Prague Twin

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Does Anybody "Get It?"

The chart to the left is the source of General Petraeus' claim that "civilian deaths in Iraq are down 45% since December." (Click it to enlarge)

That may be true, although this article does much to cast doubt on that claim (as well as Hilary Clinton's claim that the opposite is true). Indeed, politicians on both sides of the spectrum have excelled at misjudging, misinterpreting, and generally misunderstanding the data, the backdrop, and the overall character of this conflict.

With the Petraeus report, we are hearing people say things like, "I hope the Iraqis use this opportunity to get their feet under themselves." Yeah, I hope so too, but reducing violence down to a level roughly equivalent to where it was just over a year ago is not what I would call much of an opportunity. Hardly anyone would argue that the violence is more intense than in December (except maybe Hilary Clinton), but it is exceptionally ignorant to suggest that the current lull in violence presents an opportunity for reconciliation that Iraq has not had in the past. Add this hubris to the list of junk analysis that I have contradicted from the beginning.

The list:

1. The insurgency is largely made up of ideologically motivated foreign fighters and financially motivated Iraqis.

2. Insurgents and terrorists are synonymous.

3. Rooting out al-Qaeda will largely end the conflict.

4. If America was being occupied, we as Americans would not attack our occupiers. (This one is particularly absurd, but yet even the most militant "conservatives" can't seem to understand how ridiculous this idea is.)

I think the film Meeting Resistance goes a long way to dispel these dangerous myths. See the excerpt below.....

(h/t Graeme)

I am not the only one who thinks this is a valuable film. The U.S. military is showing the film to soldiers in Iraq. Below is the reaction of two soldiers after seeing the film...

What blows me away about watching the clip above is that nearly five years in, we are just now starting to ask the important questions like, "what makes up these people's character?" and, "how do people react to occupation?"

The first question would be a bit difficult for me to answer. I would need to do a lot of research and preferably I'd need to live in Iraq for some time.

But the answer to second question is so obvious, it is infuriating that we even need to ask it, and much more infuriating that intelligent people need to be spoon-fed the answer because they can't answer it for themselves.

And you wonder why the world sees us as ignorant?

Postscript: An early morning U.S. led raid on Sadr City reportedly killed six militant and at least as many civilians including...

...two toddlers, one with a gouged face...

Honestly, is the anger that hard to understand? What if those were your kids? What would YOU do?



  • wonderful post. What gets me is that I know for a fact that Iraqi war supporting conservatives (there are plenty where I live) would be among the first to pick up a gun and fight an occupation of the US. (I say that as a compliment, I think it is quite admirable.) They certainly wouldn't believe that the occupiers are doing it for their benefit. Yet they, in typical American double-standard thinking, expect others to believe that we are invading their country for their benefit. Sounds like something a liberal like B. Clinton would argue.

    Perhaps I have these conservatives all wrong. Maybe they would be the first to join the occupiers if the situation ever arises.

    By Blogger Graeme, at 8:50 PM  

  • Mikey, Mikey, Mikey,

    You need not live in Iraq to determine what makes up the character of Iraqis. You merely need to go your local library (well maybe not your local library as I have little insight into what is conatined in a public library in Prague assuming here are public libaries in Prague but you get my drift)and check out books by T.E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell, plus "The Peace to End All Peace:
    The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and teh Creation of the Modern Middle East."

    See if anyone in the Bush admistration had read any any of those authors and if such reader had the requisite courage, they would have marched into the Oval Office or gone through channels and said: "Mr. President, if you invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein, this is what is certain to happen."

    By "this" I mean the current situation in Iraq.
    Whereas it is true that the bungling of L. Paul Bremer aggravated the situation--I recommend Rajiv Chandrasekaran's " Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone"--much of the current situation was and is unavoidable.

    The Neocons all thought they could turn Iraq into Iowa. Aristotle taught we do well to remember that Nemesis follows Hubris.


    By Anonymous The Loop Garoo Kid, at 8:53 PM  

  • Graeme,

    Thanks. My thoughts exactly. Whether or not the occupation is done for the benefit of the occupied, the occupied will likely not see it that way.

    I don't think the conservatives would join the occupiers. They just lack the empathy to be able to put themselves in the Iraqi's position.

    "Apples and Oranges" they might say when the comparison is drawn.


    How you been? Thanks for the reading list. Just for the record, we do have a public library in Prague, but most of the books are in Czech.

    I'm reading "The End of Iraq" by Peter Galbraith. Interesting. Still, I think knowing what makes up the character of Iraqis is separate from knowing how anyone might react to occupation. I'll admit my ignorance on the first point. The second point seems to be self-evident.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 10:08 PM  

  • I had such high hopes for the 21st century. Flying cars, robot housekeepers, a system of credits that everyone could live comfortably on, intelligent life that recognized the power global cooperation and worldwide peace.(SIGH)
    Guess I'll have to wait another century.

    By Anonymous rockync, at 2:06 AM  

  • I can't play the video so I might be back after I can, but why is #3 a myth? Clearly AQI blew up the Samarra Mosque which in turn caused a lot of Sunni-Shia violence. Unless you believe that now that sort of violence is self sustaining, wouldn't ending AQI largely stop the incitements which at least in the future could spur more such internecine violence? Just asking.

    By Blogger Roger Fraley, at 7:45 PM  

  • A very thoughtful post

    By Blogger Publia, at 11:15 PM  

  • I don't agree with the basic tenant of the first filmette. We don't occupy Iraq, we liberated them from a horrible dictator, just as we liberated Germany (or at least the 2/3 we fought through) from Hitler. I'm glad 2/3 of the Iraqis believe that our withdrawal won't cause a wider civil war. I hope they are right, because we are going to leave. If Iraq conquered the US as part of a Jihad to force Islam on us, we right wing gun nuts would fight them to our last breath. If we had a left wing dictator and Iraq liberated us from that evil, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't. I need to see the polls, the questions asked and the numbers before I believe any of it. Tendentious appears to be the watchword here. It's your basic lack of belief in the goodness of this country and its ability to do good things which causes you and the filmmakers to blame us for the evil in Iraq despite the sacrifice we have made to free Iraq from a tyrant. I keep hoping that your grasp of history is not that weak that you ascribe to it, but I fear I'm wrong.

    By Blogger Roger Fraley, at 7:32 AM  

  • great post.

    how much do you think it is wilful misunderstanding of the situation from some people though?

    By Anonymous michael greenwell, at 4:10 PM  

  • Roger,

    We have liberated the Iraqis from a dictator but it is beyond our powers to deliver them from themselves.

    Look for a U.S. military presence in Iraq for at least the next 5 years and more likely the next 10 years.


    By Anonymous The Loop Garoo Kid, at 5:30 PM  

  • "How do people react to occupation?" Yes, that's definitely a question that should have been pondered a long time ago. We were gonna be "greeted as liberators"? LOL.

    Even funnier (but not ha ha) was an story the other day. The Navy is coming up with a "new" strategy; they might start using their military power to PREVENT wars instead of starting them. Gee, ya think?

    By Anonymous Tom Harper, at 7:18 PM  

  • Tom, why are you laughing out loud? I have seen plenty of video clips of our troops being greeted as liberators. Are you not too up on recent history? Sorry if I hurt your proud of your historical knowledge feelings.

    By Blogger Roger Fraley, at 10:39 PM  

  • Greeted as liberators, eh? Are you talking about Iraq? If so, links to some of these videos would be helpful.

    I don't claim to be extremely knowledgeable about history; I just follow the news closely, like I've been doing for 40-odd years.

    By Anonymous Tom Harper, at 2:11 AM  

  • Rocky,

    I suppose you will have to wait longer than that.


    al Qaeda: To a certain extent, yes, the violence is self sustaining. It is the toothpaste back in the tube thing that Tony likes to mention.

    Getting rid of al Qaeda would be a plus, but there are larger battles looming, most significantly the impending showdown between Sadr and Hakim.

    On Liberation: Liberating a country does not preclude one from then occupying it.

    On fighting back: You might not shoot right away, but eventually. And most Americans, I think, would take pot-shots at ANYONE occupying their country, no matter what the reason. Pride is separate from logic.

    On polls: I don't put too much stake in polls, and that is not my focus. The point was to try to identify with some of the feelings that are driving the insurgency.

    On good intentions: the road to hell is paved with them. While most Americans are well-intentioned, economic forces drive events, your willful ignorance of which skews your perception.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 12:34 AM  

  • Michael,

    Please see above. People see what they want to see. I'm sure my detractors will say I'm guilty too.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 12:35 AM  

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