Blast walls or a "gated community"? The president's summer reading list

What Bush could learn about Iraq.

Published August 17, 2006 6:51PM (EDT)

If George W. Bush is truly "puzzled" to learn that Iraqis don't appreciate his war more, perhaps he ought to spend a little more time with daily newspapers and a little less with existential French literature. Some stories that ought to be on the president's summer reading list:

Roadside bombings: The New York Times reports today that the number of roadside bombs planted in Iraq rose to the highest monthly total of the war in July -- a sign that while sectarian attacks get most of the headlines lately, the insurgency is very much alive and well. "The insurgency has gotten worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks at historically high levels," a senior Defense Department official tells the Times. "The insurgency has more public support and is demonstrably more capable in numbers of people active and in its ability to direct violence than at any point in time."

Reality disconnect: McClatchy and Knight Ridder reporter Tom Lasseter reports that "the worst fear" of many Iraqi politicians is that U.S. officials "don't really understand what's happening" in Iraq. Lasseter says that some in the U.S. military share that fear. A U.S. military intelligence officer in Iraq says in an e-mail to Lasseter: "I have had the chance to move around Baghdad on mounted and dismounted patrols and see the city and violence from the ground. I think that the greatest problem that we deal (besides the insurgents and militia) with is that our leadership has no real comprehension of the ground truth. I wish that I could offer a solution, but I can't. When I have briefed general officers, I have given them my perspective and assessment of the situation. Many have been surprised at what I have to say, but I suspect that in the end nothing will or has changed."

Standing up, standing down: Although Bush boasts whenever U.S. troops hand over control of an area to Iraqi forces, the Los Angeles Times says it doesn't always work out so well. "During the last year, as U.S. troops have handed over large swaths of Baghdad to Iraqi forces, security has deteriorated and thousands of civilians have been killed," the paper says. Military officials hope a new U.S. operation in Baghdad will improve matters, but the Times says that U.S. warnings about it "appear to have given gunmen ample time to hide their weapons and disappear." The net take from one recent white-knuckle sweep through a Baghdad neighborhood: four AK-47s and a squirt gun. But things are getting better, insists Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV. He tells the Times that new concrete blast walls around Amariya have created "what some may call the semblance of a gated community."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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George W. Bush Iraq Iraq War Middle East War Room