A suicide bomber struck today outside a college campus in Baghdad, killing at least 41 people and injuring dozens as a string of other blasts and rocket attacks left bloodshed around the city.
Most of the victims were students at the college, a business studies annex of Mustansiriyah University that was hit by a series of deadly explosions last month. At least 46 people were injured in Sunday’s blast.
The wave of attacks around Baghdad came a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lauded the progress of an ongoing U.S.-Iraqi security operation seeking to cripple militant factions and sectarian killings in the capital.
Here’s the punch line — over at Townhall, Patrick Ruffini reports that the “surge” is working.
In a sane world, we would have come a long way from spring 2003, when some rightie emailed me the image of Saddam Hussein’s statue being torn down as “proof” that I was wrong about invading Iraq being a bad idea. I remember thinking at the time that this individual was not, um, grasping the big picture. However, we have not come a long way at all. Righties just sink into deeper levels of denial. They go from denying there were no weapons of mass destruction to denying there is an insurgency to denying there was no Saddam Hussein-al Qaeda connection to denying there is a civil war to denying that the situation is bleeped up beyond all hope. (See also Kevin Hayden on “Ruffini World.”)
For the current big picture, see this editorial in today’s New York Times:
Almost five and a half years ago, America â€” united by the shock of 9/11 â€” understood exactly what it needed to do. It had to find, thwart and take down the command structure of Al Qaeda, which was responsible for the deaths of 3,000 innocent people on American soil. Despite years of costly warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq, America today is not significantly closer to that essential goal.
At a crucial moment, the Bush administration diverted Americaâ€™s military strength, political attention and foreign aid dollars from a necessary, winnable war in Afghanistan to an unnecessary, and by now unwinnable, war in Iraq. Al Qaeda took full advantage of these blunders to survive and rebuild. Now it seems to be back in business.
As our colleagues Mark Mazzetti and David Rohde reported last week, American intelligence and counterterrorism officials believe that Al Qaeda has rebuilt its notorious training camps, this time in Pakistanâ€™s loosely governed tribal regions near the Afghan border. Camp graduates are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq â€” and may well be plotting new terrorist strikes in the West.
To underscore this point, the current issue of Newsweek has an article on Mullah Omar.
Frank Rich shows us the panoramic view:
The intelligence and counterterrorism officials back then [summer of 2001] were privately sounding urgent warnings like those in last weekâ€™s Times, culminating in the Presidentâ€™s Daily Brief titled â€œBin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.â€ The system â€œwas blinking red,â€ as the C.I.A. chief George Tenet would later tell the 9/11 commission. But no one, from the White House on down, wanted to hear it.
The White House doesnâ€™t want to hear it now, either. Thatâ€™s why terrorism experts are trying to get its attention by going public, and not just through The Times. Michael Scheuer, the former head of the C.I.A. bin Laden unit, told MSNBCâ€™s Keith Olbermann last week that the Taliban and Al Qaeda, having regrouped in Afghanistan and Pakistan, â€œare going to detonate a nuclear device inside the United Statesâ€ (the real United States, that is, not the fictional stand-in where this same scenario can be found on â€œ24â€). Al Qaeda is â€œon the marchâ€ rather than on the run, the Georgetown University and West Point terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman told Congress. Tony Blair is pulling troops out of Iraq not because Basra is calm enough to be entrusted to Iraqi forces â€” itâ€™s â€œnot ready for transition,â€ according to the Pentagonâ€™s last report â€” but to shift some British resources to the losing battle against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.
This is why the entire debate about the Iraq â€œsurgeâ€ is as much a sideshow as Britneyâ€™s scalp. More troops in Baghdad are irrelevant to whatâ€™s going down in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The surge supporters who accuse the Iraq warâ€™s critics of emboldening the enemy are trying to deflect attention from their own complicity in losing a bigger battle: the one against the enemy that actually did attack us on 9/11. Who lost Iraq? is but a distraction from the more damning question, Who is losing the war on terrorism?
The Democrats may not be moving quickly enough to suit us, but they are at least shifting their weight around. Last week they were talking about repealed the 2002 war resolution. (This is not unprecedented; the Tonkin Gulf resolution was repealed, also. It didn’t end the war, however.)
Frank Rich continues —
Yet Mr. Bush still denies reality. Ten days ago he told the American Enterprise Institute that â€œthe Taliban have been driven from powerâ€ and proposed that America help stabilize the Pakistan border by setting up â€œReconstruction Opportunity Zonesâ€ (remember that â€œGulf Opportunity Zoneâ€ he promised after Katrina?) to â€œgive residents the chance to export locally made products to the United States, duty-free.â€ In other words, letâ€™s fight terrorism not by shifting Americaâ€™s focus from Iraq to the central front, but by shopping for Taliban souvenirs!
Presidents have lost control of events many times before. However, I can’t think of any other president who lost it this badly and didn’t even notice.