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July 29, 2008

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Doctor:
What is it he does now? Look how he rubs his hands.

Gentlewoman:
It is an accustom'd action with him, to seem thus washing his hands. I have known him continue in this a quarter of an hour.

Totten:
Yet here's a spot.

Doctor:
Hark, he speaks. I will set down what comes from him, to satisfy my remembrance the more strongly.

Totten:
Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then 'tis time to do't.—Hell is murky.—Fie, Bush , fie, a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our pow'r to accompt?—Yet who would have thought the Iraqis to have had so much blood in them?

Well, it's very important to declare, "mission accomplished" between now and January 20, so that President Obama can be blamed when the house of cards falls apart.

Am I losing my mind, or is Totten? Can someone tell me how no one "lost their life" in the recent spate of suicide bombings?

aimai

We have succeeded. Sadr city is safe. Basra is safe. Mosul is safe. The people of Iraq are now leading normal lives.

Indeed! Iraq is as safe as http://www.comedycentral.com/videos/index.jhtml?videoId=91951>a market http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/03/world/middleeast/03mccain.html>in Indiana. It bears mentioning, though, that Mike Pence is from a really bad part of town.

Aimai,

In Totten's defense, the recent spate of bombings occurred after Totten's post. But the bombings reveal how shortsighted and misguided the post is.

Eric:

Your posts about Iraq cover a lot of ground not many others do, but I'm not sure they have the right premise. Or I'm not sure what their premise *is*.

I think the Iraq War was over, and the US won, around about "Mission Accomplished" time. Ever since then it hasn't been a War, it's been an *occupation*. And I don't know that one can win an occupation.

So talking about the situation in Iraq as though it's a war seems to me ill-premised. Wars are between states, and that's not what's going on there. I'm not even sure it's a civil war, because that would involve at least 2 well-organized sides -- which I don't see -- one of which the US is backing -- which I also don't consistently see.

AFAIK, the US is *backing* the oil companies and other corporations, and whichever group of Iraqis seem most simpatico with those at the moment. Am I being too superficial? Is there any point to talking about this as a war, rather than an occupation?

It's almost as if Eric is suggesting Michael Totten isn't a heroic citizen-blogger, but a propagandist.

I have a few questions:

- Over 500 people were reported murdered in both May and June. Where did Totten get the idea that there were zero casualties?

- If AQ is on the run, and "not one single person was killed in ethno-sectarian conflict in May or June of this year", then who killed the 1,000+ murdered civilians? Was it aliens?

- Iraq is seeing about 45-50 attacks per day. Are they all unsuccessful? And if so, what about the 1,000+ people dead in May and June?

- Are all 1,000 dead in reality terrorists in disguise, and were they were all killed by U.S. and Iraqi troops?

- Is Michael Totten hitting the crack pipe a bit too often?

Spartikus,

D'ya think? :-)

Of course he is.

Am I being too superficial? Is there any point to talking about this as a war, rather than an occupation?

Well, it depends on your perspective. If you're an Iraqi, things might look a little different.

The way I usually describe the situation is a web of civil wars and insurgencies. I deliberately use the plural in each instance because there are multiple variations of each (I started using the plural form back in 2006 for insurgencies and civil wars.)

The last link on civil war gives a pretty good summation of why Iraq has many going on right now - although some have died down a little. I also recommend James Fearon on the subject (his Foreign Affairs pieces have been invaluable).

From the US perspective, is there a meaningful difference between calling it an occupation as opposed to a bunch of insurgencies? Perhaps. Or a war? Maybe so, but I don't usually call it a war, I just bristle when people claim that we are near to ending "the war," and I use their terminology to debunk the false claims of progress.

I tend to describe it as an occupation on more occasions than a war. But perhaps I'm not entirely consistent.

Over 500 people were reported murdered in both May and June. Where did Totten get the idea that there were zero casualties

He actually says there were zero casualties from Sunni v. Shiite civil war related violence.

If AQ is on the run, and "not one single person was killed in ethno-sectarian conflict in May or June of this year", then who killed the 1,000+ murdered civilians? Was it aliens?

That is the far better question, and it exposes the deep flaw in his argument.

Oh, I think. One day, someone will find or leak a smoking-gun document about these "independent" war bloggers equivalent to those that revealed the pernicious role of generals used as experts on television.

Unfortunately, maybe not today or tomorrow.

"President Davis! It's February 1865, and combat deaths have gone down significantly since the battle of Nashville! The war is over!"

(In fairness to McCain, he may think of post-traumatic stress disorder as normal life.)

is there a meaningful difference between calling it an occupation as opposed to a bunch of insurgencies

Yes, because "insurgency" sounds like something those wacky Iraqis took it into their heads to do. "Occupation" makes it clear that the US is the actor, that the Iraqis were there first, and that what the US (I refuse to say "we", Kimosabe) is doing is imperialism.

OK. But keep in mind, the violence is not all occupation vs. anti-occupation. There are also wars between Iraqi groups that would rage on even if we all vanished from the scene in an instant - or over the course of 12-18 months.

"Am I losing my mind, or is Totten? Can someone tell me how no one 'lost their life' in the recent spate of suicide bombings?"

"Michael J. Totten - 07.26.2008 - 8:28 AM"

It seems a touch unfair to expect him to look two days into the future, doesn't it?

Not as regards the general state of things, of course, which is hardly surprising, but regarding yesterday's bombings specifically.

"And I don't know that one can win an occupation."

Sure you can; Malaya; Phillipine-American War. Arguably the Second Boer War. The anti-Hukbalahap war. Northern Ireland is now relatively peaceful. Lots and lots of Roman conquests. The biggest one: America versus Native Americans.

It depends on specific circumstances, like most things. It's hard, but not impossible.

And one can diddle with definitions of "success" and "win," of course. In the end there's usually some level of political compromise; the question is how unbalanced and in which direction it is.

Doctor Science- This is OT, but I haven't seen anyone use kemosabe in a long time, and you gave me an excuse to link to http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a4_061.html>The Straight Dope.

Well, it seems all right-thinking people should agree with Mr Totten that the parrot is alive.

I read a book once by a very religious lady which talked about the difference between spiritual truth, which was the world view that would make us live best or happiest (e.g. the stars are the never-dying souls of the departed loved ones watching down on us) and objective truth, which was the closest approximation regarding physical phenomena (e.g. the stars are flaming balls of gas billions of miles away). She thought that humans should follow spiritual truth. In this case the objective truth is that by any reasonable cost-benefit calculus we lost (as did everyone else except maybe the Iranians and the Saudis). The spiritual truth is that the war is won, and that our ever-victorious soldiery should return home ASAP for a well-earned parade. Now. Today would be good. Before Totten and his nutty friends change their minds again.

I don't think we should allow the rightwing to get us into a discussion of whether or not we are winning.

It's the wrong framework for thinking about Iraq.

When someone gets all triumphant about how we are winning in Iraq I think that a better response is to say,"Ok, so since the the Iraq government wants us out in 20 months and you say we are winning, then it is time to support the new governmment by leaving, right?" Force them to either support Obama's plan or start backpedalling on how we haven't really won yet after all.;

Or "It's up to the Iraqis to decide if the war is won or lost and that includes the opinions of the millions of exiles and the opinions of the relatives of the hundreds of thousands of dead." Force the war triumphantalist to face up to who has paid the cost, who is actually doing the winning and losing.

or "WE won? This is all about us?"

"And I don't know that one can win an occupation."

Sure you can; Malaya; Phillipine-American War. Arguably the Second Boer War. The anti-Hukbalahap war. Northern Ireland is now relatively peaceful. Lots and lots of Roman conquests. The biggest one: America versus Native Americans.

And my personal favorite, because of its direct relevance to Anglo-American political traditions: The Norman Conquest.

The way you can tell an occupation was really successful is when hardly anyone remembers that it was, in fact, an occupation.

Sadr City.

It seems a touch unfair to expect him to look two days into the future, doesn't it?

Well, if you're making bold predictions, you're asking for it. Totten in this case shares the fate of Michael Fish: prediction vs. reality.

I don't disagree with the general thrust of this post, but I find it remarkable that July will most likely be the month with the lowest Iraq Coalition casualties since the beginning of the invasion.

I don't want to guess how exactly that will influence the debate in America, but if this trend continues, it seem's unlikely to me that it will not have any impact.

I sometimes get the impression that Intra-Iraqi violence plays more of a ...minor role. So McCain claiming now that all those areas are safe now, and getting away with it apparently, doesn't seem surprising. Recall his visit to that market in Baghdad over a year ago, and his talk about being able to move "freely".


I sometimes get the impression that Intra-Iraqi violence plays more of a ...minor role.

This is absolutely true. I wasn't making an argument about optics in a political race or otherwise, just about reality on the ground.

But yes, if US casualties continue to drop, that will have a bigger impact on many Americans even if Iraqis continue to die at horrific rates.

One thing, though: even with reduced US casualty levels, the cost of the war remains at about $2 billion a week. That has the potential to keep people interested.

John: Good catch. Glad to see someone's paying attention...

The United States has not benefitted at all from the invasion of Iraq. All the evidence supports this. It has not prevented a single terrorist attack and it hasn’t led to any tangable reforms in the Arab world and only seems to have but Iran in a stronger position. In the southern shiite region of Iraq, women are being forced to wear veils under penalty of death by religious fanatics.
There was even some speculation that the invasion would lead to lower oil prices. It’s only gone up to astronomical heights.
There are many indications that the continuing occupation of Iraq has put this nation’s military close to the breaking point. And, worse yet, our military is much less prepared to deal with future threats.
This is not to say that some haven’t benefitted from the invasion. Defense contractors, such as Haliburton, KBR and Blackwater have all made out like bandits on no-bid government contracts. And no accountability at all. Another benifituary has been the Mullahs of Iran who can now, with Saddam out of the way, influence the Shiite faction of Iraq. Also benefitting from our invasion is the Taliban and their Al Queda allies, which, due to our misplaced use of resources, now have a safe haven in Pakistan.

So, this is what we’ve got to show for spending hundreds of billions of dollars and the lives of four thousand soldiers. So that America’s enemies get stronger, private contractors can bilk the taxpayers and the price of oil goes through the stratosphere. Mission Accomplished indeed!

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