Monday, April 21, 2008

Bring 'em On...and On, and On...

Back in July 2003, President Bush issued a now infamous taunt to the then-nascent Iraqi insurgency, urging militants intent on attacking Coalition forces to, "Bring 'em on." The Coalition had suffered three hundred or so fatalities at the time Bush made that ill-fated challenge. Since then, the number has grown to roughly 4,350. Careful what you wish for.

Even Bush, not one to contemplate past errors, has admitted that this bluster was a "big mistake." So when I saw the news over the weekend that Moqtada al-Sadr had issued a final ultimatum to the Iraqi government/US forces (halt the attacks on his movement, or he would fully lift the cease fire and declare all out war), I held out hope that the Bush administration might, at last, take this warning seriously and not make the same mistake again. For the Bush administration, however, it is one thing to begrudgingly admit culpability for previous lapses, and another to learn the implicit lesson therein:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mocked anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as a coward on Sunday, hours after the radical leader threatened to declare war unless U.S. and Iraqi forces end a military crackdown on his followers.

Rice, in the Iraqi capital to tout security gains and what she calls an emerging political consensus, said al-Sadr is content to issue threats and edicts from the safety of Iran, where he is studying...

"I know he's sitting in Iran," Rice said dismissively, when asked about al-Sadr's latest threat to lift a self-imposed cease-fire with government and U.S. forces. "I guess it's all-out war for anybody but him," Rice said. "I guess that's the message; his followers can go too their deaths and he's in Iran."

So Condi, soon to return to that precarious forward operating base at Foggy Bottom, is calling out Sadr for urging others into battle from afar - reminiscent of Bush's prior bravado from a safe distance. Regardless of the transparent hypocrisy in the charge, this is an extremely disturbing development. As I have been cautioning of late, the Bush administration seems intent on provoking a full-on confrontation with the Sadrist current. Again, careful what you wish for.

Tragically, the Bush administration is underestimating the capacity of the Sadrist movement today in much the same way it did the Sunni insurgency back in 2003. But then, it's easy to bluff big with other peoples' chips lives. She might even admit it was a "big mistake" in a few years. If we're lucky.

(hat tip Cernig)

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