Stop Me If You’ve Heard This

Sometimes, from diverse news stories, a shaggy dog emerges.

Item one: The recent drone attack that failed to kill al Qaeda’s “number two” guy had the unfortunate side effect of killing 17 other people, including six women and six children. According to Griff Witte and Kamran Khan in the Washington Post:

Tens of thousands of Pakistanis staged an angry anti-American protest near the remote village of Damadola, about 120 miles northwest of Islamabad, where Friday’s attack took place. According to witnesses, the demonstrators shouted, “Death to America!” and “Death to Musharraf!” — referring to Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf — and the offices of at least one U.S.-backed aid organization were ransacked and set ablaze.

Jason Burke and Imtiaz Gul of the Observer write that relations between the U.S. and our GWOT “ally,” Pakistan, have been stretched to the breaking point.

Tensions between Washington and Islamabad have grown in recent weeks as American troops have stepped up operations against militants. Pakistan has already lodged a protest with the US military six days ago after a reported US airstrike killed eight people in the North Waziristan tribal region, an almost deserted area of mountains 300 miles south of Damadola. In Damadola itself, locals said they had never sheltered any al-Qaeda or Taliban leaders, let alone al-Zawahiri, an instantly recognisable 54-year-old Egyptian-born ex-doctor.

Even if the raid had taken out Ayman Zawahiri, one might still argue that the price of the capture was far too high. “This is war, and unfortunately war results in collateral deaths by mistaken targeting,” say the warbloggers. But let’s take a step back and ask a fundamental question.

Why are we at war? Aren’t we supposed to be fighting to end (or, at least, significantly discourage) terrorism? If our focus on eliminating people on a shopping list of bad guys results in making more bad guys, is this not a tad self-defeating? Like curing someone’s headache by cutting off his head? Are we not missing the big picture here?

Jane Hamsher has more
on what we might call the inconsistency of righties on this issue, but let’s move on to the next story …

An editorial in today’s Los Angeles Times says we’d better pay attention to Afghanistan.

MORE THAN FOUR YEARS AFTER the invasion that overthrew the Taliban, Afghanistan remains a dangerous place. A suicide attack 10 days ago — presumably targeting the U.S. ambassador, who was attending a nearby ceremony — killed 10 people. Days earlier, there was the beheading of a high school principal by suspected Taliban militants who broke into his home and forced his wife and eight children to watch.

The violence followed a year in which nearly 1,600 people were killed in insurgent attacks and suicide bombings. The latter are an especially troubling development because such attacks were previously rare in Afghanistan. Last year’s death toll included more than 80 American soldiers, making the year the bloodiest for U.S. forces there since the invasion.

Yet the U.S. plans to reduce the number of troops stationed in Afghaistan this spring. NATO will take up some of the slack, but one might ask why President Bush is so determined to “finish the job” in Iraq but not in Afghanistan.

But what’s this? Doug Smith and Borzou Daragahi write in the Los Angeles Times that Bush’s “Marshall Plan” for Iraq is fading.

After more than 2 1/2 years of sputtering reconstruction work, the United States’ “Marshall Plan” to rebuild this war-torn country is drawing to a close this year with much of its promise unmet and no plans to extend its funding.

The $18.6 billion approved by Congress in 2003 will be spent by the end of this year, officials here say. Foreign governments have given only a fraction of the billions they pledged two years ago.

With the country still a shambles, U.S. officials are promoting a tough-love vision of reconstruction that puts the burden on the Iraqi people.

“The world is a competitive place,” Tom Delare, economics counselor at the U.S. Embassy, said this month during a news briefing. “You have to convince the investor that it is worth his while to put his money in your community.”

In other words, Halliburton et al. has decided there isn’t enough profit in Iraq reconstruction. The White House insists it remains committed to Iraqi reconstruction. They’re just not going to put any more money and effort into it.

Meanwhile, we’re on the way to a nuclear showdown in Iran.

Now, here’s the punch line: In response to their crumbling Middle East policy, some in the GOP have pulled out all the stops … to smear John Murtha.

Those that can, do. Those that can’t — smear.