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Specter of a Backbone

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And as Peter Baker and Bradley Graham noted in The Washington Post: "Bush has declared turning points and milestones in the war before. He called it 'an important milestone' when a temporary governing council was formed in July 2003 and 'a turning point' when sovereignty was turned over to the interim government in June 2004. Elections in January 2005, he said, were both 'a turning point in the history of Iraq' and 'a milestone in the advance of freedom.'

"He called it a 'milestone' in October when Iraqi voters approved a constitution and 'a major milestone' two months later when they elected a parliament -- a moment he also termed 'a turning point in the history of Iraq, the history of the Middle East and the history of freedom.' The selection of a prime minister last month was 'an important milestone toward our victory in Iraq' and, a week later, 'a turning point for the Iraqi citizens.' "

Man or Myth?

In a case of interesting timing, Mary Anne Weaver , writing in the latest issue of Atlantic (subscription required), debunks the mythology of Zarqawi, who she insists "is not the terrorist mastermind that he is often claimed to be."

She also writes: "During my time in Jordan, I asked a number of officials what they considered to be the most curious aspect of the relationship between the U.S. and al-Zarqawi, other than the fact that the Bush administration had inflated him.

"One of them said, 'The six times you could have killed Zarqawi, and you didn't.'

"When [then-Secretary of State Colin] Powell addressed the United Nations, he discussed the Ansar al-Islam camp near Khurmal, in northern Kurdistan, which he claimed was producing ricin and where al-Zarqawi was then based. On at least three occasions, between mid-2002 and the invasion of Iraq the following March, the Pentagon presented plans to the White House to destroy the Khurmal camp, according to a report published by The Wall Street Journal in October 2004. The White House either declined or simply ignored the request."

Here are Zarqawi primers from washingtonpost.com and the Council on Foreign Relations .

Bush in Omaha

Michael Abramowitz writes in The Washington Post: "Continuing his campaign to build support for comprehensive immigration legislation, President Bush on Wednesday emphasized that illegal immigrants who want to stay here should learn English and demonstrate that they are committed to assimilating into American culture.

"After visiting a community center where immigrants learn English, Bush coupled a call for strict border enforcement with a plea that newcomers be treated compassionately."

Julie Mason writes in the Houston Chronicle: "Touting the need for new arrivals to this country to learn English and assimilate into the culture, President Bush on Wednesday called the current immigration debate a test of America's soul.

" 'The first thing people have got to remember is we are a nation of immigrants, that we've had this debate before in American history,' Bush told supporters at the South Omaha campus of the Metropolitan Community College. 'This isn't the first time the United States of America has had to take a look at our nature and our soul and our history.'"

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times: "On the second day of a campaign-style trip to sell his immigration bill to the public and to skeptical conservatives in Congress, Mr. Bush also directed his homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, to create a 'task force on new Americans' to expand local initiatives to help immigrants integrate into American society. . . .


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