May 8, 2006



Nadir:  An extreme state of adversity; the lowest point of anything.


Surely, informed analysts could go on endlessly over how the Iraq campaign differs from the Vietnam experience.  Still, as the present engagement continues to deteriorate, there must be a threshold upon which the comparison commands greater relevance.

Maybe we’re near that point.

The LAT’s Borzou Daragahi — one of the elite news reporters on the Iraq beat — called this weekend’s helicopter assault and subsequent riot in Basra: “…a nadir in relations between Britain’s 8,500 soldiers in Iraq’s south and Basra’s Shiite Muslim population.”

Reportedly, the situation in the South between British forces and Shiite leaders has been alternating for weeks between worse and less worse.  Because the two sides found the means to communicate last week, things were less worse.  This weekend, however, after a British helicopter was shot down over an affluent Basra residential neighborhood, and Shiite youth — encouraged by residents — attacked arriving British troops and armor with molotov cocktails, things looked pretty desperate.

(Probably not coincidentally, the piece Daragahi contributed to the LAT front page just the day before was titled Iraq’s Shiites Now Chafe at American Presence.)

I don’t remember much about the South East Asian War — except its interminability.  I  do have some recollection about the end, though.  It was like the effort — having taken up almost endless time, resources and human capital — suddenly suffocated.

The Administration expects coherence to ultimately reveal itself.  But, what if the writing is already on the wall?  What if chaos — which dictated our erasure in Vietnam — has perfect consistency?

(image 1; Yuri Kozyrev.  July 2004. Sadr City. Photo essay: Iraqi Voices.

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Michael Shaw
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