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TPM on the importance of words
April 15, 2004 7:40 AM   Subscribe

This is precisely the sort of inane mumbojumbo that will -- perhaps literally -- get us all killed....The importance of words is a conceit of wordsmiths, certainly. But they are important -- especially when they bleed through into thought and action, which happens more often than you'd think.,

TPM is becoming almost too widely-read to be postworthy, but Josh really puts things into perspective with this post. For an example of what all this jingoistic gibberish can result in, see the post below it.
posted by jpoulos (63 comments total)

 
Another op-ed arguing that our involvement in Iraq is a mistake? Maybe someone can turn this thread into something interesting by suggesting what a good course for the US in Iraq would be right now.
posted by fuzz at 7:50 AM on April 15, 2004


fuzz... Here you go. I'm not exactly a Kerry partisan, but this sounds much more sensible to me than anything I'm hearing from the Oval Office, State or the DoD.
posted by psmealey at 7:54 AM on April 15, 2004


Way to catch the point fuzz. Maybe you should read it slower next time.

And this is the point: What we're grappling with here is whether we can be both resolute and sure we're pursuing a sound strategy. But neither is possible unless we remain willing to see what our eyes are showing us. Otherwise, there's no basis to evaluate whether our strategy is sound or whether we need to correct it
posted by eyeballkid at 7:57 AM on April 15, 2004


Anyone who disagrees with Dear Leader's political policies hate America and don't support the troops!

Now get in line and shut up!
posted by nofundy at 8:03 AM on April 15, 2004


Thanks psmanley. Kerry has some good principles, but the real question is whether there is a way to either build democracy in Iraq or get out cleanly wthout leaving Iraq in the hands of extremists.

This article, like almost every IraqFilter post in recent weeks, basically boils down to "our strategy in Iraq is a failure, and the administration is in denial about it." The danger is that the opposition to Bush is trying so hard to demonstrate what a disaster we have created in Iraq that they have not yet made any argument for how we can fix it. Even if they're right about Bush, that's a losing electoral strategy.
posted by fuzz at 8:10 AM on April 15, 2004


so mumbojumbo can get "all of us killed"

how so?
posted by clavdivs at 8:10 AM on April 15, 2004


Oops, thanks psmealey!
posted by fuzz at 8:11 AM on April 15, 2004


This is essentially what's being overlooked in the mainstream media about Kerry's (albeit still developing) candidacy. He's pointing out some sharp differences between Bush and himself, but he's also got some pretty pragmatic ideas re: the economy, healthcare reform and Iraq, to name a few issues. Most people are sitting around saying, "jeez, all Kerry is doing is attacking Bush and not proposing any concrete solutions," when it simply just ain't so.

Thanks for the spelling correction, fuzz. For a vanilla Anglo-Saxon surname, I sure have seen my share of creative misspellings. Maybe it's the initials throwing if off? nfi
posted by psmealey at 8:25 AM on April 15, 2004


Maybe someone can turn this thread into something interesting by suggesting what a good course for the US in Iraq would be right now.

Your presumption that this represents the entirety of what it is important that we do now is flawed. Of at least equal importance is holding accountable those whose poor judgement got us into this situation in the first place. Republicans often talk of running government more like a business...well, in business there is accountability. At the very least those responsible should lose their jobs and be replaced with people who possess better judgement. At the very least.
posted by rushmc at 9:10 AM on April 15, 2004


so mumbojumbo can get "all of us killed"

how so?


When it distracts us from successfully waging the war on terror. If we're getting bogged down in Iraq (I'm not saying "quagmire", but clearly we're having to expend more resources there than we'd hoped to by this stage of the game) it distracts us from the greater goal. We're spending all this time, money and military might fending off a bunch of nutjobs with kalashnikovs in the middle of the desert. In the meantime, the guys who can actually do serious harm here at home are still out there, mixing up big batches of explosives to blow up Americans.
posted by jpoulos at 9:20 AM on April 15, 2004


Rush, it hardly helps us to develop a good Iraq policy if dumping Bush is made to a be a co-equal premise as actually achieving a good outcome in Iraq.

Bush is obviously not interested in any policy with that premise, and nor will it attract any of the other Americans who, for reasons having nothing to do with Iraq, would never support Kerry.

The debate ought to be productive, and generate some bi-partisan solutions. Bush is, after all, the odds-on favorite for re-election, absent a significant turn for the worse in the economy or a tremendous upswelling of support for gay marriage, and it hardly seems right to lose 6 important months of debate on plans which will be dead the moment Bush is re-elected.
posted by MattD at 9:24 AM on April 15, 2004


this "evil doer" and "freedom hater" BS has a gone on long enough... even if shrub is simpleton, most of us on the left and the right who actually care about these issues would prefer a leader who will talk straight about what is going on in iraq ... why are our soldiers are being blown up daily ... and what the real strategy is to turn what appears to be a lot of iraqi malice towards us into goodwill? lord knows we don't need more enemies in the arab world - it seems that bombing the sh*t out of cities like fallujah is a good way to create more terrorists and suicide bombers in the long run. not less.

if you kids on the right are ok being spoken to by your leader (and his gaggle) like you are 5th grader, why don't you admit here today?

marshall is right on the money with this column (and this one as well though some here i'm sure will accuse marshall and myself of being antisemites) - thanks for posting it jpoulos.
posted by specialk420 at 9:33 AM on April 15, 2004


Nope, I think the important bit is here:

Because we stand for freedom. And the terrorists hate freedom. And they're attacking us because we're bringing freedom to Iraq. And terrorists hate freedom. Therefore they hate us. And since they hate us so much of course they fight us.

This is one of those Snake-Eating-Its-Tail deals of "They did these things because they are evil. We know they are evil because they did these things." There is no way to argue this point because if you ask why they did it, see statement one. If you ask, "yes, you've said they are evil but how do you know that?" you are referred to statement two. We can't ask why anybody hates us enough to attack us, or how we know they "hate freedom," because the answer is they must be evil. And you must hate Everything We Stand For not to see that.

If your brain has room for only one new thought today, it should be this:

Your emeny does not see himself as evil.
posted by ilsa at 9:36 AM on April 15, 2004


Bush is, after all, the odds-on favorite for re-election

Gotta get elected in order to be re-elected. Care to explain your statement about Bush being an odds-on favorite? Any good sources? Are you from earth?
posted by nofundy at 9:37 AM on April 15, 2004


Bush's prospects shouldn't affect the policy making because the policy making ought to be bipartisan, but, in any event, Bush is the odds-on favorite because:

(1) the economy is improving

(2) no Democrats other than Southern moderates have been elected (or, pace Gore, won the popular vote) in the last 44 years and only one has been elected in the last 60 years. Landon, Goldwater and McGovern are the only candidates as far off in the political extreme as Kerry to have been nominated, and that's not a comforting precedent either.

(3) cultural issues were premature in 1992, but they're ready to move the dial now, in a big way -- Clinton never had to be the home state candidate of gay marriage in a November when The Passion of the Christ will have scored $1 billion in domestic box office and DVD sales.
posted by MattD at 9:53 AM on April 15, 2004


Bush is, after all, the odds-on favorite for re-election

The fact that Bush make a prime time appearance in which he spews cliché after cliché about "staying the course", "standing firm" and "our enemies are the enemies of freedom" and then offer meandering non-answers to direct questions. Particularly to offer a turnover plan that, on the face of it, is nothing more than a series of arbitrarily chosen milestone dates and does not referance any detailed action plan with regard to what's driving those dates*.... AND to KNOW that regardless of ANYTHING he says or does, at least 40% of voting Americans will cast their ballot for him, well... this makes me more depressed than I can possibly express.

* As a professional technology project manager, I'd be fired on the spot for presenting such a lack of detail in a plan.
posted by psmealey at 9:55 AM on April 15, 2004


hahah... you beat me to it nofundy.

it will be close ... but i think it's safe to say there is a vast groudswell of support out there to oust bush - and unless iraq suddenly becomes a pastoral land of peace and prosperity, the national debt suddenly gets erased, and bin laden surrenders ... AWOL is going to have plenty of time to cut brush in crawford in the coming years.
posted by specialk420 at 9:58 AM on April 15, 2004


The danger is that the opposition to Bush is trying so hard to demonstrate what a disaster we have created in Iraq that they have not yet made any argument for how we can fix it.

Here's two--Fareed Zakaria provides one and William Polk, as quoted by William Pfaff, another.
posted by y2karl at 10:12 AM on April 15, 2004


AWOL is going to have plenty of time to cut brush in crawford in the coming years.

Yeah, and if you had told in me, the summer of 2000, that Bush would be President in the summer of 2001, I would have laughed at you. The man has spent his whole life beating low expectations. Ignore that fact at your peril.

And I would suggest that what has happened in Iraq is hardly a disaster, just very early in a long and messy process. Sadr's incipent climbdown being a good sign of progress on that front.
posted by ednopantz at 10:14 AM on April 15, 2004


The man has spent his whole life beating low expectations. Ignore that fact at your peril.

No, the cabal of handlers who have facilitated Bush's rise to the Presidency have done a great job of blinding voters to his increasingly-obvious deficiencies, and passing it off as a triumph every time he manages to achieve the merest competence.

Bush is the living embodiment of The Peter Principle. Americans, please...vote him out.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:46 AM on April 15, 2004


Thanks karl, the first link is broken but the second is a much more worthwhile read than the original post.
posted by fuzz at 10:51 AM on April 15, 2004


Is it just me or does the Pfaff piece contain no actual suggestions other than "get the Iraqis to trust us, then leave in favor of a universally recognized, peaceful democratic soverign govt." Yeah, let me just use my magic wand.

How does one deal with political minorities trying to use militias to control state instruments? (Mahdi army) Crush them? Increase their power by negotiating with them to grant them more power than they deserve numerically? Both? (current plan)
How does one deal with political minorities trying to use militias to evade state instruments? (Falluja) Crush them? Increase their autonomy by negotiating with them to grant them more autonomy than they deserve numerically? Both? (current plan)
How does one deal with political pluralities trying to use state instruments to achieve political power out of proportion to numbers ? (Sistani's ploy)
How does one "internationalize" a process that the UN is desperate to stay out of?
etc. etc. etc.
These are among the big questions, yet I have seen nothing but predictions/declarations of failure, complaints about Bush, followed by platitudes.
posted by ednopantz at 11:02 AM on April 15, 2004


ednopantz, and I don't disagree with regard to the Pfaff piece, but with all due respect, the Bush people haven't really delivered a reasonable solution either, other than to suggest that we keep doin' what we been doin' and a offer a set of dates and milestones but little in the way of an tactical plan with regard to how we make it happen.

I'm also not so sure that the UN is desparate to stay out of it. I think the real problem with engaging the UN is the profound state of mistrust that exists now between Bush and the UN. Owing to what happened in the run up to the invasion, the powers that be at the UN are understandably reluctant to cast their lot in Iraq with the Bush Administration.
posted by psmealey at 11:25 AM on April 15, 2004


Bush is the living embodiment of The Peter Principle.

The Card Cheat, thanks! I've been saying that for ages but couldn't remember the name for it (and, as someone who lived in Texas while Bush was governor, I feel it's spot on.)
posted by Cyrano at 11:40 AM on April 15, 2004


Fareed Zakaria
posted by y2karl at 11:56 AM on April 15, 2004


I think Bush is more the living embodiment of Chauncey Gardener than the Peter Principle. Bush has, after all, risen not to, but well past the level of his own incompetence a long time ago. From Harken Energy to the Texas Rangers, to the Governership of Texas, I can't think of one situation that was better off after Bush left than it was before he arrived.
posted by psmealey at 12:02 PM on April 15, 2004


Zakaria's piece is good, as always, but a cornerstone of it is to first admit that we've screwed up in Iraq, then evolve our strategy to one that can address the realities on the ground. This administration seems neither willing to admit that any mistakes have been made at all, nor ready to switch tactics, even if failing to do so means ultimate disaster.

In addition, I get rather pissed off at this attitude of, well, Bush might have broken it but we've all bought it.

The one assertion you're seeing repeated over and over now is that to restore the order necessary for a democracy to function in the manner in which it must, more troops are going to be needed in Iraq. Given that these will probably be American troops - God forbid we cede any authority to the U.N. - the question becomes, Where are these forces going to come from? And in that it may in fact require a few hundred thousand more troops, there is but one source from which so many new troops might come.

Think Americans would have signed on to this little adventure had there been any inkling this was going to be the case?

I also loved the part of the president's press conference where he was asked to whom we will be handing over authority on June 30, and he basically said we're not quite sure yet. But you can bet we ARE going to hand over authority on that date, reality be damned.

Shorter TPM: Bush's attitude is reality be damned. And now, in reality, we all ARE damned.
posted by kgasmart at 12:09 PM on April 15, 2004


An aside from Juan Cole about Muqtada al-Sadr's incipient climb down:

The Iranians also seem pleased to be drawn into a role in resolving the issue. I am frankly amazed that the US is willing to countenance this, and it seems a sign of real desperation on the part of the Bush administration to turn to the Axis of Evil for help. I am also amazed that Khamenei agreed to it on the Iranian side, and can only imagine that he thinks that it is a good thing to have the Americans owe him one so that he can continue to crush the reformists and reconsolidate conservative control of Iran. But once Iran is drawn into a formal role in Iraqi Shiite politics, the Bush administration should be aware that it will not be easy to push them back out. There is a story about the desert camel that is cold and its master lets it put its nose under the tent. But then it slides in its head, slowly slowy. Then its hump. And finally there is only a camel in the tent and the hapless owner has been pushed out into the cold night. We may be witnessing the insertion of the camel's nose.

Even Chalabi put in a word for al-Sadr. If they had had a plan, one could have said that things are not going along according to plan.
posted by y2karl at 12:12 PM on April 15, 2004


"Stay the course."

Keep on doing the same thing you're doing and keep expecting different results.

What wisdom from Dear Leader!

And no, disagreeing with aWol does not equal "hating" him or "not supporting the troops."
posted by nofundy at 12:15 PM on April 15, 2004


"He is detached, calm, secure in his own knowledge, unaware of his limitations...Because he is WASP, middle-aged, well-groomed, dressed in tailored suits, and speaks like an educated man, he is automatically presumed to be a person of substance...The movie argues that if you look right, sound right, speak in platitudes and have powerful friends, you can go far in our society. By the end of the film, Chance is being seriously proposed as a presidential candidate."

The above was taken from Roger Ebert's review of "Being There". Good call, psmealey...except, of course, for the part about speaking like an educated man.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:52 PM on April 15, 2004


Where are these forces going to come from? And in that it may in fact require a few hundred thousand more troops, there is but one source from which so many new troops might come.

If you mean the return of the draft, well, boy, won't we have fun. A bunch of kids in the streets and a President campaigning mostly on military bases. Been there, seen that.
posted by y2karl at 12:54 PM on April 15, 2004


I am also amazed that Khamenei agreed to it on the Iranian side, and can only imagine that he thinks that it is a good thing to have the Americans owe him one so that he can continue to crush the reformists and reconsolidate conservative control of Iran. But once Iran is drawn into a formal role in Iraqi Shiite politics, the Bush administration should be aware that it will not be easy to push them back out
posted by clavdivs at 1:04 PM on April 15, 2004


[quibble]Cole makes like the Iranians don't already play a role in Iraq, which is just silly. The reality is they do. He uses the US acknowledgement of reality as a stick to beat Bush with, which is just so much useless masturbation.
Chalabi doesn't mention al-Sadr, just ill-defined greviences. The man is a politician, after all.
Sadr's climb down could be due to his own unpopularity in Najaf, the way his army got its collective rear end kicked in every engagement in which it fought, the army gathering around Najaf, or the way that virturally no other faction came out in support of him. Or, it could be due solely to America's "desperate" pleas to the Iranians. [/quibble]

I don't think we are seeing an unraveling at all. The conflict between Sadr and the CPA was predictable from the start, as is the war with Falluja based sunnis. Mark Steyn's wonderfully mean spirited take on Falluja contains a grain of truth. One assumption of America's enemies is that it is weak and casualty averse. Prove them wrong and you destroy their entire strategy. The last week has seen the US marines brutally retake much of Falluja, halted only due to humanitarian and political considerations. Najaf could easily be next, but the political process is being tried again. This is all about the US demonstrating strength and illustrating that it will not be stopped by a few thousand militiamen. (Disclaimer: Steyn is often just an ill-informed jerk, and that makes him fun to read, but here I think he has a point.) If you are hated (and some sectors will hate the US no matter what it does, for its interests are inimical to their own), you must be feared. They must trust that you cannot be stopped.
I would be a lot happier if the CPA were a bit clearer about what it would not be stopped from doing, and I have a bunch of thoughts on what that should be, but the Vietnam obsessed disaster mongers (the draft? please) never seem to get past "the sky is falling, this is just like Vietnam" to get to "what should be done instead."
I'm not certain why Zakaria thinks making the US presence a "NATO" presence under US command will make any real difference. Something like a third of NATO is already there anyway. More bribes to tribes are a fine idea, assuming that strengthening tribalism is a good thing, but aside from that, I'm not sure how FZ's positions differ that dramatically from what is actually being done.
posted by ednopantz at 1:34 PM on April 15, 2004


Think Americans would have signed on to this little adventure had there been any inkling this was going to be the case?

Think Americans had any choice in the matter?
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:37 PM on April 15, 2004


We're working closely with the United Nations envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, and with Iraqis to determine the exact form of the government that will receive sovereignty on June 30th.

Hakuna Matata.

U.N. Special Advisor Lakhdar Brahimi on the Political Situation in Iraq

Juan Cole comments:

The danger in Brahimi's plan for a corrupt Pentagon-supported expat like Chalabi is that Brahimi is saying that the UN doesn't want him in a high appointive post because of all the questions that swirl around him regarding embezzlement and playing fast and loose with other people's money. This UN opposition to Chalabi is what provoked his counter-attack on Brahimi and his plan: ' Chalabi's spokesman, Entifadh Qanbar, said the nomination or selection of an interim government by the United Nations would not be acceptable to many Iraqis. "Our position is that this process has to be led by Iraqis and not by the U.N.," Qanbar said. "The U.N. should have the role of consultation -- no more than that." '

And let us not forget Ahmad Chalabi and His Iranian Connection.
posted by y2karl at 1:51 PM on April 15, 2004


If you are hated you must be feared. They must trust that you cannot be stopped.

This seems frighteningly similar to Soviet tactics employed during the latter half of the 20th century. I grant you, the genesis of this conflict is vastly different from Hungary 1954, Czechosolovakia 1968, or Afghanistan 1980, but those instances should serve as examples that that approach you recommend causes deep, long held resentments, rather than breaking the will of the insurgency.

The goal of the insurgent is simple: Keep up resistance as long as you can, and eventually the occupier will withdraw due to economic or political issues. Pragmatically, the reason why it's important to raise a UN or NATO coalition for this kind of venture is to hedge against that kind of risk. As it is, we went it alone, and it's going to continue to cost us in blood and treasure for a very, very long time.

And the point of a NATO or UN presence is part political, part economic. Would be nice

don't see how, in Poland, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Afghanistan it can possibly yield positive results over the long term.
posted by psmealey at 2:03 PM on April 15, 2004


oops, scratch those last two lines... didn't clean up my text window before I posted... bad me.
posted by psmealey at 2:05 PM on April 15, 2004


This is all about the US demonstrating strength and illustrating that it will not be stopped by a few thousand militiamen.

"americans have killed approximately 490 iraqi sunni's in falluja - according to sunni tribal law that means 490 american lives must be taken to avenge their deaths"

a frightening footnote to the conflict in falluja from john lee anderson covering iraq for the new yorker

let's put ednoplatz in charge and see how things spiral out of control.
posted by specialk420 at 2:38 PM on April 15, 2004


If you are hated (and some sectors will hate the US no matter what it does, for its interests are inimical to their own), you must be feared. They must trust that you cannot be stopped.

But see, you've just argued that partisans should be hung from lampposts with signs around their necks, that villages be destroyed in order to save them. You have just argued in favor of a brutality that this country over the course of its history has prided itself on avoiding, though of course we haven't completely avoided it.

I mean, sure, we can round up all the military-aged men in a town like Fallujah, herd them into a mosque and burn the place to the ground, shooting those who try to escape. That may very well solve the problem of the insurgency in that town. Creates a whole host of other problems, though.
posted by kgasmart at 2:39 PM on April 15, 2004


In addition, I get rather pissed off at this attitude of, well, Bush might have broken it but we've all bought it.

As well you should.
posted by rushmc at 3:51 PM on April 15, 2004



a frightening footnote to the conflict in falluja from john lee anderson covering iraq for the new yorker

Jon Lee Anderson mistakes norms for reality. All tribes say such things, few actually do it if it is suicidally stupid to do so. How many cross border raids did Iraqi Sunnis engage in to avenge the hundreds of thousands who died in the Iran-Iraq war? None. But according to tribal law they should have, so clearly "tribal law" is a norm and a set of ideals rather than an iron rule of behavior. What interviewees tell western reporters in cafes front of all their friends is different from what they actually do.
posted by ednopantz at 3:52 PM on April 15, 2004


and you are the expert .... how?

i think i and the editors at the new yorker will put anderson's street cred up against yours, that of the american enterprise institute (do you work in some little cubby hole in their basement by the way?), and ahmed chalabi and gang in a second.
posted by specialk420 at 4:53 PM on April 15, 2004


and you are the expert .... how?

Mostly writing a thesis on tribal conflict in the Hasa Oasis - Bahrain islands. Tribes there (who tend to be branches of families from elsewhere) spoke openly about the need for their rights of retalliation and autonomy to be respected, until given a reason not to, either compensation or open warfare.
When states came into conflict with tribes acrosss the Arabian peninsula in the 1920s, the tribes got clobbered. Even before that tribes tend to look all menacing but few "tribal conflicts" involve large numbers of casualties. Most tribal "battles" involved 500-1000 combatants and left at most a couple dozen dead. It is mostly about bluff, coalition building/breaking, and division of spoils.
Tribes look intimidating to outsiders, but shaykhs are liable to manipulation by both insiders and outsiders. A shaykh fundamentally has power because people respect him and what he can get for them. Standing up to states is usually a negotiating tactic to get more "stuff" to shore up his power. A third party often can impose a peace and let everyone save face.
What Anderson is doing is obvious. He is listening to what his sources want to believe about themselves. A few people will pick up arms. Most will find excuses not to, at least until victory is almost certain. "The Arab" is no more a creature of immutable custom than any of us are. To think otherwise is to accept both western stereotyping and indigenous myth making. Everyone in the region has read the western orientalist blather and a lot has been internalized.
The trick (for the US) is to make victory obviously impossible, and then offer an alternative.
Here the CPA has failed most dramatically. Its propaganda is pathetic and its "message" garbled. Its enemies put out far more convincing propaganda and it (and the US) has done little to counter and muzzle it.
posted by ednopantz at 5:14 PM on April 15, 2004


ednoplantz "the expert" approves of the US approach to current events in iraq - british officers on the scene on the other hand:

US tactics condemned by British officers

""They may well kill the terrorists in the barrage but they will also kill and maim innocent civilians. That has been their response on a number of occasions. It is trite, but American troops do shoot first and ask questions later. They are very concerned about taking casualties and have even trained their guns on British troops, which has led to some confrontations between soldiers."

(from this thread)
posted by specialk420 at 5:16 PM on April 15, 2004


420, nobody said it was particularly pleasant to shoot the bad guys with less than stellar discrimination. Nor did anyone say that an "aggressive approach to force protection" makes friends. It doesn't have to.

The point is, one needs to both propagandize:
"fight us and you will lose. Participate in the constitutional process and you will get a political system you can live with"

and stomp anyone who tries to fight you with such severity that no one could mistake your resolve to win on point 1.

This isn't a permanent situation. It is an effort to buy 12-24 months for the emergence of a democratic, federal, political situation that the vast majority of Iraqis say they want. (And incidentally, is in America's long term interests) Some actors, such as the sunni supremacists in Falluja or the Khomenist Sadrists understand that such a settlement would not be in their interests. So they fight (less so the Sadrists). The rest stand and watch. The trick is to keep the rest on the sidelines long enough for an alternative to emerge. Running away is a guarantee of anarchy.

If you want to be liked, you will have to be patient.
posted by ednopantz at 5:35 PM on April 15, 2004


and stomp anyone who tries to fight you with such severity that no one could mistake your resolve to win on point 1.

way off topic here - but didn't we try that in vietnam?

another post from iraq (this would be third from someone who actually is IN iraq - rather than in comfy aforementioned cubby hole):
"What I'm trying to say is that we don't need news networks to make us angry or frustrated. All you need to do is talk to one of the Falloojeh refugees making their way tentatively into Baghdad; look at the tear-stained faces, the eyes glazed over with something like shock. In our neighborhood alone there are at least 4 families from Falloojeh who have come to stay with family and friends in Baghdad. The stories they tell are terrible and grim and it's hard to believe that they've gone through so much."
are these people (the residents of fallujah) "freedom haters"? if they weren't before they probably are now...
posted by specialk420 at 6:01 PM on April 15, 2004


way off topic here - but didn't we try that in vietnam?
No not really, mostly in an attempt to avoid "another Korea." Misguided hindsight struck then too. But taking over for French imperialism and smashing Baathism are really two different projects. In the former, there was an actual competing ideology, local allies were vile, the process took 10,000 days, not 365, etc.

Anyway, you aren't listening, don't want to, and have your mind made up.
posted by ednopantz at 6:12 PM on April 15, 2004


On April 15, at a CSIS policy forum, Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called on President Bush to provide more engaged leadership on Iraq and advocated greater international military and rebuilding support.
Iraq: Last Chance to Get it Right (PDF)

Anthony Cordesman (r), CSIS Burke Chair in Strategy, Jon Alterman (l), director of the CSIS Middle East Program, and Bathsheba Crocker (center), codirector of the CSIS Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project, assessed the impact of the Iraqi insurgency on U.S. military and rebuilding strategy and Middle East politics at a forum hosted by CSIS on April 14. "Admitting that the situation is uncertain scarcely means that all of the possible problems will take their most serious form, or that this may not be just one more period of crisis in one of the most serious tasks the United States has taken on in its history," Cordesman said. "Much still depends on the skill with which the United States and its allies execute the transfer of sovereignty, the aid program, and the political aspects of military operations over the next days, weeks and months."
Analysts Discuss Iraq Insurgency (PDF)     Audio
posted by y2karl at 6:22 PM on April 15, 2004


let's just say that i have my mind made up that shrub and crew (well perhaps in the story book version of reality bush seems to live in, but certainly not the people who are actually making the decisions in the whitehouse) really are not at all interested in having a truly free - democratic, unified iraq based on one person - one vote anytime in the near or distant future - and then getting our troops out of their country.

seriously ... do you?

biden and others are getting worried about the "hubris" as well.
posted by specialk420 at 6:42 PM on April 15, 2004


The U.S. reaps a whirlwind in Iraq

Ending the Iraqi occupation is an essential first step to creating a stable and more secure world. No one would benefit more from such stability than the world's sole superpower.

At the moment, U.S. policy is built on needless confrontations - with Muslims in particular - which isolate it and expose it and its allies to real danger. Worldwide, the vast majority of Muslims are backing the Iraqi insurgency, in part because they feel that a U.S. defeat in Iraq would prevent the United States from attacking and occupying other Muslim countries. However, these same Muslims would warmly welcome an honourable U.S. exit from Iraq. The United States needs to reach out in a dramatic way to aggrieved Muslims; only the building of a positive relationship will undermine the roots of terrorism and build support for joint action against it.

posted by y2karl at 6:47 PM on April 15, 2004


The United States needs to reach out in a dramatic way to aggrieved Muslims; only the building of a positive relationship will undermine the roots of terrorism and build support for joint action against it.

Believe it or not, I had an Iranian roommate in college during the Hostage Crisis (25 years ago!). I had many discussions with him and his friends. They often reminded me that "it is not the American people we are against, it is the policies of the American government."
posted by jaronson at 9:21 PM on April 15, 2004




Concerning "The Peter Principle..."

As I read it, someone is competent at something, and therefore eventually promoted past that level of competence to a position at which they are completely incompetent.

Does this beg the question concerning Bush...

mediocre student
failed to complete responsibility in Guard
failure at several business enterprises
mediocre "ceremonial" governor

To paraphrase, "Where's the competence?" I think the "Lucky Sperm" scenario is all the more likely.

Where the discussion of his pathetic attempt at both oratory and lack of any even remotely prepared answers to questions he was undoubtedly going to face leads us is to the crux of the post. Open mouth, insert foot is bad enough at a family reunion. But when that is the best one can hope for from the "leader of the free world" and the people he has surrounded himself with, I agree we are all in a world of hurt.

Various reports are this "uptick" in violence is in direct retaliation for the closing by Paul Bremer of an insignificant newspaper. When words and deeds are done with no thought of the potential blow-back, watchout. One word comes to mind:

reckless
posted by charms55 at 10:01 PM on April 15, 2004


Well, it's not like people weren't thinking about this a long time ago:

Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges and Missions For Military Forces In A Post-Conflict Scenario (PDF)
Strategic Studies Institute (Army War College), February, 2003

Conclusions:

To be successful, an occupation such as that contemplated after any hostilities in requires much detailed interagency planning, many forces, multi-year military commitment, and a national commitment to nation-building.

Recent American experiences with post-conflict operations have generally featured poor planning, problems with relevant military force structure, and difficulties with a handover from military to civilian responsibility.

To conduct their share of the essential tasks that must be accomplished to reconstruct an Iraqi state, military forces will be severely taxed in military police, civil affairs, engineer, and transportation units, in addition to possible severe security difficulties.

The administration of an Iraqi occupation will be complicated by deep religious, ethnic, and tribal differences

U.S. forces may have to manage and adjudicate conflicts among Iraqis that they can barely comprehend.

An exit strategy will require the establishment of political stability, which will be difficult to achieve given Iraq's fragmented population, weak political institutions, and propensity for rule by violence.


Not that their advice was taken to heart at the time. But at least now we're asking for help from anyone we think may be able to help:

Syria Says U.S. Asked for Help With Iraq

America's involvement in Viet Nam is not the invasion, occupation and failed nation building experience that comes to mind. Israel's invasion and occupation of Lebanon in 1982 seems more appropriate. Ironically, Syria and Iran became involved in that conflict and remain major players to this day, which certainly was not Israel's intention there.
posted by y2karl at 3:49 AM on April 16, 2004


General assails U.S. policy on Iraq

Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni wondered aloud yesterday how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could be caught off guard by the chaos in Iraq that has killed nearly 100 Americans in recent weeks and led to his announcement that 20,000 U.S. troops would be staying there instead of returning home as planned.

"I'm surprised that he is surprised because there was a lot of us who were telling him that it was going to be thus," said Zinni, a Marine for 39 years and the former commander of the U.S. Central Command. "Anyone could know the problems they were going to see. How could they not?"

posted by y2karl at 4:04 AM on April 16, 2004


People talk about "another Vietnam" as if Vietnam was sui generis failure, when, in fact, just like Iraq, it was simply one front in a global war of America and its allies against a pernicious package of anti-Western ideologies. We won that war, and we'll win this one, too. Hopefully it won't take 40 years...
posted by MattD at 4:19 AM on April 16, 2004


MattD - maybe not Vietnam per se. But the economic cost of the war was something else.

It was at precisely that time - 1968-70 - that the US went from being a net creditor nation to a net debtor nation. And it was also at exactly that time that income inequality in the US (as measured by the GINI index) - which had been declining since 1946 or so - began to increase, and the trend has continued to this day.

The Vietnam War also proved to be something of a debacle for the Nixon Administration (the Democrats squeaked out of power before the shit hit the fan).

But it's far from clear that the now ascendant ideology of liberal capitalism is optimal. It seems more and more like a ravening, unstoppable force.

______________________________________________

Anyway - I popped in on this thread just to note : Josh's observation is insightful, good and apt, but Carl Jung said this a long time ago (to loosely quote Jung) : "Any internal contradiction which is unconscious and repressed will eventually be manifested outwardly - as fate"

I'll leave my full intent a bit oblique here, as I'm going to write a bit on this.
posted by troutfishing at 6:30 AM on April 16, 2004


We won that war, and we'll win this one, too.

MattD, whatever you're smoking, fill up another bowl and pass it over here. One of my earliest memories is watching Saigon fall, with my Vietnam veteran father scowling at the TV. I've known plenty of people of many opinions on that war, and the consensus is that we lost.
posted by jonmc at 6:40 AM on April 16, 2004


jonmc, MattD didn't say we won Vietnam, he said Vietnam was a front in "a global war of America and its allies against a pernicious package of anti-Western ideologies." The consensus is that we defeated Communism in this war.
posted by Holden at 7:22 AM on April 16, 2004


Lebanon: 1982-1984
posted by y2karl at 8:27 AM on April 16, 2004


As events unfolded, American decisions were reactive to actions in Lebanon. In many respects there was no clear policy--nothing but immediate tactical objectives and a mission never clearly enunciated for the troops who went ashore. Most dangerous of all was the presence of a variety of terrorist groups which were armed and capable of shaking American resolve.

Decisionmaking in Washington was further hampered by friction between Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, and National Security Advisor Robert C. MacFarlane. Emotionalism and hope rather than clear purpose and cold analysis colored the decision-making process. Ultimately there was tragedy for the U.S. Marines and the French troops of the multinational force in Beirut, ignominious withdrawal, and broken promises by the West. After the departure there was a continued morass of war and bloodshed for the Lebanese.

It can also be argued that the Western failure in Lebanon fueled the forces of political Islam and terrorism that continue to threaten stability today and that will threaten well into the next century. It is reasonable to conclude that Saddam Hussein of Iraq also reached some views on American resolve from the Lebanon debacle, which may have fueled his appetite for Kuwait.

posted by y2karl at 8:32 AM on April 16, 2004


"Anyone could know the problems they were going to see. How could they not?"

That's the $64k question.

The $128k question is, why do so many Americans not care that their leadership is guilty of, at least, gross negligence and incompetence?
posted by rushmc at 11:40 AM on April 16, 2004


America quietly sacks its prize witness against Saddam
By Patrick Cockburn
17 April 2004
The Independent


Once he was a prize witness before congressional committees, arguing that the US must invade Iraq immediately because Saddam Hussein possessed a fearsome arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Given a top job in Baghdad after the war, he has now been quietly sacked by the US authorities.
Khidir Hamza was the dissident Iraqi nuclear scientist who played an important role persuading Americans to go to war in Iraq. His credentials appeared impeccable because he claimed to have headed Saddam's nuclear programme before defecting in 1994.
After the war, Dr Hamza was rewarded, to the distress of many Iraqi scientists, with a well-paid job as the senior advisor to the Ministry of Science and Technology. Appointed by the Coalition Provisional Authority, he had partial control of Iraq's nuclear and military industries.
It was not a successful appointment, according to sources within the ministry. Dr Hamza seldom turned up for work. He obstructed others from doing their jobs. On 4 March, his contract was not renewed by the CPA. It is now trying to evict him from his house in the heavily guarded "Green Zone" where the CPA has its headquarters. He could not be contacted by The Independent but is believed to have taken up a job with a US company.
Dr Hamza's fall from grace with the US administration is in sharp contrast with the seriousness with which it took his views on WMD before the war. Speaking excellent English, he was also regularly interviewed by US television and quoted by the press.
There were always doubts that Dr Hamza had been as central as he claimed to Saddam's programme to develop a nuclear bomb. Dr Hussain Shahristani, an Iraqi nuclear scientist, tortured and imprisoned under Saddam for refusing to help build a nuclear device, said: "Hamza really was only a minor figure in our nuclear programme and always exaggerated his own importance when he got to the US."
Dr Hamza's own account of his career was that, after being educated in the US, he had been working at Florida State University in 1969 when he was approached by an Iraqi agent. He was told that unless he returned to Iraq his family would be in danger. He came back and was compelled to work for 20 years for Iraq's Atomic Energy Commission on developing an atomic bomb. Deeply opposed to the project, he defected to the US embassy in Hungary in 1994 and swiftly became a persuasive expert witness, testifying as an Iraqi insider on how Saddam was developing a terrifying arsenal. In the lead-up to the war he proclaimed: "Saddam has a whole range of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, biological and chemical."
It was as if Dr Hamza had studied the agenda of the hawks in the US, who wanted to invade Iraq, and was willing to supply evidence supporting their arguments. Several other Iraqi defectors during the 1990s also produced information which they said proved Saddam was secretly producing WMD, but Dr Hamza was the most convincing because he was able to clothe his evidence in appropriate scientific jargon. He wrote a book, Saddam's Bomb Maker: The Terrifying Inside Story of the Iraqi Nuclear and Biological Weapons Agenda.
One employer in the US decided that his account of his past simply did not stand up to examination but the US government stuck by him and made him a consultant to the US Department of Energy. Dr Hamza also hinted that Saddam had secret links to al-Qa'ida and might give them anthrax.
Back in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam, Dr Hamza's position as a senior advisor was very influential. The US-appointed advisors share control over ministries with Iraqi ministers. The ministry was, among other things, in charge of monitoring and securing the remains of Iraq's nuclear industry.
Dr Hamza's life in Baghdad was not entirely happy. At first he lived outside the Green Zone with his family until a remotely detonated bomb exploded near his car on the morning of Christmas Eve, buckling the doors and blowing out the windows.
He and his son were in the car at the time but were not injured. Dr Hamza asked for and was given a house in the Green Zone. It is this which the CPA is now trying to recover.
Of the Iraqi defectors after the Gulf War in 1991 who built a career in the US by providing evidence that Saddam Hussein was covertly building up an arsenal of WMD, Dr Hamza was the most successful. Once the war was over and no WMD had been found, he was something of an embarrassment, all the more so since he could not do his job.

posted by matteo at 5:35 PM on April 16, 2004


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