We're so confused.
We're fresh off our big celebration of the third anniversary of the liberation of Iraq, and we've heard so much from the president of the United States about all of the "hard work" and "progress" that have been evident in that country since. So how is it, we're asking ourselves today, that the U.S. military is even now planning what one Pentagon advisor calls a "new liberation" of Baghdad?
The Times of London has the story: The U.S. military is planning a new campaign on Baghdad, it says, in which U.S. and Iraqi troops, covered by heavily armed aircraft, would try to retake Baghdad from insurgents and sectarian fighters. To be fair, the sequel sounds a little smarter than the original. The plan is said to involve a "carrot-and-stick" approach, one in which U.S. and Iraqi forces would try to encourage Iraqis to help them root out insurgents and sectarian fighters by promising more security and better services in exchange. Sources tell the Times that U.S. and Iraqi troops will enter neighborhoods under the cover of AH-6 "Little Birds" and, if things go well, leave behind teams that would work to restore sewage, water and electricity systems and trash collection.
It's a way for the new Iraqi government to show that it can control at least its own seat of power. And, the Times says, it's a way for the Bush administration to show that it's doing something to move beyond quagmire. "An effective military campaign could provide the White House with a bounce in the polls before the mid-term congressional elections in November," the Times notes.
Maybe that's right, but the governments in Baghdad and Washington have a lot to prove between now and then. The Iraqi parliament was supposed to meet today, but the session was canceled when it became clear that there was still no agreement on a new prime minister. And in Washington, the president's new chief of staff -- a man who, in some other universe, might have represented fresh eyes or fresh thinking or fresh something -- made it his first job to defend embattled Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld instead.
Four U.S. Marines were killed in fighting west of Baghdad today, bringing the U.S. death toll for the first half of April to 47 -- up from 31 in all of March. All told, the total U.S. death toll in Iraq now stands at 2,376.
Update: Americans' despair over Iraq seems to have reached a new level. According to Gallup, 57 percent of the American public thinks that the United States either can't (36 percent) or won't (21 percent) win the war.