The latest corner turned in the Iraq insurgency (hand salute to Chelicera):
British armored vehicles backed by helicopter gunships burst through the walls of an Iraqi jail Monday in the southern city of Basra to free two British commandos detained earlier in the day by Iraqi police, witnesses and Iraqi officials said. The incident climaxed a confrontation between the two nominal allies that had sparked hours of gun battles and rioting in Basra's streets.
The Brits tried to put their own version of Rovewellian spin on the story:
In London, authorities said the two commandos were released after negotiations. But the BBC quoted British defense officials as saying a wall was demolished when British forces went to "collect" the men.
This is embarrassing enough. But the underlying cause of the incident tells just how bad the problem in Iraq actually is.
Basra, a city of 1.5 million, is heavily under the control of Shiite political parties and fighters of the Badr militia of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Shiite religious party that has a leading role in Iraq's government.
Citizens and authorities allege that Badr fighters have infiltrated police forces and are carrying out abuses under the guise of police authority. Rivalry also runs strong between those militia fighters and the militia of Moqtada Sadr, a Shiite cleric.
And you think we have dishonest government in America?
Elsewhere in Iraq, anti-corruption investigators said they expected charges against the country's former defense minister, Hazim Shaalan, in the alleged embezzlement of more than $1 billion that was meant to help rebuild the country's security forces.
The defense minister is a crook and the cops are gangsters. The situation in Iraq isn't just unwinnable. It's already lost.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating: empires that ended badly failed to recognize that the military power that established them was insufficient to sustain them. By the time they realized they had extended themselves beyond their reach, they were already in decline. And the longer they denied their decline (usually by going back to the military power well until it was completely dry), the harder they crashed into the back pages of history.
The "empire" chapter in American history is closing. How the rest of the story turns out depends on how soon we accept that reality and begin to restructure our national power paradigm in a manner that will leave us a nominal "first among world nations." A vital step in that process will be downsizing and reshaping our military. We must not continue to spend as much as the rest of the world combined on an instrument of power that has demonstrated itself to be obsolete.