IRAQ: A WAR ON REWIND, IN A BLEAKER BAGHDAD
In Iraq, after four years and three months of war, the echoes have begun to echo themselves.
American troops are taking Baghdad's streets back from insurgents. The prime minister has a plan for national reconciliation. To the south, in the ''triangle of death,'' two U.S. soldiers are missing, captives in enemy hands.
Those were the headlines a year ago. Now they're being heard again in the newscasts of today, like some grim rewinding of a movie tragedy, of a story that never ends.
At the White House last June, back from a secretive trip to Baghdad, an upbeat President Bush told reporters assembled in the Rose Garden, ''I sense something different happening in Iraq.''
It's June again and those roses are once more in bloom. But in Baghdad the scene looks only bleaker.
To a visitor returning after a year, the something different is the spread of concrete blast barriers across ever more of the city, the accumulation of still more rubble, the sectarian ''cleansing'' of neighborhoods, the ruin of still more lives - of friends whose loved ones have fled, been kidnapped, been killed. And for those left behind, life is worse.
Old Baghdad's constants remain: The sun, boiling orange, still slips below the western desert each evening; the river Tigris snakes, shallow and sluggish, through the city's heart; the muezzins' call to prayer still blares from countless mosques.
The constants of war also remain: the thud of sunrise explosions, somewhere; the zigzagging of convoys down the dangerous roads; the roar of Black Hawk helicopters skimming the tops of Baghdad's minarets.