On hiatus

June 4, 2007

On hiatus


wall not going up!(sort of)

April 23, 2007

Shows what I know..

NYT about an hour ago:

BAGHDAD (AP) — The American ambassador said Monday the U.S. would ”respect the wishes” of the Iraqi government after the prime minister ordered a halt to construction of a three-mile wall separating a Sunni enclave from surrounding Shiite areas in Baghdad.

Any plan to build ”gated communities” to protect Baghdad neighborhoods from sectarian attacks was in doubt after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said during a visit to Sunni-led Arab countries that he did not want the 12-foot high wall in Azamiyah to be seen as dividing the capital’s sects.

but still..

”We will continue to construct the security barriers in the Azamiyah neighborhood. This is a technical issue,” Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said. ”Setting up barriers is one thing and building barriers is another. These are moveable barriers than can be removed.”

and the requisite disclaimer:

He said the security plan was important but its main purpose was to ”buy time for what ultimately has to be a set of political understandings among Iraqis.


Mr. Gorbachev, tear down….

April 22, 2007

berlin wall remnants

(Berlin wall remnants)

NYTimes front page yesterday(at least online hehe..):

BAGHDAD, April 20 — American military commanders in Baghdad are trying a radical new strategy to quell the widening sectarian violence by building a 12-foot-high, three-mile-long wall separating a historic Sunni enclave from Shiite neighborhoods.

How radical is debatable, in fact concrete walls have become a fixture throughout much of Baghdad for quite some time. The cities own borders have been sealed off as well with a security ring.

Does a 3 mile wall through the center of Baghdad make sense? Will it provide another level of security to quell sectarian violence?Or will it only serve to militarize the city further away from any sense of normalcy?

The angle or frame of much of yesterday’s reporting played along the latter.

Third paragraph in the NYT piece:

A doctor in Adhamiya, Abu Hassan, said the wall would transform the residents into caged animals.

“It’s unbelievable that they treat us in such an inhumane manner,” he said in a telephone interview. “They’re trying to isolate us from other parts of Baghdad. The hatred will be much greater between the two sects.”

“The Native Americans were treated better than us,” he added.

The Herald Sun:

US FORCES in Baghdad are planning to seal off vast areas of the city with barricades, effectively imprisoning the inhabitants of neighbourhoods, according to The Independent.

And today by the BBC:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has asked for construction to end on a concrete wall around a Sunni enclave in the capital, Baghdad.

Which in itself is a troubling sign of a lack of communication between U.S. commanders and at least this one Iraqi leader..

Let’s not get into a new age discussion of how we need to tear down walls in order to love our fellow man…

Let’s face it: It’s a warzone.

When people are driving into each other’s neighborhoods in order to blow themselves up in crowds, perhaps some physical obstacles are needed.

Will this further alienation between sects? Probably.

Will this heal the hatred some feel for others? No.

Will it stop suicide bombings? No.

Might it save a few lives and provide a measure of safety for innocents? Hopefully.

It would be nice if Baghdad was a place where people could be given the space and freedom we enjoy. Thanks to the unending stream of murderers(and our inability during the past four years to stop them) we find ourselves in a much different situation.

One in which we have to build walls (the euphemism “gated communities” makes me sick) across cities, seperating neighbors from one another..in the hopes that we can defeat this horror or really just buy enough time for Iraqis to create some sort of new reality and identity…one where walls are torn down and people come together in peace.



April 17, 2007

A new Washington Post-ABC poll finds that 35 percent of Americans still believe the U.S. can win in Iraq. Those who don’t think the U.S. can win is put at 51 percent.

This roughly corresponds to the President’s approval rating which depending on which poll you are looking at is hovering in the low thirties.

I wonder how respondents understood that first question.

All told, do you think the United States will win or lose the war in Iraq?

Wellll…. “All told” now what does that mean? Does that mean that there would be no time/expense/troop level limits?

I’m as skeptical as the next guy but, if you told me we would send, say, 150,000 more troops to stay in Iraq another 5 years(and spent another trillion dollars) I would have to believe the situation would drastically improve, maybe even to the point where we could declare “victory.” (I’m assuming a Iraqi political solution could be wrought at some point.)

But, I doubt that is what most of that 35% had in mind.

I would have much rather seen asked something along the lines of:

Using the current plan(the surge), will the U.S. win or lose the war in Iraq?

Of course, the problem here is whether people have a basic enough understanding of that plan….

Why does this 35% matter anyway?

A profile today in the NYTimes of presidential candidate Sen. McCain gives us a clue:

[McCain] said that if the Bush administration’s plan had not produced visible signs of progress by the time a McCain presidency began, he might be forced — if only by the will of public opinion — to end American involvement in Iraq.

“I do believe that history shows us Americans will not continue to support an overseas engagement involving the loss of American lives for an unlimited period of time unless they see some success,” he added. “And then, when they run out of patience, they will demand that we get out.”

McCain is more aware of the growing impatience of the U.S. people than most. His strong stance on Iraq has cost him his frontrunner position for the Republican nomination.

He understands that just the public’s perception(misperception?) of the conflict can determine its outcome. He has blamed the media for this perception, he also blames the president.

“One of the things that I’m going to tell [President Bush], and I don’t often talk about my conversations with the president, is that the American people need to be told more often what’s happening,” he said. “Where we’re succeeding; where we’re failing; where we’ve made progress; where we haven’t, here’s the state of readiness, here’s why we continue to see suicide bombers.”

“There’s got to be more communication with the American people,” he added. “Franklin Delano Roosevelt did it.”

So is McCain a 35 percenter?

“I am not guaranteeing that this succeeds,” said Mr. McCain, who has long argued that additional troops were needed. “I am just saying that I think it can. I believe it has a good shot.”


Blogging blues

April 12, 2007

Exams, final projects, term papers…I could blame these for the last eight days of silence.

I just hit some type of wall I think..is there such a thing as blogger’s block?

And it’s not like I haven’t been staying on top of the news coming out of Iraq and D.C….
perhaps too much..

I’m embarrassed when people talk about compassion fatigue. They are usually the well-off and content, who don’t want their “beautiful minds” distraught by visions of children starving in the third world or bombed corpses lined up on the streets of Dar-fur or Baghdad.

We are lucky to live in country where there is relative peace and prosperity. Sometimes, we overstate this peace. Here in Boston, we’ve had 17 homicides this year and have been nominated the most dangerous state in the Northeast.

Nevertheless, we should enjoy life and the prosperity we are blessed with in this country. We should also remember those who have fought to secure the freedoms we enjoy. I also believe we can only enjoy those freedoms and blessings if we are very aware of the stark difference between the opulence we enjoy and the poverty of much of the rest of the world. I think this only leads to anxiety and guilt if one has done nothing to help those who are less fortunate, here at home or abroad.

Yet the past couple days as I’ve sat down to write about the latest bombing in Baghdad, or the Sadr led anti-U.S. protests, or the continuing bickering in D.C., or today the announcement of tour extensions for troops and then the bombing in the Parliament…I find myself at a loss..

Perhaps it was the accusation from jcrue that I seemed to enjoy relating the bad news about the war. Do I? I wish I could focus on the silver lining of the dark cloud that hangs over the Middle East.

Or perhaps it’s another phase in the frustration I’ve felt in writing about this far off war, only visible through the filter of the MSM and the mirrors of the blogospheres.

But in the end, my self-pity makes me even more disgusted with myself, especially when I think of all those who have died in Iraq since I began this blog, or when I think about the military families who have sacrificed their loved ones for this war.

I hold no delusions about what this blog is. But I do think I’ve had an original thought or two. Maybe made a connection that wasn’t apparent to others..

Anyway, I pledge to renew my efforts, keeping in mind all those who have no voice… all those who suffer….


One Bleak Assessment pt.2

April 4, 2007

Gen. McCaffery wrote an opinion piece for the LATimes based on his recent trip to Iraq detailing what he thinks the proper course is for the U.S. Military.

Would you like a cherry?

I know that the problems we face are grim indeed, but Petraeus’ strategy is sound, and the situation is not hopeless.

How about another?

The “burn rate” on the Iraq war is $9 billion a month. The Iraqis are in despair. Three million are refugees or have fled the country. The ill-equipped Iraqi police and army suffered 49,000 casualties in the last 14 months. There is no security in most of the country under the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.

And finally…

We will know by the end of the summer if Petraeus’ strategy is going to prompt an adequate political response from the Iraqis. Only through the success of reconciliation talks can the bitter civil strife be moderated. We are running out of time.

The American people have walked away from support of this war. The Army is beginning to show signs of great strain. Many units are now on their third combat tour, and the tours are being routinely extended. Recruiting standards are being lowered. Our equipment is shot. By the beginning of the coming year, we will be forced to downsize our deployment to Iraq or the Army will begin to unravel.

The United States is now at a crossroads. We are in a position of strategic peril. We need to support the U.S. leadership team in Iraq for this one last effort to succeed.


Crediblity and Proximity Pt. 2

April 3, 2007

I’m sure prompted by McCain’s well publicized and critiqued visit to Iraq over the weekend, the NYTimes ran an illuminating article about congressmen visiting Iraq.

Some, ahem, cherries:

The duration and scope of Congressional visits are tightly controlled. Lawmakers from opposing parties often travel together, but draw opposite conclusions from the same trip on the war’s progress. And while lawmakers say they are deeply moved by their experiences, they almost always return with their previous convictions firmly reinforced.

Members rarely spend more than a night in Iraq, often flying back to Kuwait or Jordan at the end of the day. The trips are heavy on meetings with American military and embassy officials, with almost no opportunities for unscripted encounters with regular Iraqis.

Many prominent critics of the war have never been to Iraq — fewer than one-third of the 75 members of the House’s Out of Iraq Caucus have visited — and some insist that they are none the worse for it.

Mr. Whitehouse, who made his first visit to Iraq this year, admitted that his 36-hour trip had been tantamount to “drilling a tiny, tiny, little core sample out of some vast geologic mass and then drawing conclusions from it.

The most valuable parts of the trips, however, transcend politics, said Ms. Klobuchar. At the end of their visit, when the senators were waiting to leave, the military transport plane next to theirs was being loaded with six coffins.


Credibility and proximity

April 2, 2007

Sen. Jon McCain’s insistence that the surge is working and should be given time to succeed met a lot of derision last week.

On CNN, he quipped with Wolf Blitzer in classic straight talk fashion that Wolf was giving old news. Wolf had to update his storyline to what McCain knew was an improved situation in Iraq, where neighborhoods were being brought under control.

McCain’s’ account was then rebutted immediately by CNN correspondent Michael Ware reporting from Iraq though the din of overhead helicopters and he informs a firefight a few blocks away.

I first saw the video on ThinkProgress, where you can watch it and draw your own conclusions.

Think Progress’s conclusions: McCain was exposed as out of touch and no longer credible on the issue.

Juan Cole expressed it in his own unique way:

Senator John McCain has contracted Rumsfeld’s Disease. This malady consists of a combination of bad temper, misuse of language to obfuscate reality, and a Panglossian optimism in the face of stubborn, sanguinary facts on the ground.

What perhaps compounded some people’s perception of McCain’s disconnect was the concurrent pessimistic report by McCaffery. Some question how pessimistic it really was, but that was certainly my reading of it.

So what did McCain do? He and Sen. Graham went over to take a look at the surge in Iraq for themselves. They took a tour through an open air market and then gave a press conference. Michael Ware was there and supposedly gave them a hard-time.

Nevertheless the motivation for the trip is transparent, credibility correlates to proximity. I don’t think even McCain would dispute that.

In fact the trip was suggested to McCain by Ware, Think Progress and others. If he thought it was going so well he should take a walk in Iraqi neighborhood they taunted.

And so he did. And no matter how many marines and helicopters protected him on his photo op through the market, the fact is, he was there, while all of them (except of course Ware) were back here.

Mccain can now refer to this trip whenever he is questioned as being out of touch…

“See Wolf, I was just over there last week, and let me tell you it was simply a swell time…”

And how can we, who have never been over there, really question him on what he saw with his own two eyes?

In another universe we have Iraq the Model, who I’ve written a bit about lately…again their credibility is directly proportional to their proximity. We don’t turn to them because they are Iraqis, we turn to them because they are in Iraq.

And how about these Redstate bloggers being allowed to become embedded reporters of sorts. Access is proximity is credibility…

But it’s not that simple, especially on the blogosphere where anonymity is often the standard. My avatar image is very cute, but it is in fact my kitty Julia and not me..

Iraq the Model‘s latest post,  “Midnight Company” seems to be a challenge of sorts for doubters of their credibility..

They are enjoying tremendous traffic since they were quoted by the president for their positive coverage of Iraq.
And then they come out with a fascinating story about a jovial visit from their friendly neighborhood Marines..

Military PR couldn’t have written a better promo for the surge if they tried.

I believe ITM are exactly who they say they are. But I can’t really prove it. Can anyone else? As far as I can tell they are careful to hide their actual identities. This doesn’t seem like a bad idea in the middle of a low-grade civil war.

I have an image of Haystack in my head, or more than accurately I hear a voice, but I have no idea who he(she) really is..

More “mainstream” blogs will actually post picture of themselves and attach their own names, but most of us post in relative anonymity.

And then just because someone says it’s their blog doesn’t mean they are the ones actually writing it….

So let’s be critical.

Let us be skeptical.

Skeptical of those who tell us what we want to hear, and skeptical of those who tell us what we don’t want to hear.

Because in all likelihood the truth is somewhere in the middle..


One Bleak Assessment

March 28, 2007


Ret. General Barry McCaffery has been making the talk show rounds after his latest trip to Baghdad. He held interviews with Gen. Petraeus on down and wrote a highly critical assesment:

In summary, the US Armed Forces are in a position of strategic peril. A disaster in Iraq will in all likelihood result in a widened regional struggle which will endanger America’s strategic interests (oil) in the Mid-east for a generation. We will also produce another generation of soldiers who lack confidence in their American politicians, the media, and their own senior military leadership.

I just watched him on Hardball.

Chris: Is it deteriorating?

Gen. McCaffery: That’s an open question.


Chris: How many years are we going to be fighting in Iraq?

Gen.: We’ll be out in 36 months.


Iraqi blogosphere makes it big..

March 28, 2007

When I saw this speech on MSNBC I had an idea who Pres. Bush might be talking about…Iraq Slogger made the connection..

I source them, Haystack sources them, Kagan loves them, WSJ has them write a column..now the Pres….. these guys are really representing..