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Even as U.S. forces were plucking memos out of the rubble of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's safe house, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was spinning its own memo on the situation in Iraq. Interestingly, the authors of both sets of memos paint a morose pictures of the conflict for their own sides.
The Zarqawi documents lament effective U.S. and Iraqi government raids which have put a pinch on both weapons and manpower in recent months. The documents also reveal a strategy of trying to foment war between the Shia in Iraq and U.S. forces, as well as a clash between Iran and the U.S. In short, there's not a lot of confidence in the long-term prospects for Zarqawi's outfit.
The embassy memo is similarly negative, pointing out the continued power outages in Baghdad as well as a fall in the "quality of life" for local residents. Certain neighborhoods are also portrayed as too dangerous for Iraqi civilian employees to live in without worry.
Taking both views at face value, the Iraqi insurgency and terrorists are gradually losing ground to increasingly effective U.S. and Iraqi government counter-insurgency efforts. But Iraq remains a long, long way from anything like a stable society, guaranteeing that the 2008 presidential race will be a contest to see who gets to deal with Iraq heading after President Bush has moved on.
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2. Amnesty in Iraq
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has evidently concluded that the quickest way to achieving a normal Iraq is to pursue amnesty for those accused of acting against the government. Just how "bloody-handed" someone would have to be to be denied amnesty is still under debate.
The prime minister has already floated one trial balloon for the policy, which prompted doubts from Kurdish elements and Shia representatives. It is clear the policy is intended to bring in and pacify Baathist and primarily Sunni elements of the old Saddam regime who have remained outside the political process and continue to fuel the insurgency.
Here, too, the development of the Iraqi government's own military is key. All parties have to believe that the government's forces are both strong and impartial enough to guarantee the peace, and not be used to crush civil dissent.
3. Free Libby!
Speaking of amnesty, even thought he has yet to be convicted of anything, the prospect of presidential pardon for Scooter Libby is already up for discussion. The vice president's chief of staff would be, in effect, rewarded for keeping his mouth shut as special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation continues.
The problem is the political timing of such a move. Certainly, a pardon in the next few months would hand a big issue to the Democrats heading into the mid-term elections in November.
Yet the longer Fitzgerald's investigation goes on, the greater the likelihood that at least Dick Cheney gets very embarrassed by the process. The best bet is that President Bush, like Bill Clinton before him, will wait until the end of his term before issuing any pardons.
4. Quick Hits
Quote of the Week
"If it is dropped on Japan, it will complicate the story. It will be regarded as an attack."—Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso on North Korea's plans to test launch a long-range missile which may be capable of reaching the United States.
Say hello to "Project M," a $37 million project involving magnetic levitation which is supposed to keep submarine machinery quieter. The Navy says it does not work and the brass doesn't want it. But Congress does.
All in the Family
Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) pumps over $4.5 million towards the National First Ladies' Library. Mary, Ralph's wife, happens to run the National First Ladies' Library.
In the Field
USA Today complains about "chairborne Rangers"—mil-blogs complaining about reporting from Iraq. Some spend more time in the field than USA Today's reporters, but there is still nothing much to complain about on the reporting from Iraq.
5. New at Reason Online
Crude and Unusual
Why Ann Coulter isn't a national treasure. Cathy Young
The Jihad That Failed
"Leaderless resistance" barely dents the U.S.A. Jesse Walker
The President's Rotten Record on Trade
Why George W. Bush is the most protectionist president since Herbert Hoover. Bruce Bartlett
And much more!
6. News and Events
Reason in Amsterdam, 2006
The Grand Amsterdam Hotel August 23-26, 2006.
With Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of the hit show South Park, Time magazine's Andrew Sullivan, Reason magazine Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie, and Reason Senior Editor Jacob Sullum, among others.
Join Reason in Amsterdam for a three-day conference on the contemporary struggle for freedom in Europe.
After a kick-off dinner on Wednesday, August 23, attendees will enjoy two days of formal sessions on everything from tax harmonization and Dutch social policy to the threat of radical Islam (the preliminary schedule is here). On Saturday, August 26, attendees will have the option of participating in a wide range of group activities, including tours of the Anne Frank House, the van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Rembrandthuis, where Rembrandt van Rijn's 400th birthday will be commemorated this year by four major exhibitions of the celebrated artist's work.
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