I know, I know -- the fashionable thing to do these days is to snipe about the SwiftVets. And, for the record, I'm still doing the "impossible": thinking the SwiftVets are lying scum (more on that from the New York Times and Kevin Drum*) while simultaneously believing that Kerry has done more than his fair share of "embellishing" for political gain. I realize that the traditional approach to these things is to choose a side and then figure out the facts. Call me eccentric (or Ishmael, as may please you).
All this aside, it does seem that the blogosphere is strangely silent about the continuing fighting in Najaf. Doubtless, this is partially because we've been here before: Marines medothodically tearing apart the Mahdi army; check. Mahdi army using religious shrine as cover; check. Doubts 'bout whether we will (or be permitted to) finish the job; check.
This time, though, is different. This time is probably the last time that U.S. forces will have the opportunity to confront Sadr and the Mahdi army directly. This is the last time that we'll have a chance to win this particular fight. It's critically important that we do in fact win -- completely, utterly, and without conditions. Sadr is a threat (whether he's a greater threat because of our own bungling I'll leave to others to debate) not only to the potential for Iraqi democracy, but to the stability of Iraq itself. So long as Sadr remains, he will be a rallying point for the central government's enemies.
He must be removed -- imprisoned or killed. His troops must be killed or stripped of the will to fight. There can only be one king.
UPDATE: Talk about missing the firefight for the boat.
Much of the commentary is SwiftVet-focused. Yes, it is endlessly fascinating to debate whether Kerry's "vivid" recollection of being in Cambodia on Xmas day is accurate.** I mean, the Vietnam War is only thirty years old. There's yet time to win it.
But, really, this illustrates my point. (Alternatively, it illustrates that I failed to effectively communicate my point.) Everyone is working themselves into a lather over the SwiftVets. In so doing, they're ignoring the fact that there's a crucial battle going on, right now, in Najaf. That battle could very well determine whether Iraq succeeds as a nation state. The very success of our mission is tetering on the brink. No one wants to discuss it. (And I don't mean success in the "build a shining democracy on the Mesopotamian Hill" kinda way; I mean success in the "prevent Iraq from sliding into anarchy and three decades of civil war" kinda way.)
*By the way, (1) Drum's not been among the "snipes" (lest I be misunderstood) and (2) I'm with Drum in thinking that the SwiftVet story is about to turn on Bush (Harley of Tacitus.org has also remarked on this). Bush should've expressly denounced the ad in the same way that Kerry expressly denounced the much-milder Moveon.org ad. Yeah, yeah, I know Bush is trying to make a point regarding 527 money in general -- albeit a point that appears frightening wrongheaded in its implications (as Eugene Volokh notes). Still, he's been stuck in lawyerly locutions on the subject for nearly a week; even I, a lawyer, am getting tired of hearing them.
**I can't resist violating my own advice (I'm a weakling): The river Kerry was supposedly on while "on" or "near" Cambodia on Xmas day is not, in fact, on or near the Vietnam-Cambodia border. Kerry's vivid memory is an embellishment -- at the very least. Yes, politicians do these kinds of things.