Remember how scary things semed in Iraq back in the spring, whereas now the insurgency rarely seems to make the news? That's wool being pulled over your eyes. This is from a Knight Ridder story published today -- not six months ago:
By day, Iraqis loyal to Saddam's Hussein's much-feared Baath Party recite their oath in clandestine meetings, solicit donations from former members and talk politics over sugary tea at a Baghdad cafe known as simply "The Party."
By night, cells of these same men stage attacks on American and Iraqi forces, host soirees for Saddam's birthday and other former regime holidays, and debrief informants still dressed in suits and ties from their jobs in the new, U.S.-backed Iraqi government.
Even with Saddam under lock and key, the Baath Party is back in business....
In the Saddam stronghold north and west of the capital, a sprawling area known as the Sunni Triangle, Baathists freely distribute price lists to unemployed young men. Burning a U.S. Humvee or detonating a homemade bomb can earn them a few hundred dollars. Killing an American soldiers brings at least $1,000....
It's worth reading that story back to back with what Dexter Filkins wrote in yesterday's New York Times:
The struggle over Sadr City is over just that - who would take control, the Iraqi police or the Mahdi Army. The Americans, who have watched repeatedly as the Iraqi police have retreated before Mr. Sadr's militia and as the Mahdi Army has broken its promises, clearly fear the worst.
In places like Falluja, Samarra and Ramadi, ... the Americans and the Iraqi government appear to have forfeited their influence. Residents of all three places say insurgents are in charge.
Falluja, for instance, has become a haven for insurgents and terrorists, including, the Americans believe, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian thought to be responsible for a number of car bombings that have killed hundreds of civilians. In Falluja, the insurgents are free to carry out their own brand of justice, like the public lashings of people suspected of theft and rape, and the videotaped beheading last month of Suleiman Mar'awi, one of the city's National Guard commanders.
The Knight Ridder story makes clear that the Baathist Party has been "restructured as an umbrella organization for opposition groups that run the gamut from anti-occupation nationalists to Islamic extremists." The party may now be what it never was under Saddam: a secular organization that, among other things, gives aid and comfort to jihadists.
Remember, in this election you can vote for someone who thinks this adds up to a major victory -- or you can vote for someone who knows it's a bloody mess.
(Knight Ridder link via Rational Enquirer.)