Commentary Magazine


Kramer Gets It Wrong

It’s a small story on an inside page. But its length and placement were out of all proportion to the amount of aggravation this New York Times article caused me: “Iraq Troops Mass for Assault in South” by Andrew E. Kramer. What annoyed me was the opening paragraph (or, in newspaper parlance, “lede”):

Aiming at a power base of a rival Shiite leader, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki sent troops into the southern city of Amara on Saturday.

That makes it sound as if there is something illicit about this offensive. In fact, it is merely a continuation of the operations that Iraqi security forces have mounted in recent months to clear Shiite militants out of Basra and Sadr City and Sunni militants out of Mosul. Critics initially cast the Basra assault in the very terms now employed by Andrew Kramer: as a political move by Maliki to weaken Moqtada al Sadr in advance of upcoming provincial elections. That interpretation was invalidated when it emerged that Maliki’s offensive was welcomed not only by other Iraqi political factions but also by the people of Basra who had been held hostage by Sadr’s thugs for too long. Far from being partisan political moves, these operation are now seen by most Iraqis as exactly the kind of law enforcement operations that the democratically elected government of Iraq should be undertaking against violent militias. Only it seems that Mr. Kramer has not gotten the news. He is still writing as if this were a case of President Bush sending Delta Force into Hyde Park to seize Barack Obama’s campaign staff.