GETTING IRAQ WRONG . . . AGAIN.

This has got to be embarrassing for the Washington Post. Or it would be, if their editorial board had the capacity for shame. Three days ago, WaPo ran a big Sunday op-ed on Iraq by three of the biggest supporters -- Michael O'Hanlon, Fred Kagan, and Gen. Jack Keane -- of the "surge," a piece whose opening sentence touted the success of the troop buildup by citing the recent de-Baathification law as "an important step toward political reconciliation." Today, however, a front page WaPo story reports what many of us said from the beginning: the law is not an indication of political compromise, but rather a misleadingly-named Shia effort to further sideline an already outraged Sunni populace.

The article reports, "Approved by parliament this month under pressure from U.S. officials, the law was heralded by President Bush and Iraqi leaders as a way to soothe the deep anger of many ex-Baathists -- primarily Sunnis but also many Shiites such as Awadi -- toward the Shiite-led government." Except that, of course, it did nothing of the kind: "More than a dozen Iraqi lawmakers, U.S. officials and former Baathists here and in exile expressed concern in interviews that the law could set off a new purge of ex-Baathists, the opposite of U.S. hopes for the legislation." Oops! One prominent Sunni politician even described it as "bait," saying the law is set up so ex-Baathists have to go to a specific location to register, where, he says, they're likely to be killed.

Observers like Kagan, Keene, and O'Hanlon have demonstrated again and again that they don't understand Iraq. They may understand the military, but when it comes to the vital political issues involved, they either don't have a clue or they're dissembling on the prime journalistic real estate of the leading news outlet in our nation's capital. Either way, it's disgraceful.

--AJ Rossmiller