Now this is what I call spin:
How Moqtada al-Sadr Won in Basra
That’s the headline to a Time Magazine piece by Charles Crain — reporting, it must be said, from Baghdad, not Basra.
But what are others saying? Let’s see.
From far outside the safety of the Green Zone, Michael Totten reports:
I stepped inside the school yard. Hundreds of children saw me and the Marines, and the whole place erupted in screams of excitement. It was as if Britney Spears or the guy from Coldplay had shown up. The volume was just extraordinary and I took a few steps back in surprise.
Wildly screaming children jockeyed for position in front of my camera. After a few minutes of pandemonium, teachers coaxed most of the kids into classrooms and left a few behind to pick up the trash and sweep the sidewalk around the courtyard.
And we all know how the Arab world cheers the weak horse.
And what’s this from Michael Yon? Read:
Ammunition, grenades and other weapons were captured, but after that Special Forces/ISWAT mission, attacks in the vicinity decreased. Tal Afar, formerly “Al Qaeda City,” is mostly quiet these days. Normally we have far less than a hundred soldiers in the city, but we do need money for civil affairs projects. This money truly is critical. Otherwise, the situation improves, though without investment this could be reversed.
The few remaining serious troublemakers are being hacked off and mulched in these incessant operations, which gives the enemy no rest (in the old days, when they were murdering Iraqis and Americans by the thousands, AQI used Tal Afar for training and R&R).
The Mahdi army lost 571 killed, 881 wounded, 490 captured, and 30 surrendered, in a week of fighting. The army and police lost over 500 to desertions, which is a much lower percentage of these losses than in previous operations. One of the army brigades had only recently finished training. To everyone’s surprise, the brigade did not fall apart. The Mahdi army lost far more in terms of neighborhoods controlled, weapons, vehicles and popular support. While many of the Mahdi army factions have turned into gangsters, the ones that have caused the most ill-will are Islamic radicals. These lads wander around harassing and attacking people who say or do things the fanatics consider un-Islamic. This is what goes on in Iran, and Iraqis know it and Iraqis don’t want it.
Whose ass is in whose hand? As Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh said last week:
Basra may well turn out to be Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Kasserine Pass. That notorious battle, which took place in Tunisia in late February 1943, marked the first large-scale encounter between untested American troops and the battle-hardened Germans. The Americans, to put it mildly, did not do well. But they quickly fired incompetent commanders, adjusted in tactics, and never lost another major battle. In Basra the nascent Iraqi Army—also riddled with incompetence and self-doubt—actually came out looking better against Iraq’s well-established militias than the American Army had 65 years earlier against the entrenched Nazis, says retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey. “At Kasserine we got our asses kicked. These people didn’t,” McCaffrey says.
Now is not the time to turn tail.
UPDATE: A sort of bipartisan analysis here.