9 Soldiers Dead in 2 Days
You would think that, considering that Baghdad's streets are newly paved with gold and everything's back to normal and candies are handed out at every market and the air is laden with magic pixie dust, there wouldn't be any need for a new major offensive in Iraq. And yet, Phantom Phoenix started yesterday in Diyala province. And already, it's claimed 9 lives.
Nine American soldiers were killed in the first two days of a new offensive to root out al-Qaida in Iraq fighters holed up in districts north of the capital, the U.S. military reported Wednesday.
The losses came as many militants fled U.S. and Iraqi forces massing in Diyala, a province of palm and citrus groves that has defied the trend toward lower violence. The campaign's scope is nationwide but is mainly focused on gaining control of Diyala and its most important city, Baqouba, which al-Qaida has declared the capital of its self-styled Islamic caliphate.
The fact that six of these troops were killed in a booby-trapped house suggests that the insurgents knew they were coming. And indeed:
All indications are that al-Qaida fighters retreated north from Diyala, presumably to Salahuddin, before the offensive began Tuesday, the top U.S. commander in northern Iraq, Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, told reporters in Baghdad.
"Operational security in Iraq is a problem," he said, noting that the Iraqi army uses unsecured cell phones and radios. "I'm sure there is active leaking of communication."
One more death in Iraq is needless. The country is not on a path to political or even security sustainability because of the occupation. Even the Pentagon admits that factional reconciliation through the political progress is the only way to a solution, and that the chances of that are 50-50 at best. Meanwhile, the supposedly fixed security situation isn't all that fixed:
In a separate attack, police said on Tuesday that gunmen kidnapped eight members of a newly-formed U.S.-backed Shiite armed group in northern Baghdad's Shaab neighborhood, one of the capital's most dangerous areas and a center for outlawed Shiite fighters.
The men were manning a checkpoint when they were kidnapped Monday night, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information. Last Sunday, the head of the group, Sheik Ismaiel Abbas, was shot to death in Shaab.
Elsewhere in the capital Tuesday, the head of the municipality of Baghdad's primarily Sunni neighborhood of Yarmouk was killed when a bomb attached to his car exploded, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information.
Add to that the fact that Diyala is actually more deadly now, post-surge, than it was in June.
I keep writing about this in the dim hope that somebody will recognize the pickle we've managed to get ourselves into. There have been bad options and worse options in Iraq for the last 3 years. The bad options have grown worse and the worse options have grown unthinkable. The less people that have to die in that exchange, the better. When this occupation ends it will be pinned on the Democrats. But the responsibility lies with George Bush every step of the way.