Here's the latest talking point from the Bush administration, explaining the surge in violence that has October on track to be the third deadliest month of the Iraq war: it's a campaign strategy. That's right, Sunnis and Shiites are killing each other -- and American soldiers -- in growing numbers because they are out to affect the '06 Elections.
According to Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the senior spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, it is "no coincidence" that the increase in killings is taking place in "the run up to the American midterm elections. The enemy knows that killing innocent people and Americans will garner headlines and create a sense of frustration."
President Bush had a similar take, telling George Stephanopoulos: "There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election... My gut tells me that they have all along been trying to inflict enough damage that we'd leave."
There you have it: Sunnis and Shiites are not killing each other over centuries-old religious conflicts; they're killing each other because they disagree about who should be Speaker of the House, Denny Hastert or Nancy Pelosi.
The question is, which party is the violence supposed to help? Do the Sunnis want the Democrats to win, hoping they'll be quicker to pull the troops out? Does al Qaeda want the GOP to maintain control of Congress, since "staying the course" has been such a boon for terrorist recruitment? And where do the Shiites stand? Are they pro-Republican, since the invasion has been their ticket to power? Or do they want the Democrats to win and withdraw the troops? And are they even clear about whether a Democratic or a Republican victory will make it easier for them to consummate their flirtation with the mullahs in Tehran?
Can't you just picture a gathering of Sunni leaders, huddled over their computers, checking out the latest poll numbers from Virginia and thinking, "George Allen is still hanging in there against Webb in Virginia, we've got to have a suicide bomber drive his car into a market crowded with Shiites"?
Or a cabal of black-clad Shiite militiamen kidnapping and assassinating a busload of Sunnis because Curt Weldon needs a bump in the polls after the FBI raided his home and office?
Who needs bumper stickers, lawn signs, or volunteer phone banks when you've got IEDs? Push polls are so 2004.
All politics may be local, but, according to the GOP spin, sectarian bloodletting is intercontinental.