Large-scale violence in Iraq has become a matter of routine. So much so that mass killings there don’t even make front-page news in this country any more.
Take an article on page A10 of the June 5 New York Times. “It was a brutal killing, even by the standards of this violent country,” the story starts. “Gunmen set up a fake checkpoint north of here Sunday morning, stopped two minibuses and killed 20 passengers, including students on their way to final exams.”
What’s almost as sad as this piece is the fact that violence of this sort has become so everyday that major media outlets like the New York Times see fit to bury such happenings in their inside pages. The news from Iraq has become a daily litany of car bombings, mass killings, and sectarian violence.
What must be the private reaction of Bush Administration officials to this carnage? They’re probably whistling past the graveyard.
In a recent Nation, Calvin Trillin summarized their mindset very appropriately:
Our strategy for peace thereIs really working wellIt’s just that all the killingCan make it hard to tell.
Judging by his recent joint appearance with Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bush will never admit that the Iraq War was a mistake.
At a May 26 press conference, Bush and Blair both owned up to some errors, but refused to alter their course or to set a timetable for the withdrawal of troops.
Iraqis who live with the daily carnage have a different perspective on recent events.
“I used to be an incurable optimist,” Adnan Pachachi, member of parliament and Iraqi foreign minister in the pre-Saddam era, is quoted as saying in the Times. “But optimism is a very difficult thing to have at present.”
You can’t blame him. Fifty people were abducted from a Baghdad street on June 5. On June 4, nine people died in clashes between Iraqi police and Sunni worshippers. (The murders of the 20 bus passengers happened the same day, too.) June 3 saw a massive car bomb explosion that slaughtered 28 people in Basra. On June 2, a U.S. training exercise accidentally killed three Iraqis. The bad news goes on and on.
Even “incurable optimism” can’t survive all this.