Friday, May 16, 2003

A lot of people (Josh Marshall, Paul Krugman, the Rational Enquirer, Cursor) are citing this New Republic article, for good reason -- it's pretty damn scary:

Thus far violence in Baghdad has been limited to unorganized gangs of looters carrying Kalashnikovs. But Iraqi security experts and other sources in the capital say that, under the nose of the American forces, Iraq's nascent political groups are forming armed militias and storing weapons as they prepare for a potential civil war for control of the country. In fact, The New Republic has learned, several Iraqis say even Hezbollah has formed a branch in Baghdad. Ultimately, if Baghdad's power vacuum is not filled soon, the rise of organized armed factions could turn Iraq's capital into a twenty-first-century version of 1980s Beirut....

Though the armed wings of political parties already possess small arms, security sources say they are storing heavier weapons around Baghdad and other cities. In fact, says Sadoun Dulaimi, a one-time high-ranking Baghdad police official who recently returned to Iraq after fleeing the country in 1991 when Saddam sentenced him to death, what makes the militias so dangerous is their access to heavy weaponry, such as rocket-propelled grenades. ... Even tanks left around Baghdad by the retreating Iraqi army may have fallen into militias' hands....

I want to juxtapose an excerpt from this article with an excerpt from today's Paul Krugman column. First, The New Republic:

In part, U.S. reluctance to take on the militias may be a product of the relative security of the part of Baghdad where most Americans are billeted. Though most of the capital remains highly unsafe, and militias are becoming increasingly prevalent, American officials and journalists do not often see the armed groups because they generally stay within the small area surrounding the U.S. compounds and the Palestine and Sheraton Hotels, an area protected by Abrams tanks and machine-gun-wielding soldiers.

Now Krugman:

The administration's antiterror campaign makes me think of the way television studios really look. The fancy set usually sits in the middle of a shabby room, full of cardboard and duct tape. Networks take great care with what viewers see on their TV screens; they spend as little as possible on anything off camera.

I don't think the administration gives a damn what happens to the Iraqi people -- as long as they remain "off camera."

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