Last week, the news from Iraq was grim. Five U.S. soldiers were killed near Mosul, two female suicide bombers killed scores of civilians in Baghdad, and leaders of the Concerned Local Civilians--Iraqis who are paid $300 a month by American forces to police their own neighborhoods--were targeted by Al Qaeda and indigenous insurgent groups.
But there was a lot more going on in Iraq that never registered on the U.S. press's radar; stories of the efforts of small American units, spread out among the populace as part of General Petraeus' counterinsurgency plan, trying to build some sort of political infrastructure from the ground up. And it's precisely these stories of a nationwide rebuilding effort that constitute much of the American war effort these days. This isn't to say that the Baghdad press corps is ignoring these stories, only that amid the continuing violence, political instability, and the problems inherent in the CLC program, there is a more complex political, social, sectarian, and military story to tell--one that rarely filters back to the states. It's a war that many Americans might not fully recognize.