Week in Review: Iraq Report, Canceled Flights
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
This week, General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker gave Congress a progress report in the war in Iraq. Multitudes of passengers were stranded as airlines canceled thousands of flights to catch up on overdue safety inspections, and massive protests greeted the arrival of the Olympic torch - around the world, whether it be London, Paris and San Francisco.
NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan.
DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott, and welcome home.
SIMON: Thank you very much. Nice to be with you.
General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, offered two days of testimony to House and Senate committees.
SIMON: What did they impart; what did we learn?
SCHORR: What did we learn? Well, the two days of messages have come down to just a few words and they were expressed by General Petraeus when he said there's been some progress in Iraq but very fragile and it could be reversed. That was his general message.
Specific message was: and therefore while the troops that we send over for the surge - 30,000 of them or so - while they will be back by the end of July, we do not know now what happens after that. There will be 140,000 troops and it is clear that this administration, the president, the general, will not say it looks like what you call an indefinite pause that will take us right into the election campaign.
SIMON: That campaign, arguably, was conducted in those hearings. There were at least people who ran up the flags they wanted to, because all three candidates for president, Senators Clinton, Obama and McCain, returned to Capitol Hill and had the chance to question General Petraeus.
SIMON: One of these three men or woman would be the next president of the United States. What impression did they leave with their questions?
SCHORR: Well, it was very simple. It was clear that Senator McCain was busy supporting the war as is going on now, and the other two were saying let's bring them home. They were giving the same messages they would have given at a campaign meeting by doing it in a form of questions to these two officials.
SIMON: Senator McCain could be hard on General Petraeus though. He had some skeptical questions, didn't he?
SCHORR: It was skeptical questions. After all the - but not very revealing answers.
SIMON: In Baghdad there were violent clashes in the Sadr City neighborhood, even more so than usual. And on Friday, an aide and brother-in-law of the Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, was assassinated in Najaf.
SIMON: What affect do both the confrontations and now this assassination have on what seem to be an eight-month-old ceasefire?
SCHORR: Well, after five years of fear that there will be a civil war in Iraq, it's always been considered to be a war between Sunni and Shiite. And now what we see is that another kind of war among the Shiites. They simply are not able to agree on a common policy.
Some of them, like Sadr, wanted to have a ceasefire, thought they could make gains that way. There are apparently others who are more hard-line, who have now killed his brother-in-law. And apparently we don't know where we go from there.
SIMON: I've been on airplanes constantly the past few weeks and I count myself lucky to be here with you. Multitudes of people were stranded across the country this week. American Airlines and several other airlines took their planes out of the sky and cancelled flights this week after the…
SIMON: …FAA mandated safety inspections. What impact is this going to have on travel during the summer? The widening economic impact that it might have on the airlines?
SCHORR: Well, it'll have an enormous impact. You know, Scott, it's another example but we saw when it comes to the mortgage crisis. And that is that this era of non-regulation has caused a great deal of distress. I mean, the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, is supposed to monitor these things. And there's evidence at various times they said, all right, do it; you don't have to do it right now; do it some other time. And the result of that has been that it's all piled up on them.
They don't want to be responsible for any kind of accident. It is another example of over deregulation.
SIMON: And you mentioned the mortgage crisis. The Senate approved a housing bill this week that would limit foreclosures. A counterpart bill is being developed in the House.
SIMON: How far does it go, given the size of the problem?
SCHORR: Well, it looks as though neither the Senate bill nor the House bill will pass the Oval Office. There's a question of how far do you go? Do you just appropriate a little money and say you can have it if and so on and so forth? There's no comprehensive approach to why we have this mortgage crunch, why we have this credit crunch.
And so you'll get different kinds of solutions from Congress - two from Congress - and maybe another one from the White House. But it's awful slow.
SIMON: And finally this week, every step that Olympic torch took this week - in London, in Paris, in San Francisco - it was dogged by protests; people protesting…
SIMON: …China's human rights policies, frequently, specifically in the instance of Tibet. Now, the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, says he will skip the opening ceremonies.
SIMON: President Sarkozy of France has indicated that he might well do the same thing, and then the secretary-general of the United Nations says that he won't be there. Are these protests having some effect outside of the Western democracies? Will China budge in any of these questions?
SCHORR: Well, we'll see. I imagine there's some dissidents in China who will risk arrest in order to express their feelings about what's going on with Tibet. It's not very easy to predict that Chinese will protest or do something like this, but I must say that this symbol of the torch, which is meant to be a symbol of truce and peace, has turned out now to be a quite different kind of symbol.
SIMON: Thanks very much. NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.
SCHORR: My pleasure.