PAUL GIGOT: Other than hurricanes, we think the big story of
the week was Iraq, where every act of violence had tragic
results on the ground, and potential impact on our
presidential election. The map of Iraq this week was dotted
with places where the insurgents were on the attack, and
American officials conceded there are areas of the country
where neither American forces nor Iraqi security forces were
in control, or likely to be very soon.
IRAQ: On one day alone, at least 47 people were killed in
Baghdad when a bomb ripped through a crowd of Iraqi men
lined up to join the police force. In another attack on the
same day, gunmen killed 11 police officers and a civilian
when they opened fire on a van carrying the officers home
from work. And a bomb blew up an oil pipeline in the north,
causing widespread blackouts.
PAUL GIGOT: In
response to the growing violence, the Bush administration
formally announced that it was shifting about three billion
dollars from reconstruction to programs aimed at improving
security and providing jobs. Dan, on the face of it, not a
good week for American policy in Iraq. What explains this
spike in violence, and does this mean that we're losing the
battle with the insurgency?
DAN HENNINGER: Well, I
think one thing to keep in mind is, just looking at that
tape, every single person wounded there was an Iraqi
citizen, not an American soldier. What is essentially going
on here, it's not really a widespread popular uprising
against the American presence, it's an organized resistance
led by a Jordanian terrorist named Al Zarkawi, who had
collected all of the Saddam remnants and pointed them at the
Iraqi people. And what they have proven they can do is
create car bombs, create assassins, and create beheadings.
That is in no way the same thing as suggesting that the
people of Iraq, all 25 million of them, are opposing the
What the people of Iraq, by and
large, have been attempting to do is recreate their society.
And absent these sorts of terrorist attacks, that is
precisely what they'd be doing.
PAUL GIGOT: Susan
how do you see it?
SUSAN LEE: Yeah, I slightly
disagree. I think that there's an escalation of violence and
increasing coordination among these groups. It's
time to say, mistakes were made. And to me one of the big
mistakes was Fallujah. And I don't think it was a strategic
mistake, that the United States misunderstood what would
happen if they permitted, if we permitted terrorists a safe
haven. I think it was a tactical mistake of optimism.
Remember the Fallujah brigade? One thousand former Iraqi
army people who were supposed to, when we pulled out, who
were supposed to control and patrol the city? They either
disappeared or they joined the insurgents.
GIGOT: You're talking about these no-go zones west of
SUSAN LEE: Right.
PAUL GIGOT: I
think even the administration is coming to the view that
that was a mistake. Lieutenant General, Marine General James
Conway, who had been running that operation and is now
leaving Iraq, was very critical this week of the Bush
administration for starting and stopping. He said when you
get an operation like that, you send the Marines in. You
don't stop them. And I think that that was a strategic
mistake. And they're beginning to fight back, are they not?
In Tallafar there was that operation this week that seems to
be a military success. There's some movement in Samara. But
Dan, isn't Susan right that this is the big strategic
problem in Iraq right now, that part of west of Baghdad --
the Baathists remnants?
DAN HENNINGER: Yeah, that's exactly it. I mean, these are
the people who were left over after the quick victory. And
then now they've organized themselves, and some think that
this may have been the plan all along. But let's bear in
mind that in those instances where they choose to stand and
have a pitched battle, like the Sadr militia did, in Najaf
they have lost. I mean, that was a big story. That fighting
ended on August 28th, three weeks ago. Do you know what's
been going on on the job since? The U.S. military there has
been rebuilding the schools that are scheduled to open in
Iraq on October 1st. There was just this Tuesday, that big
bomb that went out that knocked out the power grid in Iraq.
The whole place went black Tuesday morning. By Tuesday
evening 85 percent of the electricity was back up and
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ: They're trying, but of
course that's exactly what we don't hear. I know it's an
old, old story. But the media are simply not focusing on
things like this. If you took every war that we've been
involved in and created this intense media scrutiny on every
catastrophe, it would all seem like this. The best laid
plans. You talk about the lack of planning in Iraq. Name a
war in which planning has not gone awry. I can read you a
long list of glorious battles, which produce these
catastrophes. So I think that you have to say the reporting
is not even.
DAN HENNINGER: Well, I think
Dorothy's put her finger on something, which is that in this
day and age you have to ask yourself whether it's possible
any more to conduct a war like this when it is inevitable
that those sorts of images are going to be on television
screens all over the world every night. In other words, we
see that. We don't see the larger context of what's going on
in the entire country of Iraq.
PAUL GIGOT: Isn't
it also true that the terrorists can tell the American
calendar, that is, the American political calendar, as well
as we can. And they know that they have a window here
between now and November 2nd where they want to ratchet up
the violence as much as possible in order to have an impact
on the presidential race.
SUSAN LEE: Yes, and I
think even a little more cynical than that, which is,
probably the Bush administration doesn't want to see a lot
of American casualties in the run-up to the election. Now,
if you were a terrorist, right, you would say, all right,
they don't want a lot of casualties. All right, open field.
Now the terrorists have a window till November 2nd to do as
much damage as they possibly can without fear of a very
aggressive American counter-attack.
It's a little hard for me to see that we're going to simply
manipulate what's going on there purely for the purposes of
the election on November 2nd. Too much has been committed.
And I think the American people are either against this
thing or they're going to continue to support it. And at
this point, at least the people I talk to understand that
we've made a commitment to the people of Iraq, and that we
have to see it through and finish the job. And if it means
engaging in an assault that starts before the election, so
PAUL GIGOT: Susan,
let's turn it to politics. John Kerry gave a speech on
Thursday in Las Vegas to the National Guard Association
where he came down as clearly as I've heard him against the
Iraq war and against the way it's being prosecuted. Do you
think this is going to be the campaign between now and
SUSAN LEE: Well, I don't think he came
out against the war. I think he came out against Bush's
management of the war. And I think he was really strong, and
PAUL GIGOT: Wrong war, wrong place,
SUSAN LEE: Well, he said the war's
okay, but Bush is incompetent. Now what he's doing,
essentially I think the Kerry camp has ceded the leadership
questions to Bush. Bush dominates that. Bush is a strong
leader. Kerry won't be. But Kerry added to the mix is
competency. So he's in a sense saying, let's have an
incompetent strong leader, or a competent weak one.
PAUL GIGOT: Which candidate is going to have the advantage
on Iraq, do you think, Bush or Kerry?
HENNINGER: I think it'll be Bush, because he's got the
momentum of the support for the war behind him. And I think
it will carry through.
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ: I think
it will be Bush because he has the clear leadership
PAUL GIGOT: All right, we'll leave it --
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ: We know what side he's on. It's
on the side of prosecuting the war.