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How bad is it really in Iraq?
September 28, 2003 4:03 PM   Subscribe

How bad is it really in Iraq? The majority of the media stories have covered the attacks on American troops and the unrest among Iraqi citizens. But is that the full story? An Iraqi Catholic bishop thinks the media is lying about the postwar state of the country. An Iraqi journalist writes that Basrah is moving towards religious stability. There are other stories of the renewed economic opportunities in Iraq. An American federal judge visited the country and found overwhelming support for Americans. Even a Democratic Congressman thinks the negative media coverage is dangerous. More coverage from in-country and polls (NY Times) that show Iraqi optimism.
posted by marcusb (73 comments total)

 
I think this is pretty sane take on the whole thing...

The answer, of course, is both. The White House and Pentagon have bully pulpits and enormous budgets to tell their story. Reporters, however, make their reputations on stories that effect change. When resources force them to pick, the latter will nearly always triumph. In my opinion, that's about the way it should be.

but I'm still voting NO on the recall, YES on quagmire.
posted by victors at 4:16 PM on September 28, 2003


Thank you, marcusb, for that oh-so-balanced view. I was so moved, I went to read some of your own equally sanguine opinions:

The only people who really believe that Bush needed to make a case for invasion are the ones that would have refused whatever he brought forward ...
posted by stonerose at 4:22 PM on September 28, 2003


Hmmm. Why don't you try reading the poll numbers in a bit more detail. The "optimism" could be seen as a thumb's up for the Americans, or it could be seen as just an indicator of rising expectations. And rising expectations can be dangerous, if not fulfilled (see: French Revolution, etc., etc..) Otherwise, Bush is still rated considerably lower than Chirac, for gosh sakes. What do you make of that? The poll results sound rather complicated to me. You could spin them a dozen different ways, if you were into that sort of thing.
posted by raysmj at 4:31 PM on September 28, 2003


It seems to me that the poll results don't support what we've been led to believe by the media and the president's opponents -- that the Iraq occupation is a disasterous "quagmire." Remember all the fuss about the museum? Although the place was trashed by looters, the stories in the media about exactly what was stolen was far worse than the truth. I'm not saying that the post-war reconstruction of Iraq has gone smoothly, but I'd bet that our impressions of what's going on in Iraq are worse than the reality. Time will tell.
posted by Durwood at 4:44 PM on September 28, 2003


Yes, thank you for gathering all the refutation of the liberal media's crazy propaganda in one easy to digest feel good post so that we can all finally breathe a sigh of relief and just get over this whole Iraq thing.

So now that we've gotten past that little war thingy, shall we talk about the economy? Or is that problem just liberal media distorsion as well?

Remember all the fuss about the museum? Although the place was trashed by looters, the stories in the media about exactly what was stolen was far worse than the truth

This statement is so baseless as to be laughable. Care to explain, or even better, show some evidence, as to why you think looting the museum was no big deal?
posted by sic at 4:49 PM on September 28, 2003


Let's get Bustamante in there to repair that economy.
posted by shoos at 5:39 PM on September 28, 2003


Sic:
I'm not sure if this proves that the looting was "no big deal", but it does point out that all but 38 of the artifacts were indeed recovered.
posted by Alison at 5:43 PM on September 28, 2003


My sister (no fan of the current administration) is currently serving in Iraq through her Army Reserve unit. She insists that the Iraqi population is far more friendly and accepting than the media leads us to believe. Of course, I'm a cynic and have argued that her view of the country is fairly limited - but she claims this isn't so.
posted by rotifer at 6:01 PM on September 28, 2003


who really cares how it is in iraq? i don't care if it's sunny and mild and the natives worship our excrement where it falls to the sand. that rich, thieving bastard bush and his cronies lied. let's impeach him.
posted by quonsar at 6:01 PM on September 28, 2003


from the article you linked Alison:

Agents of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs (ICE) said that so far they have photos and documentation to confirm only 38 items from the museum are still missing. Although they suspect additional pieces may have been stolen, they declined to speculate on the scope of the additional uncatalogued items that may have been looted.

not knowing something is lost doesn't mean it is found
posted by copmuter at 6:05 PM on September 28, 2003


I suspect that this thread may have been prompted by this thread, which was designed to demonstrate that the military's liberation of Iraq is a complete, utter, miserable failure, and that the U.S. military should come home now, tail tucked between legs, because the situation over there is a "quagmire. Bull. Our liberation of the Iraqi people from their decades of tyrannical rule is not perfect - how could it be? - but on balance, it is no doubt a very good thing, done for selfish and noble reasons (also good things).

Here's a few things in the "good" column, to go along with the FPP of this thread:

1. 101st Airborne Scores Success In Reconstruction
2. Iraqis on horseback: 'I love you America!'
3. Influx of goods, cash puts Iraqis in buying mood; Hoarded dollars, U.S.-paid wages go for once-unobtainable items
4. In Neighborhood Councils, the Seeds of Self-Rule for Iraq
5. Poll shows Baghdad residents optimistic
6. Proof Is In The Pictures
7. US Soldiers Introduce Iraqi Orphans to American Football
8. From One Who Was There
9. Iraq Goes Back to School for First Saddam-Free Year
10. Soccer's Return to Baghdad

//
posted by davidmsc at 6:27 PM on September 28, 2003


One might think that with the billions of dollars we're spending a month in Iraq, some things are, indeed, getting better. Imagine what might be getting better if we spent half the Iraq budget here.

If it wasn't for those inconvenient corpses of American soldiers that keep getting flown home in bags. If it wasn't for the fact that Iraq really is now a staging area for terrorism. If it wasn't for the fact that the way we went about this war dismissed and degraded the kind of international cooperation that Bush is now begging for to help him get out of this mess. If it wasn't...
posted by digaman at 6:32 PM on September 28, 2003


digaman: Not sure how your comments relate to this thread.
posted by billman at 6:35 PM on September 28, 2003




15: cinderella marries prince
posted by quonsar at 7:26 PM on September 28, 2003


U.S. political capital is gone, we've got record budget deficits to pay for an illegitimate war that was sold to the U.S. and the world with lies (and we're not done paying yet! Not by a long shot!), and no exit strategy. Our soldiers and Iraqi civilians are still dying weeks after "major combat operations" were declared over - ask the families of those dead people if Iraq is such a wonderful place. And the terrorist fall-out of this mess is only beginning. Link to all the sunny human interest stories you want, it still smells like shit to me.
posted by RylandDotNet at 8:02 PM on September 28, 2003


as the carpetbaggers divvy up the spoils in iraq - i'll stick with word from the street in baghdad
posted by specialk420 at 8:03 PM on September 28, 2003


But wait! There's a diamond hidden in that poo!




No, never mind. Just a trick of the light.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:05 PM on September 28, 2003


I don't the issue is so much that things are sort-of improving or that most Iraqis are nice to and generally like Americans, or are hopeful and optimistic about the future, etc. Consequently, some of davicmsc's links strike me as a case of trying to hard, to the point of absurd defensiveness. There's the poll article with higher ratings for Chriac than Bush, repeated, articles from media with conservative reputations, even at least one article from far, far earlier in the year - as in, right after the larger phase of the war, when the media was printing feel-good stories by the score.

But can you argue with a straight face that the situation hasn't been at least less pleasant than Bush and Co. predicted? The larger issue for months now has been scattered violence, which escalated over the past few days, and the influx of terrorists into the country, etc., all of which is making the situation costly, even if the violence isn't ubiquitous and isn't coming from Iraqis directly. The other issues still include lying to get into the war, and blowing off the rest of the world in doing so. And let's not even get into the fact that there are many other dictators out there at the moment, just as bad, billions suffering around the world, etc., and that Iraq presented no immediate threat to us anyhow.

Still, this poll, as mentioned earlier, paints a complicated picture. Why is Bush still so unpopular, if the Iraqis welcomed the invasion and love America? Can anyone honestly answer that question here? Or is it rose-colored glasses day on metafilter?
posted by raysmj at 8:07 PM on September 28, 2003




Interesting prediction in this Newsweek article: Some astute foreign observers think that time is running out. “We are losing the consent of the Iraqi people,” warned John Sawers, British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s emissary in Baghdad. “We have until Ramadan [Oct. 27-Nov. 25] to turn it around,” Sawers told American officials in Washington two weeks ago. “After that it will be too late.”
posted by homunculus at 8:33 PM on September 28, 2003


Yeah, matteo, it's a shame that the world is not a static place, where the political situation and military realities around the world never, ever change, forcing the U.S. to modify its' position to adapt to changing needs, threats, and issues.

Come on - did you think that seeing Rummy shaking hands with Saddam is somehow NEWS anymore? The world was a very, very different place in 1982-83. What we did then was, likely, not the most savory thing, but it does not mean that doing the right thing NOW is off the table. And it's almost certain that Saddam was only a few "degrees" of evil back then -- compared to his reign of terror in the days since that photo was taken, his "evilness" had practically gone off the charts.
posted by davidmsc at 8:39 PM on September 28, 2003


>The world was a very, very different place in 1982-83. What we did then was,

Not really, at least as far is Saddam is concerned. His attack on Kuwait was just too close to all that precious oil in Saudi Arabia. An hour before that attack the US and Iraq were still pals.
posted by skallas at 8:54 PM on September 28, 2003


Here's what's frustrating. You can pick up all kinds of anecdotes from the reconstruction effort, happy experiences and really bad ones as well. I'd imagine any reconstruction effort would be the same. What we don't get to see even in broad outline is a plan, a series of goals being met, much of anything really, and it's hard to imagine why not unless you start suspecting really uncharitable things. That is, where are we on restoring social structure in Iraq? Implementing self-government and civil rights? Reinstating basic utilities? Building a new economic structure where the previous one was almost entirely subsumed in the goverment we brought down? Any sense of any of that? We have names, appointments, corporate contracts. Does that tell us anything?

And it's almost certain that Saddam was only a few "degrees" of evil back then -- compared to his reign of terror in the days since that photo was taken, his "evilness" had practically gone off the charts.

He was using chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war at the time. What criteria are we going by, exactly?
posted by furiousthought at 9:03 PM on September 28, 2003


Care to explain, or even better, show some evidence, as to why you think looting the museum was no big deal?

Well, I didn't suggest that it was "no big deal," just not reported accurately by the media. In April, it was widely reported that over 170,000 items had been stolen. Those reports caused the United States to be criticized ad nauseam for "doing nothing" to prevent the theft. In reality, the number of items stolen was much smaller. Many of the items appear to have been stolen by insiders, or were stolen before the liberation of Baghdad.

Again, the museum looting was awful, but the initial reports were simply not correct. So, the point here is that we should be somewhat skeptical when the media focuses only on the negative, and try to keep some perspective on the big picture.

Here are some recent articles about the museum looting:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110004026

http://www.rnw.nl/hotspots/html/ira030926.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/news/story/0,11711,973714,00.html
posted by Durwood at 9:06 PM on September 28, 2003


MeFi is a rat's nest of hostility and cross accusations where anger reigns and no one ever gets along. Strife is rampant and attempts to mediate calm resolutions and agreements seem futile at best.

/Lib media rendition of HERE.
posted by HTuttle at 9:27 PM on September 28, 2003


Not appropriate, stonerose.
posted by PrinceValium at 9:41 PM on September 28, 2003


Ah yes, we're not occupying, we're rebuilding. Ever try to drive a nail with the butt of a gun? People get hurt that way. Try using a hammer, instead.
posted by squirrel at 9:43 PM on September 28, 2003


Note the sample size of the Zogby poll: 600 persons. Also the selective locations of the survey (Basra, Karkouk, Mosul and Al Ramadi only), and the potential demographic distortions involved in the selection "at random with consideration for ethnic background, gender, religion and social class." Iraq did have a census in 1997 (coordinated by the U.S. census bureau, interestingly), but there's no indication whether that data was used to weight the survey. Data on religion and annual income, for example, was not collected, according to Iraq's report to the U.N. demographics body.

On a related note, the Iraqi newspaper Az-Zaman found in a poll last week that 70 percent of the nation's lawyers, jurists, and law professors advocate a constitutional convention convened by elected delegates. The current plan calls for delegates to be appointed by the interim council (Translation here), appointed by the Coalition Provisional Party and stacked with returned exiles.

I suspect that Mario Vargas Llosa's midsummer observations on the ground from Baghdad probably still hold true: the vast majority of Iraqis are still spending all of their energy surviving; they're likely to believe that any future is bound to be better than the present, no matter which gang of crooks gets their greasy mitts on the public coffers.
posted by hairyeyeball at 9:53 PM on September 28, 2003


I certainly can't wait until Colin Powell writes a tell-all book. Here's a nice quote from the yahoo summary of the Newsweek article linked above by Homunculus:

What happened to the Iraq experts? According to Newsweek, Rumsfeld ordered 16 of the 20 Pentagon staffers picked to go to Baghdad be cut because they were "Arab apologists," had positive opinions of the United Nations (news - web sites) or other opinions not acceptable to the neo-conservatives running the US government.

Rumsfeld's interference "got so bad that even doctors sent to restore medical services had to be anti-abortion," a member of the original team said.

posted by The God Complex at 9:54 PM on September 28, 2003


Durwood:
If your only claim is that the looting may not have been as bad as first reported, then you may well be correct. But to claim that it was in any way insignificant--or that the later figure of ~35 artifacts or whatever is true--is far over the top. Consider this letter from a fellow at the U of Chicago's Oriental Institute (the private organization most largely tasked with accounting for and documenting the looting of cultural artifcacts):

The letter by Richard Ptak, which tries to suggest that no serious looting really took place, has bought into a concerted campaign (begun by Donald Rumsfeld) to minimize the damage to Iraq’s cultural heritage caused by the war. It is true that the first reports circulated by the news media, which claimed that all artifacts of the Iraq Museum had been looted, were exaggerated—at that early date, no one, here or there, knew that the Museum staff had had the foresight to hide many artifacts in bunkers or other secure locations before the war began. We should all be most grateful that they did! But now that preliminary assessments have been made, it is clear that not all artifacts were secured, and tens of thousands of cylinder seals and other objects from the Iraq Museum were, in fact, looted and remain missing, and others destroyed or damaged.

Also stolen or destroyed were large numbers of manuscripts, documents, and books from the National Archives, Manuscripts Library, and other libraries in Baghdad, which remained unprotected by the American forces for many days after the occupation of Baghdad. And, as of July 9, the looting of archaeological sites, particularly in the south, was still going on, apparently because the American occupation forces did not have the troops to secure all sites, or the money and organization to pay Iraqi guards. Among the sites affected is Nippur, where the Oriental Institute has conducted excavations for many
decades.

In sum, while many of Iraq’s precious artifacts remain, the war has caused serious losses to Iraq’s cultural heritage and has significantly compromised our ability to reconstruct the history of this cradle of human civilization. This fact should not be exaggerated, but it should not be whitewashed, either.


Indeed, Iraqi curators and staff were able to pull off some quick thinking and save more of the artifacts than had been first conjectured, but those archaeologists who have had the most intimate contact with the museum and with what artifacts have been returned still conlcude that tens of thousands of articles are missing. I'll take their word over the Wall Street Journal's online editorial page.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:00 PM on September 28, 2003


Excuse me, a couple posts ago weren't we talking about American soldiers training guns on an 8 year old girl as she tried to pee near her parents car which had been stopped for 6 hours because the bridge has been reduced to one lane?

Yeah, things are wonderful in Iraq. Particularly if you don't need highways, sewers, clean water, or electricity.
posted by ilsa at 10:50 PM on September 28, 2003


What we did then was, likely, not the most savory thing, but it does not mean that doing the right thing NOW is off the table. And it's almost certain that Saddam was only a few "degrees" of evil back then -- compared to his reign of terror in the days since that photo was taken, his "evilness" had practically gone off the charts.

you'll have to spin it better than this -- sadly, the gassing of the Kurds of August '88 (ouch! it's, like, Saddam actually used those now-reluctant-to-show-up WMD's) happened when he was still, apparently, Washington's secular friend in the region. And, during all those years, Rumsfeld's then-buddy had already hired people like Aziz Saleh Ahmed, identified by documents as a "fighter in the popular army" whose "activity" was "violation of women's honor" [i.e., a professional rapist].

To continue the small -- but sadly needed -- history lesson , remember when the current administration repeatedly reminded the public that Saddam Hussein "gassed his own people"? What Bush routinely neglected to mention is that at the time Saddam did so the United States did nothing to stop him. As Samantha Power makes clear in an account in her new book, A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, the United States refused even to condemn the killing of civilians.

In 1989 President George Herbert Walker Bush took power and ordered a review of United States policy toward Iraq. According to Power:
The study ... deemed Iraq a potentially helpful ally in containing Iran and nudging the Middle East peace process ahead. The "Guidelines for U.S.-Iraq Policy" swiped at proponents of sanctions on Capital Hill and a few human rights advocates who had begun lobbying within the State Department. The guidelines noted that despite support from the Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, and State Departments for a profitable, stable U.S.-Iraq relationship, "parts of Congress and the Department would scuttle even the most benign and beneficial areas of the relationship, such as agricultural exports." The Bush administration would not shift to a policy of dual containment of both Iraq and Iran. Vocal American businesses were adamant that Iraq was a source of opportunity, not enmity. The White House did all it could to create an opening for these companies"Had we attempted to isolate Iraq," Secretary of State James Baker wrote later, "we would have also isolated American businesses, particularly agricultural interests, from significant commercial opportunities."

Powers mordantly comments: "Hussein locked up another $1 billion in agricultural credits. Iraq became the ninth largest purchaser of U.S. farm products.... As Baker put it gently in his memoirs, 'Our administration's review of the previous Iraq policy was not immune from domestic economic considerations.'"


So the theory -- the, ahem, spin -- that "Saddam the Washington ally" was a somehow lame bad guy and he only became a monster much later, when Washington had nothing to do with him anymore, does not hold water (facts can be brutally damaging to spin). Until he invaded Kuwait (as pointed out already), ie the Summer of 1990, Saddam was Washington's friend (the old "he's our son of a bitch" theory of foreign affairs that did so much damage to the US this last 100 years).

It's also interesting to consider that "by 1984, the same year Iraq deployed the nerve gas tabin, the United States and Iraq had successfully restored diplomatic relations.
According to Beinart, "...the United States sold Iraq anthrax, bubonic plague, and botulinum toxin all for medical research." Under the Reagan administration United States foreign policy was opposed to Iran's Islamic fundamentalist government.
There was action taken to try and prevent this aid to Iraq. Claiborne Pell at the time was a Senator from Rhode Island successfully sponsored a Senate bill that would have stopped all aid from the United States to Baghdad. President Reagan and his Administration took efforts to make sure it did not pass the House of Representatives.
In 1991 the United States led Allied forces in order to free Kuwait, after it was invaded by Iraq.



But disgruntled employees, as the case of Osama Bin Laden and all those anti-Soviet jihadis trained and financed by the USA to fight the Russkis in Afghanistan sadly demonstrates, can do a lot of damage. And realpolitik is a dangerous game because history doesn't exist in a vacuum -- and sometimes the foot soldier you use to fight your enemies in Central Asia in the Eighties will become an even more dangerous enemy himself, blowing up skyscrapers in Manhattan in 2001. What was that thing about a butterfly flapping its wings in China...?


(I won't even mention the embarrassing fact that the Reganites relationship with Iran, the big enemy in the region, was somehow unclear as well, because I don't want our Republican friends here to accuse me of being, you know, "shrill")
posted by matteo at 11:54 PM on September 28, 2003


HON. TOM LANTOS

in the House of Representatives

TUESDAY, MAY 19, 1992


* Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, just 1 year ago, Americans were flush with the glow of the military victory over Saddam Hussein. Parades were held in the largest of cities and in the smallest of hamlets. New York and Washington were trying to outdo each other in the splendor of their competing celebrations of victory.

* This year, however, we are wallowing in the sordid aftermath of the revelations of the misguided administration policy that brought about that war. We have been treated to details of how the administration bent over backwards in its misguided effort to support the regime of Saddam Hussein on the very eve of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

* Mr. Speaker, William Safire summarized this squalid tale of policy run amuck in an excellent article that appeared in yesterday's issue of the New York Times. I ask that this article be placed in the Record, and I urge my colleagues to read it carefully.

(BY WILLIAM SAFIRE)

Washington: Americans now know that the war in the Persian Gulf was brought about by a colossal foreign-policy blunder: George Bush's decision, after the Iran-Iraq war ended, to entrust regional security to Saddam Hussein.


Safire, old Nixon hand and certified Clinton hater, is a Conservative-friendly, certainly bipartisan source. But there's plenty of other sources if they're needed

posted by matteo at 12:01 AM on September 29, 2003


Things are better in Iraq than they have been in a long time, I have just spoken to a team of Arab financial advisors who have just returned from there and that is their view. That being said, they also think Bush's plan sucked, and the Americans and exiled-Iraqis coming to rebuild and grab contracts are incredibly corrupt. The balance of what I heard from them was that Bush's reconstruction plans were horrible, but because Iraq has a lot of infrastructure, educated people, and a natural inclination towards capitalism, eventually it will all get sorted out for the better. They said the media reports are true, there are a lot of problems, but the other story is that the people are very hopeful for a new life.

FOr background, I am currently working in Israel, and the men were part of an Arab-Israeli sector of the banking group I am consulting for, they went to Iraq to meet with various people about setting up a new stock market and things like that.
posted by chaz at 12:15 AM on September 29, 2003


How can we support our president and freedom if all we ever get is left-wing propaganda that tries to blot out the freedom of press? It's great to see a post that finally exposes the rampant distorsion of how bad things are in Iraq in the liberal media:

Here's a few things in the "good" column, to go along with the FPP of this thread:

1. 101st Airborne Scores Success In Reconstruction
2. Iraqis on horseback: 'I love you America!'
3. Influx of goods, cash puts Iraqis in buying mood; Hoarded dollars, U.S.-paid wages go for once-unobtainable items
4. In Neighborhood Councils, the Seeds of Self-Rule for Iraq
5. Poll shows Baghdad residents optimistic
6. Proof Is In The Pictures
7. US Soldiers Introduce Iraqi Orphans to American Football
8. From One Who Was There
9. Iraq Goes Back to School for First Saddam-Free Year
10. Soccer's Return to Baghdad
11. Where to Find Good News --The big story in Iraq is the little stories
12. IN NAJAF: A SUCCESS STORY
13. Yes, there is good news in Iraq
14. Media: New Boogeyman of Iraq
15: cinderella marries prince



You see what I mean? Our brave freedom posters could only come up with a mere 15 feel good stories about Iraq in just over 1 hour!!! This is insane!!! When are we finally going to take back the media from America-hating liberals that only write negative stories about our wars of liberation and freedom? When will all this anti-Bush, anti-America propaganda end!!?

Shut up! Shut up!

Communists!
posted by sic at 1:34 AM on September 29, 2003


I saw bits of this Panorama programme last night and thought it gave an excellent overview of the situation.

There were stories of great work & humanity by the US Army, comment from all ranks from grunts to suits as well as stories of some of the horrors that the Iraqis are suffering still.

The overall feeling was that there was a lot of will & effort to succeed but the odds were stacked against that happening due to the lack of a coherrent exit strategy & the enormity of the task.

And I'll trust the BBC with 3 months of footage from a variety of sources on the ground over most of the links in the original FPP who only seem able to offer a narrow view.

The one thing I keep coming back to in my own mind is that if there had been the will to keep the UNSCOM inspections going throughout 2003, eventually Saddam would have been found out to be as weak as he was and could have been 'moved aside' without the need for war.

Lest we forget:
Bush & Blair lied about WMD. Bad intel? Bad workmen blaming their tools comes to mind here.

Nobody is in a position to say if things are worse of better. We may only have an idea about that after a few more years.
posted by i_cola at 2:29 AM on September 29, 2003


setting up a new stock market and things like that.

Like a little snowy Baghdad-dome on the Hudson. Just shake it around and see how cute Iraq's fledgling western economy can be.

You people who support this grave miscalculation of continued global stabilty have yet to take into account the people this is effecting. You don't just up and change overnight.

Say you were a marginal Eagles fan from Philly and you had to move to Oakland whose Raiders were on a tear towards the Superbowl the year you moved there. Even if the Raiders made it to the Superbowl and the Eagles didn't, does that mean you must all of a sudden cheer for the Raiders only because you live in "Oakland" now? You weren't a huge Eagles fan, but at least you like them better than the Raiders you hardly know.


Nobody is in a position to say if things are worse of better. We may only have an idea about that after a few more years.

I would imagine you are quite wrong about that. *Nobody*???

Apparently we simply just bombed the fuck out of and took over the country of and created loads of chaos for a bunch of nobodys. Just because they don't speak English and you haven't seen anything about them in the news doesn't mean those silenced souls do not have opinions.

Americans can be bastards. Because sometimes our lazyass intellectualized ends justify our recently upgraded means.
posted by crasspastor at 3:08 AM on September 29, 2003


Come on, haven't you seen Charles Woodson's outfits? Who doesn't like that guy, even if the Raiders are a little long in the tooth and can't seem to beat anyone but the hapless Chargers.

Oh, right, Iraq. Do you think any of them can run a 4.40 forty, hold a bottle of sprite, and generally be seen getting mad props from fly bitches?
posted by The God Complex at 3:26 AM on September 29, 2003


The Unbuilding of Iraq

Some astute foreign observers think that time is running out. "We are losing the consent of the Iraqi people," warned John Sawers, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's emissary in Baghdad. "We have until Ramadan [Oct. 27-Nov. 25] to turn it around," Sawers told American officials in Washington two weeks ago. "After that it will be too late." At least one old Middle East hand is a pessimist. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak recently passed a message to Rumsfeld. It ran roughly: "There's a 5 percent chance you get Saddam tomorrow, the energy goes out of the resistance and things get dramatically better. There's a 5 percent chance a car bomb takes out the entire Governing Council, and things go to hell. In between those, it will get better over time, or worse over time. Right now, I say it's twice as likely that it gets worse." It's not known how Rumsfeld responded.

So, What Went Wrong?

On May 1, off the coast of California, president George W. Bush landed in flying gear on the deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln—which sported a banner reading mission accomplished—and said, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

The war, said Bush, had been carried out "with a combination of precision and speed and boldness the enemy did not expect, and the world had not seen before."

But the mission wasn't accomplished then, and it still is not. The reconstruction of Iraq has proved far more difficult than any official assumed it would be. Since May 1, 170 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq, as sporadic guerrilla attacks have continued. Two potential leaders of the new Iraq—Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim and Akila al-Hashimi, a member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council in Iraq—have been assassinated. Also dead is Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. chief representative in Iraq, who was killed when a bomb exploded at U.N. headquarters last month. After a second bombing last week near the building, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan ordered a reduction in the size of the organization's mission—already much smaller than it had once been—for reasons of safety.


Iraq in power struggle

The trouble restoring power also illustrates the mushrooming cost of U.S. reconstruction.

U.S. officials originally planned to spend $230 million to relight the country, but now estimate it will take $6.5 billion.

American analysts say the prewar electrical grid was in far worse shape than they guessed, and that it broke down completely amid postwar looting and sabotage -- a problem that continues.

It now is impossible to transfer or share power around the country. Baghdad will suffer regular outages for the foreseeable future, they say.

The Iraqi engineers say the Americans -- including Bechtel Group, the San Francisco company hired by the U.S. government to jump-start the Iraqi infrastructure -- should have done more, and done it quicker.

"The Americans have done nothing to fix the power," Dhabit said.

"Any improvements have come from the Iraqis."

posted by y2karl at 3:32 AM on September 29, 2003


I should elaborate. Nobody is in a position to say if things are worse or better as a whole.

Personally, I think that the whole war was a stupid idea based on a pack of lies. Some people think that it is OK to lie to people when it comes to killing in foreign lands but not OK when it comes to plo chops at a desk in DC.
posted by i_cola at 3:33 AM on September 29, 2003


[Link to Real Player feed of aforementioned Panorama prog]
I'd give a 5-star recommendation to view it if you have 45 minutes or so. Top-notch TV.
posted by i_cola at 3:39 AM on September 29, 2003


Durwood, the "only 33 items" story flogged by Andrew Sullivan and other "hah-hah" warbloggers is dead wrong. Just figured you'd like to know since, you know, you've been making it your sole point for about three comments or so.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:03 AM on September 29, 2003


*Pile on* "...A Unesco survey of Iraq's smashed and looted cultural treasures indicates that 2,000 to 3,000 objects may be missing from the National Museum in Baghdad alone and that the entire contents of the National Library are lost beyond retrieval.....In addition, more than 1,500 modern paintings and sculptures from the city's Museum of Fine Arts are still missing and only 400 have been recovered, according to Mounir Bouchenaki, assistant director general for culture at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (International Herald Tribune)...."This is a real cultural disaster," said Bouchenaki"

In other news, "(Sept. 11, 2001)...only thirty three Americans were killed in a minor terrorist attack against the World Trade Center, which cause moderate structural damage to at least one of the two buildings." ( From the "Andrew Sullivan reality zone" )
posted by troutfishing at 4:42 AM on September 29, 2003


How bad is it really in Iraq?

pretty bad, but it could be worse.
posted by mcsweetie at 5:28 AM on September 29, 2003


Indeed. And it probably will get worse unless a certain presidential administration pulls it's colective head from it's collective ideological ass and sincerely asks for the world's help in Iraq - without trying to retain absolute, unilateral control there.
posted by troutfishing at 5:45 AM on September 29, 2003


Thanks, marcusb for this post. It was clear from the beginning that you'd be pissing into a hurricane, but it's a very welcome counterbalance to the gleeful negativity that gets posted several times a day. I've been tempted to post a similar thread, but you did a very nice job.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:17 AM on September 29, 2003


"Notice that an argument that, at bottom, is about demanding that the U.S. media suppress bad news from Iraq has been inverted into an argument that the problem is really with the suppression of positive news (no examples provided). A neat trick."
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:36 AM on September 29, 2003


I've been tempted to post a similar thread, but you did a very nice job.

Yes. Naive, dogmatic, hopelessly optimistic and outright wrong but nice job anyway.
posted by niceness at 6:49 AM on September 29, 2003


Naive, dogmatic, hopelessly optimistic and outright wrong but nice job anyway.

Oh, niceness, I didn't realize you were in Iraq! Please share your first-hand experiences with us. And someone should look into this -- there are members of congress from both parties who have visited Iraq, independent journalists, and people who live in Iraq all claiming that things on the ground aren't quite as bad as coverage in the U.S. would lead one to believe. Since they're all, apparently, "outright wrong," there must be some mammoth conspiracy afoot!
posted by pardonyou? at 7:18 AM on September 29, 2003


Thank god you've all been to Iraq and can share your views with us, as you've canvassed the whole...

no, sorry, that's overly snarky, let me start again.

Fortunately, you're all critical thinkers who understand that it's possible that journalists may be doing what they've done in Iraq for years, which is not reporting very well because they have a vested interest in not telling the truth. (Link would be to the NYTimes, but they charge for archives...)

Again, too snarky.

Oooh ooh, I got one.

The reporting should be fair and balanced!! (Just kidding, Fox, don't send your lawyers after me)

Stavros, the argument is not that the US media should be supressing what's happening. It's that they should be reporting what's happening. But death, even if it's a slow trickle (1-2 soldiers a day) sells papers like newly opened schools, gift campaigns (which ya'll demeaned with an amazing combination of "White Man's Guilt" (that peculiar twinge of pain when you have to look out at the world and realize you're overprivileged and often just whining about things you neither understand nor care about but want to do good works) and hubris...) a lack of death squads (nobody ever seems to mention that but the Iraqis...) a lack of rape squads (ditto) and...

No, still too snarky. After all, Bush lied and people died. Of course, that whole premise suggests either Bush is God and if Bush hadn't lied people wouldn't have died. Or is it which people died? A few soldiers (God rest them) died so that Iraqis have a chance to get just as fat and jaded as you Americans?

Nobody complained when Clinton ran operation Desert Fox. Why is that, exactly? Wait... let me guess. Because Bush stole the election.

The arguments around here are getting tired.

You're not in Iraq. Iraqis are living a life you don't understand. If you think helping them is a bad idea, get a group of likeminded individuals together, and instead of marching in the street carrying "Bush=Hitler" signs, assuring you won't get heard and walking around on stilts dressed like Uncle Sam, do what everyone else does and start lobbying.

Frankly, I turn to Raed for my news (despite his silence since he started writing for the Guardian) and I acknowledge that virtually nobody around here in MeFi has a clue what's going on on the ground. I don't.

I do know that the news has been uniformly bad. That the good things I hear in email missives from the men and women over there, the things I read on websites, and the reports of those who visit, aren't being covered in the newspapers. That's why I see a disconnect. Whether or not I support the war, I'd like to see Journalism with less of an agenda. They report, we decide. Only for real, not like Fox News.

I'm in such a snarky mood today. It's great.
posted by swerdloff at 7:41 AM on September 29, 2003


Pardonyou?, (just) today's news:

An American soldier has been killed and another wounded in the latest attack on US forces in central Iraq...Guerrillas used a bomb and gunfire to ambush a military convoy in the town of Habbaniya west of Baghdad near a large military base...The attack follows news of a fresh attempt to assassinate an Iraqi official belonging to the US-appointed authorities in Baghdad...It is the second such attack on a member of the US-installed administration in 10 days...In a separate incident, a child was reportedly shot dead by US soldiers in Hawija, west of Kirkuk... A 10-year-old boy was killed and a 25-year-old man injured when troops opened fire on a demonstration by Saddam sympathisers...

that's just today's update, and yet a random collection of what, 17? articles suggests that it's all bullshit? You'll need to be Karl Rove to spin that.

And someone should look into this -- there are members of congress from both parties who have visited Iraq, independent journalists, and people who live in Iraq all claiming that things on the ground aren't quite as bad as coverage in the U.S. would lead one to believe. Since they're all, apparently, "outright wrong," there must be some mammoth conspiracy afoot!

Don't quite understand your logic, surely the conspiracy theory is on your part: linking to a piss-poor random collection of good news articles is evidence of anti-war bias in the mainstream channels? You'll be telling us that they've got weapons of mass destruction next.
posted by niceness at 8:26 AM on September 29, 2003


swerdloff: Not snarky, just unthinking. I never bought the Uncle Sam suit and stilts, t'anks. I have given money - to whom or what, none of your business - in the political battle against Bush and I might give time later. The same is likely true of plenty of people who read and comment on metafilter. The end result will hopefully be a new chief executive in the White House in January '05.
posted by raysmj at 8:30 AM on September 29, 2003


I haven't had a full-time job in two years. But today I am feeling so ashamed about protesting this completely unnecessary, economy-sucking, Haliburton-enriching war that may have opened up a new playground for terrorists while distracting us from the real problems in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Because now that I know U.S. soldiers have introduced Iraqi orphans to American Football, it makes it all worthwhile.

(Of course, I'm not certain if any of the kids became orphans because of the completely unnecessary, Haliburton-enriching war, because your link, like some of the others in your Top 10 list, doesn't lead me anywhere.)
posted by NorthernLite at 8:31 AM on September 29, 2003


that's just today's update, and yet a random collection of what, 17? articles suggests that it's all bullshit? You'll need to be Karl Rove to spin that.

No, you've completely missed the point. Nobody's claimed it's "all bullshit." Nobody's claiming that the real truth is that American troops are fanned and fed grapes by grateful Iraqis. The point is that the uniformly negative coverage has failed to paint an accurate picture of the situation on the ground in Iraq. And the point of the post is that some who actually have witnessed life in Iraq first-hand are starting to say: "Hey, look, the situation is not as hopeless as media coverage would lead you to believe." And the media is beginning to examine itself to see whether there might be a problem.

Honestly, I find the Gallup poll -- in which 67% of 1,200 Baghdad residents believe the removal of Hussein was worth the hardships they've had to endure -- more persuasive than the media reports (pro or con), and exponentially more convincing than the opinions of people typing on their keyboards half a world away.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:46 AM on September 29, 2003


My favorite thing in this thread so far is that sic included quonsar's cinderella marries prince (aka "fundamentalist canines") link as #15 in his grouping of "a mere 15 feel good stories about Iraq." Let me say this about that: Iran is not Iraq! That having been said, quonsar's story did make me feel good.
posted by languagehat at 9:21 AM on September 29, 2003


Pardonyou?: I'd argue pragmatic scepticism over naive optimism in this case. If you can't see the irony of this...

"The point is that the uniformly negative coverage has failed to paint an accurate picture of the situation on the ground in Iraq."

We have never had an accurate picture of the situation on the ground - it was a uniformly positive view that fooled us into this 'cakewalk'. Like you, Rumsfeld will tell us the situation is not as bad as it seems, but then he told us it would be a 'cakewalk'. You see my problem of trust?

Nobody's claiming that the real truth is that American troops are fanned and fed grapes by grateful Iraqis.

No, that was the positive news I was informed of before we went to war. Could have been an honest mistake but this is pretty serious stuff and I don't think it deserves the benefit of the doubt.

"...some who actually have witnessed life in Iraq first-hand are starting to say: "Hey, look, the situation is not as hopeless as media coverage would lead you to believe."

...and many more who have also "actually witnessed life in Iraq first-hand" (including increasing numbers of military personnel) are continuing to say it's a mess.

Who do I believe: the optimists who have been continually proved wrong (and demonstrably lied to prove their case) but are now not receiving the coverage they deserve? Or the pessimists who have had to battle weasel words, accusations of anti-Americanism and a lack of patriotism to defend their views but have so far been proved fairly prescient.
posted by niceness at 9:50 AM on September 29, 2003


"Honestly, I find the Gallup poll -- in which 67% of 1,200 Baghdad residents believe the removal of Hussein was worth the hardships they've had to endure -- more persuasive than the media reports (pro or con), and exponentially more convincing than the opinions of people typing on their keyboards half a world away."

Someone closer.
Gallup poll: in order to study such a poll one has to see it in its entirety; all the reports I see about this poll on the web seem as if derived from the same press release. Gallup has the results on their website but only for their subscribers. There are some rather contradictory numbers shown. Also there is no description of details of the polling method such as: were the pollers Arabic speakers, or did they use interpreters? Were they accompanied by armed personel? The gallup site doesn't mention anything about this.
posted by talos at 10:37 AM on September 29, 2003


Fernando Suarez, whose 20-year-old son, Jesus, was one of the first fatalities, said: "My son died because Bush lied."
posted by rushmc at 12:05 PM on September 29, 2003


From the Gallop FAQ link:

All 1,178 interviews were conducted face-to-face, in the privacy of the respondent’s own home.

Well, right off the top, I can say this poll was skewed toward people who still have homes.

Pure horse shit.
posted by squirrel at 12:26 PM on September 29, 2003


"Iran is not Iraq!" (languagehat) - OK....but is Iraq Iran?
posted by troutfishing at 12:40 PM on September 29, 2003


Another view of the Zogby and Gallup polls

My personal view is that it's not as bad as you would think from watching the nightly NBC news (but then again, if you watched it from Baghdad, you'd probably think most major U.S. cities are hellholes full of murder, mayhem, crime and violence), and worse than you would think from listening to the 'official' view.

I don't think the news has an 'agenda' I think they know what sells, and how to cover death a lot better than covering good news.
posted by chaz at 12:48 PM on September 29, 2003



Data Reveal Inaccuracies in Portrayal of Iraqis (Washington Post)

Top Bush administration officials in the past weeks have been citing a pair of public opinion polls to demonstrate that Iraqis have a positive view of the U.S. occupation. But an examination of those polls indicates Iraqis have a less enthusiastic view than the administration has portrayed...

That same poll, however, found that, countrywide, only 33 percent thought they were better off than they were before the invasion and 47 percent said they were worse off. And 94 percent said that Baghdad was a more dangerous place for them to live, a finding the administration officials did not discuss.

The poll also found that 29 percent of Baghdad residents had a favorable view of the United States, while 44 percent had a negative view. By comparison, 55 percent had a favorable view of France.

posted by y2karl at 1:37 PM on September 29, 2003


The full results of the Zogby poll, including demographic breakdown of answers.
...And sorry for the self-link, but concerning that particular poll (and especially the coverage it had in the WSJ), I sort of had a long critique of it a couple of weeks ago. That's why I'm interested to see the actual questions and numbers of this Gallup poll. I'm increasingly fascinated by how efficiently reality can be spun using opinion polling, through selection of proper questions, imaginative demographic selection and omission of uncomfortable data.
posted by talos at 3:41 PM on September 29, 2003


troutfishing: No, no, a thousand times no!

My, you have a long memory. And I'm impressed, as ever, by your good temper.

Nicely done, y2karl; talos—no need to worry, the self-link ban only applies to posts, not comments.
posted by languagehat at 3:45 PM on September 29, 2003


More interesting was talos other link to Iraq Body Count's Over 1,500 violent civilian deaths in occupied Baghdad.

The study confirms the widespread anecdotal evidence that violence on the streets of Baghdad has skyrocketed, with the average daily death rate almost tripling since mid April from around 10 per day to over 28 per day during August.

Another worrying development is that during the pre-war period deaths from gunshot wounds accounted for approximately 10% of bodies brought to the morgue, but now account for over 60% of those killed. The small number of reports available for other cities indicate that these trends are being mirrored elsewhere in the country.


Hmm, how bad is it really in Iraq? The answer seems unequivocal.
posted by y2karl at 4:30 PM on September 29, 2003


I always had a bad feeling about clearly dumb sensationalist reporting - they easily change minds across the globe yet they surrender to short term pressures with clearly limited and politicized views of the situation.


At least things are not as disastrous as I imagined might have happened. These cynics are not seeding widespread terrorism in iraq, they are merely smashing Bush's chances of reelection.
posted by firestorm at 5:21 PM on September 29, 2003


on the other hand the US again knows just how it feels to be an occupying imperial power.
posted by firestorm at 5:23 PM on September 29, 2003


An Iraqi journalist writes that Basrah is moving towards religious stability.

But is that the full story?

In Basra, a Season of Killing

Basra, Iraq -- Three weeks ago, in the waning evening heat of this city at the desert's edge, Makki Hussein Tawiyeh -- the son of a local tribal leader -- emerged with his entourage onto Al-Jazair Street outside one of the city's fanciest functioning restaurants. A young man with a Kalashnikov assault rifle shot him dead.

Tawiyeh's family heads a militia from the rural Garamsha tribe that is widely blamed here for kidnappings, carjackings and other crimes. Within three hours of his killing, Garamsha fighters had mustered a small armada of pickup trucks, some mounted with heavy machine guns, and had driven from their stronghold north of Basra to surround the emergency entrance of Basra Teaching Hospital, where Tawiyeh's body had been taken.

"The fighters were very angry, and they all had Kalashnikovs," said Fatih, a guard at the hospital. One demanded of nervous hospital employees: "'Is this information true, that Sheik Makki has been killed?'" Fatih recalled.

Unable to produce the young sheik in any condition likely to satisfy his militiamen, nervous hospital workers could only confirm the tragic news. The militiamen blasted skyward with torrents of gunfire, then drove their pickups to Al-Jazair Street. There, witnesses said, they sprayed bullets at pedestrians and shopfronts, killing four people and injuring seven before speeding home.

The nearly six months of British army occupation in Basra has been a season of killing. After riots last month, crime and violence have spiked in September. Hospitals report a rising toll of people killed or injured in carjackings, robberies, feuds and unexplained attacks with guns or grenades. But with U.S. officials and international media focused more on the Sunni-led guerrilla war against U.S. troops in central Iraq, Basra's violence has gotten little attention.

posted by y2karl at 7:42 PM on September 29, 2003


Sept 24: Hospitals Attest To Disorder in Iraq

Basra, Iraq - At Al-Faiha Hospital yesterday, emergency room workers were mopping up the blood from the latest gunshot victim to be carried through the doors. He had been shot in the head by a gang that stole his car, said an attendant, Abbas Ali Auda. Even were the hospital functioning normally, he would likely die. But Al-Faiha is having to re-use syringes, is using common staples as lancets to draw blood for tests and lacks painkillers and other basic drugs.

The partly functional hospitals of central and southern Iraq are struggling with a wave of shootings that arise from crime, clan warfare or revenge attacks. President George W. Bush and other U.S. officials describe an Iraq that is slogging steadily toward calm and order, but most Iraqis interviewed in the center and south in recent weeks said U.S.-occupied Iraq remains in chaos.

After five months of U.S. rule, "people can't understand how it is possible that our conditions of life are as bad, or worse, than under such a terrible dictator as Saddam Hussein," said Dr. Osama Ghalib, an internist at the Basra Teaching Hospital. Parts of Basra, a city of about 2 million people that is the country's second-largest, get as little as three hours of electricity per day, down from 12 hours under Hussein, residents said.

Daytime temperatures have cooled from their summer peak of 120 degrees to a mere 100 or so, but many people have no access to drinkable water. Vengeance killings, clan and tribal clashes and other crime - murders, kidnappings and carjackings, for example - have exploded compared with before the war.


And this was telling:

A senior official of the occupation authority conceded that Americans here are isolated. Occupation officials in Baghdad live in what they call the "green zone," a heavily defended center-city enclave that few Iraqis can reach, and only via a 200-yard maze of razor wire, document checks and a body search.

The rest of Baghdad is considered "the red zone." For European diplomats who live there, as well as for the Americans, "we cannot move anywhere unless we have armed guards with us," a diplomat said. "So we have no contact with what is happening in the streets."

posted by y2karl at 7:55 PM on September 29, 2003


Extent of Unguarded Munitions in Iraq Is Said to Exceed Estimate

Senior American military officials say that as much as 650,000 tons of ammunition remains at thousands of sites used by the former Iraqi security forces, and that much of it has not been secured and will take years to destroy.

The scope of the problem is much larger than the Pentagon acknowledged three weeks ago, when senior military officials insisted that all known munitions sites in Iraq had been secured.

The daunting task facing the military is illustrated in an infrared videotape of a sprawling, unguarded Iraqi air base taken by an Army helicopter crew in June that shows several huge hangars stripped bare of their roofing and siding, revealing bombs, missiles and other weaponry stacked dozens of feet high.

On the videotape, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times by an American official in Baghdad, a crewman said: "It looks like there's hundreds of warheads or bombs."


How bad is it really in Iraq?
posted by y2karl at 8:30 PM on September 29, 2003


Y'know, Matteo, yours was a helluva post and I've yet to see it refuted, and I'm really really interested in hearing the refutation of it, interested always in the justification of war on humantarian grounds by those who try to claim that Saddam was somehow benign, or less than completely malicious, before the invasion of Kuwait.

I actually would like to see your points refuted. If they can be.
posted by kgasmart at 9:52 AM on September 30, 2003


For one who claims the mantle of "middle of the road moderate" pardonyou sure does expend a lot of energy and time always defending the positions of the Bush administration.
Time to give up the pretense you poseur. Your actions speak for you and render your protestations otherwise to be meaningless.
posted by nofundy at 10:07 AM on September 30, 2003


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