Is There A "Plan B" For Iraq?

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What is the administration's Plan B if the new Iraq strategy doesn't work? The Washington Post reports that as far as what's been said publicly, there is no Plan B. Since the new plan was announced, "senior officials have rebuffed questions about other options in the event of failure."

While Defense Secretary Robert Gates mentioned during a Congressional hearing recently that he was thinking about alternatives, he didn't provide details.

Instead, writes the Post, any discussion of alternatives is taking place outside of the White House, by "national security experts" who "have stepped into the void" to offer their own options via speeches and proposals.

As far as the strategy goes inside the government, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen recalled a recent meeting with President Bush and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Bredesen said Pace summarized the administration's plan thusly: "Plan B was to make Plan A work."

Sunny Iraq

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the Interior Ministry has fired or reassigned more than 10,000 employees, including high-ranking police, because they were found to have "tortured prisoners, accepted bribes or had ties to militias," writes USA Today.

According to an internal report from the government to be released this week, there have been 41 documented incidents of human rights abuses at the ministry. A spokesman for the ministry said of the firings: "Maybe we aren't 100% cured. But we're getting better day by day."

In Basra, a raid by British and Iraqi troops on the offices of an Iraqi intelligency agency found 30 prisoners being held, "some showing signs of torture," writes the New York Times.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki "condemned the raid" and ordered an investigation into it. "It remained unclear why he sought to pursue the raiding force aggressively rather than the accusations of prisoner abuse," writes the Times.

U.S. and Iraq troops' security crackdown included a door to door search in Sadr City on Sunday, an area "whose fearsome reputation and political clout had rendered it largely off-limits to U.S. and Iraqi government troops for nearly three years," writes the Los Angeles Times. And Sunday's crackdown included "none of the bloodshed" that occurred in 2004, the last time American troops tried to police the area. Nonetheless, it's unclear when troops will establish a permanent outpost in Sadr City and how long Muktada Al Sadr "will keep a lid on his militia" in the area.

Problems Go Beyond Walter Reed

In the wake of much reporting on the shortcomings of the Department of Veterans Affairs in caring for wounded Iraq veterans (particularly the Washington Post's series on the "other" Walter Reed Army Medical Center) the Post follows up this morning with more bad news for the VA.

Following their first report on Walter Reed's failings, the Post received a "vast outpouring" from soldiers, family members, veterans, doctors and nurses detailing "stories of neglect and substandard care" at Walter Reed and other military bases around the country where outpatients are housed. Theirs are more stories of "callous responses to combat stress and a system ill equipped to handle another generation of psychologically scarred vets."

'Choosing Between Mom And Dad'

Two front pages make much of Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's trip to Selma, Ala., on Sunday. Obama "staked his claim to the African American experience," writes the Los Angeles Times, "despite a personal background far from the bloodshed that was typified in this Deep South city during the struggle for civil rights."

Clinton, who had her husband in tow, also "claimed to be a beneficiary of the civil rights era — because it eventually led to advances for women."

Staking those claims is important, since both candidates were in town to "struggle for the loyalty" of Alabama's African American voters, a bloc "that would be dangerous" for either candidate to ignore, according to one political scientist at Emory University.

And those potential voters were struggling themselves, since both Obama and Clinton (and her husband) are "highly regarded" in the region.

Said one Selma resident of the conflict: "It's kind of like choosing between Mom and Dad."

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