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Unbreakable Promises

It’s just about a week since President Obama announced that he had met 
his pledge to begin the American pullout from Iraq. It wasn’t exactly, as many commentators have observed, that he had announced his “mission accomplished!" But he did say that he would begin the  withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, and it has begun. God bless the Iraqis.

Well, God did not bless Iraq yesterday or today, as you can read in Anthony Shadid’s New York Times wrenching dispatch which tells you that no less than 43 people were killed and 185 wounded by a car bomb in Basra and at least eight people murdered and no less than 50 in another such attack in the same city. The Times reports a “hellish scene” in Basra and also fears that this kind of violence will reappear in Baghdad and Fallujah.

Forgive me. But it’s my view that Obama has rushed and muddled the outcome of the surge by proclaiming to everyone that “we’re getting out of there” even if we’re not.

One irony of the progress in Iraq is that it has had a more-or-less orderly and honest election but simply can’t get a government together.

The opposite is true in Afghanistan where there is a functioning if endlessly corrupt government but no coherent society. And, frankly, I cannot see how anyone will make the historically chaotic cohere. Or the corrupt honest. This is not a matter of national character. And that is because there is no nation. But there is character, and it is the character of brutality.

The British Sunday papers (among them, the Independent and the Telegraph) are full of stories devoted to the shooting of ten medical personnel in northern Afghanistan. One doctor, Tom Little, a Brit, had worked in “the places in between,” as Rory Stewart describes the country in his eloquent and direct narrative, for 30 years as an eye specialist. Dr. Karen Woo, another physician, was in a team that included also dentists and ophthalmologists, was to get married in London next month and then to return to this miserable place.

The Taliban were proud to confirm that they had one-two-three murdered ten people dedicated to the service of mankind. Oh, yes, they were all Christians.

Then there was the big focus psychodrama in Pakistan. Murder by terrorists, of course. and then the chatter of the country’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, with British prime minister David Cameron. Cameron doesn’t quite believe that Zardari is really in the fight against terrorism. That’s been the essential content of the prints about Pakistan the last two weeks. Simon Tisdall even commented in The Guardian on my comments about Cameron and Obamaand their feelings about Pinky Bhutto’s widow. Quite ugly actually.

Anyway, it’s all settled. Cameron told Zardari the the ties between Britain and Pakistan are “unbreakable,” absolutely unbreakable. Zardari said the identical.

Which is what Obama said to Bibi.