Monday, April 7, 2003

Franks visits Iraq and hears good news and bad:

In Najaf, where General Franks called the welcome given by civilians "very powerful," he heard from a special forces soldier of the difficulty of coaxing the local imam, Ali al-Sistani the leader of Shiite Muslims, into discussions about rebuilding Iraqi society after the fall of the Hussein government. "Sistani doesn't want to show his face yet," the Special Forces soldier said. "He'll only talk through his son."A member of the team from the 101st Airborne said that soldiers had captured a one-star Iraqi general the day before who had 21 binders of information about Iraqi forces. He also provided the Americans with names of potential suicide bombers in the area, and said that weapons and ammunition had been found in 110 schools in the Najaf area.General Franks noted that other government agency operatives and Special Forces troops had been active in the area "for a while now" and had provided a good intelligence base for securing Najaf. But nearby towns, particularly Hilla and Karbala, remained dicey."Hilla is a black hole," said the 101st Airborne's commander, Maj. Gen. David Petraeus said. "It's a Sunni town. We had a hell of a fight on the road into there the other day."

May I add that here is excellent evidence of the total inadequacy of television news coverage - even with four full time cable news networks, they each and every one fall prey to the Story of the Moment Syndrome - which all day Monday was chemical weapons and all evening was (understandably) the possible vaporization of Saddam. Is anything else going on? we wonder. God only knows you wouldn't know it from watching television..