I truly hope, as Phil does, that the good news continues, and wholeheartedly greet positive developments from the surge, but I also have to say that I stood not far from that mosque in Samarra a month before it was blown up and was told very similar thing about fantastic reductions in violence and a new leaf being turned over with the residents. (Although Samarra was the first place I was called infidel in a non-ironic way.) Samarra was going to be the model, and, believe me, I saw first hand some of the amazing humanitarian projects undertaken by U.S. soldiers at great risk to themselves in an attempt to cement those gains. My take-away from the whole tragic episode–and tragedy is the only fitting term when I think of the Iraqi children I met living under such chaotic and despicable circumstance–is that al Qaeda and the violent sepratist sects that have a vital interest in maintaining disorder are never more dangerous than when things are getting better. They watch the news, too, and strike accordingly. This time seems different. Caution, however, remains a useful refrain.
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