Today's Blogs

Let’s Talk About Sects

Bloggers are torn between describing the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq as “grim” or just “morbidly, unbearably bleak.” They also mourn the passing of Molly Ivins and happily anticipate the final Harry Potter book.

Let’s talk about sects: By far the most contentious claim in the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, of which the key-judgments summary was released to the public Friday, is that Iran and Syria are not nearly the enablers of violence they’ve been made out to be. The real menace is sectarian strife, which has Shiites controlling an “illegitimate and incompetent” government and Sunnis unwilling to accept their minority status.

Lefty Steven Benan at The Carpetbagger Report writes: “Minimal emphasis on Iran? Why, I had been led to believe they were largely responsible for attacks on U.S. troops. No wonder the intelligence on Iran has been delayed. … Indeed, the new Iraq-specific NIE seeks to undercut quite a few White House talking points. To hear Cheney tell it, we need to ‘confront’ Iran in order to ‘succeed’ in Iraq. Apparently, that’s not quite right. For that matter, to hear Bush tell it, al Qaeda is the principal problem fueling the violence in Iraq. Apparently, that’s not quite right, either.”

Canadian Liberal Catnip concludes: “The NIE quite rightly describes the political divisions between the Shi’a, Sunnis and Kurds and offers some ‘if only’ statements about what might occur if they could somehow work out their differences however it doesn’t offer any real, immediate or effective options for settling those differences. The presence of coalition forces in Iraq seems to be a sidebar as it seems they’re only there acting as a small bandaid on a gushing head wound.”

NIEs bring something for everyone. Noting that the report guarantees the end of the Iraqi security forces in the event of precipitous U.S. military withdrawal, conservative “cehwiedel” at Kicking Over My Traces says: “Every Senator currently considering a Yes vote on the Warner resolution should be backed into a corner and made to respond to this, starting with Senator Warner himself.”

And at TPM Muckraker, liberal Spencer Ackerman has analyzed the key judgments of the report and concludes the surge is untenable: “Interestingly, the listed prospects for reversing Iraq’s deterioration contradict the NIE’s assessment of where things actually stand. For instance, ‘broader Sunni acceptance of the current political structure and federalism’ and ‘significant concessions by Shia and Kurds’ could lead to stability—but the NIE’s earlier section viewed both these events as unlikely. To put this in the realm of the current debate, President Bush’s ‘surge’ is designed to give political breathing room to events that the intelligence community formally judges as unrealistic.”

Read more about the NIE.

Molly Ivins, R.I.P.: Tough-minded liberal columnist Molly Ivins died Wednesday after a long bout with breast cancer. She was 62. Bloggers eulogize her as one of the sharpest (and funniest) critics of her fellow Texan George W. Bush.

At the Guardian’s Comment Is Free blogJohn Nichols remembers Ivins as a “small ‘r’ republican” with Anglophile leanings who nevertheless grew disappointed with Tony Blair’s ditto on Bush policy-making. “[S]he let it be known that she expected an Oxford-educated prime minister, especially one from the Labour Party, to give foreign policy cues to the untraveled and incurious president she anointed Shrub. She would be disappointed.”

“Egalia” at feminist blog Tennessee Guerilla Women writes: “Molly never lost sight of two eternal truths: rulers lie, and the times when people are most afraid to challenge authority are also the times when it’s most important to do just that. And the fact that she remembered these truths explains something I haven’t seen pointed out in any of the tributes: her extraordinary prescience on the central political issue of our time.”

New York gossip sheet Gawker shelves the snark for sentimentality: “There’ll be a lot of talk in the next few days about her legacy as a liberal and her legacy as a woman, all of it deserved; we want to focus on her legacy as a writer. Sure, she got a little strident toward the end, but when she was in her prime … there was no one better.”

Read more about Ivins’ death.

Boy, you’ll be a wizard soonHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be released July 21 as the culmination of the beloved series. Does Harry make it? Does Hermione start seeing Voldemort because at least he’s dangerous and willing to take chances in life? Etc.

The Aussie behind Crapping on about whatever I feel like plays muggle actuary: “Rowling has said she’s going to kill off at least a couple of characters, and there has been speculation that she might kill off Harry at the end. I reckon Professor Snape’s a good bet to be one who dies—he’s been on the crux of good vs evil most of the series, and my feeling is he’ll face a choice during a final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort, and will turn on the latter and die which will enable Harry to win. Not sure who else might go.”

Lance Mannion is quite worked up about the title: “[A] deathly hallow? Even an intimate knowledge of the series so far won’t clue you in. Not only is the title opaque, it sounds lame.  It doesn’t trip off the tongue. It sounds as if it was thought up by somebody other than Rowling herself.   It sounds like somebody who didn’t really know what they were doing trying to sound like Rowling.  In fact, it sounds as if it was invented by a fourth or fifth grade fan who came up with for his or her own boys’ adventure story about wizards and witches.”

Read more about Harry VII.