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Iraq's Ominous Bombings

October 28, 2003

Baghdad's bloody Monday -- the result of bombings that left dozens dead and hundreds wounded -- mocks the Bush administration's claims of improvements in Iraq. Some areas of the country are mostly calm, but coordinated attacks in the capital test the courage of Iraqis and those trying to help them. The assaults also test U.S. willingness to spend more money and lives to rebuild the country.

The first line of defense against suicide bombers and well-armed guerrillas must be Iraqis. They suffer and die in these assaults -- Monday's series of attacks was the deadliest since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and most of the victims were Iraqis. They know the vipers in their midst. They must tell U.S. soldiers and U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces where terrorists and acolytes of Hussein plan to strike. They cannot offer only silent opposition to those seeking to sow chaos and pressure U.S. forces to leave before Iraq is secure.

A rocket attack Sunday on the Rashid Hotel in Baghdad demonstrated the ability of opponents of the U.S. occupation to strike the most secure compound in Iraq. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz was staying in the hotel, a favorite of U.S. officials, though soldiers said he apparently was not the target and was uninjured.

Also ominous was Monday's suicide bombing of the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross, a group that provided food and medicine for Iraqis during more than a decade of United Nations-imposed sanctions after Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. As with the August bombing of the U.N. headquarters that killed more than 20 people, guerrillas showed a willingness to kill men and women unconnected to the occupation and trying to help Iraq recover from war. Monday's bombings occurred at the start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. That should provoke outraged denunciations, from clerics across the country, of any terrorists claiming to act in the name of Islam.

Bush pledged Monday that the U.S. would "stay the course" in Iraq. But his claim that the more progress the U.S. makes, the more desperate the killers become, is far-fetched. U.S. progress in turning lights back on, purifying water and opening schools will win support from most Iraqis and turn them against guerrillas who jeopardize the gains.

The U.S. won pledges of financial support from many countries at a Madrid conference last week. But wealthy U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which would be most affected by a chaotic Iraq, need to do much more. They should write off their debts from Iraq and offer money and security forces to a fellow Arab nation.

The guerrillas and the U.S. agree on one thing: Iraqis must rule Iraq, and as soon as possible. But the rulers should not be Islamic radicals or Hussein thugs. They must be elected men and women leading a peaceful, stable country in a troubled region.

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