Live weekend reports from our Man in Baghdad — scroll down for Saturday and Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon entries.p> Thursday br> BAGHDAD — Today is Thursday. The Referendum on the Constitution is two days away. There is a growing conviction that the Constitution will win. There have been some rather remarkable last minute agreements with the Sunnis that make the document somewhat more palatable to them. If it is acceptable to even half the Sunnis, then this thing is a “slam dunk,” as George Tenet said about something else on an earlier occasion. Only this time it will be a “slam dunk.” /p>
Today has been very quiet. Unusually quiet. One has to wonder if this is the lull before the storm — a 2005 version of the Tet Offensive. Rumors abound of organized groups of “thousands of terrorists” getting ready to pour into the city. “Pouring in ” would require the kind of military strength and tactical skill that the terrorists don’t have. The U.S. Army would love to see them try. If they do, we will know what the guy who originally coined the word “bloodbath” really had in mind.
The media also seem off their game. I think the boredom is getting to them. About half an hour ago, the AP wire had a semi-hysterical story about a single “Human Rights Activist” who was wandering the Western Desert in Anbar Province and couldn’t find any polling places. Anbar is the one province everyone concedes the Sunnis will win. The AP report seemed to want to suggest that if the Sunnis in Anbar can’t vote then this election that Bush wants so badly must really be rigged. Anbar, is of course, one of the most sparsely populated places on the planet; one that would obviously not be awash in polling places regardless of what is going on. About 25 minutes after that hot bit of news hit the wire it simply disappeared. One is left to conclude that the poor, disenfranchised voters of Anbar have once again been victimized by George Bush.
Had the media bothered to dig a bit, they would have learned that polling places in the really dangerous areas, such as Haditha in Anbar, have been kept secret to prevent their destruction by terrorists before election day. Therefore, it’s a good idea to hide them from view even from the AP’s reporter. On election day, Humvees equipped with loud speakers will drive through the city with a non-stop broadcast telling the citizenry where to go to vote.
SINCE THINGS ARE VERY quiet, and since the AP reporter had made a point of not being with the “Human Rights Activist” out in far-away Anbar, I concluded that I might as well make believe I am a good reporter myself. I could do so, I decided, by getting out of Baghdad to get a sense of how things look as the election nears. Appropriately armed to the teeth with my M-5 and pistol, I got a ride from someone going out to Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). This used to be known as the most dangerous 10 miles of highway in the world. Recently, however, it has become safer. The Iraqi Army has flooded that road (officially known as Route Irish) with so many soldiers that the only real danger comes from the roadside bombs that mysteriously get planted there in the dark of night regardless of how many Iraqi soldiers are in the vicinity.
For that reason, the ride to BIAP can still be a white-knuckle affair. I’ll grant that there are lots of Iraqi troops out there, but the roadside bombs that have done so much damage are detonated from a distance by remote control. Therefore one is dead before even having a fair chance to see or hear what killed you. And all the Iraqi troops in the world can’t do much more than help pick up all your pieces. Kind of a modern-day humpty-dumpty operation.
About three quarters of the way to BIAP is the one major checkpoint of the trip: BIAP Checkpoint One, as it is imaginatively called. One of the delicious ironies of the war is that the only thing the guards search for is car bombs and bomb vests, the garment of choice of the suicide bomber. Mirrors on the ends of poles check the undersides of the SUV for car bombs; vigorous frisking and sniffing by dogs will catch the people-borne bombs. As each of us is cleared to go on our way, we are guaranteed to be free of bombs — regardless of how armed to the teeth we may be with machine guns and pistols. So, if one day two or three loads of us in SUVs get the wacky idea to march into the airport terminal and wipe out every waiting passenger, we will have arrived with the right stuff to do the job. Can you imagine the local Department of Homeland Security trying to explain that kind of a security inspection policy to the editors at the New York Times?p> Saturday
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