sign that says we're going to leave before the job is done simply emboldens terrorists and creates a certain amount of doubt for people so they won't take the risk necessary to help a civil society evolve in the country.

Asked about the Mahdi Army's role in the surge of killings immediately after the Samarra mosque bombing, the Mahdi Army commander in short sleeves at the restaurant frowned, and answered carefully. "Terrorists" were at work then, he said, using a term employed by Shiites for Sunni insurgents. "There was an immediate need to move and contain these groups," he said.

No, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. As a matter of fact some of the more -- I would guess, I would surmise that some of the more spectacular bombings are done by al Qaeda suiciders.

Thousands of bodies turned up on the streets and vacant lots of Baghdad in the months after the Samarra bombing, found by U.S. Army patrols, Iraqi forces, passersby and families of the dead. Unlike earlier in the conflict, when the biggest share of victims were killed by the bombs of Sunni insurgents, these corpses were found shot to death, often bearing signs of torture and with their hands still bound. Shiite militias were blamed for many of these deaths.

You know, I hear a lot of talk about civil war. I'm concerned about that, of course, and I've talked to a lot of people about it. And what I've found from my talks are that the Iraqis want a unified country, and that the Iraqi leadership is determined to thwart the efforts of the extremists and the radicals and al Qaeda, and that the security forces remain united behind the government. And one thing is clear: The Iraqi people are showing incredible courage.

On patrol early one morning, Wayman and his convoy pulled over at the telltale sign of a group of Iraqi police gathered by the side of a road in northern Sadr City, eyes cast down.

The police officers made room for Wayman, who looked down at an Iraqi girl lying on her side. She appeared to be no more than 15. The morning light bathed her face, and her hands curled gently to her mouth. Wrapped in a blanket, she looked asleep, except for two bursts of pink flesh from bullet wounds in her back.

Neither American nor Iraqi forces had any inclination to investigate what had happened to the teenager.

"Who knows?" one of the Iraqi policeman said, preparing to bundle up the body. Wayman got back into his Humvee, and the Americans drove on.

I square it because, imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction, who was paying suiciders to kill innocent life, who would -- who had relations with Zarqawi. Imagine what the world would be like with him in power. The idea is to try to help change the Middle East.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

It's nice to be able to laugh. You might think that the prez would be a bit down and grumpy about all that death and carnage in Iraq, but nosir, he's joking, the press corps is joking, it's all good fun.

According to the transcript, there were 25 separate instances of laughter at yesterday's press conference.

Here's a bit from the end.

THE PRESIDENT: I believe that Plan B ought to be -- ought to require a prescription for minors, is what I believe. And I support Andy's decision.

Thanks for letting me come by the new digs here. They may be a little too fancy for you.

Q We'd be happy to go back.

Q Are we coming back?

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely, you're coming back.

Q Can we hold you to that?

THE PRESIDENT: Coming back to the bosom of the White House. (Laughter.) I'm looking forward to hugging you when you come back, everybody. When are you coming back?

Q You tell us.

Q May.

THE PRESIDENT: May, is that when it is scheduled?

Q They've sealed off of our -- they sealed off the door. We're wondering if we're really coming back or not.

Q The decision will be made by commanders on the ground. (Laughter.)

Q There's no timetable.

THE PRESIDENT: What do you think this is, a correspondents dinner or something? (Laughter.)

Thank you all.

Maybe it helps if you always look at things in the abstract. Or something. Damned if I know.

And "bosom"? "Hugging you"? That's just creepy, frightening, and probably an uncomfortable glimpse into the prez's mindset. Blech.