Sunday, January 21, 2007

Iraq the Model, and its fans

Iraq the Model, one of the few Iraqi blogs still supportive of a US presence in Iraq wants the "surge" to work, and rails against what they perceive as the "unrealistic expectations" of the "Surge" plan's many critics. Mildly interesting as a study in Strawman Argument 101, but what's especially fascinating is some of the commentary.

Some samples:
of course you will read or hear nothing about this glaring reality in the enemy-i mean mainstream-press.

The mainstream press isn't just "biased", it is an actual ENEMY.
The use of the term "last chance" is meant to convey how very discouraged all of America is in Iraqis' individual failure to step up to the plate and assume responsiblity for your own country.

It is uttered in the tone of the adult parents chastising the recalicitrant delinquent teenager standing defiantly before them, having just totalled the family car ... again.

Iraqis are all immature children who need a stern dressing down from those who command parental authority over them: the US.
You're correct. The phrase "last chance" is defeatist and is being used to undermine our mission in Iraq.

This of course blatantly contradicts the previous comment's explanation for the "last chance" rhetoric. But there was no attempt to resolve the contradiction. Unsurprising, really.
The surge will not be a test of the
Anerican military, it will be a test
of the loyalty, integrity, and bravery
of the Iraqi Army.

"Blame the Iraqis" is in full swing.
If you want to know whether a surge of U.S. troops in Baghdad will make a difference, listen to Iraqis like taxi driver Ali Mansoor, 38.

Did someone seriously suggest that we should be taking advice on military strategy from a taxi driver? Yes, they did.
the test is not for the US military and political effort, it is for the Iraqi govt and military and PEOPLE.

Just in case anyone was thinking that the "blame the Iraqis" game was limited only to blaming the Iraqi government.
Do we have to install another dictator to get u guys to get along?

Speaks for itself.
The Left is getting desperate. They used the Diebold Machine and propaganda to gain control of Congress and IT DIDN'T DO THEM ANY GOOD.


But I think I'll let the one and only person claiming to be an actual soldier in the US army have the last word:
Marhaba....I'm a soldier stationed in Iraq. I've been here over 10 months, and will be here for six more, extended as part of the troop surge. I work on a Tactical Human Intelligence Team south of Baghdad.
Yes, this is the last chance. Quit whining about the choice of words. Fact: American soldiers are being killed by IED's on the roads, in my area. The Iraqi Police know who are planting the IED's, and do nothing. Fact: Iraqi police alert Jaysh Al Mahdi terrorists by cell phone when Humvees pass their checkpoints on raids. Iraqi culture is a zero sum game between tribes. Jaysh Al Mahdi is the biggest "tribe." Fact: Our civil affairs projects fund terrorists - bribes, shoddy work, protection money, corruption. At the end of this deployment, I will have been away from my family for 24 months. I have seen comrades blown apart by IED's. All for a people who are incapable of fixing themselves. I challenge anyone here to argue. I will inundate you with facts. I am non-political. I don't care about democrat/republican. -Masaalama.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

German has such interesting lingual constructs

Learned a new word today: dolchstosslegende. It very roughly translates to "mythology of the stab in the back". Born in Germany to rationalise why the "invincible" German army was unable to win World War I, the myth has since migrated to another mighty nation which needed to explain why its "invincible" military failed to achieve victory in Korea, Vietnam, and soon, Iraq. Here's an old link describing the myth's origins and applications, as well as a reason for why the dolchstosslegende may not be successful at rationalising failure in Iraq.

Stabbed in the back!

A thought on neonconservativism

Ex-neocon Francis Fukuyama writes that neoconservatives have
a view that ambitious social engineering often leads to unexpected consequences and often undermines its own ends
It occurs to me that this statement isn't an entirely accurate description of neoconservative ideology. There's one form of "ambitious social engineering" which neoconservatives do back completely: government-sponsored violence against foreign nations. War, in other words.

It's interesting to note that the neocons' "ambitious social engineering" in Iraq (aka invading it and overthrowing the government) has led to the (in the neoconservative view) unexpected consequences of an Iraqi civil war and a newly powerful Iran, which are undermining the ends of democracy promotion in the Middle East that the invasion was supposedly aimed at achieving.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Surge strategy as explained by World of Warcraft players

Kung Fu Monkey has found a perfect way to summarise Bush's Iraq Surge strategy: George Bush is Leroy Jenkins.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Australia supports Bush's "surge" strategy?

From the Age:
Australia won't send more troops to Iraq but has has given its backing to an expected US plan to bolster its forces in the war-ravaged nation by up to 20,000


The token person with an actual military background that the Age spoke to was less than enthusiastic for the plan:
Former senior defence official Allan Behm is doubtful a change in US strategy will solve the violence tearing Iraq apart.

"The US decision will probably to put some additional forces but personally I don't think it's the right decision," Mr Behm said.

"I don't it will make any difference at all.

"I think that 20,000 is a number but the sort of forces that they need to pacify Iraq is in the hundreds of thousands not in the tens of thousands."

Couldn't the Age find a current defence official willing to express an opinion?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Is Bush a neoconservative hawk on Iran?

I would like to believe that the Bush Administration isn't actually trying to start a war with Iran. Threaten it, sure, but actually start a war? Surely even Bush can see that America, for all its strength, can't actually invade Iran and succeed at anything except creating more chaos, especially when it's not even able to control the chaos in Iraq at this point.

Maybe there's enough acceptance of reality in the US government to understand that invasion of Iran is not an option. Unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case for Bush's neoconservative backers, the ones who convinced so many people, including me I'm sorry to say, that a democratic Iraq was possible through military invasion.

Urgings for a military confrontation with Iran have been popping up in neoconservative online dens such as Real Clear Politics and National Review Online. All of the writers seem to take it as given that such a fight will be won by the US, so long as the US has the will to win. This bizarre belief that the US can do anything it wants to just so long as it wants to do it strongly enough has been dubbed Green Lantern theory of geopolitics by Matthew Yglesias. It's disturbing to think that there are people who want a confrontation with Iran on the basis of that theory.

But is Bush one of those people? He's still hanging out with the neocons at the American Enterprise Institute, the people who convinced Bush to basically wipe his ass with the Iraq Study Group report in favour of a "surge" strategy which is predicated on the assumption that "victory" is still an achievable goal in iraq, so it does seem like he'd be willing to buy an invasion of Iran if it's wrapped up in enough sweet-smelling bullshit.

And the bullshit coming out of the Corner and others smells especially sweet. Take this offering from Real Clear Politics: To Win in Baghdad, Strike at Iran.

Now there's a brilliant way to sidestep the festering issue of Iraq when talking about invading Iran: you don't have to worry about fixing Iraq before invading Iran because invading Iran is what will fix Iraq! Tally ho! Too bad it's such a tunnel-view of the situation. But that does seem to be a hallmark of neoconservative thought: complex reality gets ignored in favour of simple-sounding summations, in this case boiling down all the troubles in Iraq to Iranian interference.

Reading through, Mr Tracinski also has a clever way of saying why a declaration of war against Iran should not be viewed as a declaration of war against Iran: because we're already at war with Iran because of actions taken against US interests in the Middle East. Somehow I think that excuse will fly even less well at the UN than the excuse for the Iraq invasion did. Not that neoconservatives care about even token respect for international institutions of course.

Trackinski's article does seem to have an appeal if you believe that the world is engaged in a struggle between Good (the West and democracy) vs Evil ("islofascism" in all its forms). It also works if you believe that the US will decisively win an armed conflict with Iran. Bush believes the first. I don't know about the second. But given that he's still talking about "victory" in Iraq when the overwhelming majority of American citizens have given up on that being an achievable goal....well, it doesn't look good.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Saddam Hussein's death takes on a life of its own.

At the time I wrote my last post I was thinking the media dust would settle over Saddam Hussein's execution within a few days. I was expecting the execution to be a straightforward, if somewhat distasteful, procedure.

I was not expecting the execution itself to be so badly handled as to become a media issue in its own right.

An unofficial filming of the execution has reportedly surfaced, recorded on a mobile phone, in which I'm told the whole affair looks more like a lynching than a dispensation of justice (I have not seen this film and have no desire to see it unless absolutely necessary - snuff films are so not my thing). Even the local Murdoch press, hardly given to worrying about standing up for justice over vengeance when reporting punishment of people who are "pure evil", has registered a story which shows some concern in its own way when the truth about the execution came out: Jeers nearly stopped Saddam hanging".

I've spent an entertaining few days watching the fall-out, and especially watching the fledgling democratic government of Iraq falteringly try to emulate the example of the proud US democracy in dealing with events that reflect badly on the government in power: shovel as much bullshit at the public as you can.

From Yahoo News on Wednesday we have:"BAGHDAD, Iraq - The person believed to have recorded
Saddam Hussein's raucous execution on a cell phone camera was arrested Wednesday, an adviser to
Iraq's prime minister said."

From the Irish Examiner on Thursday we have
:"Earlier, it was reported a man had been detained over making the video, but an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, Sami al-Askari, denied this."

Do these advisors even know the truth themselves?

Never fear, the Iraqi government is definitely investigating (at least until someone else in the government denies it I guess). Although, to hear that "the Shi'ite-led government, embarrassed by images that show a composed-looking Saddam subjected to sectarian taunts as a noose is put around his neck, has set up a committee to investigate who filmed and leaked the video" doesn't really bode well for me. The main problem from the government's perspective was.....that people got to see what really happened?

The official spin at the moment for the actual taunting and shouting that went on is that (a) Shi'ite militias infiltrated the execution and it was they, not government officials, who are to blame for what went on in the execution chamber:

"There was an infiltration at the execution chamber."

Echoing those accusations, a senior Interior Ministry official said the hanging was supposed to be carried out by hangmen employed by the Interior Ministry but that "militias" had managed to infiltrate the executioners' team.

"The execution was carried out by militias and outsiders. They put aside the team from the Interior Ministry that was supposed to carry it out," the official said.

An official execution video, which had no sound and ended before Saddam falls through the trapdoor, boosted Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's authority among his fractious Shi'ite allies.

and (b) the shouts and insults didn't occur in the execution chamber at all:
Prosecutor Munkith al-Faroon, who also attended the execution and told Reuters he saw two senior government officials film the hanging with their mobiles, said on Wednesday the taunts came from guards who were outside the chamber.

"These shouts were spontaneous. The guards who called out were outside the chamber," he told Al Jazeera.

Hmmmm. The blog Talking Points Memo is doing a far better job of tracking the confused and conflicting statements coming from Iraqi government officials than I can.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Obligatory "Death of Saddam Hussein" post

Coverage of Saddam Hussein's execution has reached a media glut. Today's Daily Telegraph front-page hawking the executioner's statement "HE WAS AFRAID, I SAW HIS FEAR" suggests that the media is going to wring every last drop of interest over the event of his death and anything remotedly connected to it that they can.

Really, things in Iraq have moved so far beyond the situation where Saddam is still relevant to current events on the ground that it's not funny. People are talking about the execution all over the place, but was Saddam anything more than a symbol of...something or other, depending on the viewer's the time it came to execute him?

Commentary on the left-wing side of the blogosphere, apart from the expected principled opposition to the death penalty, has also included a hefty dose of speculation about the timing. To serve Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki's interests? To serve the Bush Administration's interests in Iraq? In Iran?

I doubt it's anything so Machiavellian. Most likely it was simply a desire tfor vengeance upon Saddam Hussein on the Iraqis' part, and a desire to salvage any kind of dignity over the disgraceful handling of the Iraq invasion on the Bush Administration's part.

But one small point for speculation: Bush unexpectedly delayed his announcement for his new plan of attack for Iraq until an unspecified later date, sometime in January. Is it possible that Bush was betting on a death penalty for Saddam Hussein being handed out in the December-January period? By delaying his announcement of a new strategy until, well, now or anytime after now, the last thing that the public will remember hearing in media reports for Iraq will not be the damning indictment of the Iraq Study Group, but the "Mission Accomplished"-esque event of Saddam's successful execution for his crimes. He is likely to have more support for increasing troop presence in Iraq now.

I wonder how many times Bush will mention Saddam Hussein's trial and execution in his announcement of the new Iraq strategy? I'm going to take a guess at...ooh, let's say eight. Fifteen if he takes questions from reporters.