David Ignatius on Iraq Car Bombs
Reporting from Baghdad's streets, causes for optimism
In case anyone had forgotten Iraq, Sunday's attacks killed 147 and demolished three important government offices, sending a stark reminder that America is still at war. The attacks inspired worry over the stability of Iraq, its relationship with Syria, and American responsibility to the country. But Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who was riding over Baghdad in a helicopter with Centcom Commander David Petraeus at the time of the attacks, took a closer look than any of the stateside armchair generals. He spoke with Iraqis on the street and interviewed Petraeus, who led the 2007-2008 surge as the top U.S. general in Iraq. Ignatius surveyed the Iraqi response and found reason for optimism:
But my Iraqi friends were surprisingly upbeat about the future, even after Sunday's terrible bombings. "In every sector, Iraq is coming back to its normal mode," said one. "There is no way it will slip back," insisted the other. I wondered at their confidence on such a day, but that is part of the Iraqi toughness. Rather than talking about the bombings, we talked politics. My friends sharply criticized the incumbent prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. But as we were debating, one turned to me with a smile: "Here we are talking about who will run the government after the elections. Could you do that in any other country in the Arab world?"[...]
Petraeus surveyed the cityscape at night. "People are back out in the parks," he said. "All the lights are on, cars are driving around." I asked later if he thought Sunday's violence would lead people to request that American troops return to the cities, and he shook his head: "Iraq is a sovereign country. Iraqis will respond to this."
Unlike more strongly-opinionated pundits, Ignatius let those closest to the bombings--regular Baghdad residents and American military officials--speak for themselves. He framed the bombings as an aberration in an otherwise secure Baghdad, and portrayed Iraqis as confidently self-governing. After so many years of struggle in Iraq, it was a reassuring assessment to hear coming from the mouths of people whose lives depend on Iraq's stability.