Friday, April 09, 2004

Have US forces lost control of Baghdad? 

Buried near the bottom of a NY Times article, this quote is a real shocker:
"We absolutely must regain control of Baghdad and open the lines of communication to the south, to Kuwait and down to the sea, or the position will become untenable," said Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star general and the commander of the 24th Mechanized Division in the 1991 Persian Gulf war. "We have got to get back the road through Najaf and through Al Kut, and Rick Sanchez has the combat power to do it."
Juan Cole's interpretation:
He gave away a great deal. One may conclude that a) the US has lost control of Baghdad and b) the US communications and supply lines in the South have been cut. That is, a year after the fall of Saddam, the US faces the task of reconquering the country.
One has to wonder, if US troops have lost control of Baghdad, why isn't the media reporting it? According to Cole, General McCaffrey made those remarks in a CNN interview.  In that case, why isn't this CNN's headline? "Retired general says US troops have lost control of Baghdad." CNN's front-page article makes it seem like the Iraqi capital is experiencing nothing worse than a tense atmosphere and a few isolated skirmishes:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two U.S. soldiers and an unknown number of civilian contractors are unaccounted for after a fuel convoy was attacked Friday near Baghdad International Airport, a senior Pentagon official said.

Another 13th Corps Support Command soldier and an Iraqi driver were killed in the incident, and 12 people were wounded.

The contractors' nationality was not immediately known.

The official said "unaccounted for" means that U.S. troops are looking for the soldiers and contractors. The senior Pentagon official said a search is under way.

The four-truck convoy was hit with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades and exploded into flames, the official said.
[snip -- unrelated stuff about Fallujah]
Baghdad and al-Sadr

In Baghdad's Firdos Square, the scene was a stark contrast last year, when jubilant celebrations accompanied the toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein. Friday, the square was empty, and Iraqis were told that anyone with a weapon would be shot on sight.

On the platform where Saddam's statue once stood, posters of al-Sadr -- whose supporters have been blamed for inflaming the insurgency -- were visible. U.S. soldiers pulled them down.

At a Baghdad mosque, hundreds of Shiites and Sunnis prayed together and denounced the coalition.
Either General McCaffrey is off his rocker, or the media is being extremely dishonest about what's going on in Iraq.

UPDATE: US troops have pulled out of Sadr City, a Shiite district of Baghdad (not a small district, either: population 2 million). After several days of fighting with insurgents, US forces have evacuated Sadr City police stations and the town hall. No word on what's happening in the rest of the capital.
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