Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Iraq, the unraveling (XXIII): a literal collapse

"Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally ran on September 10, 2009"  In my book The Gamble I wrote about how the U.S. military approach to handling detainees was revamped in 2007. The new approach was built on the recognition that many people planted bombs for the insurgency to make money, so teaching ...

QASSEM ZEIN/AFP/Getty Images
QASSEM ZEIN/AFP/Getty Images
QASSEM ZEIN/AFP/Getty Images

"Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally ran on September 10, 2009" 

In my book The Gamble I wrote about how the U.S. military approach to handling detainees was revamped in 2007. The new approach was built on the recognition that many people planted bombs for the insurgency to make money, so teaching them skills would lessen that motivation. One of the skills taught was brickmaking. A friend wrote to me that the brick factory at Camp Bucca recently collapsed. (Photo above is of another brick-making operation in Iraq. Apparently, there are brick factories in Iraq fueled by oil that seeps out of the ground.)

Meanwhile, for our less precise or perhaps slower readers, "unraveling" isn't a prediction, just a running commentary about what is unfolding every day before our very eyes. One is about the future, the other about the present. Big difference.

"Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally ran on September 10, 2009" 

In my book The Gamble I wrote about how the U.S. military approach to handling detainees was revamped in 2007. The new approach was built on the recognition that many people planted bombs for the insurgency to make money, so teaching them skills would lessen that motivation. One of the skills taught was brickmaking. A friend wrote to me that the brick factory at Camp Bucca recently collapsed. (Photo above is of another brick-making operation in Iraq. Apparently, there are brick factories in Iraq fueled by oil that seeps out of the ground.)

Meanwhile, for our less precise or perhaps slower readers, "unraveling" isn’t a prediction, just a running commentary about what is unfolding every day before our very eyes. One is about the future, the other about the present. Big difference.

I ran into an old friend the other day who said Iraq really isn’t unraveling because, he argued, the Iraqi security forces are more or less behaving. But I think this is a matter of degree. It isn’t unraveling quickly, but rather in slow steps, as no political breakthrough occurs, as bombs are stockpiled in Fallujah, and as American influence wanes. As my friend and former colleague Anthony Shadid used to say, "The mud is getting wetter."

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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