I scan blogs every day. I read online news headlines. I even read hard copy newspapers most days. Almost every day, it's there, usually in multiple places: The Iraq Report. It has become as much of an ordinary part of my daily read as the weather report and traffic report. Partly cloudy with a high of 72 degrees, accident on Southbound I-25, 160 killed in Iraq in a heavy casualty day.
It is hard to learn much from the Iraq Report. Unlike the weather report and traffic report, I can't plan my day with it. Casualties are just numbers without perspective. The Iraq Report doesn't come to you the way that results of a cholesterol test or an emissions test on your car do, with benchmarks of good and bad against which you can compare them. It is just a low hum, reminding you that there is still a civil war raging, in which we have an unclear strategy and unclear objectives, and little justification for beginning it in the first place. The level of mayhem is so great, it is hard to relate to it. I look forward to the weekly edition of the Washington Post that comes to my home in hard copy, so that I can read a story with enough flesh to understand how the latest wave of suicide bombings, ambushes and other horrors have impacted people's lives.
Your usual instinct when confronted with horrible events is to take bold action to prevent them from happening again. In Iraq, that process has grown unthinkably muddy. Will the suffering be greater with more U.S. troops or fewer? Is the political process surrounding the constitution in Iraq the key to ending the violence, or is it irrelevant? Often, terrorists seek to influence policy by making demands. In Iraq, the insurgents seem content to let their policy of attacks speak for itself. Vague suggestions like the establishment of a Sunni Monarchy in Iraq are so out of touch with reality one doesn't know where a peace process could even begin. But, again and again, our troops claim to be killing and capturing vast numbers of insurgents and beating them in military engagements, and yet, again and again, they end up calling the next stronger and smarter wave of attacks proof that the insurgency is in its last throes, which doesn't convince anyone but idiots.
Attacks on U.S. troops seem to have leveled off. But, this means little for the other twenty-six million people in Iraq. By some counts, 6,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq so far this year. Basic services like reliable electricity supplies are still absent. When Saddam Hussein starts to look good by comparison to the U.S. occupation, it is hard to see how any good has come of this war.