One Year Later...
March 21, 2004 9:22 AM   Subscribe

One Year Later... "In truth, most things have gone well... All in all, a good year's work."
posted by poopy (48 comments total)
tit for tat
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:50 AM on March 21, 2004

So where is this "tat" and how do I trade it for the other?
posted by eyeballkid at 9:56 AM on March 21, 2004

That's just a bit too optimistic an outlook on Iraq, and it ignores a lot of things that are still going wrong in Iraq, but I shouldn't expect an honest take on anything from the National Review.
posted by jbou at 10:12 AM on March 21, 2004

It's unfortunate that my editorial eyebrows aren't visible over the internet.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 10:35 AM on March 21, 2004

Articles in National Review that contain the words "in truth" always make me smile. It's interesting watching the mighty wurlitzer at work.

The invasion itself went rapidly, with death tolls below almost everyone's expectations. There was no gotterdammerung: no refugee outflows; no humanitarian disasters; the oilfields were not set ablaze; the dams on the Tigris and Euphrates were not breached.

Also, there were no major earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, locust infestations or outbreaks of vampirism, and Saddam was not able to use either his Death Ray or Weather Dominator. These, too, are things that went right.

He's the man who filled those oh-so-little-reported mass graves that Iraqis are uncovering, with their hundreds of thousands of bodies, including the children's graves.

...the clear implication being that the so-called liberal media has failed to report on the mass graves, which is, of course, nonsense.
posted by Ty Webb at 10:40 AM on March 21, 2004

ignores a lot of things that are still going wrong in Iraq

There are a lot of things that are still going wrong in every country in the world, but that doesn't mean that no one is allowed to be optimistic. In fact, Iraq is doing much, much better than any post-invasion country in histroy.
posted by VeGiTo at 11:12 AM on March 21, 2004

posted by VeGiTo at 11:13 AM on March 21, 2004

VeGiTaBlEhEaD: tHe EtErNaL oPtImIsT
posted by quonsar at 11:17 AM on March 21, 2004

I'm perfectly happy to hear a little optimism on Iraq, but this kind of hyperbole just makes you sound insane:
In fact, Iraq is doing much, much better than any post-invasion country in history

History has been going on for quite some time, so I hear, with thousands of countries getting invaded and rebuilt. You sure you know enough to make that claim?

Anyway, I do agree Iraq is currently doing somewhat better than I thought it might, given it's such a deeply divided nation (three large, distinct national groups, none of whom like each other very much). I'm not optimistic that's it's going to last though, right now the governing council is a bunch of folks handpicked by the U.S., a real democracy sounds like a recipe for civil war. Hopefully, I'm wrong about that.
posted by malphigian at 11:26 AM on March 21, 2004

> I shouldn't expect an honest take on anything from the National Review.

I should think you can trust NR to paint the world in the colors they see, at least as much as you can trust Mother Jones to do the same.
posted by jfuller at 11:34 AM on March 21, 2004

How did I miss this one? Nice find, poopy.

Bush is winning war that matters now - Mark Steyn
posted by hama7 at 11:35 AM on March 21, 2004

Thanks for posting that Steyn article, hama7, I needed a good laugh. What a maroon.

there are calls for more financial accountability at the NGOs, the permanent floating crap game of Western do-gooderism that in far too many places does far less good than it ought to, given the dough it sluices up.

Aside from that fact that Steyn offers zero facts to support his broad assertion, you have to admire the intentionally vague construction of "far less good than it ought to..." Very clever.

In other words, the ''coalition of the willing'' has effected more positive change in the last 10 months than the multilateral establishment has in the last 10 years.

Here, Steyn crosses over from the realm of mere mumbo-jumbo into the realm of mumbo-pocus. Great stuff, great stuff.
posted by Ty Webb at 12:17 PM on March 21, 2004

from hama's link:

Yes, Americans are still being killed by Islamists in Iraq. But they're not being killed by Islamists in New York offices, or Washington government buildings, or U.S. embassies and ships.

so, if Bush can claim credit for this, I assume that you'll consider a future attack on US soil reason not to vote for Bush?

also, I'm interested: Bush's Vietnam years are a silly old story? cool.
on the other hand Clinton's Oxford years (not to mention his 1979 30K money-losing investment) were very very relevant, right?
posted by matteo at 12:21 PM on March 21, 2004

also, I'm interested: Bush's Vietnam years are a silly old story? cool.
on the other hand Clinton's Oxford years (not to mention his 1979 30K money-losing investment) were very very relevant, right?

For me, yes. I don't care how either of them went about avoiding the Vietnam War. I assume it is the same for you? That you either don't care either way or do care tremendously about both?
posted by obfusciatrist at 12:27 PM on March 21, 2004

i care only about what will remove the dubfuck from office. i really don't care if it's a drunken frat-boy weeny-wag from ancient history or jimmy hoffa's DNA under his fingernails. whatever works.
posted by quonsar at 12:42 PM on March 21, 2004

the motherjones article was just soldier's stories. this article is just pure spin.
posted by mcsweetie at 2:06 PM on March 21, 2004

I like how conservative commentators never miss an opportunity to mention that it was the socialist party that those craven, moral cripples in Spain elected last week. I assume this is a conscious effort to take advantage of most American's ignorance of the fact that socialists and anti-democratic communists are not in fact one in the same.
posted by crank at 3:03 PM on March 21, 2004

Iraq has lots of things going for it.

#1 is money. Not only are they getting boucoup oil revenues with more to come; but their currency is really strong and stable; the actually have a flat tax(!), which is the lowest and projected to be the most efficient (as in fair) tax in the region, making them a magnet for investment. Bremer is setting them up for economic boom like MacArthur did Japan. Nothing succeeds like success.

#2 Much of what the US is doing at the high levels is trying to convince them that they will be better off with a unified nation than broken up. A de jure Kurdistan destabilizes the entire region and may invite war with Syria, Turkey and Iran; but a de facto Kurdistan, as part of Iraq, is everything the Kurds want and more.
The Shiites will get to rule over all, as long as they rule well. They get the great thing they desire, which is to rule over themselves; but it must be with respect to the Kurds and the Sunnis, as the Shiites cannot overwhelm them.
The Sunnis are the most upset, for they are losing their power over everyone else. The most they can content themselves with in the future is to watch out for their own interests in a unified government. But without unity, they become a target--so it is to their advantage.
The Secularists are big winners, if the US gets its way, for a secular government guarantees the most freedom and least acrimony.

#3 Iraq already has a lot. It is not building from scratch. Its people are very literate (there are a HUGE number of public schools in Iraq). The major city infrastructure, if still needing work, is "modern" in concept; that is, the streets are wide, most buildings were built after 1950, the city is designed for municipal water and power. It has highways and capable bridges. In 10-20 years, with good management, it could easily become as economically strong as several of the western european nations.

#4 As far as the Iraqi on the street is concerned, their biggest problem is "security", a problem that drops radically when Iraqis police themselves--which they are being trained for and put on the street for in large numbers. Their criminal court system is being revitalized, and noteworthily: they are being converted to Common Law(!) This is the system of law in the US, unlike Roman and Napoleonic Law in Europe. (Believe me, night and day.)

#5 Their second biggest problem is unemployment, which has been halved from 56% to 28%, which is not too darned bad for one year.
posted by kablam at 3:44 PM on March 21, 2004

Petrol queues are shorter than they were in December.

A mobile phone system is staggering into life and some of the telephone exchanges bombed by the Americans during the war are expected to come back into service any time now.

But there are still power black-outs every day; there is no guarantee about the quality of the drinking water; raw sewage runs in garbage-strewn streets; and unemployment is estimated at between 35 and 60 per cent.

The Age, March 20, 2004 Can Iraq embrace democracy?

Another was kidnapping, it has reached such highs that men are afraid to go to work and parents have withdrawn their children from school. One story doing the rounds in my neighbourhood was of a small girl who was abducted on the way back from school. A telephone call was made to her parents informing them that they had 10 days to gather the $10,000 ransom or they would never see her again.

The mother fell into hysteria as their financial situation was so bad they had no hope of ever gathering such an amount. The poor father went round to his relatives and friends and managed to raise about $4000.

On the 10th day, the kidnappers called and were told that this is all the family could raise. They slammed the phone down and the family were left fearing the worst.

A few days later, one of the gang of kidnappers called the girl's home late in the night and told them where they could find their daughter. He gave an address of a house in an industrial area of Baghdad which is particularly dangerous to walk through at nights.

Apparently an argument had broken out between the gang and this man had enough of a conscience to call the family. The father went straight to the police, but they told him they would not come out with him at this late hour (it was about 2am) because they were too scared. The father resorted to calling a few friends and relatives who armed themselves and went to the address given.

Upon entering, he found dozens of small children and young women in a large, dark room. He started calling out his daughter's name and he heard her reply but as if being dragged away. He realised there was a staircase next to the room at the top of which some woman was trying to push his daughter. He got hold of his daughter and left the building, giving the police the entire details.

Apparently some 20 families received their loved ones back when the police raided the building the next day. These stories are rife on the streets and provoke much fear, among the rich and poor equally.

from reports from the holy city of Karbala, Iraq.
posted by y2karl at 4:08 PM on March 21, 2004

Violence in Iraq: 'no one is safe anymore'

Perched on a pile of rubble that was the front of his family's carpentry shop until Wednesday night, Hussein Muhaissen, 18, stared glumly at his surroundings.

In front of him, the shop's ceiling was reduced to a mass of twisted metal. To his left, two homes were practically razed. Across the road, the front of a five-story hotel had been ripped and shredded.

The road through this post-apocalyptic landscape had been practically severed by a giant, jagged crater, where, according to U.S. authorities, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a car Wednesday night, killing seven people and injuring 35 others. Officials originally thought 27 or 28 people had been killed.

"The Americans eat up our oil as if it were a sweet dessert, but they let the terrorists kill us," Muhaissen said yesterday as he kicked a singed shoe out of the yard. "No one is safe in Iraq anymore."

posted by y2karl at 4:16 PM on March 21, 2004

The Bush administration's hope for a clean, quick transition to a sovereign Iraqi government on June 30 has been dealt a series of blows by local Iraqi political forces, of which the bombing campaign by insurgents is only one. Only a year before, the Americans who planned the invasion were largely ignorant of these groups and their leaders. In their haste to hand over Iraq to someone, the Americans have ceased even trying to find solutions to the most divisive issues, creating a series of political time bombs for the future.

Last summer, the U.S. civil administrator, Paul Bremer, said: "We dominate the scene and we will continue to impose our will on this country." But by early November, it had become absolutely clear that the U.S. could not hope to rule Iraq by fiat for a matter of years, as the Bush administration had earlier envisioned. The ongoing Sunni Arab insurgency and widespread lack of security had already made the center-north of the country ungovernable. It even made the capital unsafe, as the recent horrific bombings at Kazimiyah and at the Mount Lebanon Hotel have demonstrated.

The Kurds had blocked an American attempt to bring in 12,000 Turkish troops to fight the insurgents in the Sunni Arab areas, ensuring that U.S. soldiers remained on the front line in Fallujah and Ramadi. The U.S. was weak in the north and relied heavily on the Kurdish militias, or peshmergas. Were the majority Shiites to grow weary of Coalition Provisional Authority rule and begin an uprising of their own, the Americans in Baghdad came to recognize, the entire country could fall into chaos.

By Nov. 15, Bremer had hammered out an agreement with Iraqis on the appointed Interim Governing Council that would allow a transition to a sovereign and more legitimate Iraqi government by June 30. But then everything fell apart, as Bremer's plan smashed into one brick wall after another.

Today, a year after the invasion, the dream of a democratic Iraq sits on a foundation that is fractured by rivalries, conflicts and schisms. Will Iraq be a secular state or governed by Islamic law? Will it have a strong central government or a loose federalism? Will women retain their legal rights or face fundamentalist patriarchy? Will the ethnic Kurds become semi-autonomous and gain a consolidated Kurdish super-province?

Any one of those questions, by itself, could be enough to tear the country apart. The hopes of some in Washington that Paul Bremer would be a second Gen. MacArthur, crafting a permanent Iraqi constitution and imposing a new government, were brought down by the unexpected guerrilla resistance. And the administration of President Bush, for all of its early optimism, has found that it has at best limited leverage over the underlying conflicts.

Welcome to the quagmire
posted by y2karl at 4:20 PM on March 21, 2004

y2karl, that's some impressive stuff. keep up the good work yo.
posted by poopy at 4:41 PM on March 21, 2004

Despite optimistic predictions from the Bush administration about an emerging democracy and plans to transfer sovereignty to an Iraqi government this summer, experts in foreign policy say Americans should prepare for many more years of deadly roadside bombings and U.S. and civilian casualties. Americans should also be prepared to pay billions per year for Iraq's reconstruction.

...Aside from constant attacks by insurgents and foreign Islamic terrorists - seven people were killed Wednesday in a car bombing outside a Baghdad hotel - large pieces of a functioning infrastructure remain missing:

The unemployment rate is a whopping 50 to 60 percent, and most new jobs are make-work jobs created by the provisional authority.

Electricity is uneven and inadequate in most places, with just over half the needed 6,000 megawatts produced every day. The shortage of electricity is hampering industry and causing shortages of oil products, including gasoline and cooking fuels...

...Even in communities such as Mosul, which has an elected local government and good relations with U.S. troops, insurgents attack Iraqi police officers and U.S. soldiers daily.

No end in sight for U.S. in Iraq
posted by y2karl at 4:44 PM on March 21, 2004

Its true that there are a lot of problems, but there seems to be more going better then going worse. There's talk of a civil war, but it seems pretty accademic at this point.
posted by delmoi at 5:24 PM on March 21, 2004

Bremer is setting them up for economic boom like MacArthur did Japan. Nothing succeeds like success.

The difference is that before WWII Japan was a bona fide world power of the first order, while Iraq was, and remains, a Third World state. Japan may have been bombed into the stone age, but the human capital remained largely intact. Europe and Japan both had major industries to rebuild and revive. Iraq doesn't.
posted by crank at 5:49 PM on March 21, 2004

There's talk of a civil war, but it seems pretty accademic at this point.

The Pentagon's most senior commander in Iraq, General John Abizaid, says it is "possible" Iraq could descend into civil war.

But General Abizaid also said his men had foiled several terrorist attacks intended to coincide with those that killed more than 170 people in Baghdad and Karbala on Tuesday.

While he qualified his remark about civil war by saying he did not believe it was "probable", his was among the first such admissions by a senior US official.

Maybe at your accademy...

I spoke to some of the family members (through Amjad, my translator) next to pieces of a bedroom set that they had salvaged from the remains of the house. The family believed that American missiles had caused the destruction. A man in a plaid shirt, sweating from the heat and his exertions, said that he knew the Americans had fired missiles on purpose to kill Iraqis. They don't really want security, he said. They want chaos. That way they can stay in Iraq and take all the oil. The man gestured broadly with his arms and as he spoke his chin shot forward as though firing the words out of his mouth. FBI forensic experts have said that the blast did, in fact, come from a car bomb. But the man's insistence that the U.S. had fired a missile at the neighborhood is indicative of the streak of hatred and blame being aimed at the U.S. occupation right now. Iraqis who feel furious with the occupation see the U.S. presence as responsible (either actively or passively) for the continuing violence in their country.

The man pointed to his next-door neighbor's house. "What have they done to deserve this?" he asked. Most of the occupants of his neighbor's house -- a Christian family -- had died in the bombing (the man said eight, though other reports from the scene put the number at four). The man and I looked over at what was left of the house. Rubble, splintered wood. On a broken door poking from the debris, I saw part of a colorful wall calendar.

I turned back to the man and asked him a question many people have been asking Iraqis lately: "Was your life better before the war?" "Yes," the man said. "Yes, yes," his family agreed. "It was better." Then I asked whether he felt the situation had been improving since the end of the war. "It's getting worse all the time," the man said. "Every day explosions. A year has passed and no law." Again, his family voiced their agreement. "We want jihad against the Americans," the man told me. When I asked whether he was Sunni or Shia, he said he was Shia, but that it did not matter. Sunni, Shia -- they would all fight together against the Americans. "We are sleeping lions," he said. "We're waiting for the time to eat Americans."

The man asked Amjad where I was from, a question I hear so much that I understand it perfectly in Arabic. "American," I said. "I'm from America." Usually, when I say I'm an American journalist, people become happily excited at the possibility of conveying their story to the American public, which they see as separate from the Americans of the occupation. But in this case, as soon as I properly identified myself, I regretted it. The man stopped talking, probably worried that his talk of jihad might get him in trouble, but he looked at me with a spiteful expression. Other American journalists at the bombing site told me they had been saying they were Canadian or Australian. Anything but American. Here in Iraq, on the anniversary of the invasion, bad feelings toward the occupation have morphed into a general anti-American and even anti-Western sentiment. And for the first time -- Mom, stop reading this -- I've started to feel unsafe.

posted by y2karl at 6:41 PM on March 21, 2004

and now even Carter comes out: "There was no reason for us to become involved in Iraq recently. That was a war based on lies and misinterpretations from London and from Washington, claiming falsely that Saddam Hussein was responsible for [the] 9/11 attacks, claiming falsely that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction..."
posted by amberglow at 6:51 PM on March 21, 2004

kablam: "The Secularists are big winners, if the US gets its way, for a secular government guarantees the most freedom and least acrimony."

You are perfectly aware that the Hussein government was secular, right?

"Their second biggest problem is unemployment, which has been halved from 56% to 28%, which is not too darned bad for one year."

That would be using the infamous government standard of measurement: if the situation is so dire that you've given up all hope of work, you're no longer unemployed.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:54 PM on March 21, 2004

fff: yes, Saddam's government was secularist. But then again, officially, so is that of the US. Secularism in Iraq is seen as a necessary alternative to religious factionalism, by the Iraqis themselves.

As far as unemployment goes, and despite y2karl's persistent pessimism (and posting huge sections of text instead of links), see what the World Bank says.

Agribusiness, despite lots of desire to help, does seem to be lagging. It employs a lot of people in Iraq, and once it's back on its feet, unemployment should really take a hit.

And, BTW, as soon as power is handed over to the Iraqi government, a huge amount of capital will flood into the country.
posted by kablam at 7:38 PM on March 21, 2004

The future of Iraq is not being forged out of a battle between West and East, or between Muslims and Christians, but between Shiites and Sunnis, Kurds and Arabs, Baathists and democrats. The main fault line crossing most Muslim societies isn't even between secularists and religionists, but between Muslims with different ideas about the proper role of religion.

Islamists of the kind represented by Al Qaeda are religious revolutionaries. But it is perfectly possible for a practicing Muslim to be against U.S. intervention, free-market capitalism, sexual freedom and the importing of Hollywood movies without being a theocratic revolutionary. Such a person may be a moderate reformer who believes, as did many Europeans until just a few decades ago, that democratic politics is best organized along religious lines.

The real question for the Western universalists, then, is whether the cause of moderate Muslims is helped by the revolutionary war that has been set off by the American and British armies. For that is what the war in Iraq is: not a clash of civilizations, but a revolution unleashed through outside force.

There seems to be little doubt that most Iraqis were more than happy to see Saddam go. Most would have remained grateful to the United States and Britain, if only the coalition forces could have somehow gone home quickly, leaving Iraq with a functioning administration, electricity, running water and safe streets.

This, of course, would not have been possible even if Britain and America had done everything right. The fact that the coalition got so much spectacularly wrong has made things far worse.

One Year later: Imposing 'universal values'

The fate of women in Iraq remains fraught with unknowns. The Fundamental Law just approved by the Iraqi Governing Council, which may serve as a model for the Iraqi constitution, contains important contradictions on matters affecting women. Quite apart from laws on paper, Iraqi women suffer from the devastated condition of the country's economy, from the stupefying unemployment rate and from an alarming crime wave that includes the kidnapping of girls for ransom. Armed fundamentalist movements on the ground, often hostile to women's rights, care little for secular laws and constitutions.

Iraqi civil law has been among the more favorable to women's rights in the Arab world, though social reality often diverges from the ideal. Contrary to many statements by Bush administration officials, it's not at all clear that women are better off since the Iraq war. The United States appointed few women to the Governing Council and those who were chosen were quickly marginalized by powerful male expatriates, including several U.S.-backed clerics. The U.S. could not even prevent Aqila Hashimi the most experienced of the women, from being gunned down last fall. American attempts to appoint women judges were blocked in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. There are only seven women judges in Iraq.

The women on the Governing Council did achieve one impressive legislative victory at the end of February. They won reversal of a decision, made last December and spearheaded by Shiite cleric and council member Abdelaziz Hakim, that would have abrogated the 1959 uniform civil code for personal-status laws. Hakim and his council allies sought to put Iraqis under the authority of their religious courts with respect to inheritance, marriage, divorce and related matters. Conventional interpretations of Islamic law would give girls, for example, only half the inheritance of their brothers.

The adoption of the new Fundamental Law, or interim constitution, by the Governing Council raised many questions about the future treatment of women. A recently published Arabic draft of the document contains many passages supportive of women's rights. These paragraphs, however, may conflict with other provisions. The law says that Islam is the official religion and that it is "a fundamental source" of legislation. It also bars laws that would directly contradict the Muslim legal code, or Sharia. The prominence of Islam need not undercut women's rights, but if the Fundamental Law is interpreted in a fundamentalist or patriarchal way, women could be harmed.

Veil of Anxiety Over Women's Rights
posted by y2karl at 7:41 PM on March 21, 2004

Are you actually reading what y2karl's been posting, kablam?

You have a determinedly sunny view of things. I hope against hope that you're right, but I rather suspect the reality is far closer to what y2k's saying.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:40 PM on March 21, 2004

Everyone, please, ignore y2karl. He is obviously just making this stuff up, because any country with an ounce of pride would not allow such crap to continue. They would be out on the streets demanding change. All is well in Iraq, we did the right thing. Repeat: all is well in Iraq, we did the right thing. Hey, I think there is a good show on the tube. Check it out.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 9:21 PM on March 21, 2004

And, BTW, as soon as power is handed over to the Iraqi government, a huge amount of capital will flood into the country.

Just like all the capital that flowed into Argentina and Bolivia! Basically, we're all supposed to be happy because we're about to see another neoliberal "success story?" Capital flowing in does not mean that profits won't just flow out. So what's the upside? My customer service calls will now go to Iraq? Iraq gets a different elite?

Can anyone point out one single solitary instance in the history of the planet Earth in which neoliberal economic policies have produced either an increase in standard of living or stable economic growth that lasts more than a couple of quarters and isn't followed by a disturbing market/currency collapse?

I didn't think so.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:25 PM on March 21, 2004

You can't polish a turd.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:30 AM on March 22, 2004

they're far too squishy.
posted by quonsar at 12:39 AM on March 22, 2004

So you're suggesting that having lots of money and the ability to make more and international credit and strong currency and lower unemployment and the protection of a superpower are just "neoliberal" things that don't really help?

Actually, what is a "neoliberal?" Is that a liberal with a new idea? I pretty well know what a "neocon" is, because most of what they want seems to happen.

I suppose it's a lot easier to have a "determinedly sunny view" when you're dealing with actuals, rather than possibles. For example, Coalition war dead, and American war dead, for that matter, were supposed to be 10 times greater than they are. That is, about 5000 rather than about 500.

To point this out is "sunny", but to fret that people are still being killed, amounting to what? another 4500 or more, is a bit more than pessimistic, it's ambitiously disastrous. Even assuming that Americans will continue to be killed at a rate of 30 a month there, that would still be an unbroken string of murder lasting 12 1/2 years!

Now seriously, despite y2karl's handwringing, I am finding less and less to even be concerned about in Iraq. It hasn't become a Vietnam-like "quagmire". Its economy is the fastest growing in the world, a 30% growth rate.

It isn't even really a war anymore, more like an episode of "Cops". I'm just not impressed by doom and gloom until you show me the numbers--current numbers--not some political hack or editorialists take on things, and not some anecdotal sob story about how "I was a happy, wealthy Ba'athist, and now I'm ruined and my family will starve!"

Oh yeah, and I'm sure people will continue to be killed and die in Iraq, eventually, say in about 100 years, ALL of them will die. Tragic. And it's all Bush's fault. Kerry would make it not happen somehow.

Kerry will still lose because he's a Yankee.
posted by kablam at 7:53 AM on March 22, 2004

National Review Online, December 12, 2003. David Frum declares :

" For now, let’s say that while the President’s opponents have made much sport of the idea that God called George Bush to the presidency, it’s becoming increasingy difficult to doubt that God wants President Bush re-elected."

Right-O, David Frum. Go smoke some more bong hits.

God doesn't need your PR flack screeds. God holds his own counsel.

/cut on National Review Online
posted by troutfishing at 8:06 AM on March 22, 2004

Washington wants a compliant regime of Iraqi yes-men, what Algerians used to call, “beni oui-ouis,” running internal affairs under the stern gaze of American garrison troops, who will intervene, like the British imperialists, whenever the locals get out of hand or Iraqi politicians grow too independent-minded.

But Ayatollah Sistani and the Shia will not accept a Vichy Iraqi government that excludes them from running Iraq’s foreign and domestic affairs, though that is precisely what Washington plans in June when it “hands over power to Iraqis”—most likely by expanding the existing U.S.-appointed Governing Council of Iraqi collaborators or by staging a rigged national tribal assembly, as was done in Afghanistan. Unfortunately for the Bush administration, it has not yet located in Iraq a glib figurehead like former CIA “asset” in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.

So Iraq’s Shia will likely find themselves on a collision course with the U.S. occupation. Younger Shi’ites may disregard their elders’ calls for caution and, not to be outdone by their Sunni rivals, take up arms. If this happens, the current insurgency in the Sunni Triangle (actually a rectangle) will appear modest by comparison. In fact, as Shia anger and frustration surge, Iraq is increasingly resembling Lebanon during its long civil war, and there appears an inexorable slide towards both a wider insurgency and inter-ethnic strife.

What should the U.S. do? The most sensible course: hand Iraq to the UN and pull out. This would produce intense neocon wailing about loss of credibility and giving in to terrorism. But in fact, the longer the U.S. stays in Iraq, the more credibility it loses, and the more it stokes terrorism.

If a total pullout is not in the cards, then the best option is to co-operate with Iraq’s Shia majority and show that the U.S. can work fruitfully with an Islamic regime. Co-operation with Islamists in Baghdad opens the way to good relations with Tehran and a major lessening of anti-American feelings across the Muslim World. But of course, the neocons will do their best to thwart such détente.

The United States has not enough men, treasure, nor intellectual energy to struggle through the morass of Mesopotamian politics and ethnic strife. Governments can usually only think of two or three things at a time, and the mess in Iraq should not be one of them. Otherwise, it will come to bedevil us and sap our energies, just as Iran did in the late 1970s and ’80s. Unless we learn from our errors and work to co-operate with the latest problematic mullah, Ayatollah Sistani, he could well be come the nemesis his predecessor, Imam Khomeini, did just two decades ago.

Another Ayatollah - Sistani’s Shia refuse to play their assigned role.
posted by y2karl at 8:11 AM on March 22, 2004

It isn't even really a war anymore, more like an episode of "Cops".

U.S. and Iraqi officials disagreed over how many people died in Tuesday's bombings in Baghdad and Karbala - the deadliest here since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi Governing Council said 271 people were killed. U.S. officials put the toll at 117.

20 days ago was some episode of "Cops".

Iraq's Sistani Warns UN Not to Back Constitution

Sistani said the interim constitution was unworkable because it establishes a three-person presidential council composed of a Sunni Muslim, a Kurd and a Shi'ite Muslim who would be required to take unanimous decisions.

"This builds a basis for sectarianism. Consensus would not be reached unless there is pressure from a foreign power, or a deadlock would be reached that destabilizes the country and could lead to break-up," Sistani said.

Shi'ites form a majority in Iraq but are a minority among Muslims worldwide.

The interim constitution, which was passed earlier this month, limits the power of Shi'ites by giving Sunni and Kurdish provinces a de facto veto over national legislation.

Sistani's followers said he allowed his supporters on the Iraqi Governing Council to endorse the constitution to preserve national unity as Iraq remained under U.S.-led occupation and lacked stability.

kablam: I suppose it's a lot easier to have a "determinedly sunny view" when you're dealing with actuals, rather than possibles.
posted by y2karl at 8:25 AM on March 22, 2004

I'm sure the truth is somewhere between "Everythings Great!" and "Everything Sucks!" It doesn't make the invasion any less of a strategic mistake on the part of the U.S. in the GWOT, however. We've wasted almost two years now distracting ourselves with this little adventure. Meanwhile, bin Laden et al point and laugh as we give them exactly the West vs. Islam conflict they wanted.
posted by moonbiter at 8:42 AM on March 22, 2004

Actually, what is a "neoliberal?" Is that a liberal with a new idea? I pretty well know what a "neocon" is, because most of what they want seems to happen.

Sigh. Neither I nor any of my homolefty friends invented the term neoliberalism, and it's hardly my fault if you haven't heard of the most fucked-up and influential school of economics of the last 30 years.

From the Wikipedia (actual text is peppered with links, follow link):
Neoliberalism is often identified with a number of global organizations, including the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The concept of neoliberalism arose as economists at the World Bank and IMF found that post-World War II development strategies for poor countries were not having the intended effects. In particular, funding for mega-projects left poor countries with high debts but little growth to show for it.

The neoliberal doctrine is also a subset of the so-called "Washington consensus": a set of specific policy goals designed for Latin American countries to help them recover from the "lost decade" of the 1980s. This period not only saw a rise in dictatorships in the region, but also disastrous financial mismanagement resulting in rapidly rising prices for basic products, which inevitably caused an increase in poverty. In addition to the tenets of neoliberalism, the Washington consensus stipulated that a country should have stable exchange rates and a government budget in balance.

The term itself was coined by the proponents of the philosophy itself, Milton Friedman and his fellow Chicago-school economists. Ignorrance, rather feigned or genuine, does not reduce the significance of the impact wrought by lasseiz-faire approaches to development scenarios across the board.

Simply put--and I put it this way before, but you chose to stress your own ignorance rather than refute my actual point--no amount of inflow of capital will lead to subtantive or sustained development if it only comes through the mechanisms of what we laughingly call "free trade." It's not complicated: the existence of money does not itself lead to infrastructural and economic development, unless some portion of the profits generated by that capital actually "stays home" and gets invested locally. That's why--despite crude declarations to the contrary by everyone from Richard Perle to Bill Clinton--it really wasn't in the best interests of the Bolivian people for Bechtel to own their water.

I understand that the mantra of privatization has an appealing ring for many. But that doesn't make it not bullshit.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:45 AM on March 22, 2004

Ignatius - thanks for the nutshell on Neoliberalism (which refreshed my memory of this).

If humans - and the corporate realm ( Bechtel and Halliburton included ) - manage to screw up the global environment sufficiently, we'll all have to live in domed environments and so Bechtel can take over the privatization of air and sunlight as well as water.

This will, by the way, deal quite handily with the problem of poverty.
posted by troutfishing at 10:25 AM on March 22, 2004

Lower The NeoLiberal Dome!

posted by Stan Chin at 3:00AM PST on November 7

posted by y2karl at 1:45 PM on March 22, 2004

kablam? anyone else?

so, given the absence of anyone even alleging the existence of an analogous prior success, can we stop taking the fantasies of neoliberal economists as if they had even a shred of honesty or truth to them?

iraq's economy may well develop, but it won't be because of anyone's attempts to establish corporatist financial anarchy.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:32 PM on March 22, 2004

...The fall of Saddam has improved the lives of many Iraqis, especially professionals such as doctors, engineers, and teachers, whose salaries have significantly increased. And the streets are clogged with traffic, which wasn’t true before the war. A great many Iraqis took advantage of the temporary suspension of import duties at the border with Jordan and bought cheap secondhand cars. The Internet, which was strictly controlled under Saddam, is available everywhere, as are a wide variety of computers, domestic appliances, and cell phones. These life-style improvements notwithstanding, very few people venture out on the streets after dark, and almost no one I know dares drive after ten-thirty. This is because of the staggering increase in the number of rapes, murders, armed robberies, carjackings, and kidnappings. Saddam emptied the country’s prisons a few months before the war, and perhaps a hundred thousand criminals returned to the streets. Young girls are now walked to and from school by their fathers or brothers, for fear they might be snatched. Women generally dress much more modestly than they did before, wearing either baggy black abayas or helmet-like hijab head scarves.

It is not only the wealthy who are targeted for robbery and extortion. As in countries like Colombia and Mexico, wives and children of schoolteachers and mechanics are kidnapped along with politicians and rich businessmen. A couple of months ago, the twelve-year-old son of an Iraqi friend of mine, a driver who lives in a working-class neighborhood, was kidnapped one morning while walking to school. My friend had recently bought a nice secondhand car, which he was very proud of and loved to show off. That was probably his big mistake. The kidnappers demanded fifty thousand dollars in ransom. He bargained them down to six thousand dollars, sold his new car, and paid up. Several hours later, the boy was released a few blocks from his home. Since then, my friend has not let his son out of the house, even to go to school...

Just being around foreigners has become hazardous. In most of the recent killings of Americans and Europeans, Iraqis died with them—their drivers, guards, and interpreters. A couple of weeks ago, assassins in Baghdad ambushed the car of an Iraqi translator who worked for the Voice of America, killing him, his mother, and his young daughter. Many foreigners are starting to move out of the little family hotels that seemed so charming, and others are giving up the comfortable and civilized neighborhood houses they were renting. The Palestine, with its reinforced-concrete perimeter walls, razor wire, armed guards, and bomb-sniffing dogs, is getting crowded.

Postcard From Baghdad - The New Yorker/Talk of the Town
posted by y2karl at 8:36 PM on March 22, 2004

The rule of tyranny is often more comfortable than the rule of anarchy.

With tyranny, you have a fair idea of where the lines are, the consequences should you step over them, and the ways to work around it all.

With anarchy, the most violent and unethical rule by whim. The threats are random, the consequences unknown, and there's no ability to work around it with any sort of confidence.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:34 PM on March 22, 2004

Iraqi youths celebrated Thursday after an American military vehicle was set on fire after a shootout between United States forces and guerrillas in the town of Falluja. There were no injuries reported in the firefight.

Well, finally, this invasion got some smiles from some Iraqis!
And it stopped Al Qaeda Real Good! Mission Accomplished!
posted by y2karl at 8:33 PM on March 26, 2004

It's All Bad News. Paul Marshall should try living in Iraq.
posted by moonbiter at 2:28 PM on March 27, 2004

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