The Baghdad Beltway
In your neighborhood?
Well, they're the people that you meet
When you're walking down the street
They're the people that you meet each day
--Who Are The People in Your Neighborhood?,
Bob McGrath (Sesame Street)
Because the press has a habit of depicting the violence which does not abate in Iraq as some sort of Teddy Boy crimes between neighborhood toughs who just won't stop encroaching on the other's turf.
The New York Times reports there are "rogue elements of Shia extremists," and a troublesome "Sunni group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia," and it is an "arduous effort to head off" their "sectarian strife" ("Sunni Militants Disrupt Plan to Calm Baghdad.") And somehow, we're caught in the crosshairs. But the overall view is, we're trying to put out fires and be good stewards of our Iraqi clients.
The Times article later seemingly contradicts itself by quoting a November Pentagon report identifying the Shiite Mahdi Army as "replacing Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia 'as the most dangerous accelerent of potentially self-sustaining sectarian violence in Iraq."
As General Petraeus said recently of the car bomb factories his troops are finding in the hinterlands, "we clearly have got to find as many of those as we can to destroy them and then, obviously, to interdict those that are still able to be built." Like so many crack houses, perhaps we can eject the trouble-makers, and maybe successfully convert them into more wholesome enterprises for the locals.
"Although the focus, the priority, clearly is Baghdad, anyone who knows anything about securing Baghdad knows that you must also secure the Baghdad belts, in other words, the areas that surround Baghdad," Petraeus said. How far out do the belts go? Is it, like the ever-expanding waistbands of Americans, with the largest belt encircling the entire country? I see Iraq as a giant matryoshka doll. Baghdad is merely one of the little inside nested dolls.
It's as though we're walking in the fog of bad James Taylor lyrics: "It used to be your town, it used to be my town, too" (Her Town, Too.) Except, it never was our town. And the bloom is off the rose, and it is too late for the sentiments of the wonderful King and I:
Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.
As Badtux says, "'terrorists' ARE the people of Iraq. They aren't hiding there. They live there (3/17/07)." It is like a bad Sam Kinison routine. People, they don't want you there. I appreciate that Mr. Thomspon, in his best government self, would like a poll on the matter, but the majority of Iraqis polled have already said that it is o.k. to kill Americans. What more do we need to know?