THE BATTLE OF BAGHDAD….If Tom Lasseter is to be believed — and I think he is — the junior officers leading our troops are not sanguine about our prospects in Baghdad. They think that Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia has so thoroughly infiltrated the Iraqi army and police force that they’re the ones who mostly benefit from our training:

“Half of them are JAM. They’ll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night,” said 1st Lt. Dan Quinn, a platoon leader in the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, using the initials of the militia’s Arabic name, Jaish al Mahdi. “People (in America) think it’s bad, but that we control the city. That’s not the way it is. They control it, and they let us drive around. It’s hostile territory.”

….”All the Shiites have to do is tell everyone to lay low, wait for the Americans to leave, then when they leave you have a target list and within a day they’ll kill every Sunni leader in the country. It’ll be called the ‘Day of Death’ or something like that,” said 1st Lt. Alain Etienne, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y. “They say, ‘Wait, and we will be victorious.’ That’s what they preach. And it will be their victory.”

…. After U.S. units pounded al-Sadr’s men in August 2004, the cleric apparently decided that instead of facing American tanks, he’d use the Americans’ plans to build Iraqi security forces to rebuild his own militia.

….His recruits began flooding into the Iraqi army and police, receiving training, uniforms and equipment either directly from the U.S. military or from the American-backed Iraqi Defense Ministry.

You know, everything I’ve heard suggests that Gen. David Petraeus is a terrific officer in all respects. And yet, there’s something that’s been niggling in the back of my mind for a while: namely that in August 2004, when al-Sadr was hatching this plan, Petraeus was the guy in charge of creating and overseeing the training program for the Iraqi army and police. In other words, he was the guy who was being suckered. Now he’s in charge of the whole operation. Is anybody else bothered by this?

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