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March 01, 2009

Comments

excellent.

Obama has won the war.

Dude, Bush was right.

The war was a good thing.

Dude, Bush was right.

The war was a good thing.

Life's the same, except for my shoes.

Cool.

I do have a question. Or, rather, I find the story confusing. It seems like a military spokesperson is interviewing a soldier. is that the case? If so, why is the spokesperson so surprised? As a spokesperson wouldn't he/she be right there, in Bagddad, familiar with the situation?

How many hours of working electricity has Baghdad per year?
How many before the American invasion and occupation?

How many functional hospitals before/after?

Infant survival before/after ?

Number of households with safe drinking water ?

Status of women before/after ?

Murder rate before/after ?

How many Iraqis died in the war?

And now we're to think it's all OK, it's a success, we won the war, because some few American servicemen feel secure enough to drink and dance at a nightclub in a country under American military occupation.

The unprovoked American war of agression against Iraq was and remains a comtemptible and illegal act of barbarism by the Office of the President of the United States, a stain on our national honor worse than the Spanish American War.

I regret that I have but one life to give to my clubbing.

Hmmm...

And Abu Nawas Street is arguably the safest street in the capital. It runs along the Tigris River, ending at one entrance to the Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government buildings are situated. Hassan's nightclub is on a stretch of street that is blocked off on either end by blast walls and checkpoints guarded by Iraqi private security contractors and police. Several American and European media organizations have fortresslike bureaus up the road, each with its own private force. American troops patrol on foot virtually every day.

"This area is well protected," Hassan said. "If I didn't have the security, I wouldn't be able to do business. Customers will be afraid to come. They will be kidnapped or killed."

The previous night, he said, gunmen entered a nightclub near Andalus Square in central Baghdad and kidnapped two customers.

Well, I'm convinced. Mission accomplished.

I'm curious - maybe I'm prejudiced - but isn't the existence of a nightclub somewhat surprising? Nightclubs are where libations happen: Drinking! Showing skin! Humping! And Grinding! Somehow I would think that these activities would not be commercially viable in Iraq. Color me impressed.

Thanks for filling in the backstory, spartikus.

It strikes me that the title of the previous post would have suited this one perfectly well too.

I want things to get better for the Iraqis. To me the acknowledgementthat things are getting better inno way justifies the war. The original ratinalizations for the war were bullshit then and are bullshit now. We never should have invaded.
But, if things are stabilizing and getting safer and people are beginning to recover, I am glad.

joel: And now we're to think it's all OK, it's a success, we won the war, because some few American servicemen feel secure enough to drink and dance at a nightclub in a country under American military occupation.

Plus, a lot of schools got painted. Don't forget that.

And the nation was saved, for a few years at least, from the scourges of higher marginal income tax rates and gay marriage.

Not Iraq, of course. The US.

Because Iraq never was about Iraq.

I suspect that things like this will be cited as 'evidence' that we were just about to win the war when those damn progressives interfered again in things they knew nothing about, just like in Vietnam, so that all those servicemen died in vain and the Iraqi people were doomed to more bloodshed. Thankfully, we won't have a Jane Fonda photo for the new Dolchstoßlegende, although I'm sure her name will be dragged out again.

"A U.S. military spokesman, responding to a query about the soldiers, was incredulous. "Just so I understand this clearly, you saw U.S. soldiers at a nightclub in downtown Baghdad outside of the Green Zone in uniform drinking and dancing?" asked Tech. Sgt. Chris Stagner."

Everyone so far seems to have missed the context of the situation. It is against US Army regulations for any servicemember to drink alcohol anywhere in Iraq. This is why the spokesperson was incredulous, not the fact a nightclub was operating.

Alcohol has always been available in Iraq, in spite of the religious prohibition. Nightclubs in Baghdad thrived under Saddam.

DXM is right, of course: Iraq was never about who wins over there, it was always about who wins over here.

Now, making Iraq safe for nightclubbing, if it came to pass, would indeed be a major accomplishment for somebody. Western "values" include a major dose of carnal pleasure and alcoholic excess. In the Clash of Civilizations, every nightclub in Iraq is a small triumph of commerce over religion, of capitalism over piety. So let's raise our glasses, ladies and gentlemen, to the prospect of a future Iraq so decadent that neither al-Sistani nor James Dobson would approve of the goings-on in it. We can but hope that, one dancefloor at a time, barstool by barstool, the forces of hedonism shall gain ground over the god-botherers until one day modernity shall prevail and the drunk shall inherit the Earth, amen.

Meanwhile, we might ask von if he knows what the Baghdad nightclub scene was like before Dick and Dubya's Excellent Adventure.

--TP

Also something to note--

Link

MJ Rosenberg linked to this over at TPM Cafe--it shows an American officer giving a "pep talk" of sorts to some Iraqi police. I think this guy may get into some trouble if his tirade gets enough attention.

As for Iraq, the violence has decreased for a number of reasons, including Baghdad's partial ethnic cleansing, the purchase of Sunni loyalty (along with their disgust at al Qaeda and their realization that they were losing the war with the Shiites) and also, I suppose. whatever changes Petraeus initiated. But there's still somewhere between 100,000 and over 1 million dead civilians (I'd guess at least 300,000), so if Americans want to see this as a victory it says something uncomplimentary about us.

Great! Now that Iraq is (apparently) so pacified, let's start bring our troops back home: so our party boys and girls in uniform can do their clubbing in the US: and help boost the domestic economy, rather than Iraq's!

Thanks for filling in the backstory, spartikus.

Well, it's from the same article. I'm just very surprised that after 6 years of occupation, American troops - in full combat gear - are only now buying drinks a very heavily fortified block away from the Green Zone.

I admit my knowledge of the Vietnam conflict is not as deep as others here, but I would also be very surprised to hear if there was an extended period where US soldiers couldn't go out drinking in Saigon. The Tet Offensive, perhaps.

Bob in fla makes the correct point about the Army spokesperson. Drinking and partying while fully armed and quite possibly on duty: what could go wrong?

Alcohol has always been available in Iraq, in spite of the religious prohibition. Nightclubs in Baghdad thrived under Saddam.

Alcohol provision was traditionally a business of Christians, who are not under a religious prohibition, but of course their clientele included nominal Muslims.

Liquor sales and nightclubs in Iraq's cities have waxed and waned with both the security situation and with the amount of control exercised in a given area by religious fundamentalists.

The persecution and forced exile of a significant part of Iraq's already small Christian population put a serious crimp in the supply chain in 2006-7. I wonder if that business is now more Muslim than Christian, or if the Christian communities are experiencing a rebound with some drop in violence against them.

In response to the above 'guess' of 300,000 dead Iraqis, the Lancet survey of October 2006 put the number of excess deaths at 655,000 with a 95% CI of 393,000 to 942,000, the number of deaths due to violence was estimated to be 601,000 with a 95% CI of 426,000 to 793,000. While questions have been raised about the methodology of the survey (and certainly there are vested interests that wanted to 'debunk' it), those figures are from over two years ago so I would suggest that an estimate of 300,000 dead Iraqi civilians is low.

RogueDem, there was also the New England Journal of Medicine paper last year (the IFHS study), which for the exact same time period as the Lancet survey found between 100 and 220,000 violent deaths, with the midrange figure being 150,000 deaths, or four times less than Lancet2 while being three times greater than IBC's figure of 50,000 for that period. The NEJM paper was in near-perfect agreement with the Lancet1 paper's numbers where they overlapped (during the first 18 months). So I took their midrange number of 150,000, which is three times IBC, and multiplied the current IBC number to get 300,000. Just a guess, of course.

I am a little tired, though, of people on my side of the issue talking as though Lancet2's numbers are unquestionable and the only reason for any skepticism is vested interest in debunking it. I know about those vested interests--I've been following the debate at other blogs ever since Lancet1 and yes, many people attacked L1 because they refused to believe the numbers could be that high--now, ironically, some cite the NEJM paper as though it is authoritative, not noticing that it supports L1.

I don't know the true death toll, but there are conflicting estimates by studies which were equally scientific, so it's not correct to talk as though the only reason for skepticism about L2 is ignorance or bad faith. L2 might be right (there's another poll, less scientific, by ORB that supports it), or it might not. One reason for doubting the NEJM study is that the surveyors told the interviewees that they worked for the Iraqi government, which might have frightened some of them into concealing violent deaths. But that's speculation, just as it is speculation to say that L2 must be wrong.

Last time I looked (a few months ago), wikipedia had a pretty good article on the subject of Iraqi casualties, with all the various polls (some unmentioned by me here) and surveys discussed in what I thought was a fair way. I haven't checked them lately.

It's just like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime!

Here's the wikipedia article at present--

Link

The current portion on Lancet2 is biased against it--wikipedia makes it sound like the recent Johns Hopkins investigation validated the criticisms of the paper. In fact, it found no evidence that the data was fraudulent, but censured Burnham because it turns out some names were collected, in violation of the ethical guidelines.

RogueDem, there was also the New England Journal of Medicine paper last year (the IFHS study), which for the exact same time period as the Lancet survey found between 100 and 220,000 violent deaths, with the midrange figure being 150,000 deaths, or four times less than Lancet2 while being three times greater than IBC's figure of 50,000 for that period.

Um, aren't they measuring different things?

My attitude is: who cares? We caused a lot of people to die needlessly. In regard to von's link; my initial response was niave. Yes, it is nice to know that people are out having fun and that they enjoy the company of Americans; however, drinking and dancing on duty is a set up for big trouble. What is a car backfires outside the bar and someone thinks that shooting has started? What if the brother of one of the prostitutes shows up to defend the family honor by killing her ( a custom which is tolerated in the new Iraq)? i can think of a dozen ways that nice friendly dance party could end in a shoot out.

I am glad if things are calming down, glad if fewer people died rather than more, but none of that changes the fact that we shouldn't have gone in in the first place. And the only people who have any right to decided if the war was worth it or not are the Iraqis.

OT - casualty estimates

@Donald Johnson: I hope I'm not among those in your general corner when it comes to Iraq who've irritated you wrt Lancet estimates.

Specifically, I was wondering if you had that reaction to my back-of-the-envelope calculations in Eric's Long Black Veil thread, which led me to a sense that the figures cited in that NYTimes article supported Lancet estimates higher than 300K).

I'm glad to see the careful criticism being accorded top the higher estimates of Iraqi casualties.

After all, if it's just a matter of one or two hundred thousand people killed, and maybe half-a-million refugees, only a few hundred tortured, and maybe only ten or twenty of those tortured to death, and perhaps a low low estimated one trillion American tax dollars expended, a virtually-negligible five or ten billion dollars in palleted cash baksheesh handed to the most bribeable and corrupt people on the scene, merely a matter of the near-destruction of the US Army force readiness and the creation and funding of a independent professional US mercenary corps, and a trifling four or five thousand flag-draped coffins riding the plane home from Ramstein ...

well, then, it was all worth it, wasn't it? We win!

Well, well, I certainly hope that there are a few Irakis reading this blog.
They can console themselves with the thought that in the long term, the colonizers are ultimately colonized...
Meager consolation for the time being.
But sometimes, the possiblity of thinking in a long term framework (now impossible in the U.S...) gives some consolation.
You have to take what you can get, sometimes.

"Um, aren't they measuring different things?"

No. Lancet2, among other things, measured violent deaths and found 600,000. They also measured excess deaths, and found 650,000. The NEJM paper measured violent deaths and found 150,000. (Ignoring CI's in both cases.) IBC might be measuring something different in that they try to single out civilian deaths as opposed to insurgent deaths, but it is likely most of the deaths are civilian anyway. In late 2007 USA Today published an article saying that the US military claimed to have killed something like 17,000 insurgents by then (I forget the exact number).

Nell--No, you haven't irritated me. I get irritated when I point out that there are varying estimates of the death toll and then receive the same lecture I've seen numerous times before about the Lancet2 paper. The irony is that I'm more on the Lancet side than on the side of the most of the critics. Everyone should recognize that we don't know how many people have died in Iraq and the scandal is that it doesn't appear that we (meaning Americans in general) care that much. The Lancet people have tried to find out--the NEJM paper was an attempt, but it boggles my mind that survey teams would go around telling people they work for the very government that was supporting death squads.
I saw your widow calculation and thought it sounded plausible, but I'd want a demographer to tell me if one can make good estimates of the non-war widow number, for instance. I was doing the same sort of thing when I saw the article.

Joel hanes, I hope that sarcasm wasn't aimed my way, but I don't see any other place it could have been aimed. Whatever. I agree that Iraq was a horrific crime no matter what the true death toll, but we damn well ought to care just how many people died, and one of the issues at stake, btw, is how many were killed directly by our forces. L2 suggests that a very large fraction of those 600,000 (31 percent and the CI for that percentage only dips down into the 20's) was identified as being killed by coalition forces, which is vastly larger than what you'd get from IBC's data. They counted about 7000 in the invasion months, a couple thousand in 2004, largely due to the two assaults and the bombing of Fallujah, and several hundred per year in all other years. If L2 is right about this then most of the discussion of the Iraq War in this country has been wildly offbase and the coverage of the conduct of the war, if anything, more misleading than the coverage given during the WMD debate. Where in the press do you get any hint that our forces might have killed 200,000 people in Iraq? Either L2 is way off or the press has been absolutely worthless in its coverage.

sarcasm wasn't aimed my way, but I don't see any other place it could have been aimed.

You're right. My apologies for the free-floating rant, which has nothing to do with your data.

Joel---Thanks. Your rant was correct, of course--I just wasn't sure if I was part of your intended target group.

Early in the Iraq war, the Washington Post ran a story (somewhere buried at the end of the A section - where the worthwhile stories all seemed to be hidden) reporting that America, as a matter of policy, wasn't going to keep track of Iraqi casualties, including civilians. There seemed to be little outcry then, even though the reason for the war was already beginning to morph from "searching for WMD's" to "liberating the Iraqi people from the evil Saddam Hussein". Of course, the media at that time didn't really pick up on the story - very little real follow-up or discussion as to how killing countless (literally) Iraqi civilians equated to liberating them. Most of us here who have been against the war from the beginning know all this, but remembering how little public outrage there was brings a new sense of depression about the whole debacle. Yes, there were anti-war protests, but the ineffectiveness of the anti-war movement as compared to the inevitability of war rhetoric - it's horrifying to remember. It's like thinking of any act of random violence - it still doesn't make sense, and it still eludes me to imagine how it could have been prevented. There aren't too many people who we'll find justifying it now, and think of how many supported it.

I've read people commenting here who believe that one dead person is too many, what's the use of counting, etc. Obviously one needless death is too many, but it does say something about the supposed attempt to avoid civilian casualties, and many other issues, when there's no attempt to account for them. It certainly undercuts the "helping Iraqi" argument when it's pointed out how many have died.

Preaching to the choir here, but just saying.

Drinking and dancing?

Who is drinking what with whom?

If Iraqi women are fraternizing with Americans, I can see an argument that things are not getting better--at least by Iraqi standards--but that they are getting worse, forcing Iraqi women (widows?) to solicit GIs for drinks and tips.

is there any indication that this is NOT the case?

If you look at excess deaths the Iraq Health Ministry survey (or New England Journal of Medecine survey) puts the number at some 400,000 which is within the 95% CI of the second Lancet survey. It should also be pointed out that the Lancet 2 survey is not even the highest estimate derived from survey data. The Lancet study and the NEJM study differ markedly on the number of deaths attributable to violence. The bottom line is that I am no expert on these types of studies and am not qualified to critique them in detail but given the information at hand, a study by MIT and Johns Hopkins researchers (i.e. the second Lancet study) seems to me to be the best estmate currently available so when I see a 'guess' that falls outside of their 95% CI then I tend to be skeptical.

I saw where Jim Lehrer, when interviewing Obama, referred to "maybe 100,000 killed" which I considered ridiculous. If Lehrer had said 'maybe one million killed' or 'at least 100,000 killed' that would be tolerable. Personally I consider the question of whether our press has been "absolutely worthless in its coverage" to be solely rhetorical.

"The bottom line is that I am no expert on these types of studies and am not qualified to critique them in detail"

Same here, but the experts are also divided, from what I've read. It's likely, based on all the studies, that the violent death toll is probably much greater than the IBC figure (the 100,000), but how much greater is unknown. I agree that much of the criticism of the Lancet studies comes from people arguing in bad faith.

As for whether the press coverage of the Iraq War is absolutely worthless, that's the big question. The US-inflicted portion of the casualties as depicted by IBC (based on press reports) is wildly different from that implied by the Lancet2 study--it's two almost completely different wars. It's possible the truth is somewhere in-between, but I don't know. And Americans have a duty to know this.

We've totally won. As everyone knows, US soldiers never went to nightclubs in Saigon.

woody: If Iraqi women are fraternizing with Americans, I can see an argument that things are not getting better--at least by Iraqi standards--but that they are getting worse, forcing Iraqi women (widows?) to solicit GIs for drinks and tips.

If this night club has prostitutes - or "bar hostesses", or whatever the term is, working the clientele, sure. I think that more likely than not. But this would not be a new phenomenon: though I cannot recall von posting or commenting about it, that many Iraqis have been forced into prostitution as the only means of supporting their families, thanks to the US, has been true for some years, predictably. The US destroyed the Iraqi economy, invaded, caused the deaths of about a million people (and even if the majority were women and children, as Lancet1 reports, this still left large numbers of widows), and gave the country a large hard shove towards a kind of religious extremism which bans women from regular work outside the home.

If Iraqi widows and orphans are now servicing American soldiers instead of other Iraqis, this is not "things are getting worse" - this is "the prostitutes the US created are now serving US interests directly". As Von might put it.

What is it with the fantasizing about prostitution? I've been against the war, and imagine that a lot of horrible things have happened, do happen, will happen as a result of it. But it doesn't necessarily follow, just because people are having some drinks, that "widows and orphans are now servicing American soldiers instead of other Iraqis". There are a lot of Americans who joined the army for a lot of reasons - it's not really fair to them to spin vile fantasies about them generally.

Sapient: But it doesn't necessarily follow, just because people are having some drinks, that "widows and orphans are now servicing American soldiers instead of other Iraqis".

Do you think this night-club was men-only, then? Or what?

Do you really think it's a "vile fantasy" that male American soldiers will have sex with local female prostitutes when stationed in another country? Vile, certainly. A fantasy, I fear not.

Well, fantasizing about prostitution is a big part of the Puritan mindset.
It may or may not be true.
But, your INTERPRETATION of what is going on is much more indicative of YOU than the actual situation.
Particularly when there is as little information about all of this as appears on this blog.

Debra: Particularly when there is as little information about all of this as appears on this blog.

You may not know this, Debra, but when you click on the underlined text on a blog, you get taken through to the story on the Washington Post that the blogger is quoting. From the story:

Inside the club Thursday night, U.S. soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division ogled young Iraqi women who appeared to be prostitutes gyrating to Arabic pop music. A singer crooned soulfully through scratchy speakers to the raucous, pulsating beat -- an action that Islamic extremists have deemed punishable by beheading.

Twenty minutes later, several drunk men coaxed an American soldier to dance. He awkwardly shuffled his feet, wearing night-vision equipment and a radio, joining the women and boisterous young men in an Arabic chain dance around tables covered with empty beer bottles.

Were they prostitutes? The journalist doesn't say what led him to that conclusion.

In December last year, the same paper ran a story on how the decrease of violence had let some Iraqi women in Baghdad have a degree of personal freedom unheard of: they were able to drive. Nothing in the story suggests that young Iraqi women, with family to support them, are free to go out on their own to go dancing in night-clubs and return home without any queries about their behavior. Maybe all the women in this night club were married women with husbands who take them clubbing. Maybe there has been a sudden outburst of freedom and Iraqi teenagers who were forbidden to go anywhere alone are now allowed to go out clubbing on their own, at night-clubs with US soldiers.

Or, you know: despite your and Sapient's not liking to think about male US soldiers and mercenaries having sex with Iraqi prostitutes, it happens, the women in this night-club are prostitutes, and probably widows or orphans. As von said in a comment to an earlier post; they're serving American interests.

Or, you know: despite your and Sapient's not liking to think about male US soldiers and mercenaries having sex with Iraqi prostitutes, it happens, the women in this night-club are prostitutes, and probably widows or orphans. As von said in a comment to an earlier post; they're serving American interests.

Jes, you managed to provide a link at "it happens" and "widows and orphans." Why don't you link to where I said that "prostitutes" who are "widows and orphans" are there serving American interests?

Why don't you link to where I said that "prostitutes" who are "widows and orphans" are there serving American interests?

Ah, thanks, Von: sarcasm is no longer permitted in the new American Reich.

No, Von, you did not say that the prostitutes working the Baghdad night-clubs are serving American interests when they service US soldiers. You merely expressed a hope that the US would remain in military occupation of Iraq so long as "it serves our* interests" - and shortly afterwards presented US soldiers out for a night at a Baghdad night-club with Iraqi prostitutes as a promising sign of such continuing military occupation.

*You were asked, in that thread, what you meant by "our interests", and, wisely, ignored that question. After all, what could you say? The pretense that the US occupation of Iraq is in the interest of the Iraqis was never very convincing, and the claims that it is in the general interest of ordinary Americans lost the plot some years ago. "Our interests": who is included in the "our" - not the most of us! - and what "interests" are benefited by the death, torture, imprisonment, rape, and prostitution of so many Iraqis?

Thanks for the "clarification," J.

Ah, thanks, Von: sarcasm is no longer permitted in the new American Reich.

The "new American Reich" is led by a black dude who ran as a progressive. Not your mother's Nazi party, it seems.

If you're trying to get me to make a snide remark regarding Obama's socialism, there are better ways to go about it.

*You were asked, in that thread, what you meant by "our interests", and, wisely, ignored that question. After all, what could you say?

Quite a bit, actually, which is why I'm saving those thoughts for a stand-alone post.

If you're trying to get me to make a snide remark regarding Obama's socialism, there are better ways to go about it.

*blinks* Not at all. I was noting your support for a perpetual military occupation of another country to "serve our interests", an essentially fascist doctrine. What your upholding of fascism for America has to do with Obama's conservative economic policy, only you know.

Quite a bit, actually, which is why I'm saving those thoughts for a stand-alone post.

I await your explanation with interested distaste.

Whether the women in the article are prostitutes, widows or orphans was not proved by the article. I'm sure we can all admit that, in every society, prostitution happens (and is engaged in by both genders). Since the personal situation of the women in that bar was not explored, nor is it clear from the article whether the men in the article were "being serviced" by those women, it's a vile assumption that either they or the soldiers were doing anything contrary to their own sense of dignity. Perhaps their presence there was contrary to the norms of a culture which is extremely repressive to women. Perhaps they were prostitutes. I prefer not to judge their level of degradation based on stereotypes. In fact, I don't judge people according to stereotypes, and try not to think about their degradation at all, unless there are many more facts than the ones stated in th article.

When I'm pondering the various ways that women and men are discriminated against and degraded in various societies (not only Iraqi society but my own) I do think about prostitution, but I also consider repressive marriage regimes. The latter may offer more "dignity" since marriage (on no matter what terms) is acceptable to society at large. I'm not sure whether a woman's soul is any better preserved by it. Not that my ponderings have any relevance whatsoever to what may or may not be occurring within that bar.

I have the vague impression that under Saddam quite a bit of behvior which is normative in the West like non-prostitute women hanging out in nightclubs) whas also normative in Iraq. However, one of the effects of our invasion was to release the power of religious fundamentalism in that country which ahd lots of horrible effects of which the surpression of women is one. So this little nightclub district could have prostitutes in it or it could be that the block of protected area is a little out post of pre-invasion secular culture and the women are just there to socialize.

There is something icky about creating chaos ina country and then sexually exploiting the women who can find no other way to make a living because of the chaos. on the othr han we don't know that thhat is the cse with these particular women. Or soldiers.

wonkie: it's a vile assumption that either they or the soldiers were doing anything contrary to their own sense of dignity.

I find it strange that some people live in a state of mind where it becomes vile to talk about male US soldiers making use of Iraqi prostitutes, and the number of Iraqi widows and orphans with no other means of earning than by prostitution.

I would certainly hope that Iraqi women who are forced to turn to prostitution to support themselves or their families manage to maintain their own sense of dignity despite that.

I find I don't much care if US soldiers who make use of Iraqi prostitutes find it "dignified" or not.

I have the vague impression that under Saddam quite a bit of behvior which is normative in the West like non-prostitute women hanging out in nightclubs) whas also normative in Iraq. However, one of the effects of our invasion was to release the power of religious fundamentalism in that country which ahd lots of horrible effects of which the surpression of women is one.

Correct.

or it could be that the block of protected area is a little out post of pre-invasion secular culture and the women are just there to socialize.

There might also be pink unicorns. You can't show it isn't so just because the author of the article didn't mention them.

There is something icky about creating chaos ina country and then sexually exploiting the women who can find no other way to make a living because of the chaos. on the othr han we don't know that thhat is the cse with these particular women. Or soldiers.

We don't, no. But what evidence there is about the use of prostitutes by US soldiers and mercenaries in Iraq suggests the main reason there's less of it in Baghdad is that Baghdad outside the Green Zone was unsafe. If, as Von happily hypothesizes, it becomes safe enough for US soldiers to go out on R&R and the US military occupation continues... there will be widows and orphans who need the money to survive, servicing male US soldiers who think they're entitled. Von promises us a longer article on why he thinks the US occupying Iraq is in "our interests" - which will, I don't doubt, ignore the interests of the women whose presence in that nightclub he also ignored in this post.

I have the vague impression that under Saddam quite a bit of behvior which is normative in the West like non-prostitute women hanging out in nightclubs) whas also normative in Iraq.

Actually, per the article I linked, Saddam closed bars and nightclubs in order to appease the fundamentalists.

as Von happily hypothesizes,

There you go again. I suppose that if I ask you to provide a link for this purported "hypothesis" of mine, you'll provide the same brand of weak tea that you regularly serve (as in your post on March 02, 2009 at 09:58 AM).

I presume that you include these aside regarding my purported views because you crave attention. (It's clearly not because you're a mindreader.)

I find it strange that some people live in a state of mind where it becomes vile to talk about male US soldiers making use of Iraqi prostitutes, and the number of Iraqi widows and orphans with no other means of earning than by prostitution.

I don't find it vile to talk about the phenomenon as it actually exists; I find it vile to fantasize that it's going on in every instance of soldiers at a bar with women (prostitutes or not) present.

I don't find it vile to talk about the phenomenon of sexual abuse of children by priests. I find it vile to assume that all priests in the vicinity of children are sexually abusing them.

Etc.

Well, speaking of polls and surveys, it'd be nice to have statistics on the number and type of sexual encounters American troops have overseas--not for prurient interests, you know, but because it's been an actual issue in places where there are American bases, or so I gather. Here's a quote from Chalmers Johnson's book "Blowback"--

"Few Americans who have never served in the armed forces overseas have any conception of the nature or impact of an American base complex, with its massive military facilities...and the associated bars, strip clubs, whorehouses, and venereal disease clinics that they attract in a land like Okinawa."

A few sentences later he writes--

"Until the withdrawal of US forces from the Philippines in 1992, the town of Ologapo, adjacent to the US naval base at Subic Bay, had no industry except for the "entertainment" business which supported approximately 55,000 prostitutes and a total of 2182 registered establishments offering "rest and recreation" to American servicemen."

He also has some things to say about American servicemen and prostitutes in Thailand.

I read "Jarhead" a few years ago and prostitution came up more than once in that book, though there was no opportunity for it in Saudi Arabia. But it seemed to be one of the perks of military service in other parts of the world.

I don't know about Iraq. I would think that US officials would see this kind of fraternization in a Muslim country as something to be strongly discouraged, but I haven't read anything about it.


The "vile assumption" remark wasn't from me. Someone else wrote that.

"Do you really think it's a "vile fantasy" that male American soldiers will have sex with local female prostitutes when stationed in another country? Vile, certainly."

What's so vile about paying for sex? If that's vile, what are straight women going to do? Start supporting themselves instead of marrying? Are women going to have to start buying all their own drinks? Horrors!

And the idea that American soldiers are the cause and the source of prostitution in a society as old as Mesopotamia is too silly even to respond to. It's about as silly as atributing every Iraqi civilian casualty to American troops.

Same here, but the experts are also divided, from what I've read.

I don't see as much disagreement as you do. Lancet2 and NEJM agree on the excess death toll. They disagree as to what fraction of that death toll was caused by violence. I know that if I were an Iraqi whose family members had been violently killed, I sure as hell wouldn't be saying that to people working for the Iraqi government. I've got some family in the middle east and their distrust of government workers is much higher than I think many Americans can understand. There are lots of people in the world who assume that their government is looking for excuses to kill you, and admitting that your father died in a clash with militants is more than reason enough.

It's likely, based on all the studies, that the violent death toll is probably much greater than the IBC figure (the 100,000), but how much greater is unknown.

At this point, I find the IBC numbers to be offensive. Their methodology is absolute garbage. Only an idiot would say that there were no thefts in my town yesterday simply because there were no reports of theft in today's newspaper. I mean, can you imagine someone saying that we know that no Jews were killed during the Holocaust because no western journalists saw such killings with their own eyes and wrote english language articles at the time? That would enrage me, and I see no reason to treat claims that cite IBC numbers as any better. IBC was a good idea at its inception; back then we really had no good information. But times change and know we have several solid studies to rely on. People citing IBC numbers in 2009 seem like 12 year old kids who continue to breast feeding.

As for whether the press coverage of the Iraq War is absolutely worthless, that's the big question.

Um, I don't see any question. If you wanted to know a first-order approximation of the war's effects on Iraqis, we have several studies conducted by reputable scientists that agree: about 600,000 Iraqis died as of 2006. Whether they died by gunfire or whether they starved to death after their primary breadwinner was killed by gunfire doesn't really matter. There are all sorts of details and questions you can get into beyond this single statistic, but this is the simplest most accurate explanation for what has been done to Iraqis. Any further refinement must start from here. And this basic understanding has been completely ignored by the press. This number has literally been disappeared. The fact that very few Americans understand this simple number proves that the American media has failed on an epic scale.

The US-inflicted portion of the casualties as depicted by IBC (based on press reports) is wildly different from that implied by the Lancet2 study--it's two almost completely different wars.

I don't think IBC's "methodology" (and I use the term loosely) limits its death counts to only those killed by US forces.

Von: I suppose that if I ask you to provide a link for this purported "hypothesis" of mine

You mean like this post, the OP of the thread we're both commenting in?

This post of yours is not intended to hypothesise that US soldiers now feel safe enough to sometimes go out on R&R outside the Green Zone? Or this post of yours is intended to indicate to us that you feel unhappy or at best neutral about US soldiers R&Ring outside the Green Zone?

Do tell, Von, because you're right, I can't "mindread": I can only go by what you write. And what you've written so far suggested strongly to me that you are happy about US soldiers going on R&R, and you are happy that US soldiers will remain in Iraq, and I presumed from what you'd written that you were hypothesising that as time went on, US soldiers would feel safer and safer going outside the Green Zone to Iraqi night-clubs. So yeah: I get "happily hypothesising" from what you wrote and cited: if you actually meant to convey your deep unhappiness with this, well: it didn't come across.

Do expound.

I am still trying to figure out why von flagged this excerpt, particularly in view of other parts of the same article that demonstrate that the bar is in a heavily guarded and atypical environment. Not much of an example of how things are generally.

Or why the WaPo writer saw a story in this circumstance or that the editor could title it "An End to Bagdad's 'Dark Era'". What is the journalism in using an atypical anecdote as alleged evidence for a broader trend?

Someone equally slanted could take the same anecdote and write the reverse spin -- that after all these years, a normal nightclub can exist only in the most guarded zones, and no where else. The point is that this night club story does not mean that much.

Only an idiot would say that there were no thefts in my town yesterday simply because there were no reports of theft in today's newspaper.

On September 22, 1972, the day after Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law and shut down all the newspapers in the Philippines (as well as dissolving Congress, &c.), there was no crime in the Philippines.

You could look it up. ;}

"The US-inflicted portion of the casualties as depicted by IBC (based on press reports) is wildly different from that implied by the Lancet2 study--it's two almost completely different wars."--Me

"I don't think IBC's "methodology" (and I use the term loosely) limits its death counts to only those killed by US forces." --Turbulence

You misunderstood me here. I know what IBC counts and my point is that if L2 is correct, then it's not just that IBC undercounts the total number of violent deaths by a factor of ten or so--they undercount the violent death toll inflicted specifically by US forces by an even larger factor, in some years by a factor of 100. IBC had the US-inflicted toll at roughly 10,000 by 2006, of which nearly 7000 was inflicted in the invasion months in 2003. Then there was Fallujah--between 1 and 2000 more. And outside of that, in most months it's one or two American-inflicted deaths a day on average. In contrast, L2 implies nearly 200,000 deaths inflicted by coalition forces and it's not concentrated in the first year, but increases year by year (through June 2006), though the percentage of total deaths stays roughly the same. That's an average of 200 a day. L2 doesn't distinguish between civilians and insurgents, but nobody thinks the US was killing 200 insurgents a day--if it was, then that would tell us something interesting in itself about just how many Iraqis were shooting at the Americans.

Anyway, this is nothing like what was reported in the press. The war we read about in the press (as summarized in the IBC data) and what we see in L2 are dramatically differen and not just on the total death toll --nobody reading the NYT would have thought that coalition forces were causing 30 percent (or more) of the total deaths. If this is true then it's extremely important to know about--it wasn't just Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence with US forces failing to keep the violence down, at least not in 2003-2006.

I don't know what to make of this, except that if L2 is giving the correct picture then the news media has done an unbelievably bad job covering the actual conduct of the war and virtually every discussion I've ever seen of it in the mainstream is based on lies and misinformation so huge it rivals anything one might have expected to see in Pravda.

As for IBC itself, I started to dislike them when I downloaded their 2005 summary of the first two years of their data, expecting them to display some reasonable level of skepticism about the completeness of their own data and how it might show bias, only to find they were more interested in praising its wonderful quality.
But their number is useful as a minimum and I've cited them on Fallujah, where NYT reporter Dexter Filkins was skeptical of reports of large numbers of civilian casualties because he didn't personally see any. (He also didn't see any insurgent bodies until the Marines hunted one down for him). So IBC has its uses.

BTW, someone might object that maybe there's a large uncertainty in L2's data when you start disaggregating it into deaths caused by coalition forces vs. others. But L2 gives the percentage of deaths attributable to coalition forces as 31 percent, and the 95 percent CI is from 26 to 37.

Also, 45 percent were not attributed to any particular actor, so (assuming L2's validity) the percentage is almost certainly higher, quite possibly higher than 50 percent.

And yeah, one possibility is that the Iraqi respondents were just lying or mistaken about who killed their family members.

"What's so vile about paying for sex?"

We're not talking about well-off women, of their own free choice, choosing to indulge their whims. We're talking about desperately poor women forced to work as prostitutes because they have no other alternative to survive.

That's more or less forced sex, and isn't very far from engaging in rape. That's what's vile.

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