Ralph Peters continues his series of reports from Iraq:
What actually happened last week, as the prophets of doom in the media prematurely declared civil war?
* The Iraqi army deployed over 100,000 soldiers to maintain public order. U.S. Forces remained available as a backup, but Iraqi soldiers controlled the streets.
* Iraqi forces behaved with discipline and restraint – as the local sectarian outbreaks fizzled, not one civilian had been killed by an Iraqi soldier.
* Time and again, Iraqi military officers were able to defuse potential confrontations and frustrate terrorist hopes of igniting a religious war.
* Forty-seven battalions drawn from all 10 of Iraq’s army divisions took part in an operation that, above all, aimed at reassuring the public. The effort worked – from the luxury districts to the slums, the Iraqis were proud of their army.
AS a result of its nationwide success, the Iraqi army gained tremendously in confidence. Its morale soared. After all the lies and exaggerations splashed in your direction, the truth is that we’re seeing a new, competent, patriotic military emerge. The media may cling to its image of earlier failures, but last week was a great Iraqi success.
This matters. Not only for Iraq’s sake, but because standing up a responsible military subordinate to an elected civilian government is the essential development that will allow us to reduce our troop presence in the next few years. Much remains to do – and much could still go wrong – but I, for one, am more optimistic after this visit to Baghdad.
Peters went hunting for IEDs in East Baghdad.
Stateside, Michael Barone asks, Why Do Democrats Fear the Al-Qaida/Saddam Relationship?
So why do these Democrats and these government professionals seem to have such a conviction that there must have been no collaboration between al-Qaida and Saddam? The Democrats fear that more Americans would support Bush and the war effort if they believed there was. The career professionals, with their many years of training in the subtleties of the Middle East, have developed a vested interest in the notion that religious Wahhabis like al-Qaida could never collaborate with a secular tyrant like Saddam. If alliances could be formed across religious lines, what use would all their learning be?