The breathing is getting easier

There was, honest to god, some rain this morning — not much, a mere smattering, but enough to help feel like the air might clear just a bit. But it had actually cleared quite a bit last night, happily, and so this morning I could finally see out to Saddleback — while the smoke was still rising in a great plume, it was at least nice to see it from a distance than to be lost in the obscurity of it.

The weather looks likely to hold and the predictions are getting more optimistic, I’d say with good reason — cooler weather and more humidity is always going to be a help when it comes to extremely dry brush. So we’ll see how the next few days go, though I’m still wondering what it will be like when I can see the hills properly again, and what my thoughts will be when it’s all clear, too clear. But friend Stripey indicated in her own visit to the area that it seems some scattered patches of greenery did survive — there’s always hope, even in small amounts.


“I hate this road”

Amid all the endless folderol involving Scott Beauchamp — which, like so much else about Iraq, has turned into a convenient ax-to-grind for whoever is doing the grinding — are stories like this one, on the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, in today’s Washington Post, which feature quotes from more than a few people, all of whom are on the record, and all of whom are hardly pleased with the situation there:

Asked if the American endeavor here was worth their sacrifice — 20 soldiers from the battalion have been killed in Baghdad — Alarcon said no: “I don’t think this place is worth another soldier’s life.”

“It’s just a slow, somewhat government-supported sectarian cleansing,” said Maj. Eric Timmerman, the battalion’s operations officer.

…in one instance about two months ago, the American soldiers heard that the Wolf Brigade planned to help resettle more than 100 Shiite families in abandoned houses in the neighborhood. When platoon leader Lt. Brian Bifulco arrived on the scene, he noticed that “abandoned houses to them meant houses that had Sunnis in them.”

“What we later found out is they weren’t really moving anyone in, it was a cover for the INP to go in and evict what Sunni families were left there,” recalled Bifulco, 23, a West Point graduate from Huntsville, Ala. “We showed up, and there were a bunch of Sunni families just wandering around the streets with their bags, taking up refuge in a couple Sunni mosques in the area.”

Lt. Col. George A. Glaze, the battalion commander, says his soldiers are playing the role of a bouncer caught between brawling customers. Alone, they can restrain the fighters, keep them off balance, but they cannot stop the melee until the house lights come on — that is, until the Iraqi government steps in.

“They’re either going to turn the lights on or we’re all going to realize they’ve moved the switch,” he said.

“I’m frustrated. After 14 months, I’ve got a lot of thoughts in my head. Do they fundamentally get giving up individual rights and power for the greater good?” Glaze said. “I’m going to leave here being skeptical of everything.”

“This is a dangerous place,” said Capt. Lee Showman, 28, a senior officer in the battalion. “People are killed here every day, and you don’t hear about it. People are kidnapped here every day, and you don’t hear about it.”

The American people don’t fully realize what’s going on, said Staff Sgt. Richard McClary, 27, a section leader from Buffalo.

“They just know back there what the higher-ups here tell them. But the higher-ups don’t go anywhere, and actually they only go to the safe places, places with a little bit of gunfire,” he said. “They don’t ever [expletive] see what we see on the ground.”

Clearly un-American traitors all, of course, especially when Frederick Kagan says it’s all going so well. (Keep an eye on both him on Iraq and Larry Kudlow elsewhere on the economy — both of them are whistling past the graveyard so loudly they’re growing a bit deaf, and given how there’s little for me to do as a voter on the political front next year, all I can do is wait for the crackups and breakdowns.)