Saturday, July 01, 2006

Making a mockery: terrorism in Iraq

Today there was a car bomb attack in Iraq characterized as the largest terrorist act there since May, when the new government took office. Over sixty people were killed in the blast, which occurred in a street market located in the troublesome and poverty-stricken Shiite area of Baghdad known as Sadr City.

This is just business as usual for the terrorist "insurgents" of Iraq. And no one should be the least bit surprised, for it's been said time and again that these attacks will continue for a very long time.

What struck me--other than the tragic human cost of the ongoing struggle to set up a relatively democratic government in Iraq--is the fact that attacks of this magnitude used to be much more common. That seems to represent progress, although I have no illusions that the situation couldn't reverse itself. The truth is that car bombs are relatively easy to set and difficult to intercept. The fledgling government and security forces in Iraq are up against a group that is not going to go gentle into that good night; and so we can expect more of this. I say "we" but, of course, it's the Iraqi people who suffer.

Terrorists themselves know that the odds are in their favor as far as successfully mounting an attack: those who defend against terrorism have to be lucky (and smart) all the time, and terrorists only have to get lucky once, or occasionally. That's one of the appeals of terrorism, and one of the reasons it's called asymmetrical warfare. And it doesn't take a giant brain to figure that out.

Those who would fight against terrorists have to--they must--keep this in mind. But when I read the linked Reuters article that began this post, I wondered about what the journalists at Reuters are keeping in mind when I saw the following sentence [my emphasis], "No one claimed responsibility for the attack but it had the stamp of al Qaeda and made a mockery of a three week-old security clampdown in Baghdad."

The increase in the sort of editorializing represented by the phrase "made a mockery," occurring in a straight news article, is one of the reasons many of us criticize the MSM, including Reuters. And it's not just that the statement seems out of place; it seems unintelligent and simplistic, at best. A security clampdown in the sort of atmosphere that is present-day Baghdad is, by definition, not going to be perfect, and anyone who expects it to be is naive and unrealistic.

Yes, it would be wonderful if no bombs were ever to kill innocents in Iraq again. But to call this particular attack a "mockery" of security efforts is precisely the sort of thing the terrorists are aiming at, and represents an almost hysterical overreaction that, unfortunately, makes a mockery of coalition and Iraqi efforts to reverse the situation--efforts that have been showing some slow, difficult progress lately.

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