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November 27, 2006

Comments

Yep.


"a disaster that it will take us decades to undo"

Thought I should come up with a token argument why it wasn't _that_ bad (Vietnam + 10 yrs? two deeply successful terms of President Clark leading a unified country?), but I've got nothing.

Dammit, hilzoy, this bit:

But the fact that people are no longer willing to entrust their husbands, wives, children, or parents' lives to the tender mercies of the Bush administration does not show that we are not willing to do what it takes to win, any more than it would show that we didn't want to win if Bush told us that in order to win the war he needed to publicly behead several citizens a day as sacrifices to the war gods, and none of us volunteered. All it shows is that there are limits to our idiocy.

forced me to write something that I'm sure will look depressingly stupid in the morning, but seemed kind of inspired after a couple of whiskeys.

For god's sake, stop making me humiliate myself.

Hilzoy (and Rilkefan)
I agree that it is pretty much not saveable in terms of getting a good outcome, and I give myself the horrors trying to predict what might happpen next.

Either the Shiites maintain control of a unified Iraq loosely allied with Iran, or Iraq is partitioned along sectarian/ethnic/tribal lines.

If it's the former, I can't see the Sunni having a fun time of things. AQ will have its sights on the Shiite govt for the foreseeable future, and the Saudi, Kuwaiti, Yemeni and Egyptian (etc) regimes will come under domestic pressure to do something about the Iranian backed regime in Iraq.

If Iraq is partitioned the Sunni will again get the rough end of the stick, although this time they will be able to declare their own state. I doubt they are in the mood for moderation in their politics and so we will have a real AQ HQ in the middle east, with claims to statehood and a powerfull case to make to potential Sunni allies.

I can't really see what the US can actually do to prevent these outcomes, and if one of them occurs how does the US decide between the Iraqi govt they created and the Saudi led Sunni faction?

I'm kind of hoping someone here can tell me that there are many other possible ways that this could play out, 'cause I'm not seeing any.

The phrase at the top of the ObWi page 'I wouldn't go so far as to say we've actually SEIZED the radio station . . .' is sounding a bit like black humor right now.

Jebus L.J.
From your link;

"Shi’ite militias used the broadcast to announce plans to launch further attacks on Sunni neighborhoods as soon as the Iraqi government lifts its curfew on Monday. Many Sunni viewers were shocked to hear their neighborhoods targeted. "I got four phone calls from friends telling me to change the channel to Iraqiya and see what´s happening," said Mohamed Othman, 27, a Sunni resident of Ameriya, one of the districts mentioned in the program. "I think this is an official declaration of civil war against Sunnis. They´re going to push us to join al Qaeda to protect ourselves." Sunni politicians vowed to file complaints against the channel for inciting sectarian violence."

"file complaints"

It is a monday night here in NZ, Whisky-Is-Not-An-Option.

 

Pascal's bookie - I'd go for a few straight fifths, but I couldn't agree more - now's not the time to get all pie-eyed (though a stiff belt or two might do Condi some good, and she looks like she can hack it).

It might be the thinnest of gruels - but if whatever is left of the 'democratization' project (god, it's so bloody easy to forget about that part of the war, innit) counts at all, it would be best realized in how it means that people on the ground there will eventually work something out - on their own terms, no matter how bloody and long-assed it seems to take. If the Iraqi government means anything at this point, their focal point in terms of any expression of sovereignty would be to not let themsleves get manipulated by Iran or Syria.

Maliki's dilemma reminds me of something I read once about Calvin Coolidge (I believe) - it was something like this (I don't have my quote correct, I'll know, but I'm giving it a go): 'My enemies, my enemies - I know how to handle them. It's my god-damned friends - they're the ones keeping me pacing the floor at night."

I've commented on another blog a little while ago on this point - what we have to 'say' or not now only means anything to us. Our words are anymore but useless scraps of paper from a useless 'friend', and if Maliki is serious about presenting himself and his govt as more than a handpicked American puppet, I would think it'd be incumbent on him to stop listening to us and start crafting something that demonstrates some sort of Iraqi input, not ours dictated, filtered, and translated to them. That's the only thing I can think of.

The quote in my post might've been Warren Harding's - I'm already fuzzy on the source (does anybody know this quote)?

and that a majority of American voters did not care enough about winning to vote George W. Bush out of office once his incompetence had become clear

I wish I didn't keep hearing sensible Americans write things like this.

there are others I won't imagine until I read about them. (The present role of power tools in the sectarian violence was like that: for some reason, I never imagined torturing people with drills.)

Power tools and sectarian gangs go well together - the Black & Decker treatment was a popular punishment in Northern Ireland. That's why doctors from all over Europe go to Belfast to learn about the latest advances in joint surgery - just as they might go to, say, Anchorage or Hammerfest to learn about treatments for frostbite.

two deeply successful terms of President Clark leading a unified country

I think I'd rather have President Sanchez. We've got President Clark at the moment.

Hil

[M]y present leading candidate for the Most Completely Idiotic Comment About Iraq Award

More idiotic than this post?

Curt @ Flopping Aces:

[The MSM] are relying on secondhand and sometimes thirdhand information to state a fact. Namely that Iraq is going to hell in a handbasket. But if the reporters would leave their comfy hotel rooms and actually go out and survey the scenes themselves then I am sure we would get a completely different picture.

So, I'm wondering: is Jonathon Chait's suggestion that we put Saddam Hussein back into power insanely idiotic, or blinding genius?

I mean, there's no question that it's crazy, is there? Question is: toys-in-the-attic crazy, or crazy like a fox?

Slarti: it's been talked about for a couple of years at least; I remember something similar being bruited in mid-to-late 2004 when people began to acknowledge the realities on the ground in Iraq. I don't remember whether it was serious -- the bulk of the serious suggestions in that vein were for a "pro-American strongman"; Saddam himself was typically brought up more as a model than a candidate -- but I recall thinking then, as I do now, that it would deeply, deeply amusing. For about ten seconds.

But if the reporters would leave their comfy hotel rooms and actually go out and survey the scenes themselves then I am sure we would get a completely different picture.

yes, i'm sure they would. but since they won't, they'll just have to put up with the criticisms offered by wingnut bloggers holed-up in their comfy homes, on the other side of the world from the situation they seem to know so much about.

Slartibartfast: I mean, there's no question that it's crazy, is there? Question is: toys-in-the-attic crazy, or crazy like a fox?

Reading it, I take it to be a rare example of an American political columnist engaging in irony. (I know nothing about Chait's political affiliations or statements prior to this column, so I'm going purely on style.)

The original plan behind the US invasion - insofar as there was a plan - was "Put Chalabi in charge of the new Iraqi government, have him sell off all the Iraqi industries except the oil to the highest bidder, use Iraqi oil money to pay American corporations for reconstruction". Installing Chalabi as puppet dictator, and selling off all the Iraqi industries to the highest bidder, were such abject failures from the start that little reference is ever made to them by the US media, ever-anxious to bury Bush's bad ideas and forget about them.

But installing someone as new dictator of Iraq was on the cards from the start, as far as the Bush administration were concerned. It is the finest kind of irony that, as Chait observes, Saddam Hussein is probably the only candidate who would let himself be appointed to the job because "his alternative is death by hanging".

It would even be amusing, if this were Discworld and the Ankh-Morpork Post Office that Chait was writing about.

I say we put (the dearly missed) fafblog in charge, any of their plans for getting out of Iraq would do (scroll up).

I'm particular to this passage by Giblets:

So what we want to do is start turning the occupation away from "nation-building" and back towards the "nation-wrecking" that was working out so well for us in the beginning. Do not sit around as targets for guerilla attacks while guarding supply convoys! Use air strikes on major civilian and military infrastructure. "But Giblets how will the Iraqis ever form a free and sovereign state" you say because you are stupid. They won't - that is the point! If you bomb them enough they will never recover from their bombings and nothing like a state will ever exist in Iraq. And if a state can't exist in Iraq it can't sponsor terror. Your problems are solved!

In fact Giblets's "bomb and re-bomb" strategy is so simple it can be used on lots of countries at once. Just skip the occupation and do multiple rounds of nation-wrecking in places like Iraq, Iran, and Syria. It is so simple only a child could understand it!

Giblets also has a brilliant solution for "How To Resolve The Standoff With North Korea" (hint: it starts with "n" and ends with "uclear bombardment").

Giblets is actually John Bolton. Think about it. Have they ever been seen in the same room together?

Not just a coincidence how, once Bolton got his UN gig, Fafblog slowed down.

Mature adults don't pretend that we have more troops to send when we don't.

Actually we do. This is not to say I agree with McCain, or disagree with you that his remarks are more about 08 than anything else. But there are more troops available should that decision be made.

Total active duty Army troop strength is still close to a half million. Marine Corps is around 175,000 I believe.

Many thousands of these folks are deployed all over the world. In many cases, their historical role may no longer make sense in today’s world. Tens of thousands could (IMO) be redeployed from countries like Germany, Italy, the Balkans, etc. Is there still a serious threat of Soviet tank divisions pouring through the Fulda Gap? South Korea is probably the only place (outside Iraq) where we really need to maintain the current troop levels. Keep in mind that those forces are not substantial and are really just there as a tripwire.

Next, we have the other services. A Navy/AF MP is perfectly suited to perform some roles on the ground in Iraq. They could be used in some roles currently being performed by line troops. We don’t usually think of these branches as “boots on the ground” but they do have some capabilities. (SEALs after all are Navy. The AF also has special ops units.) Even the Coast Guard is subject to overseas deployment (think river patrol). I’m not saying they are not involved now (for instance the SEALs are obviously involved and I am aware that there are AF MPs helping train Iraqi police). I’m just saying the potential exists for even more involvement.

Finally, while every stop loss order or limited IRR call up makes headlines, we are no where near full mobilization. Full Mobilization orders from the Congress would activate the Selected Reserve, the IRR, and the Standby Reserve, even the Retired Reserve – literally overnight. Even without Congress going along, the President, by executive order, can call for a Partial Mobilization or a Presidential Reserve Call-up.

Obviously most of these measures would be hugely unpopular. I’m not necessarily advocating any of it – I’m just disagreeing with what seems to be a blanket assertion that it would be impossible to send more troops. We could deploy another 100,000 to Iraq even without a full mobilization (IMO). It would not be easy, it would not be popular, but it is not impossible either.

Let me repeat before everyone piles on: I am not saying I think it is the answer, I don’t know what the answer is. I am simply disagreeing with what seems to be commonly accepted fact at this point - that it is simply beyond America’s capability to deploy more troops to Iraq. It is possible, it just requires a higher level of national sacrifice than we have been willing to make to this point. If you want to make the argument that we lack the will to do it, I’m more inclined to agree with you. But I have to disagree that it is a flat out impossibility.

Finally, while every stop loss order or limited IRR call up makes headlines, we are no where near full mobilization.

then there is something missing... if this is an absolute-must-not-lose war, then why are we holding-back ? doesn't the very existence of western civilization deserve at least "full mobilization" ?

OC, if they wanted to do that and get troops for for 2007 shouldn't they have started six months ago?

OCSteve: But I have to disagree that it is a flat out impossibility.

Well, in the abstract sense, yes, I'm sure you're right. In the same way as it wasn't flat-out impossible for the US to create a stable and functioning government in Iraq, had effort been focussed on how to get that done in 2002 and 2003.

In the practical sense, though, in November 2006: it is a flat-out impossibility, because (1) as anyone who looks at the facts of the situation can see, sending another 100 000 US military personnel to Iraq will be as effective as this military venture was. And (2) the problems the US faces in Iraq are not solely caused by lack of personnel, but by p*sspoor planning on the part of the Bush administration, and until January 2009 or impeachment, that's who will dispose of the 100 000 added military personnel, assuming that they were sent.

"any more than it would show that we didn't want to win if Bush told us that in order to win the war he needed to publicly behead several citizens a day as sacrifices to the war gods, and none of us volunteered."

If we do not sacrifice an entire high school to Yog-Sothoth, the terrorists will have won.

Ia! Ia!

OCSteve: On some of the troops (e.g., those stationed in Germany), it would be interesting to see what their specializations are, and how they'd fit the mission in Iraq.

More generally, though, if McCain is talking about a sustained increase in troop levels in Iraq, then you have to figure in the time needed for the troops to retrain and regroup in the US. We're already stretching our troops way thin, we've done all sorts of fun things like upping the maximum age and lowering the bar for recruits and keeping people in despite behavioral and substance abuse problems that would previously have gotten them thrown out of the military. (And when I try to imagine what it would be like to serve in the same unit as someone who was crazy or addicted to drugs or something, it's not pretty.)

We also seem to be burning through equipment at a pretty steady clip.

I think we could manage some sort of temporary surge, but a sustained increase in troop levels is probably beyond out present capacities. The time to start planning for it was several years ago, but in keeping with their practices, this administration didn't bother.

How does it help troop morale to be told that they don't have enough people to do the job and the Decider doesn't want to send more?

OCSteve, you are correct that we may have the physical bodies to do what you are saying. It would also require breaking many established rules currently active in the military, including time between deployments, etc. Keep in mind, that many of the units normally assigned to Korea have already served in Iraq, as well as those in other places around the world.

Anyway, there is a bigger problem than bodies and that is equipment. A great deal of the original equipment sent to Iraq is damaged beyond repair, and those items that can be repaired are taking a long time to be made ready for service. And this administration has done nothing to gear up any kind of rapid production of equipment needed. So it does little good to send bodies without equipment over there.

And I realize you are not advocating that. And I really doubt it would make any difference anymore.

Uri: If we do not sacrifice an entire high school to Yog-Sothoth, the terrorists will have won.

Couldn't we just sacrifice ponies?

then there is something missing... if this is an absolute-must-not-lose war, then why are we holding-back ? doesn't the very existence of western civilization deserve at least "full mobilization" ?

We also seem to be burning through equipment at a pretty steady clip

And this administration has done nothing to gear up any kind of rapid production of equipment needed. So it does little good to send bodies without equipment over there.

Agreed. If we believe there is an existential threat it would actually require a Total Mobilization (which as well as providing the troops gears up the nation’s industrial base ala WWII). Why did we hold back? All the common answers – lack of planning, not understanding the requirements of the post-war phase, etc.

Jes – again, I’m not arguing more troops is the answer, just disagreeing with those arguing that the option is off the table because we just don’t have the troops. Hilzoy and John’s equipment argument is actually more germane I think, but also not insurmountable if it was decided that more troops is in fact the answer.

Curt @ Flopping Aces: [reporters holed up...]

This is one of the more offensive things wingnuts have been writing during this war. It is, fact a flat-faced lie.

This war has been more dangerous to journalists (American and foreign) than any previous. More journalists have died, been injured or even kidnapped & tortured than in any previous war. It's been dangerous because reporters are out in the field. Yes, some stay within the green zone (itself no longer safe, if you read the news) but most are out there, either embedded with the military all over Iraq, or otherwise involved in reporting outside of their hotel rooms (see all those pictures in the papers every day, those don't come from the Al Queda press pool).

And they've been doing this because, unlike the 101st Fighting Keyboard Kommandos and the perfectly named Pajamas Media these real reporters feel a moral obligation to get out there and report the truth to people.

The casualness with which right wing pundits & bloggers trivialize the sacrifices and bravery of the press in reporting the ongoing realities (which are now mainly atrocities) in Iraq serves mainly to prove how vicious, shallow and weak-minded the wingnuts' & their arguments really are.

Off topic: dick cheney - fan of fascist dictatorships.

but you already knew that.

In terms of what needs to be done now, I think we first have to define what our current goals are.

If it is to create a Jeffersonian democracy, forget it, that isn't going to happen. That was a pipe dream from the beginning.

However, Iraq has had a democratic government in the past, and it possibly can have one again, but I don't think our military presence will have any kind of a positive impact on that.

If the goal is to train the Iraqi army and police, then we need to totally rethink how that is being done. And just maybe we aren't the people who should be doing that.

If the goal is to eradicate AQ in Iraq, our military is unlikely, as it is presently set up, going to be able to do that. The people in Iraq who have the greatest capability of disabling AQ are the people who we have, so far, refused to talk to, although they have indicated a willingness to talk to us. I am talking about the Sunni insurgency.

Historically, the Sunnis of Iraq, for the most part, have been opposed to people like AQ, which is why AQ had no foothold in Iraq prior to our invasion and occupation. We have created a situation where the two have become somewhat closely associated mainly due to a common goal, harming Americans.

Some of the leaders of the Sunni insurgency have indictaed a willingness to stop fighting agaisnt us if we announce a timetable for withdrawal. Needless to say, teh Bush adminsitration has already said no to that offer.

However, I believe that our best hope is to go to them and say we will be totally out iof Iraq in two years if three hings happen:

1. The Sunnis insurgency stops all actions against American troops.

2. The insurgency members stop all activities against Shiites.

3. The insurgency works with the US to take out all AQ fighters in the country.

Once we know AQ is out of Iraq then we will leave.

One of the big issues will be to try, at the same time, to stops Shiites from going after Sunnis, and I don't think the actions of those two groups against each other will be able to be totally stopped. And it would undoubtedly increase again post our departure.

One of the regrettable (out of many) things about this whole fiasco is that this adminsitration refused to see the likelihood for this type of civil war occuring, although anyone with any knowledge of the area would have predicted it unless we took immediate steps, once in the country, to prevent it. We didn't.

BTW, the two statements that I am getting really tired of hearing, and they both can be added to the list of asinine statements, is that if we don't take care of the terrorists in Iraq they will follow us home, and the statement that this must be doing some good because we haven't had an attack on American soil since 9/11.

OC Steve,

"If we believe there is an existential threat it would actually require a Total Mobilization (which as well as providing the troops gears up the nation’s industrial base ala WWII). Why did we hold back? All the common answers – lack of planning, not understanding the requirements of the post-war phase, etc."

I think something more than this is the cause. Iraq was sold as being easy (see Jonah Goldberg's comment about taking a small country and throwing it against the wall every decade to prove we could do so) and cheap (as in the belief that oil revenues would pay for it). A full-scale mobilization is neither of these things, which would have undermined a significant argument for going into Iraq.

In addition, once the costs started mounting, the Administration felt itself faced with a choice of rebuilding bridges to those it chose to villify in the run-up to the war, both domestically and internationally, and with a choice of giving up its domestic agenda (i.e., tax cuts) to pay for the war, or continue trying to win on the cheap. It is to the Administration's eternal disgrace that it chose the course it did.

hilzoy and OCSteve:

I can help out with regard to one of the largest American units in Germany, the First Infantry Division, stationed in Wuerzburg, Schweinfurt and Kitzingen. The most important point about it: It already is (partially) deployed to Iraq. You can find soldiers stationed in Schweinfurt listed among the casualties from Iraq.

Similarly for the First Armored Division, stationed in Hassia near Frankfurt: It is also already partially deployed to Iraq.

In addition, both Divisions also support ongoing operations in the Balkans.

My point: the troops stationed in Germany already are engaged in the conflict in Iraq, as far as they possibly can be (I tried to find detailed deployment information, but unfortunately I was not successful), and there is no large and so far untapped supply.

As far as I know, one additional Infantry Division in Hawaii is not yet engaged, but this division is the strategic reserve for Korea and there to support the "tripwire". Moving this division would have far-reaching consequences for the strategic balance in Korea.

So no, there are no large, additional units that could be redeployed.

It is to the Administration's eternal disgrace that it chose the course it did.

but even the non-Admin supporters of the war (Congress, the professional Republicans in the media, pro-war bloggers, etc) don't demand Bush do more. they shriek about the burkas American women will have to wear if we lose this, but they never hold Bush responsible for failing to give it everything we've got.

it's enough to make me think they're all just GOP cheerleaders ginning-up reasons to praise and support whatever fool notion shoots out of W's little peanut head.

Shining Raven (Great name, by the way): Thanks.

There aren't very many grown ups in this country and those that act like grownups might be honored by history but they won't be honored by their peers.
That's the Democrats dilemna: forcing the administration to withdraw soon might be the morally or geopolitically right thing to do ("right" meaning better than the other bad choices) but it is still, in terms of domestic politics, suicidal.
The public voted for a change in leadership on Iraq. Well there has been a change: Gates and two study groups that are at some point going to make some kind of recommendations. Gates may be a pig and the sutdy groups might be overly focused on how to save the Republicans butts, but still they have to be given a chance. The Democrats can't just cut off the money and force a withdrawal, not when the Republicans would be able to argue that they were not allowed to attempt a new direction.
So we're stuck while the Republicans do whatever they decide to do.

"How does it help troop morale to be told that they don't have enough people to do the job and the Decider doesn't want to send more?"

For that matter, how does it help troop morale to promise the help of more troops, when that promise won't be fulfilled?

And, frankly, I'd bet the morale of the troops in Iraq would be helped more if promised *replacements* rather than *supplement*.

Jes writes: "[linking to story about election fraud] I wish I didn't keep hearing sensible Americans write things like this. "

Whether election fraud occurred or not is kind of beside the point. It shouldn't have been close enough for fraud to have made a difference.

Actually the division in Hawaii, the 25th Light Infantry Division, already has its headquarters and one brigade deployed in Iraq. See

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/iraq_orbat.htm

One additional 25th LID brigade is either here or scheduled to arrive shortly.

As the website suggests, it gets hard to track the order of battle in detail because the military is trying to hide that detail for OPSEC reasons. However US forces in Germany have been available for (and used in) other contingencies since the Gulf War in 1991. The principal US armored formation in that war, VII Corps, deployed from Germany.

Also, the Air Force and Navy are involved to a significant extent. I was surprised myself to learn that there were now such things as Air Force provisional gun truck companies and expeditionary security force squadrons. Both of these are effectively specialized infantry units for convoy and base security duties.

The Army has also been cannibalizing units. Artillery and air defense units have been converted into provisional MP battalions. There isn't much artillery being used in Iraq (too few targets and too indiscriminate) and the insurgents don't have aircraft. Although there are some interesting experiments in trying to shoot down Katyusha type rockets.

If they really wanted to boost troop strength, they would probably have to increase the tour length to say 18 months. The problem they are worried about is retention. So far, it has been very good. The units with the highest retention rates are usually those that are deployed. It is hard to leave your buddies when they are getting shot at. In the long run, the Pentagon thinks that 18 month tours would be too stressful on troops and families and too many spouses would demand that their soldier quit on penalty of divorce.


This is one of the more offensive things wingnuts have been writing during this war. It is, fact a flat-faced lie.

It'd be lots more interesting to hear your assessment of what's on the other end of that link after you've actually read it. My criticism of journalists would be more along the lines of that they don't appear to be taking even baby steps toward the goal of confirming their sources, but I'm willing to see how this story pans out before I do that.

I don't know if that was Curt's point, but it's one that he might have made.

My question is this, if pulling out will make us look weak to Al Qaeda, does staying in make us look stupid? Alternatively, don't we already look rather weak, almost as a sickly, spoiled child to the rest of the world?

Jon: Whether election fraud occurred or not is kind of beside the point. It shouldn't have been close enough for fraud to have made a difference.

Fair point: the 2006 elections did prove that a landslide victory can overwhelm the electoral rigging carried out by the party in power.

A full-scale mobilization is neither of these things, which would have undermined a significant argument for going into Iraq.

Indeed. And to go a little further, a full-scale mobilization would have pulled away whatever legitimacy the renewed UN inspections effort gave. "Don't mind us and our total war mobilization -- we only intend to use it if Saddam balks."

Regarding deployment data -- Global Security appears to do a decent job keeping up with US and Coalition Order of Battle ("OOB") developments in Iraq and elsewhere. I don't know enough about total available units or readiness and etc to comment on whether or not there are enough to send more. Given the number of repeat tours, I'd be inclined to guess probably not. But that'd be a guess.

And regarding equipment. Much of the stuff used in the initial invasion was drawn from material already deployed (or "pre-positioned"), some of it on ship (especially for the Marines), and some of it in warehouses in Kuwait and SA. From what I understand, enough stuff was already there for five brigades worth of troops, and, save for the usual logistical snafus, all of it duplicates of those brigades' usual war-fighting equipment. So while a lot of equipment has surely been rendered unusable because of Iraq, there was an awful lot of it to begin with.

I guess that's what $400 billion a year in defense dollars gets you.


Seems to me the only way more troops would help in Iraq is if we sent enough to control Baghdad *and* every other city and village.

Flooding Baghdad won't help if they just pull out to other cities to recoup, reequip, recruit, network, and plan.

'Quiet' cities are not safe to ignore - they may well be full of militants.

Slarti: My criticism of journalists would be more along the lines of that they don't appear to be taking even baby steps toward the goal of confirming their sources

87 journalists and 37 media support workers have been killed so far in Iraq since March 2003. You can't take even baby steps when you're dead.

You can't take even baby steps when you're dead.

I have no idea what your point could possibly be. Care to share?

Slarti writes: "My criticism of journalists would be more along the lines of that they don't appear to be taking even baby steps toward the goal of confirming their sources"

I don't think the Bush administration had a problem with that when it was working to their advantage in pushing for war.

I don't think the Bush administration had a problem with that when it was working to their advantage in pushing for war.

Hmmm...which sources were unconfirmed, in your example?

In any event, I find it odd in the extreme that you're advocating that we follow in Bush's footsteps.

Model 62 wrote: "Indeed. And to go a little further, a full-scale mobilization would have pulled away whatever legitimacy the renewed UN inspections effort gave. "Don't mind us and our total war mobilization -- we only intend to use it if Saddam balks.""

The thing is, they could easily have done so in late 2001 post-9/11. Under the circumstances, it would have been entirely justifiable to enlarge the military and stock up on weapons and vehicles, given the threat and the uncertainty of what would be required. (And they probably would have had little problem meeting increased recruiting goals.)

In fact, they probably should have spent a couple of years in that sort of mode, before even considering an invasion of Iraq. During a very well-publicized buildup, we could have focused on Al Qaeda, and had 'genial' talks with other nations in the region, including Iraq and Iran, so as to not put them on the defensive as Bush did when he talked about the Axis of Evil.

"Hmmm...which sources were unconfirmed, in your example?"

Judith Miller's.

Judith Miller's

Um...names? Who were her sources?

Plus, context would be good.

Jon H: Under the circumstances, it would have been entirely justifiable to enlarge the military and stock up on weapons and vehicles..

I agree. How the leadership has conducted the thing leads one to wonder about their assumptions. Or their goals.

I don't think we can say we know much about either.

I have no idea what your point could possibly be. Care to share?

I got the point.

Curt's point, such as it is, is that the U.S. Army and Iraqi Army have not confirmed that 6 Sunnis were burned to death by Shia militants. Which means, of course, that the event never happened.

He's also not linking to some key citations. For example, in Update VI he includes:

Fanned by fear, rumors spread quickly throughout the day. In the evening, a resident named Imad al-Hashemi said in a telephone interview on Al Jazeera, the Arab news network, that gunmen had doused some people with gasoline and set them on fire. Other residents contacted by telephone denied this.

But I couldn't find this passage in the NYT's story he references. It might from another story, but it isn't clear to me.

"Um...names? Who were her sources?"

I'm not going to rehash something the New York Times spent an extensive Editor's Note covering.

Um...names? Who were her sources?

Isn't that the point...she never named them, but her work was put forth by the Administration.

Curt's point, such as it is, is that the U.S. Army and Iraqi Army have not confirmed that 6 Sunnis were burned to death by Shia militants. Which means, of course, that the event never happened.

Whoops. Curt's point is that there are Iraqis policemen being quoted for news stories that not only aren't designated points of contact, but aren't on anyone's payroll.

So, when you see Captain Jamil Hussein quoted, for instance, you have absolutely no idea who the guy is, and whether he's saying anything related to the truth.

I'm not going to rehash something the New York Times spent an extensive Editor's Note covering.

Ok, then. I'm going to give this matter just as much attention that you have.

Isn't that the point...she never named them, but her work was put forth by the Administration.

Well, the point ought to be really obvious, and it also ought to be obvious that these two situations aren't even slightly related. So comparing them: pretty much a waste of time.

More on Flopping Aces: Centcom has confirmed, CONFIRMED I SAY, that Capt. Jamil Hussein is not, repeat not an Iraqi policeman.

So says LT XXXXXX, U.S. Navy MNC-I Joint Operations Center, Public Affairs Officer.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to confirm the US Navy employs a LT XXXXXX, despite his or her unusual name.

that not only aren't designated points of contact, but aren't on anyone's payroll.

That, Slarti, is not confirmed.

We could play this game forever.

I'm sure that Curt invented that email just for you, sparti.

I have no idea what your point could possibly be. Care to share?

The point might well be that people who's most heroic task is doing a google search or smearing journalists in the comments section of a blog shouldn't pontificate about how to do journalism in a warzone.

That, Slarti, is not confirmed.

Sure. Which is why I said something like (exactly like, in fact): My criticism of journalists would be more along the lines of that they don't appear to be taking even baby steps toward the goal of confirming their sources, but I'm willing to see how this story pans out before I do that.

The point might well be that people who's most heroic task is doing a google search or smearing journalists in the comments section of a blog shouldn't pontificate about how to do journalism in a warzone.

Sure. And likewise, those whose most heroic task is reading CNN via the internet oughtn't to be critical of how soldiers are behaving in a war zone.

Is that how you want it?

"Well, the point ought to be really obvious, and it also ought to be obvious that these two situations aren't even slightly related. So comparing them: pretty much a waste of time."

Um, they're identical situations.

Captain Mysterious of the Police is no more credible than the anonymous "man in a cap" Judy Miller was following around Iraq, who was supposed to point out where the WMD was.

In fact, Captain Mysterious is actually justifiable, since his identification in the media would probably lead to him and/or his family being tortured and killed.

Whereas, Man In A Cap was just a Chalabi ringer.

Captain Mysterious of the Police is no more credible than the anonymous "man in a cap" Judy Miller was following around Iraq, who was supposed to point out where the WMD was.

Bingo. I think you've actually remade Curt's point.

"And likewise, those whose most heroic task is reading CNN via the internet oughtn't to be critical of how soldiers are behaving in a war zone.

Is that how you want it?
"

I dunno, how low are your standards? Does rape, murder, and corpse-burning fit your model of acceptable military behavior?

I'm sure they were just stressed out, right? Or perhaps they thought a young girl was carrying explosives in her cooter, and were probing the area? All perfectly understandable.

That aside, I had no idea that Judith Miller was the source of the intelligence that lead up to the Iraq invasion. And here I was thinking it was the CIA's fault.

I'm sure that Curt invented that email just for you, sparti.

I'm honoured.

More to the point is that I'm not sure I share Lt. XXXXXX's faith in the Iraqi MoI/Police's sincerity in asserting they've never heard of Jamil Hussein. But that's just me.

I dunno, how low are your standards? Does rape, murder, and corpse-burning fit your model of acceptable military behavior?

Nope. How about yours, now that we're asking random questions? While we're at it, how are you on cannibalism, pederasty and torture?

Really, you might want to read AND understand before popping off.

Slarti writes: "That aside, I had no idea that Judith Miller was the source of the intelligence that lead up to the Iraq invasion. And here I was thinking it was the CIA's fault."

I don't know about you, but I've been following actual events since 2002, not just the news that makes me feel good.

And likewise, those whose most heroic task is reading CNN via the internet oughtn't to be critical of how soldiers are behaving in a war zone.

You're so predictable, the moment I typed my post I knew this would be coming. So let's see:

Your claim was that journalists in Iraq don't appear to be taking even baby steps toward the goal of confirming their sources.

This is a blanket smear of all journalists in Iraq and the link you advise us all to read goes further in saying that the whole MSM is, unwittingly or not, working for the enemy. You would have to far into the wingut realm of the blogosphere to find equally blanket assertions about the conduct of US soldiers. And therein lies the difference.

More to the point is that I'm not sure I share Lt. XXXXXX's faith in the Iraqi MoI/Police's sincerity in asserting they've never heard of Jamil Hussein. But that's just me.

BAGHDAD — Contrary to recent media reporting that four mosques were burned in Hurriya, an Iraqi Army patrol investigating the area found only one mosque had been burned in the neighborhood.

Soldiers from the 6th Iraqi Army Division conducted a patrol in Hurriya Friday afternoon in response to media reports that four mosques were being burned as retaliation for the VBIED attacks in Sadr City on Thursday.

The Soldiers set up a checkpoint near the Al Muhaimen mosque at approximately 2 p.m. and found the mosque intact with no evidence of any fire at the location.

While investigating the Al Meshaheda mosque, the patrol received small arms fire from unknown insurgents. The patrol returned fire, and the insurgents broke contact and fled the area. A subsequent check of the mosque found the mosque intact with no evidence of a fire.

At approximately 3:50 p.m., a local civilian reported to the patrol that armed insurgents had set the Al-Nidaa mosque on fire by throwing a gas container into the mosque. The patrol pursued the insurgents but lost contact with them.

The Soldiers called the fire department and set up a cordon around the mosque. Local fire trucks responded to the scene and extinguished the fire at approximately 4:00 p.m. The mosque sustained smoke and fire damage in the entry way but was not destroyed.

An alleged attack on a fourth mosque remains unconfirmed. The patrol was also unable to confirm media reports that six Sunni civilians were allegedly dragged out of Friday prayers and burned to death. Neither Baghdad police nor Coalition forces have reports of any such incident.

Well, we don't have a name from Centcom, but it's from Centcom. Or, at least it's on their server; ya never know when the 105th Keyboard Brigade is going to get around to hacking that.

Other than that possibility, Neither Baghdad police nor Coalition forces have reports of any such incident...doesn't that indicate to you that there's some fabrication going on?

the link you advise us all to read goes further in saying that the whole MSM is, unwittingly or not, working for the enemy

You know, I'm pretty sure that I haven't even implicitly endorsed Curt's opinion of the media. But I can't stop you from reading that in, can I? And apparently, neither can you.

"Other than that possibility, Neither Baghdad police nor Coalition forces have reports of any such incident...doesn't that indicate to you that there's some fabrication going on?"

Perhaps there is.

But in this case it'd only be relevant to a report of a few deaths, out of scores from that day. If there was a false report every day, it'd still be a fraction of the overall death toll.

And you'd still have to explain the Mahdi Army taking over state TV to announce the Sunni neighborhoods they're going to hit next.

So, I'm not sure what the point is, apart from grasping at straws in hopes of persuading some fool that Iraq's not as bad as the media says.

Neither Baghdad police nor Coalition forces have reports of any such incident...doesn't that indicate to you that there's some fabrication going on?

By who?

As mentioned, my faith in the Coalition and current Iraqi government institutions is at an all time low. YMMV

Hilzoy - If this makes you feel any better, reporters who are spending time in Iraq are claiming that we're not even getting the full picture of how bad it really is:

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.

Emphasis added - just in case anyone from Pajamas Media missed it

If you want to go into hermeneutics, be my guest: One commenter said the guy is a wingnut, you said we should follow that link to make an informed judgement, I said the guy is a wingnut - we inform you decide. Even if you violently disapprove of this guy's assessment that fact remains that neither of you have any scruples issuing blanket smears about the journalists in Iraq. And thanks for not addressing my point.

Novakant said: The point might well be that people who's most heroic task is doing a google search or smearing journalists in the comments section of a blog shouldn't pontificate about how to do journalism in a warzone.

Slarti said: And likewise, those whose most heroic task is reading CNN via the internet oughtn't to be critical of how soldiers are behaving in a war zone.

The two are not, of course, comparable. Curt (and Slarti, I gather) is complaining that journalists in Iraq aren't doing proper fact-checking - they're accepting what Iraqi sources tell them, rather than going out and checking the facts themselves. As multiple people have pointed out to Slarti, this is likely because being a journalist (or a media support worker) in Iraq is hellishly, unprecedentedly dangerous: a blogger who gathers information by safely surfing news sites on Google, really has no grounds to complain that a reporter in Iraq is trying to gather information in a war zone and stay alive to tell the tale.

So, it really depends what Slarti meant by his sweeping and unspecific claim that those of us reading the news online "oughtn't to be critical of how soldiers are behaving in a war zone". Really? No matter what they do? Including shoot journalists?

And thanks for not addressing my point.

Which point was that? Me being predictable, or that there's a media credibility issue? Or was there something else?

neither of you have any scruples issuing blanket smears about the journalists in Iraq

Criticism = smears. Have it your way.

But in this case it'd only be relevant to a report of a few deaths, out of scores from that day.

This would totally demolish my attempt to generalize this into widespread media distortion of events in Iraq, if you could find me doing anything like that.

And you'd still have to explain the Mahdi Army taking over state TV to announce the Sunni neighborhoods they're going to hit next.

Err...no, I don't, actually.

J swings and misses.

Allow me to adjust your set. More like this:

Curt (and Slarti, I gather) is noting that journalists in Iraq aren't doing proper fact-checking - they're accepting what Iraqi sources tell them, and not determining whether those sources are credible.

As mentioned, my faith in the Coalition and current Iraqi government institutions is at an all time low. YMMV

Fair enough, sparti.

Slarti once again declines to explain himself.

Shall I phrase it as a question?

So, what did you mean, Slarti, by your sweeping and unspecific claim that those of us reading the news online "oughtn't to be critical of how soldiers are behaving in a war zone". Really? No matter what they do? Including shoot journalists?

Slarti writes: "Curt (and Slarti, I gather) is noting that journalists in Iraq aren't doing proper fact-checking - they're accepting what Iraqi sources tell them, and not determining whether those sources are credible."

So?

What's your point?

At most any distortion caused by this is minimal, compared to the deathtoll which is unquestionably true.

So what exactly is your point, slarti?

Why should we care?

So, it really depends what Slarti meant by his sweeping and unspecific claim that those of us reading the news online "oughtn't to be critical of how soldiers are behaving in a war zone".

I guess I'm going to have to walk you through this one:

novakant said:

The point might well be that people who's most heroic task is doing a google search or smearing journalists in the comments section of a blog shouldn't pontificate about how to do journalism in a warzone.

To which I replied:

Sure. And likewise, those whose most heroic task is reading CNN via the internet oughtn't to be critical of how soldiers are behaving in a war zone.

Is that how you want it?

My point: one needn't be on the front lines to be critical, as evidenced by pretty much everyone commenting here. That you took it to mean pretty much the exact opposite isn't much of a surprise.

Why should we care?

I'm not asking you to care, Jon. Feel free to run along.

My point: one needn't be on the front lines to be critical, as evidenced by pretty much everyone commenting here.

Can you then point us to examples you've noticed of "pretty much everyone commenting here" making as sweeping a criticism of all soldiers in Iraq as you made of all journalists in Iraq: they don't appear to be taking even baby steps toward the goal of confirming their sources.

Slarti writes: "I'm not asking you to care, Jon. Feel free to run along."

Then why do *you* care? Why bring it up? How many of these unsourced reports do you think there are?

And, if we were to assume they *are* all false, what does Iraq look like if you remove them from consideration?

Seems to me it's a civil war and an abattoir, whether you believe the reports or not.

I could quote John Kerry, but he's not exactly a commenter here.

So, chalk me up as making statements as sweepingly inaccurate as that guy.

holy crap, you guys are still at it?

Jon, I didn't bring it up. matttbastard brought it up. Then jcricket brought it up.

Jon, I didn't bring it up. matttbastard brought it up. Then jcricket brought it up.

And then you brought it up. No one twisted your arm.

Which point was that?

maybe reading the last two sentences of my post again would help, duh

one needn't be on the front lines to be critical, as evidenced by pretty much everyone commenting here.

too late, that (one needs to be on the front lines) was not my point

you're not Timmy from over at tacitus by any chance? ok, that was harsh, but there are undoubtebtly similarities in style

Moving back to thread topic, now Slarti seems to have given up:

Jon H: In fact, they probably should have spent a couple of years in that sort of mode, before even considering an invasion of Iraq. During a very well-publicized buildup, we could have focused on Al Qaeda, and had 'genial' talks with other nations in the region, including Iraq and Iran, so as to not put them on the defensive as Bush did when he talked about the Axis of Evil.

I genuinely think the problem with that was that (a) Bush & Co don't like to act like other governments should get to talk to the US and influence what the US does: and (b) Bush & Co wanted to invade Iraq. According to PNAC, that was the plan even before Bush became President: according to report, it was Bush's plan as soon as 9/11 gave him an excuse: and according to the Downing Street Memo, war with Iraq had been definitely decided upon by summer 2002.

And there were two problems with that. One, that aggressive invasion of another country that presents no threat to your country is in contravention of the UN Charter. Bush & Co seem to have spent more time focussing on inventing an elaborate excuse for the war they wanted than on how to wage it successfully.

Two, in order to do it successfully, they should have heeded expert advice from the State and the Defense Department on how to do it. But what the best impartial expert advice would have told them was: "Don't."

At best, impartial expert advice would have - did tell them - "you need the following resources to do it successfully, including the support of the Security Council: go away and spend several years amassing those resources. Meantime, get the UN to send in inspectors and see if things can be improved in Iraq by the threat of invasion." But the longer the threat of invasion went on, the less likely it would be that Bush & Co's excuses for invasion would have looked credible.

Plus there's a possibility that, instead of intending the chaos and permanent presence in Iraq that they got, they thought they could have Chalabi installed, Iraqi industries looted, and Iraqi oil pumping a nice stream of income to big Republican donors who were getting no-bid reconstruction contracts in Iraq, in good time for the 2004 elections. It's one of those "Are they more stupid than evil, or more evil than stupid?" questions.

Pardon me, I'm lost.

Wasn't the original criticism that good news is being under-reported? And that was because of journalisms not doing their jobs beacuse they're not venturing out of the safe zones?

And doesn't the Roberts quote state that the reasons journalists are less than eager to venture outside the safe zone without proper escort (and this last phrase is important) is because it's so chaotic and dangerous?

And doesn't that sort of contradict the original, rather feeble criticism?


Jes - agreed on all points.

oh, and to bring this to the bitter end

Criticism = smears. Have it your way.

you were not criticizing journalists in any serious way, i.e. pointing out who did what wrong when and how; you were saying that all the journalists in Iraq weren't doing part of their job (corroborating facts); since I doubt that you have surpreme insight into the working method of the all the journalists in Iraq, this is as much a smear as if someone would call all US soldiers rapists based on the transgressions of a few

Errrmmmmmm..... Lemme see if I've got this right:

"Slartibartfarst" is concerned because despite the tranquility of Iraq, and the renowned efficiency and transparency of its civil service and police apparatus, some stories of grisly mayhem may be less than completely vetted. For evidence, he cites the "research" of some guy with a blog whose own powers of insight seem a little, ahem, unique. From this maybe-proven, maybe-not lapse we can conclude that ALL journalists in Iraq are painting a hopelessly dire portrait of a thriving, exciting place.

For his next trick, I'd like to see "Slartibartfarst" demonstrate how Iraqi militia are just a variation on the sorts of civic organizations we'd recognize, like the Kiwanis or the Rotarians. Only with mortars and car bombs.

Funny, according to CNN, I thought everyone would be online shopping now...

this is as much a smear as if someone would call all US soldiers rapists based on the transgressions of a few

Or, you know, if someone said something like there is no reason...that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children without specifying names, times, places, etc. Because that would be just awful.

you were not criticizing journalists in any serious way

There are rules that we have to criticize seriously? They don't seem to be adhered to all that rigidly.

Really, Timmy and I are separate beings, although we are genetically identical. Don't tell him I said that.

Oh God, I hoped that since Slartibartfast is in a trollish mood, we could all quit throwing him billy goats.

Errrmmmmmm..... Lemme see if I've got this right

Nope, sorry. Pretty much wrong all the way through, including the spelling. I shouldn't pick on that, though, because that was the part you did best on.

Repeated appeals to incredulity are, as an argumentative style, exceedingly tiresome. Reminiscent of that Chris Rock bit...

"I don't know that, I'm keepin' it real."
"Yeah, real dumb."

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