COMMENTS: Sitting Ducks

NBC's lead was from the Pentagon as Jim Miklaszewski predicted that four National Guard brigades would be mobilized involuntarily for a yearlong deployment to Iraq in early 2008: "The war has stretched the regular army to the breaking point." NBC's in-house retired general Barry McCaffrey was not surprised by the looming call-up. It could have been announced last year but was "concealed" until after the midterm elections. McCaffrey expects five more brigades to be called up after the first four are deployed.

From Iraq itself, NBC's Mike Taibbi filed an update in his On The Line series, which has him embedded with a unit of the USArmy's Third Infantry Division. Taibbi told the story of a raid on a farmhouse south of Baghdad where three locals were arrested on suspicion of making roadside bombs. Taibbi showed us a vivid close-up of the "uncontrolable anguish" of the mother of one of the suspects, wailing and weeping and pleading, while her son was blindfolded, handcuffed and driven away. The arrest took long enough that guerrillas were able to plant mines along the farm's dirt track so that when the troops drove back they were ambushed. A 37-ton Bradley fighting vehicle was incapacitated and the unit was trapped in the open--"we are expletive sitting ducks," one soldier cursed--until help arrived. Taibbi found it unnerving: "We had to spend a long tense night in al-Qaeda country, easy targets for mortars and long-range snipers." He summed up the episode as "a near-disaster, netting a few marginal suspects, and little else…infused by sadness and deep frustrations."


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