There is not a great deal new to report today. Having just attended the press briefing, I can tell you that the cease fire continues in Fallujah, with intermittent shooting by the insurgents. The Coalition continues to take positions outside the cities of Karbala and Al Najaf to permit the pilgrims to celebrate Arba’een, despite the presence of Al Sadr forces in those cities. From my own first hand accounts, I can tell you that there were a series of explosions in Baghdad this morning, but the streets appear calm now. In fact, the main street by the hotels is open today for the first time in several days, which made travel this afternoon considerably easier.
As for Schramm’s post about what’s going on in Iraq, I have a few thoughts. First, the thing that has struck me most is that the press seems completely unaware that they are being used by the insurgents. When reporters were released by the kidnappers, they expressed that they did not understand why they were released. Pleeeeease. When attack after attack is waged by insurgents even though there is no hope of military success, the press still fail to ask "why?" While the insurgents could be trying to drum up violent support among Iraqis, this does not appear to be happening to any significant degree. Rather, the attacks seem to be aimed at one group--the media--which increasingly reports without reflection.
My second point is that if you feel deprived of information in the states, you should have been in Baghdad for the past few days. Much of the action with Al Sadr and Sistani is in Al Najaf. But with the pilgrims and the potential for violence, that city is virtually untouchable right now. As for Fallujah, I have personally been trying to be embedded with the Marines there for over two weeks, and have not been able to get there because of a combination of a backlog of requests and security concerns. As one reporter who has also been delayed in his request to embed in Fallujah complained to me today, it is at times easier to get access to the insurgents than to the military. Even Baghdad has been very difficult to get around in the last few days, with numerous streets closed, and increased safety concerns in traveling during the day--let alone after dark. To add insult to injury, when the streets are closed, the businesses--including the internet cafes--close, thereby reducing the number of hours during which I can communicate. So please be patient with those of us who are trying to give you some perspective on what is going on over here.