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Paying Attention

According to the Associated Press

Remote-controlled explosives strapped to two mentally retarded women detonated in a coordinated attack on pet bazaars Friday, police and Iraqi officials said, killing at least 73 people in the deadliest day since the U.S. sent 30,000 extra troops to the capital this spring . . . Iraqi officials said the women apparently were mentally disabled and the explosives were detonated by remote control, indicating they may not having been willing attackers in what could be a new method by suspected Sunni insurgents to subvert stepped up security measures.

This episode reminds us of just how malevolent our enemy is. Their savagery is almost unfathomable. One wonders if this type of thing will continue to turn the Muslim world against al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which is exactly what is happening in the “Anbar Awakening” (the backlash against AQI has now spread beyond Anbar Province).

This attack also underscores what General Petraeus has repeatedly said: the challenges in Iraq remain formidable and we will need to maintain our presence there for some time to come. The gains we saw in 2007 were stunning – but we are still a long way from Iraq becoming a secure, unified nation. Fortunately the President has indicated that he will abide by the counsel of General Petraeus and not pull out our troops prematurely. As the Washington Post reported today:

President Bush asserted Thursday that he would not be pressured into making further troop cuts in Iraq beyond the five combat brigades already scheduled to come home by the middle of the summer. “We have come too far in this important theater, in this war on terror, not to make sure that we succeed,” Bush told a friendly audience at an event sponsored by a conservative think tank. “I will be making decisions based upon success in Iraq…. The comments were the latest indication from the administration that it may keep the number of troops in Iraq at roughly the same level they were before last year’s buildup of U.S. forces, possibly through the end of Bush’s presidency. Under existing plans, the levels are gradually falling about 5,000 troops a month, from roughly 160,000 to 130,000 by July — or approximately where they stood before Bush sent reinforcements to Iraq seeking to curtail spiraling sectarian violence. Last fall, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates suggested that troop levels could continue falling, reaching 100,000 by 2009. But U.S. commanders in Iraq have suggested they would like to see a pause to determine whether recent security gains have taken root, and in recent statements — such as his comments here — Bush has indicated that he looks favorably upon such an approach.

Because of the successes we’ve experienced in Iraq, the attention of the nation and the political class is wandering away from that traumatized land. But the stakes in that war could not be higher – and the consequences of a defeat to AQI would be staggering. Whatever the flaws of the GOP candidates, there is a huge chasm between their views on Iraq and the views of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. As my colleague Yuval Levin wrote earlier today about last night’s debate, “They are intent on snatching disaster from the jaws of a real chance at progress in Iraq, and they simply don’t care if we lose. Neither of them came anywhere near words like success, or victory. It’s not in the script.”

What a thoroughly irresponsible and, if they were to become president, what a terribly dangerous position for them to hold.



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