Monday, November 27, 2006
Semantics. NBC News is now calling it a civil war. CNN's Michael Ware, speaking from Baghdad, states bluntly that anyone who persists in calling it anything else is indulging in "the luxury of distance." CNN's John Roberts, upon his return from Baghdad, describes the situation in the capital as "an absolute mess . . . nothing but a state of chaos." (video at link; transcript here):
KURTZ: If you're sitting at home watching it on TV, you see mass kidnappings, suicide bombings, mosque bombings, death squads. When you're there as a journalist, does the situation seem as chaotic to you as it does to a viewer?
ROBERTS: You know, Howie, I had a perception of Iraq going in, and it was the first time I'd been there in three-and-a-half years. I got out a couple of days after the Saddam statue fell, after the initial invasion. So it was quite a shock to go back and see the chaotic state that the country was in. And as -- I guess you could say as realistic as my perceptions were about going in there, the reality on the ground far exceeded that.
The place is a mess. It's an absolute mess. There is nowhere you can go in the Baghdad area as a Western journalist without an escort, where you could feel safe from being kidnapped, shot at, whatever. The amount of death that's on the streets of Baghdad for U.S. forces and for the Iraqi people is at an astronomical level.
I was out riding with a Stryker unit a couple of days after the election. They got the 911 call, an IED attack against an American convoy. This convoy of Humvees had just been driving up the on-ramp on to a highway when one of those formed projectiles hit it.
It literally disintegrated the guy in the passenger seat, who was right there where the projectile came through, killed the driver. I watched him die on the roadside.
And when you look at that from such a personal level, it does affect your perceptions of what's going on on the ground. And I know that that's not everywhere, all the time, but it does suggest that death lurks at every step in Iraq, and any place where death lurks at every step can be in nothing but a state of chaos.
KURTZ: So in a nutshell, you're saying that the coverage -- that the situation in Iraq on the ground, as you saw close up, is worse -- is worse than it appears from the television and newspaper coverage. Why is that? Why are we not capturing the full anarchy there?
ROBERTS: Because television can't -- and even print -- can't fully capture the scope of what's going on in Iraq.
Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings has many germane observations, but its all just more words to go on the pile (a pile which includes this post as well). The truth is staring us in the face - this war is a pitilessly devolving clusterfucked nightmare that is tearing the guts out of Iraq.
If nothing else, you should watch the Michael Ware clip. The "are you fucking kidding me" look on his face when Kyra Phillips primly asks him whether or not Iraq is in a civil war speaks volumes.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Frivolous. Over at Obsidian Wings, Hilzoy tears apart this column by Richard Cohen, in which Cohen recounts his personal experience with supporting idiotic wars when it was safe and easy to do so, and then condemning them when it became more difficult. Of course, he casts this history as a personal journey of discovery through Vietnam and now Iraq, and his hand never stops moving as he...er...pats himself on the back for his own profound humanism. Hilzoy, skilled eviscerator that she is, makes short work of this nonsense, but she also hits on something behind Cohen's smug, supremely onanistic ruminations:
[H]is article contains one of those sentences that, all by itself, shows that the person who wrote it should never be taken seriously again, at least about policy -- a sentence that should take its place in the Pundit Hall of Shame alongside Jonah Goldberg's "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business" [paraphrasing the equally execrable Michael Ledeen], or Tom Friedman's "We should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave the Sunnis of Iraq to reap the wind". Here it is, in all its glory:Resign right now.
"In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic."
Richard Cohen: resign.
I won't belabor the point, but there really is something disgusting about an argument for war that resorts to such glibness. Cohen could, of course, simply say what he means - that an intervention in the Middle East could have had positive political consequences for both the U.S. and the nations of that region - and then set out the reasons he believes this to be true. He would be wrong, of course, but he at least would have stated a position. By adopting an arch clinician's posture and winking at his readers through the diphthong of "therapeutic," Cohen reduces a call for extreme violence to a sophisticate's cocktail chatter. And I don't care how "prudent" it is, war is extreme violence. Modern armies kill many people and destroy homes, businesses, and civil infrastructure with high-powered explosives. This is not, in itself, an argument against war, but an accurate description of it. This whole stupid disaster in Iraq was conceived and caused by people who think about these issues in the same inexcusably frivolous manner as Cohen clearly does.
Sigh. Well, Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Make a donation to the USO if you are of a mind to - no matter where you stand on the war, its just got to suck being in Iraq or Afghanistan for the holidays.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Did you know that Africa is larger than the United States, China, Western Europe, India and Argentina combined? Well, I didn't, and it is.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Ahhh. THAT's more like it. As I noted yesterday, I was somewhat surprised by Wednesday's mild RedState post in response to the GOP collapse in the Congress. But you cant keep a good vat-grown conservapod down, as evidenced by Mike Streiff today:
November 8, 2006. A decade or so from now when a rational post mortem on the Iraq War is written, rather than the noxious and counterfactual hit pieces churned out by the Washington Post’s allegedly unbiased reporters, this is the day that will be pegged as the day we lost the war. It’s amazing how easy it is to do this in hindsight. I think most historians would agree that June 22, 1941 was the day that Nazi Germany lost the war. Some might quibble and contend it was February 2, 1943. But you can’t get to Stalingrad without Operation BARBAROSSA. You can’t get to Midway or the atom bomb without passing through Pearl Harbor.
The sacking of Don Rumsfeld yesterday will become obvious in the days and weeks to come as the day on which President Bush decided that winning in Iraq was just too much work and the sacrifices made in blood and treasure in Iraq, when stacked up against the forlorn possibility of appeasing the new majorities in the House and Senate, simply do not matter. [ . . . ]
There is no doubt that dissatisfaction with the War in Iraq contributed to the electoral defeat on Tuesday, however that dissatisfaction is rooted an much in the feeling that we are not prosecuting the war vigorously enough as it is in the feeling that we should not be there at all.
Mmmm. That's good wingnut. I knew I could count on you guys.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. Took a schadenfreude-laden stroll through the right-wing blogs this morning, and was unsurprised to find all of the upright, manful usual suspects dealing with the setback uprightly and manfully. See (if you care): Hugh Hewitt (it's all McCain's fault, and the terrorists intentionally killed a bunch of soldiers last week in order to give the Dems a boost); RedState (actually not bad; it's the common "we lost it, they didn't win it" line, but they do call for Allen to accept the outcome without litigation), Powerline (it's not the Dems, it was us; we have lost the one true conservative path, plus this gem: "Yesterday's biggest winners: illegal immigrants."), Jonah Goldberg (stating inexplicably that Bush is only "technically" a lame duck...what the fuck are you talking about?), Little Green Footballs* ("our job of saving the world just got a little harder"), and so forth. Glenn Reynolds, of course, twitchy little weed that he is, is claiming to have known it all along, and gosh that Jim Webb sure is an impressive fellow, isn't he.
On a lighter note, however, Hugh Hewitt is fucking insane:
President Bush will not flag in the pursuit of the war, and Senator Santorum is now available for a seat on the SCOTUS should one become available.
Can't move...head exploding...denial field...too massive...creating black hole singularity...may...destroy...universe...
*no link, b/c lgf redirects incoming links from liberal blogs to p0rn sites. If you really want to read it, cut and paste this link into your browser: http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=23261_The_Morning_After&only.
On second thought, don't bother. It's just not worth it.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
So we're both right.
From Studio 60 last night:
Conservative: "I don't even understand what the culture wars are about anymore."
Liberal: "Your side hates my side because you think we think you're stupid. My side hates your side because we think you're stupid."
Sure hope they don't cancel that show. As for today's events, I am intentionally ignoring all media until tonight, when they will have, y'know, actual election results. I do, however, think that TBogg is in the ballpark with these predictions:
- No matter how many seats the Democrats take in the House it won't be enough to keep the Republican echo chamber from pointing out that it most certainly is not a mandate, while all the time whining about the loss of control of the commitees.
- Joe Lieberman is going to win and it will somehow translate as support for the war and civility and common sense...and nobody in the media will point out what a sleazy campaign he ran.
- There will be at least one upset that the polls didn't predict and that will be held up as evidence that all polls are always wrong...except when they side with your candidate.
[ . . . ]
- Win or lose, George Allen's national aspirations are finished. Fertig! Verfallen! Verlumpt! Verblunget! Verkackt!
- Lots of recounts.
More at the link.
Monday, November 06, 2006
This account of a summer internship spent working for a misinformation contractor in Baghdad is fascinating. The author was paid to place stories written by U.S. military intelligence in the Iraqi press. It presents a now-familiar cocktail of the arrogance, sleaziness, incompetence, and naked greed that has characterized so much of the Iraq adventure and its motley cast of military and private players. Not only were the stories falsely bylined with Iraqi names, but the contractor charged the Army a huge markup over the rates it was actually paying the Iraqi papers.
Because I had just two short months in Iraq, I emailed Bailey and Craig back in Washington after several days of inaction. What projects could I begin working on? I wanted to know. Who was in charge here? What could I do to contribute? A day later I received a rather brusque response from Paige Craig. They didn’t have time to deal with my little problems. I needed only to take my lead from Jim Sutton, the country manager, whom I had seen just once during my first week.
But my badgering did seem to pay off. I was soon contacted by a Lincoln Group employee named Jon, who formerly had run political campaigns in Chicago and now worked on the company’s I.O., or Information Operations. Over lunch at the recently bombed and rebuilt Green Zone Café—an air-conditioned tent with plastic chairs and a TV airing Lebanese music videos—Jon explained that he was returning home for several weeks of R & R and that Jim Sutton had chosen me to be his replacement. Jon quickly sketched out my new I.O. responsibilities. An Army team inside the Al Faw palace, another of Saddam’s former residences, would send me news articles they had cobbled together from wire stories and their own reports from the field. It was my job to select the ones that seemed most like Iraqis had written them. I was then to pass these articles along to our Iraqi employees, who would translate the pieces into Arabic and place them in local newspapers. Jon told me that the U.S. Army could hardly carry out this work in their military uniforms, so they hired Lincoln Group, which could operate with far fewer restrictions. It was a bread-and-butter contract, he said, that paid the company about $5 million annually. I asked if the newspapers knew that Lincoln Group or the U.S. military were behind these articles. They did and they didn’t, Jon said. The Iraqis working for us posed as freelance journalists, but they also paid editors at the papers to publish the stories—part of the cost Lincoln Group billed back to the military. “Look,” Jon assured me, “it’s very straightforward. You just have to keep the military happy.”
The author begins with high hopes that the internship working with the Iraqi press will jumpstart his nascent journalism career, and winds up barrelling through Baghdad's Red Zone in the back of a battered sedan, clutching a loaded submachine gun and sitting on 3 million dollars in cash. Read the rest, as they say.
Oh, yeah, plus the election. Go Jim Webb!