CALM BEFORE THE... It was a good day for the 57th Military Police Company. The call came as the company commander, Captain Rob McNellis, was leaving a routine check of an Iraqi Police station off of Haifa Street in western Baghdad: residents in this run-down and heavily Shiite area had spotted a car they hadn't noticed parked here anytime recently. As they perhaps wouldn't have done in the past, they called the local cops, who in turn contacted a unit of the 1st Cavalry Division, which is the "landowner" division here. The 1st Cav unit contacted "EOD" -- Explosive Ordnance DIvision -- and within an hour, it was clear: the car was rigged to detonate. U.S. and Iraqi troops cleared civilians out of the area and blew the car up themselves.
God is unfair to Lieutenant General David Petraeus. There isn't a single general in the Army better prepared to command American forces in Iraq. During his confirmation hearing yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he referred to the "shab el-Iraqi," which is Arabic for "the people of Iraq" -- probably the first time any prospective corps commander decided to refer to Iraqis the way they refer to themselves. In discussions of Iraq's sectarian conflict, Petraeus cautioned that Iraq is more than just Sunni, Shiite and Kurd, and then talked about the Yazidi and Shabak minorities.
EVERYTHING KEEPING US TOGETHER IS FALLING APART. One more thing about the SOTU. Bush relied on the familiar case that you and your family will die if we withdraw from Iraq: "[O]ut of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America." One of the bravest journalists there is, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, recently spent some time among the Sunni insurgents and found an encouraging pocket of Sunni discontent with al-Qaeda: