Friday, March 17, 2006

Iraq II: Kurds and Why

The one consistent thread of good news out of Iraq has been the perception of steady, if sometimes halting improvement in the Kurdish north. But there was a violent reminder yesterday that progress is sometimes in the eyes of the beholder.

For nearly two decades, Kurds have gathered peacefully in Halabja to commemorate a poison gas attack launched by Saddam's government that killed more than 5,000 people. (See photo.)

But 18th anniversary ceremonies turned riotous when hundreds of stone-throwing protesters fought with government guards and stormed and destroyed a museum dedicated to the memory of the attack.

The cause of the outburst, which took government leaders by surprise, was anger at what many Kurds view as the corruption of the two dominant political parties and lack of government services.


The New York Times' David Brooks and Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Dish are but the latest comentators to acknowledge that their initial support for the war was myopic considering the storm clouds gathering over the entire affair from Day One, while others' vision was a tad clearer.

Writes Sullivan:
Brooks . . . recounts how many distant pundits saw immediately the problems in the invasion almost as soon as it started. Rumsfeld and Franks didn't, which is why, in Bush's house of mirrors, one was given the Medal of Freedom and the other is still in office, refusing to concede any errors. The worries the rest of us had were specifically the insufficient troops and emerging guerrilla resistance in the first days of armed conflict on the ground. Since I've been beating myself up lately for getting things wrong before the war, I went back to my own archives to see what I was thinking in March 2003. I was worried, but still gung-ho. The tone of my comments about the anti-war crowd is hubristic and occasionally cringe-inducing, to be honest (although it remains a matter of historical fact that some on the anti-Bush left clearly wanted the war to fail solely to attack the president). Still, I was clearly rattled by the emerging reality, even from my distant perch, even in the first few days.

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