Has anyone noticed that Iraq, supposedly transformed into an oasis of peace and tranquility by George W. Bush's troop surge, is growing less peaceful and tranquil by the day?
The nation's attention has been riveted by the presidential campaign, with its compelling characters and its edge-of-your-seat story line. Iraq is treated almost as a theoretical issue: What would happen there if Barack Obama became president, as opposed to what would happen if Hillary Clinton became president, as opposed to what would happen if John McCain became president? There has been little debate about what's happening in Iraq right now.
That seems likely to change.
The past several weeks have seen a recrudescence of the kind of horrifying, spectacular violence that the Decider's surge was supposed to have ended.
Last Thursday, two massive bombs hit a shopping district in the Shiite-dominated Karrada neighborhood of Baghdad, killing 68 people and injuring more than 120. That atrocity followed twin car-bomb explosions earlier in the week that killed 24 people and wounded 56 elsewhere in the city.
Yesterday came what was described as the worst attack on U.S. forces in months. According to Iraqi police, a suicide bomber approached an American patrol in Baghdad and detonated his explosives, killing five soldiers and injuring three others. U.S. military officials confirmed the deaths but did not immediately give details of the incident.
Also yesterday, a female suicide bomber in Diyala province blew herself up at the home of a Sunni clan leader who had been cooperating with U.S. forces against al-Qaeda. Sheik Thaeir Ghadhban al-Karkhi was killed, along with his 5-year-old niece, an adult cousin and a security guard.
Two days earlier, in an orchard near the banks of the Diyala River, Iraqi police announced that they had found a mass grave with the decomposed remains of 50 to 100 people, some of them children. It was unclear who the victims were or who had killed them.
When the Bush administration celebrates a 60 percent reduction in overall violence in Iraq, it's easy to forget that this is compared with June 2007, when the sectarian civil war was raging and bombings with scores of victims were a regular occurrence. The surge managed only to reduce the level of violence from apocalyptic to agonizing -- and now even those gains seem to be slipping.