On the Ground in Baghdad

ON THE GROUND IN BAGHDAD….Tom Lasseter is one of our best on-the-ground reporters in Iraq, a guy with a track record for getting things right. Here’s what he wrote on Saturday about George Bush’s plan to pacify Baghdad with five new brigades:

Soldiers interviewed across east Baghdad, home to more than half the city’s 8 million people, said the violence is so out of control that while a surge of 21,500 more American troops may momentarily suppress it, the notion that U.S. forces can bring lasting security to Iraq is misguided.

….Almost every foot soldier interviewed during a week of patrols on the streets and alleys of east Baghdad said that Bush’s plan would halt the bloodshed only temporarily. The soldiers cited a variety of reasons, including incompetence or corruption among Iraqi troops, the complexities of Iraq’s sectarian violence and the lack of Iraqi public support, a cornerstone of counterinsurgency warfare.

Interviews and quotes are a dime a dozen. If you interview enough people you can find quotes to back up any position you feel like taking. But if Lasseter says flatly that “almost every foot soldier” thinks the mission in Baghdad is doomed, that’s a whole different matter. If it’s true, it almost doesn’t matter if the surge is technically feasible. It won’t work if the people charged with implementing it no longer believe they have any hope of making a difference.

And a note to the dead-enders: If you want to chalk this up to standard GI griping — every soldier’s traditional right — I guess no one can stop you. Ditto if you think this is just liberal media bias and Lasseter is holding back on all the positive reactions he got. Just be sure you have a backup position in a few months when it turns out he was right.

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