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US Papers Thu: Sadr City's 'Neighborhood Guard'
Awakening-style program hits Sadr City streets; McCain dismisses troop returns
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 06/12/2008 01:49 AM ET
The big news isn't that big, but it is important. The Washington Post reports that a neighborhood guard program has been set up in Sadr City. Meanwhile, Democrats pounce on a callous remark by Sen. John McCain and the Wall Street Journal runs another outrageous op-ed that only lawyers will love.

Over there
Amit R. Paley of the Post reports the U.S. is implementing its "neighborhood watch" program in Sadr City, with the first U.S. armed guards hitting the streets on Wednesday. Like their awakening counterparts, these Sadr City guys get paid $300 a month and tote an AK-47. The Americans are official enthusiastic about the program. The Iraqi Army? Not so much. "Those who have contributed to the spilling of Iraqi blood, we will never accept them," said Lt. Col. Yehiye Rasul Abdullah, commander of the Iraqi army battalion in Jamila, after coming to check on the guards. Interestingly, the Americans aren't calling this program "Sons of Iraq," as they do with the Sunni insurgents they've bought off. The Shi'ites really are a "Neighborhood Guard," because the civil affairs officer in charger of the program wisely decided not to call it something so affiliated with Sunnis. The guards themselves, however, stick with "Sons of Iraq." "Why would I be embarrassed by this name?" said Qassim, a former mobile phone card merchant who's now running the program. "Sunnis or Shi'ites, we are all the sons of Iraq."

Sam Dagher of the Christian Science Monitor reports from Suleimaniyah on the muckraking Kurdish journalists up there who are pushing for reforms. They face intimidation, arrest and sometimes torture at the hands of the Kurdistan Regional Government for publishing articles considered insulting to officials and politicians. But bless these Kurdish journalists, they're not backing off. Last December some of the journalists organized a protest against a law that would have muzzled the media. President Massoud Barzani abandoned the law.

Presidential politics
Meanwhile, back on the campaign trail, Kate Zernike of The New York Times reports that advisors to Sen. Barack Obama seized on a comment from Sen. John McCain to accuse him of being insensitive to the sacrifices made by American troops. On the NBC "Today Show," McCain dismissed talk of a timetable for when troops could come home as "not too important." Democrats pounced. "It is unbelievably out of touch with the needs and concerns of Americans, particularly of the families of the troops that are over there," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., an Obama ally. "To them it is the most important thing in the world." This is sure to get under McCain's skin and stoke as famous temper, as did a previous jab by the Obama campaign that McCain didn't care about veterans. And when McCain gets mad, he gets ugly and unlikable. This is precisely the point of these attacks.

The Post's Jonathan Weisman has the story as well. But he goes far deeper into the issues, penning a wrap up of the Iraq debate that will dominate the fall campaign: how long will the U.S. stay? Will there be permanent bases? What's the role of the troops? Should any agreement be put to Congress. You get the idea. It's a good article if you've not been keeping up with the debate in the States.

USA Today's David Jackson has the story, too.

Washington doings
Traveling with President George W. Bush in Europe, the Post's Dan Eggen reports that the president is confident that the U.S. and Iraq will agree on a security agreement. Well, of course he's confident. You don't expect the Decider to express self-doubt, do you?

IN OTHER COVERAGE

Wall Street Journal
David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, Washington attorneys, served in the Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. And now they show up on the Journal's op-ed page to make a hyper-technical argument that all wars are wars of choice. Why, the Colonies didn't have to go to war in the 18th century. They could have accepted Britain's boot on their throats. Likewise, the Union didn't have to fight in the Civil War. It could have accepted the dissolution of the country and surrendered. Sigh. You can see where this is going. And likewise, the U.S. could have chosen not to invade Iraq, but then it would never have stopped all those Iraqi ICBMs piloted by terrorists from blowing up our entire blessed way of life. Oh, wait, that was never, ever going to happen? Wow, I guess the U.S. made the wrong choice then. They are obviously being a bit too literal regarding the term, "war of choice."

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