Monday, July 28, 2008

Would you look at that...

Analysis: US now winning Iraq war that seemed lost

From the Associated Press:

Despite the occasional bursts of violence, Iraq has reached the point where the insurgents, who once controlled whole cities, no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of the central government.
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Beyond that, there is something in the air in Iraq this summer.

In Baghdad, parks are filled every weekend with families playing and picnicking with their children. That was unthinkable only a year ago, when the first, barely visible signs of a turnaround emerged.

Now a moment has arrived for the Iraqis to try to take those positive threads and weave them into a lasting stability.
Of course, it should have been apparent that things were turning around when liquor stores in Baghdad stopped getting blown up.
''I open my store at 10 a.m. and close it at 7 p.m.,'' Dawood said. ``The security situation is much better, and I hope it becomes even better because I believe that all Iraqis are brothers and deserve to live in peace.''
Compare this to a story from 2005
Mr Sabah has little competition largely because Islamic extremists now register their disapproval of alcohol by bombing his rivals' premises. The Rose, however, is unscathed, presumably because the bombers fear the proximity of US military hardware.
and another from just eight months ago
But even as Iraqis begin returning to liquor stores, they still take care to remain inconspicuous. On a recent day outside a liquor store on Saadoun Street, two men with a case of Johnnie Walker in their car were removing the bottles from the brightly labeled box and stashing them under the seats and in other hiding places.
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A construction worker and Sadr City resident, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition he not be named, told of how he was beaten last year by the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, after his brother complained to militia members about his drinking.
Regardless of the legitimacy of this war's beginnings, regardless of your opinion of Bush, things are getting better in Iraq. I guess the mainstream media is finally realizing they can't cover it up until November 9th.

Not that we're finished:
U.S. commanders say a substantial American military presence will be needed beyond 2009. But judging from the security gains that have been sustained over the first half of this year — as the Pentagon withdrew five Army brigades sent as reinforcements in 2007 — the remaining troops could be used as peacekeepers more than combatants.
And it's still costing a shitload of money. What's the price for a stabilized democracy in an unstable region? How much is a military presence in the Middle East worth? More than we originally thought, but still less than the Democrats would have you believe.

Flame on, everybody. Don't disappoint me.

13 comments:

Maitri said...

Chickenhawk Americans and their Pakistani counterparts cannot exist and conduct business without the presence and growth of conflict. This isn't going anywhere soon.

As long as our government undermines democracy in Eastern nations and then pretends to introduce the philosophies of democracy and freedom to these same nations a few years later, a shitload of money will always be spent and the price is beyond our limited imaginations.

DB said...

Things are far better than Obama has let on and he will not be able to concur without being called a flipper. McCain should pounce on this...which is might be but the media isn't listening lol.

Pockets said...

Photography 101, high school, my teacher, Mr. Brasard, took us out on a footbridge over the most travelled thoroughfare in America during rush hour. Traffic was bumper to bumper and at a dead halt. But not for a slight breeze, the exhaust fumes alone would have overcome the lot of us. Most of the group had no idea what the hell we were doing there or how a picture of traffic would be at all interesting. Mr. Brasard went about his opening speech, busied by the fact that he was unfolding tripods and swinging around, gesticulating, whilst no fewer than three awkwardly large, old-school cameras draped from his neck. He took just a single photo from about center-bridge and another single of the same exact, unmoved traffic from the slope alongside the highway. A day later, well post-dark room, he pointed out a few things. #1 - Despite the different angles in each picture, the framing of both had the same "first car" in their foreground and about the same "last car" in the distance. #2 The first angle made the traffic look very heavy, almost like a junkyard. The second angle looked as if there was plenty of room to move on a relatively open highway. #3 - (And this was the kicker of the lesson) - The first photo had been printed in our major paper alongside an article that was about how horrible commuting had become. The second photo, on the same day, was printed in a local county paper on the front page along with an article entitled, "Don't Fix What Ain't Broke - Legislature Seeks Unneeded Roadway Dollars." Holding them both up, Mr. Brasard simply stated, "Now that's what a working photographer does." He later added that the nature of photography, snapshot to snapshot, was less a matter of luck, more a pattern of planning, with always a hint of delusion.

Sure we know that different press comes at us from different angles and that it is our responsibility as the readers to sift for fact among the supposedly unbiased word choices and poorly thought out statements. Yet I took more away from Mr. Brasard's lesson than "this is just an isolated photo." I take more away from isolated factoids in Iraq than "Oh this is getting better," or "Hey, look how much worse." What I take away is that the nature of both beasts, photography and news reporting, is by wrote discontiguous. Each article is no more a valid criterion to judge progress or regress than any other. I am disappointed in both candidates for entering such meaningless minutiae into their campaigns.

I was in a park with family and friends just a few days before 9/11, still living high off the hog from leftover Clinton administration excesses. Had you taken a picture of me then, or done an article on how that was my first free time in a park in nearly a year, that too would have seemed as if my life, my status, and my nation were getting better. 9/11 followed by 6 plus years of NeoCon disappointments and Democrat balllessness, and I think it’s safe to say that my country got at least a little worse. Look, if you are judging change in Iraq by a man on the street who says, “My liquor store didn’t blow up,” I guess the easiest retort is to add “YET.” Yet, if we’d like to be a little adult about it and explore the more complex reality of why such statements are not indicators, let’s discuss some baseline, any baseline, for “betterment” and “worsening.”

Can we not simply agree that, say, a homeless person sitting in the rain on Bleeker Street is not really that much “worse” off than a homeless person sitting in the rain on Bleeker Street with a newspaper over her/his head? Can we not come together on a simple, human, ethical note that views a person with one dollar left in the world as absolutely no “better” off than the person with 99 cents left? “Better and worse” is for kids, for vows, for nit-picking, and for combating debilitating diseases with hope. In all other affairs, we need not compare the most recent statement to the second most recent statement and infer filler between the two. “His store might have blown up yesterday, but didn’t blow up today, and may have a lesser chance of blowing up tomorrow.” Jeez!

Can we not just agree that everything below a certain measuring point is bad? Have that baseline. Do not compare anything below that line to anything else below that line in terms of betterment or worsening. “Might blow up,” verses “did blow up,” is pretty shitty no matter how you slice it. Only discuss events above that line, and their relative approach to or distancing from the line as such. AND, let the judgment be on a continuum. Ignore the lengthy series of detailed, individuated, unique snapshots, each one being compared to each other.

I’ll tell you what a better Iraq is. A better Iraq is a stable enough allied force in the Middle East for me to see beach vacations in Basrah Province advertised during the commercial break of American Idol right after the “Virginia Is For Lovers” campaign. A better Iraq is one that whether Democratic or under Baathist control sees no more rivalry between it and Iran than New Yorkers cracking wise on New Jersey and vice versa. A better Iraq is one that all other nations of the world look to for unprecedented leadership in a global society. A better Iraq is one wherein all its displaced professionals from over the globe have returned to live in peace and safety to raise 20 straight generations of healthy, well-adjusted, and prosperous kids. A better Iraq is one that doesn’t need a foreign power’s troops retained locally to ensure a better Iraq.

People in the park? Fewer explosions, today? They are not enough to say that Iraq is approaching any of these truly bettered notions. Much like random beheadings and car bombs are no true indication that they would be getting any further from those possibilities. Our troops should neither stay in Iraq because they make things better, nor leave Iraq because they are making things worse. Our troops are just good people in a bad situation, a situation well below any baseline, like all wars are. If they stay they should do so because it serves an objectively measureable goal that benefits all the world’s interests. If they leave, they should leave because doing so eventually curtails or ends both body counts forever. Either way, the goal should not be to make things better. It should be to make things work.

bullet said...

Welcome Maitri, surprised to see you here. Thanks for commenting. I'll have to think on that one.

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Pockets:

Either way, the goal should not be to make things better. It should be to make things work.

Dude, before things can be great they have to get better. And then better. And then better. A working Iraq is the goal, but moving in the right direction is still something to be happy about.

Having people in the park is an important indicator. I didn't go back to Lower Manhattan for a year after 9/11. I know you had to, but you weren't happy about being there. The return of shoppers and businesses was a significant milestone in the recovery of the area, even though the fucking towers still haven't been rebuilt. The first Mardi Gras after Katrina was a milestone for us down here. One can measure progress in incidents and casualties, but intagibles like parks filled with children or an open liquor store are better indicators than any set of numbers.

“His store might have blown up yesterday, but didn’t blow up today, and may have a lesser chance of blowing up tomorrow.” Jeez!

Of course it could be blown up tomorrow. You could be shot dead tomorrow in Midtown. Does that mean Midtown isn't safer than it used to be? Having to close for a few days is better than a few months, which is better than permanently. A molotov cocktail is better than an IED, which is better than an RPG. I'm not sure exactly where having one's arm cut off falls in the declension, but no matter. The examples from the article show a decline in the level of violence in addition to the frequency. As Col. Tom James says in the AP article, "We've put out the forest fire. Now we're dealing with pop-up fires." Are both bad? Yes, but one is certainly better than the other.

The point is that there has been a major turnaround, things are finally looking positive.

You muddy the issue with "everything below a certain point is bad". Define that baseline. People are now secure enough to take their children out to play. The Army is now secure enough to start pulling some troops out. That's pretty good, regardless of whatever ok/shit divider you want to put up.

The more important message of the AP article, to me, is that there is now hope for a free and democratic Iraq - that it is an actual possibility and no longer a fool's dream, as it has been consistently represented.

bullet said...

Oh, one more thing:
...a homeless person sitting in the rain on Bleeker Street is not really that much “worse” off than a homeless person sitting in the rain on Bleeker Street with a newspaper over her/his head?

Try to take the newspaper away and find out. It's all relative and you know it.

Shit. I spent all that time on the previous comment and this could have been my entire answer.

John Evo said...

Better how? And from what?

A million dead and four million refuges and cities walled off so that various sects barely know the other exists and a complete weariness can, at the very least, cause a lull in violence measured by absolute numbers of new casualties.

An Iranian friendly government in Baghdad (and disdainful of its own minority religions but respectful enough as long as we support that govt.) now increasingly feels emboldened to "ask" us to move along. When we do, we leave the million dead and millions more injured physically and psychically.

We didn't go there to find WMD (our intelligence was clear enough that it wasn't an issue) or to take out a government that was in league with Al Qaeda (again, the intelligence was clear that Saddam hated them). We are now supposed to believe that we are there to insure that these poor devils have a flourishing democracy. Funny no one ever mentioned that 5 years ago. It was oil. And the energy crisis has worsened greatly. It's even gotten worse since the success of "the surge". And it will continue to get worse, even if kids play on Iraqi beaches. It will even if our administration is able to strong-arm the deals for our petro industry that they have been desperately trying to get.

Anyway...

What's far more important than an Iraq that will be whatever it will be is to look back on this horrible lesson in international relations and energy policy and see if maybe-just-maybe we can do better. But, really, we've had plenty of experiences even before this. And from this experience we debate who to elect because the surge worked.

Whatever that means.

Pockets is a good writer. I can say that honestly, since I didn't particular agree with him.

bullet said...

The point, for me, is not whether the surge worked or who's responsible. It's the improving conditions and lack of coverage about them.

As I said up top, regardless of the legitimacy of the war, itself, regardless of the intelligence or effectiveness of GWB, regardless of any complaint that anyone has about the war, it seems to be moving toward resolution and order and away from the chaotic, "unwinnable", quagmire it used to be. It doesn't matter what yardstick we use. Better than yesterday is good. Seven "better than yesterday"s is good. Thirty is really good. 240 is great.

The larger point: Democrats and the liberal media (*duck*) have needed this war to be a loser. They've put their eggs in one basket, the war. So they've ignored the good news coming out of Iraq since the surge.

That's not an endorsement of the war, the surge or any other events or consequences. Things seem to be getting better over there and it just isn't being reported. Meanwhile, the Dems main talking point continues to be, "get the hell out of Iraq". Well, it looks right now we might actually be able to that without totally fucking the situation 100% more than we already have. That's bad for the Democratic Party and bad for the media that are behind Obama so they don't tell us. That's not change we can believe in. That's business as usual.

PhillyChief said...

"The point, for me, is not whether the surge worked or who's responsible. It's the improving conditions and lack of coverage about them."

1) Makes up for the lack of coverage of coffins returning home or displaying the names of those soldiers

2) Has all the power and water services been restored nationwide to pre-invasion levels? If not, how close are they?

3) Evo's point is never covered. Why can't we see how the cities are walled off between Sunni and Shiite? Where was the coverage when either these walls went up or when one group forcible moved the other most or all out of a particular village or city?

4) What about those Sunni officials who walked out of the government, or the Kurds functioning like an independent state in the north?


I would say yes, the Surge worked to help suppress violence. That's it. In fact, that move has simply made Iraq more dependent on our forces (something always at the heart of the neo-con strategy). Even if we leave and train the Iraqi police and military to maintain this violence suppression, it's still by what means? By maintaining a segregated populace. Yeah, that should work out well. Sure went smoothly here in the States, right? Did wonders in Ireland, too. Well time will tell. After all, we brought them freedom, right?

Whether we win or lose in Iraq (still waiting to hear an official definition of "win") is irrelevant to the success of the Democratic party's and anyone else's opposed to the invasion. Obama is correctly focusing on the crux of the issue, that "we took our eyes off the ball". First, success isn't made right because it was a success. That's ends justify the means thinking, which is bullshit. Second, success or failure, all of that time spent is time that Osama and his band of unmerry men have breathed the air of freedom and may well ensure them of breathing it long into the future. It could be that the opportunity to get him and them has passed, and for what?

bullet said...

Philly:

1)I don't remember the lack of coffin coverage as due to media indifference. I heard time and again how they weren't being allowed to cover it. I see this situation as different.

2)If the media were as dedicated to chronicling the improving conditions as they were to the decaying (not quite accurate, but I can't think of a better word) conditions maybe we would know exact figures like that. Perhaps the army isn't realeasing that information. I don't know because nobody is reporting it.

3)This is a good point and I missed it in Evo's comment. I, personally, didn't know about this beyond the Mahdi being confined.

4A)This is only a problem if it's a disruption. Currently doesn't appear to be.


4B)I've always assumed this was going to end with a separate Kurdish state, anyway. It seems to be what they want. It will piss off the Turks, but I see it as inevitable.

Whether we win or lose in Iraq... is irrelevant to the success of the Democratic party's and anyone else's opposed to the invasion.

I disagree. For one thing the Democrats (as a whole) weren't opposed to the invasion. Several people who are still in the Legislature supported the war at the beginning. Then they flipped on it. Those Democrats certainly weren't the only people to so, but the Democratic party (not Obama) has made immediate withdrawal a central plank in their platform. I don't think Obama or McCain will be elected on this sole issue, but Congressman and Senators could be vulnerable if the indicators keep moving towards peace.

First, success isn't made right because it was a success.

I don't think so either. But cleaning up all of the crap we heaped on them is better than taking off and leaving a note reading, "Sorry about all the crap." If we look back to the stated reqasons and objectives, this war has been an absolute failure. I just think if it's possible for any good at all to come out of this colossal fuck-up we should be trying to make that happen. The "success" or "failure" of our efforts to do that won't really be able to be measured (hopefully) for years after we leave.

Second, success or failure, all of that time spent is time that Osama and his band of unmerry men have breathed the air of freedom

I totally agree with you, but it's not the issue I'm talking about. Sure, it's one of the many fuck-ups that this entire action has been plagued by. But it's not the focus of the post.

The situation is not perfect for us or the Iraqis. It hasn't escaped my notice that this story is mostly about Baghdad. But in an America where public opinion changes with each news cycle, it would be hard to convince me that positive stories like this aren't being intentionally obscured.

PhillyChief said...

The ones who were in favor of it had no balls and feared for their careers. At that time, you were either for kickin' ass or sucking terrorist cock.

Things haven't changed. The Dems are still voting for FISA, won't pursue investigations of Bush, Rove, Gonzalez or any of the other unmerry men, and will cave in to offshore drilling or anything else as long as they can keep their jobs.

John Evo said...

I get your point, Bullet. I know I didn't completely respond to it.

I was, likewise, making my own related point. I think mine is the more critical of the two issues. :)

bullet said...

Of course you do, you arrogant, atheist bastard.

:)

Pockets said...

I see your counter-point to mine Bullet. It does make a certain amount of sense. I failed to realize that in my "everything below a certain line is bad" construct, that you or others might situate the family in the park or the happy liquor store proprietor ABOVE the line in the comparison.

I have a hard time with that. I have a hard time with looking at one fictional neighbor, healthy and wealthy, while the other fictional neighbor is starving and sickly and separating them across the line. Sure I can do it if I'm comparing the two...I can say neighbor one is better off then neighbor two. But when I'm talking about whether or not the NEIGHBORHOOD is getting better, I have to err on the side of cautious judgment and place it collectively down. Try to separate the two across the line, and I have to conclude, as before, that neither is a criterion upon which judge. They are each a point, with no direction indicated, no line, no vector.

John Evo had it right when he pointed out…

"...a lull in violence [is] measured by absolute numbers of new casualties."

“Better,” whatever “better” is, even be it the small steps and indicators from which you wish to take solace, cannot be measured in bodies alone. Betterment would and should be judged, right down to the finite details, by an entire matrix and infrastructure of growth. Businesses returning to downtown Manhattan was a milestone because it showed that so many things were on the move, local economy, insurance payouts, less fear, security forces, memorials built, rubble cleared away, people returning to homes, air quality improvement, philanthropy, rebuilds, markets, shipping lanes, tourism, confidence in the new mayor, schools reopening, what seemed a “just” and winnable fight against the Taliban, etc. Your indicator, even if it is one, is a far cry from milestone.

Why? Why can’t we equate “one death yesterday, no deaths today” with simple common sense? Why can’t we say that today, just today, it’s a little better? Why can’t we have a single, stand-alone nod to “betterment” being measured in bodies alone? Because the dead cannot be brought back to life. If the body count yesterday reached one million, and you had no new deaths today, then your body count is still one million. Today is no better than yesterday. In fact, measured only in bodies, today is exactly the same as yesterday, no better, no worse. One cannot judge by the lone fact that nobody got murdered today as being concrete. That is a fiction. That person would be judging solely based upon something that DID NOT HAPPEN as compared to what COULD HAVE HAPPENED. That’s not common sense. Nor is resurrection.

I’m sure there were confident store owners within walking distance from Bergen-Belsen, a person or two in a park within a Sunday drive from Dachau. They are not indicators. They are not milestones. Wartime, though sometimes necessary, is never better than peacetime, never. Since the necessity of this war has proven defunct, all we are left with is the “worse” of it.