December 04, 2004

Sadr City Turns Around

I don't have much to say about this AP story by Hamza Hendawi. It pretty much speaks for itself. Happy to pass it along, though.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - After spending much of the year as a battlefield between militiamen and U.S. forces, Baghdad's Sadr City district is now embracing peace and reconstruction.

Anticipation is high for what the residents of the mainly Shiite district say is their overdue empowerment through elections Jan. 30.

The outdoor markets are busy again and the gridlocked traffic is back. The bands of excited children who walked behind local militiamen heading to battle in the fall now clamor around machinery laying down new water pipes.

Workers in orange jumpsuits are laying asphalt in dozens of potholes dug by the fighters to conceal roadside bombs meant to kill American soldiers. The clerics who replaced their turbans and robes with track suits to join the fight are back in mosques and seminaries.

The daily lives of Sadr City's estimated 2.5 million people have not seen much improvement in the two months since fighting ended. But the large Baghdad neighborhood appears on such a euphoric high that the mounds of festering garbage, the constant seepage of sewage and shortage of clean water seem to matter little.

In marked contrast to the skeptical Sunni Arab community, Sadr City's population is looking forward to the January ballot. Banners and posters exhort residents to vote, and booklets explaining the process are distributed house-to-house. Even the sight of U.S. military convoys darting through the district no longer draw resentful looks.
First, Sadr City. Next, Fallujah.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 4, 2004 02:33 PM


I'm under no illusions about the huge obstacles that remain to achieving long-term stability in Iraq, but I also believe that there are a lot of "good news" stories like this one that are not getting the attention they deserve.

Posted by: Todd Pearson at December 4, 2004 03:04 PM

This entry should be titled,"News you won't see on Juan Cole's Blog."

But he deeply, deeply cares about Shi'ite Iraqis anyway...

Posted by: SoCalJustice at December 4, 2004 03:19 PM

Great story! Yet not. Imagine a White-Black America, with the black areas in revolt, insurgency.
Killing and murdering.
And the white areas much nicer. And one white area, which had been in revolt, in black sympathy (or other personal reasons), now accepting a forthcoming election. Where the 65% whites, 20% blacks, and 15% hispanics were fairly concentrated in the South, Central, and Northern parts of the country.
Except the capital was smack in the middle of mostly black region, with two big white groupings. And one of the two white groups, which had been in revolt, is now rebuilding, getting ready for the Jan. elections.

Unfortunately, this might not say much about the black city 40 miles away.

The Iraq minority Sunnis can be expected to fight until they live, with tolerable human rights, under the democratic domination of the majority Shi'a.

The long term issue has always been the restrictions on the power of the demo majority -- human rights first, or democracy? So it's no surprise the Sunnis keep bombing.

But will they accept defeat before the elections, and vote; or will they boycott and become occupied? I think they'll vote. I'm not sure.

I'm not THAT worried. On this. The long term national/ ethinic issues are worse -- which can more easily be addressed by local geographic district elections, instead of party polls.

Posted by: Tom Grey at December 4, 2004 03:26 PM

TomGrey - I realize all analogies are inherently imperfect, but you really may want to rethink that particular one. Given how the Sunnis were in power for decades and clearly discriminated against the Shia during that time, casting the Sunni as being like black Americans doesn't particularly work. I'm sure there's analogies which would illustrate your point better.

More generally, we should remember that not all Sunnis are in opposition, just those who remain in sympathy with the Ba'ahists. However, given the preferences given to Sunnis under Saddam, that is a not-insignificant proportion, perhaps even the majority. Also, splitting things in Iraq along a Sunni-Shia-Kurd axis ignores the powerful tribal system in place in Iraq: Zeyad at Healing Iraq had an illuminating post about that here.

Posted by: tagryn at December 4, 2004 05:32 PM

This has got to come as a little bit of bad news to the Left.

Posted by: David at December 4, 2004 06:14 PM

Assuming that the entire Left is antiwar.

It's bad news to the paleocon Right, too, you know.

Posted by: Stephen at December 4, 2004 06:25 PM

Assuming that the entire Left is antiwar.

Most of the Left.

It's bad news to the paleocon Right, too, you know.

Not really. Whatever Pat Buchanan might think of this war, he does NOT want to see us fail.

Posted by: David at December 4, 2004 06:30 PM

This fight remains what it has been from the beginning, and what wars usually are, a battle of wills. The US demonstrated its with the linked reelection of W and the assault on Fallujah.

The United States "on a mission" must be a fearsome thing to our enemies. It is going to be a rough next 60 days for our troops. A very high tempo of operations and very little rest.

My suspicion is that the Sunni Elders are going to fold and encourage Sunni participation in the elections. Zarqawi will be left nearly alone and will probably flee.

But I also think these elections are a gigantic roll of the dice. If they come off half as well as Afghanistan, we'll be on our way (with lots of work remaining...hard work :)), if they don't go well, we're going to have to kill alot more people. Cross your fingers.

Posted by: spc67 at December 4, 2004 07:33 PM

Question. If things actually work out in Iraq in the long run and history judges the mission a success. At what point will the war's many vitriolic opponents jump on the bandwagon and pretend that of course they supported it all along, just as they did with the Cold War?

Posted by: Doug at December 4, 2004 08:13 PM

Boy, them sure are some purty rose colored glasses some of you are wearing...

"Lyndon Johnson told the nation,
"Have no fear of escalation.
I am trying everyone to please.
Though it isn't really war,
We're sending fifty thousand more,
To help save Viet nam from Viet Namese."

Unfair comparison, you say? In some ways, for sure. In some ways not. The most striking similarity between Vietnam and Iraq is the inability to say what "victory" looks or even smells like (to poorly paraphrase Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now). I’m also willing to bet that, as was the case with LBJ, this war will eventually consume the presidency of GW Bush.

I recommend a visit over to to check out Karen Kwiatkowski's latest column on the Iraqi quagmire. She’s the retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col that I interviewed earlier this year and who quit the military after a stint in the now-disbanded Neocon haven inside the Pentagon – the Orwellian-named Office of Special Plans.

I was just watching a riveting edition of Nightline based almost exlcusively on ground-level footage from Fallujah and I was starkly reminded by the wrap-up interview of some of the unfortunate differences between Iraq and Vietnam. In the latter case, at least the U.S. forces controlled the major cities and could, to some degree, count on some firepower support from the South Vietnamese Army.

In Iraq, the U.S. forces don't even fully control the capital. And the Iraqi Army seems to exist mostly in the speeches delivered by Bush.

NPR Correspondent Anne Garrels, who has spent most of the last two years in Iraq, told Ted Koppel tonight it is now safer for a correspondent to be embedded with embattled Marines in Fallujah than it is to be working in Baghdad where the insurgency is stronger than ever.

She also laughed off the administraton claims that there has been significant process in building up an Iraqi fighting force. Garrels said in the recently-concluded battle for Fallujah she set off with the Fifth Battalion of the new Iraqi Army. By the time they got to Fallujah, she said, a full-half of the 500 man force had deserted. And then another 100 troops or more fled before the unit entered the city.

And don't waste your breath telling me that Garrels is part of the Liberal Media. When she was with ABC News in the 80's I worked with her in Central America and she was one of the most pro-administration, conservative reporters working in the region.

Posted by: clyde at December 4, 2004 08:15 PM


You know what is truly annoying about comments such as yours ? No?
Well allow me to elucidate.It is not precisely that you are a snide defeatist in word and deed;it is much more that you appear to be rooting and hoping for defeat.When one considers both the nature of our enemy in Iraq and the stakes involved,I am forced to the conclusion that your definition of patriotism might be in need of some serious rethink.
Now I really do understand why 'defeatism'has ALWAYS been dealt with quite harshly in all past conflicts.
As for 'wasting my breath',let me assure you that I would not bother to expend any to convince you of anything.

Posted by: dougf at December 4, 2004 08:42 PM

Just for the sake of 'objective'research,I have linked a far less enamoured viewpoint on the work of Ms.Kwiatowski with whom Clyde is infatuated.As the article relates,simply because one is a neo-isolationist ideologue does not make one's observations invalid,but it sure puts those observations into proper perspective.

Posted by: dougf at December 4, 2004 09:01 PM

It's good the people of Sadr City are optimistic.

Now the big thing is not to blow the elections. Will al Sadr get 10% of the vote? 30%? If Allawi's party gets more than 5% there are going to be a lot of accusations of fraud....

Will the new president nominate Allawi as prime minister? There are a lot of ways for it to go bad. It's a critical time coming up.

And the troops might see a lot of action leading up to the election, but there's every reason to think the violence will get worse and stay worse after the election too.

If things calm down the new government will probably ask us to go away. Is that what we want?

Posted by: J Thomas at December 4, 2004 09:05 PM

Clyde - Victory is pretty easy to determine, if one is so inclined. Total victory would be replacing the Ba'athists with a representative government friendly to the USA which can act as a stabilizing force in the region. We may not get all of that, but some proportion of that is certainly achieveable. Assuming the insurgents don't succeed in returning the Ba'athists to power, we've already achieved many of our goals in Iraq. I'd also say avoiding a civil war at this point is a big success, considering all the forces pulling Iraq in different directions.

Anyone who thought there'd be a functioning Iraqi military at this point is foolish, considering the state of infrastructure left by the former military & that the Coalition has had to basically create an army and police force from a zero starting point, with more than a little learning curve thrown in. The recent effectiveness of the Iraqi commando and ex-peshmerga units has been encouraging, though the former is the elite of those recruited and the latter incorporated peshmerga units have been together for many years, so there's a unit cohesion you won't find yet among the Iraqi units. The corruption and incompetency of many other units remains a big problem, which is why its going to take years to iron out the problems and get a new military which can fully meets its responsibilities.

There's unfortunately a certain % of the population which sees Vietnam-redux in any foreign engagement, regardless of whether the reality on the ground makes the comparison valid or not. Last time I looked, Vietnam was in SE Asia, not the Middle East, and there isn't an Iraqi equivalent to North Vietnam pumping army regulars in to help keep the insurgency afloat (though what Iran is doing comes closest).

Posted by: tagryn at December 4, 2004 09:24 PM

nice post - and nice blog - (belated updating of my blogroll coming up...)

sorry to go off-topic - but have you seen this?

lefty blogosphere cheating in 2004 Weblog Awards


Posted by: nikita_demosthenes at December 4, 2004 09:39 PM

A victory condition was present at all stages of the Vietnam war, the issue was that victory was not pursued from the political leaders. Militarily important targets were off limits, troops not allowed to engage the enemy except under limited circumstances (during the early parts of the war we had the only thing capable of flying in thier weather, we grounded the planes because it wasn't fair and the russians may get angry if we attacked with planes that could not be shot down). Add in the widepsread attitude back home and you have vietnam. Witness the difference in LBJ vs Nixon's prosecution of the war - we went from running to actually winning engagements. But by then the political scene around Vietnam was such that we had to withdraw.

Iraq suffers from none of that. In a country of 25 million if simply 1% of the population activly opposed us we would be out (Vietnam had well over 1% opposed to us being there). We are agressive and have a president that isn't listening to those who wish to limit warfare to "be fair". The only simularities are that we can not tell the bad guys from the good guys by looking. But then when they start shooting or we do know they are bad guys beforehand our troops are allowed to engange the enemy with overwhelming firepower.

With a casualty rate of 1:500 and resistence mostly from foriegn nationals we can only lose because of political reasons at home. Very very few of the people in Iraq have the defeatest attitude that quoted retired military people have - even they are a minority amongst retired military personel. The defeatest are batting zero so far - 500,000 dead to invade, 1 million or more to hold the state for a year, death and destruction only months away requiring a draft to even hold ground. Given that, I fail to see why I should listen to someone who has been wrong at every single point they have given predictions on the outcome and tactics of this war. Whereas if I read what the ones that planed this war wrote (instead of someone else synopsis, I've seen several press conferences on c-span in which one of the staff members outlines a plan, it happens exactly as they say, and the headline read "Lack of planning lead to this situation") they have been pretty accurate.

Posted by: strcpy at December 4, 2004 09:44 PM

Dougf, when I look at Kwiatowski's two latest essays I don't get the sense of an isolationist crackpot. She sounds pretty sensible as a military observer.

"....the current administration fails to recognize American strategic gains in Iraq – a dominant military presence in the heart of the Middle East, permanent basing, guaranteed petro-dollars, unquestioned control of Iraqi economic development in a post-Saddam environment, and an Iraqi state that will not rise again as a regional power – are simply not well understood by most Americans."

See, we're winning handily. We are achieving the objectives, only the american public doesn't realise that these are the objectives. We do have a dominant military presence in the heart of the middle east. We do have permanent bases in iraq. We have control oh iraq's oil. We have total control of iraq's future economic development. And unless we leave, iraq will never again be a power in the middle east. We have mostly met these goals already. People just want the iraqis to settle down about it, and they haven't yet. But if the sunnis are subjugated within 6 month or so -- their cities leveled, their arms stockpiles captured or destroyed, the food for their children coming into tghe refugee camps tghrough american checkpoints that never allow in more food than will be eaten that day -- and if the shia accept a deal with us, we can keep the sunnis in the camps indefinitely with only a small force. We'll have won.

"The neoconservatives – ever Machiavellian – envision two Iraqs, both incredibly weak and inwardly focused, both politically vulnerable, both owing their existence to American policymakers, both agreeing to long-term American military bases and economic investment and arms sales, both bound by friendly treaties with each other and Washington, both helping mop up the Sunni Triangle in years to come."

Isn't it likely to work? Get a shia nation and a kurdish nation. Both of them will be too weak to stand without our help. Given time both can provide the infantry to mop up the sunnis, our air power to do the mass killing and their footsoldiers to do the friendly-side dying.

We're talking like this would be a failure, but why not accept it as success? If any iraqi government got strong enough to stand without us, they'd tell us to go away. But we can keep a permanent presence and permanent control provided we make sure they stay permanently weak.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 4, 2004 09:56 PM

I just wish the January elections would get here, already, because not knowing how it will all turn out is driving me insane. I'd like to consider myself somewhat of an expert on Iraq, but I don't have a clue how it will all go down.

When you're young, you invest alot of yourself in these sorts of least if you're young and politically aware, that is to say. You have a general worldview and a bunch of deeply held beliefs, but there's always this little voice in the back of your head telling you you don't know shit about the world and that it all could so easily come crashing down at any moment. Whatever happens in January will test all that I believe in. That's all I really know for sure.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 4, 2004 10:25 PM

"Dougf, when I look at Kwiatowski's two latest essays I don't get the sense of an isolationist crackpot. She sounds pretty sensible as a military observer"--J Thomas

Whoa.Not so fast.I have posted below excerpts from Ms.K's recent efforts.Both passages are from November 04.How two divergent viewpoints from the same person written in the same month can be taken as 'pretty sensible'is a mystery to me.

'...We will go from an inept, ineffectual, unreal threat from Saddam Hussein to an effective, well-equipped U.S.-trained Iraqi Army – under the leadership of an Islamic government aligned with Iran'--Kwiatowski(Nov 04)
"The Shia political leadership is ready, able and willing to govern their share of Iraq. Kurdish Iraq insists on at least the same self-government it had under American sponsorship since 1991, and it dreams of more. These emergent states will both grant American military basing rights, and welcome American political help as a hedge against undue neighborly influence in their formative years. ---Kwiatowski(Nov 04)

I am with Grant Mc. on this one in that I have zero idea what is going to happen in the elections in January.The only thing I am sure of is that the elections will be 100% improved over the last votes in Iraq even though the winner may not get the same high percentage of the votes that Saddam used to pull down.Whatever else you say about that guy,he sure knew how to get out the vote.Now those elections were real Vote or Die campaigns.

Posted by: dougf at December 4, 2004 11:16 PM

"Assuming that the entire Left is antiwar.

Most of the Left."

These are the people who ultimately choose the Democratic Party's presidential candidate. This is why it is no longer a viable national party.

"With a casualty rate of 1:500 and resistence mostly from foriegn nationals we can only lose because of political reasons at home."

This is correct. Only the Democrats can defeat us in Iraq. They are objectively our greatest enemy. The terrorists, in a practical sense, are a lesser threat.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 5, 2004 03:28 AM

Ahh, the good ol' Dolchstosslegende, a favorite of wingnuts everywhere for almost a century now.

Posted by: novakant at December 5, 2004 05:43 AM

David, it's not true that only the democrats can defeat the US military in iraq. The iraqi government might do so merely by getting TV cameras in live and voting to tell the US to go.

The chinese could defeat us in iraq by destroying our currency.

The republicans could defeat us by running a disastrous economic policy and a vietnam-style occupation.

There are lots of ways it could go. But if we're lucky the iraqis will all settle down to live in peace with each other and with us. We can all sit in big circles and sing kumbayah together, and we'll have won.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 5, 2004 06:37 AM

"First, Sadr City. Next, Fallujah." ...and on to Ramadi.

Posted by: Kim at December 5, 2004 09:08 AM

David: Only the Democrats can defeat us in Iraq. They are objectively our greatest enemy. The terrorists, in a practical sense, are a lesser threat.

That is one of the most ridiculous things you've ever posted here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 5, 2004 10:01 AM

"If things actually work out in Iraq in the long run and history judges the mission a success. At what point will the war's many vitriolic opponents jump on the bandwagon and pretend that of course they supported it all along"

Suppose a man is drunk but decides to drive his family home through a snowstorm and icy roads anyway. Let's imagine that he arrives safe and sound. At what point was driving drunk a good idea?

Posted by: Michael Farris at December 5, 2004 10:44 AM

The terrorists, in a practical sense, are a lesser threat.

David T.,

that's nearly as silly as J Thomas's statement that conservative christians are just as dangerous as islamic fascists. But I simpathize with the sentimen behind your statement. The Dems are a deadweight, and more harm than good.

Posted by: David at December 5, 2004 11:16 AM

"Only the Democrats can defeat us in Iraq. They are objectively our greatest enemy. The terrorists, in a practical sense, are a lesser threat."

What are you smoking?

Few people have come up with effect Metrics for measuring success in Iraq. The coming election represents of the few most people can actually see. Their success or failure will give us valuable insight into how the war is really going.

Posted by: FH at December 5, 2004 12:04 PM

“That is one of the most ridiculous things you've ever posted here.”

“What are you smoking?”

“that's nearly as silly as J Thomas's statement that conservative christians are just as dangerous as islamic fascists”

I am dead serious, and not even slightly exaggerating. Has somebody forgotten Vietnam? The Democrats are responsible for that catastrophe. They are also our greatest threat, by far, in Iraq. The terrorists might be a distant second. Defeatism, if not even a wish for the United States’ actual defeat is the common theme embraced by the Howard Dean wing of the party. Never forget that Michael Moore compares the Iraqi insurgents with America’s own revolutionary fighters. He sat down next to Jimmy Carter at the convention and is still praised highly by many of the Democratic faithful. The Deaniacs have the power of the veto. At the end of the day, the moderates are on the outside looking in.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 5, 2004 02:05 PM

I just found this piece by Peter Beinhart in today’s NY Post:

“There is little liberal passion to win the struggle against al Qaeda.”

If there is indeed “little liberal passion to win the struggle against al Qaeda” then objectively the Democratic Party is our greatest threat in Iraq. Sorry, I’m just telling it the way it is.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 5, 2004 02:39 PM

David, I was going to defend you -- but see it's not needed.

You are mostly right, the US military can be "defeated" only by Dems, and the Press, and the US public deciding that fighting evil in Iraq is no longer worth the cost. As the Dems did in SE Asia, knowingly accepting genocide.
(When Kerry mentioned 2-3000 at his Testimony, he was gently chided that 800 000 had to be evacuated from N. Vietnam. Anti-war thinking folk knew the genocide was coming.)

But David, you forget that the US can NOT win. Only the Iraqis can win. When they are willing to fight, kill, die, and even kill innocent Iraqis, in order to win. This desire seems slower to flower than I expected, and far slower than I hoped. The elections will help, some -- but the minority Sunnis are already claiming minority victim status.

Of course, when Iraqis are in control of Abu Ghraib again, and the insurgents can look forward to the normal Arab jail treatment -- order might be a lot more quickly established. It might not be pretty.

Posted by: Tom Grey at December 5, 2004 02:46 PM

I have to go with David Thomson on this.

The Democrats have lost states, have lost all the elective branches of the federal government, and are seeing a groundswell of sentiment questioning liberal-dominated institutions like MSM and higher education.

The elections in January are a indeed a benchmark. "What we will do, when we will do it"... just like passing tax cuts, providing the prescription benefit, and NCLB were benchmarks, too. Perfect? Utopic? No.

Before we ejected the Taliban Left conventional wisdom was we'd lose to the destroyer of empires, the craggy mountains of Afghanistan. Or there would be millions of starved refugees. We went back to the U.N. re Iraq not to seek permission to act in our own interest, but to give that august body of thugs a chance to justify their existence after allowing and supporting Hussein's survival through sixteen toothless resolutions. When we got ready to eject Iraq, it was even money that we'd lose tens of thousands of men eithr to Stalingrad tacitcs or to the WMD that Hussein was assumed to have by every world government AND the U.N.. We were doomed to a Vietnam quagmire before we fired the first shot by media, who turned the volume on that note up to eleven when a sandstorm caused a 36 hour halt on the way to Baghdad.

An aircraft carrier returning from the theater of war displays a "mission accomplished banner" as the president arrives to thank THEM personally for their successful participation...and the image is taken out of context even today, reflexively, to jeer the fact that there remains enemy combatants to kill in Iraq. The speech the president gave celebrated the end of active combat with the Iraqi government forces, and acknowledged the burdens and chanllenges ahead. But that never gets mentioned.

We have major cities in this peaceful, civilized country where the annual homicide count breaks a thousand on a routine basis, yet we haven't abandoned them. Yet.

If Zarqawi or Assad or the mullahs in Tehran clicked on the New York Times and saw "The editorial board of this newspaper recognises that world peace will come only with the end of Islamic terrorism, the downfall of those regimes that support and export it, and the rise of representative democracies in their stead, and supports the efforts of the coalition to pursue this dangerous and worthy goal to victory" he'd get up, walk over to whatever passes for his bathroom, and slit his wrists.

I don't say all Democrats want us to lose - just the ones that run the party, their media shills,and the ones that haven't made it past 9/11 yet. They are flat out of ideas how to get any power back.

And yes, they feel the same way about economic trends and unemployment, too. Or flu epidemics. Or mad cow diesease. Or arsenic in water. Or global warming. Or immigration control.

Posted by: TmjUtah at December 5, 2004 03:05 PM

Good news! So it must be true.

Posted by: Mork at December 5, 2004 03:27 PM

David Thomson: If there is indeed “little liberal passion to win the struggle against al Qaeda” then objectively the Democratic Party is our greatest threat in Iraq.

Not only are the Democrats not who we're fighting in Iraq (and please try to remember that the Democrats are part of "we," and that Mr. Beinart - who you quote approvingly - is an editor of a liberal magazine), but the Republican Party and the military are the ones in charge of the American side of the war at this time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 5, 2004 03:59 PM

Yeah sure, Michael, but you must remember:

"It's extremely difficult to govern when you control all three branches of government."

Posted by: novakant at December 5, 2004 05:08 PM

Michael -

Not a bad article by Mr. Beinart. He hits some very valid points where the Democrats' political/moral plight is concerned.

His characterization of the war, and aftermath, in Iraq fails to impress at all.

There was never any button to push to turn Iraq from mass grave central into the venue for the Rotary Club International convention. None.

There are Islamikazis coming from across the middle east in order to derail the democratization of Iraq. They attack our troops, they slaughter Iraqis, they terrorize randomly and suicicidally. They are dying at hundreds to one against us...yet the schools are filled, the voters are registering, the lights are on (most of the time), and the individuals that count, our president and our troops, have given zero sign that we are leaving until we finish what we started.

The jihadis are fighting their own retro-island hopping campaign, or standing between the Oder river and Berlin against the Soviets in 1945. Their leaders will spend them like a wino dropping quarters on a counter in a liquor store. We should not be surprised, not at all. This war ends when there exists a society that allows more opportunity for advancement than victim, henchman, Imam, or dictator. We are going to make that happen.

World War II should have ended in 1944. Neither the Nazis nor the Japanese had any hope of winning by that time, yet it took millions more lives and almost a full year to make them lay down their arms.

The conventional invasion of Japan was projected to last as long as three years more.

The enemy before us today is in many respects more odious and fanatical than the SS or Tojo's most extreme militarists ever dreamed of being. Who should expect them to give up when their most powerful weapon over the last half century has been the tendency of western elitists to turn away from the threat? Not me. Not the administration that resolved to end this threat. Not anybody with half a grasp of history or philosophy.

We are trying to kill a cancer without having to kill the host. That takes will, discipline, and most of all time. If it were simply a matter of killing off regimes driving the Wahabbist movement we could do that directly and conventionally. Then we'd cut loose several hundred million individuals who have no tradition of representative government, no contemporary experience of living under the rule of law outside of dictatorship, and who happen to live next to not-so-nice neighbors already.

I'll save the "scope and vision" sermon. If you are a regular reader here, you've seen it before.

Success breeds success. Some games are dedided by a clock, others by how many cards are in the deck. The one we are in now is decided by who gives up. Our material advantages are nice, but in the end it will still be the side that refuses to give up that is going to win this thing. We 'destablilize the region' by removing the dictators and mullahs and giving the victims on the ground the greatest gift - the chance to be free, sovereign, citizens.

And to get all the way back to where this thread started, it seems that no matter how fucked up EVERYTHING has been, how poorly we are supposedly doing, there's a national government working in Afghanistan, Hussein is in a cage, and there will be elections in Iraq in January.

We haven't been hit here at home again. Whether that's due to sparkling successes on our part or the fact that the enemy realizes how badly they mistook this country and the administration is a point I'll reserve judgement on.

Yah, the elections won't be perfect. But they'll be good enough for us to start looking to Iran for later in the spring. Count on it. It will be a lot easier for Iraq to deal with insurgents when the mullahs are too busy trying to find their own cave to die in to send more across the border, or write checks to support them.

I do try to follow politics these days, but when I see Dean mentioned seriously as DNC chair there's not much use in putting any time into the effort.

Zell was right . "A National Party No More".

Posted by: TmjUtah at December 5, 2004 06:20 PM

David, you misquoted me. I don't say that "conservative christians" are more dangerous than islamofascists. I say that the extreme wacko fundamentalist christians are more dangerous than the extreme wacko fundamentalist muslims.

So far there is a little evidence against my claim -- wacko muslims appear to be responsible for 9/11 while wacko christians have done no more than kill a few abortionists and support wacko zionists. But extreme wacko christian theology is clearly more dangerous than al qaeda theology. Does it matter what they think, or only what they've done so far?

I guess we'll have to wait and see....

David Thomson, I know the revisionist history that claims we were winning in vietnam when the democrats finally pulled the plug is getting more popular. But it's dead wrong. You can only convince people who've already drunk the koolaid. We had already lost at that point, and the extra expense wasn't buying us much.

For that matter it wasn't just democrats who cut the funding. Nixon's secret plan to end the war had been operating for four years and it hadn't worked. Two years later there was no doubt.

We'd already lost. Get over it.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 5, 2004 07:01 PM

Is the left wing of the Democratic Party on our side in Iraq? Well, this should give you something to think about:

“Today's anti-war movement models itself on the Vietnam protesters, and the movement's leaders include familiar faces. Tom Hayden has written an article that outlines how to organize an effort to ensure that the United States is defeated in Iraq. The opening sentence: "The anti-war movement can force the Bush administration to leave Iraq by denying it the funding, troops, and alliances necessary to its strategy for dominance." “

Posted by: David Thomson at December 6, 2004 03:55 AM

Hrmmm, I go away for a few days and we get a new Clyde, and find out that the actual threat to The American Way is, The Democract!!!

I nominate David T, to act as the head of an UnRepublican Activities Board. We need to stop the Blue Menace before other people in the country get this wild idea that its ok to be be political opposition in America. We'll show them!

You make me giggle,


Posted by: Ratatosk at December 6, 2004 06:33 AM

Ratatosk -

More a distraction these days.

A cinderblock for our swim meet, if you will.

It's going to be a huge year.

Posted by: TmjUtah at December 6, 2004 09:03 AM


Yeah, people exercising their freedom to disagree and dissent are always a drag on the mainstream. ;-)


Posted by: Ratatosk at December 6, 2004 09:26 AM

I welcome everybody's participation. I cherish the right to dissent.

I wasted about ten minutes watching incoming Senate mimority leader Reid on one of the pundit shows yesterday. It was eerily like watching "centrist" Nancy Pelosi introduced back on election day plus 3 in 2002.

No new ideas there. They cling to "getting their message out", to include a new "communications center". Buddy, if four broadcast and two cable networks can't make the sale, I don't think creating NPR Prime will help.

I just wish they had alternatives to offer that were based on any consideration beyond their own political futures.

I may put up a post about my perception of the domestic political landscape and the choices facing both parties on my blog. Or not. I'm within striking distance of furnishing a remodeled room, finishing other repairs I've put off for months, and achieving the organization in my workshop/garage to establish my forge.

First things first, I always say.

Edit -

In an above post I wrote "And to get all the way back to where this thread started, it seems that no matter how fucked up EVERYTHING has been, how poorly we are supposedly doing, there's a national government working in Afghanistan, Hussein is in a cage, and there will be elections in Iraq in January." ; insert "we have thus fa r accomplished" after EVERYTHING and end with "has been reported" and the statement becomes what I intended it to be.

Posted by: TmjUtah at December 6, 2004 10:14 AM


Forge? :) Whta kind of forge are you setting up? What do you plan on forging? I have several blacksmith friends and have just started dabbling myself.


Posted by: Ratatosk at December 6, 2004 01:35 PM

Ratatosk -
OT, with apologies:

I plan to start out with a farrier-sized pit with a foot bellows. It will large enough (1 X 1 expandable to 1 X 3) to make deco iron hinges, hangers, and of course first tools. I hope to craft knives after I've learned enough to make the effort worth it. I am on the verge of having to make an anvil out of railroad iron! A good project, but I am really in need of somebody local wanting to get rid of a two or three hundred pounder out of their grandad's barn...

I already do pistol tuning and have dabbled with drawfile metalworking/finishing. Near term objective is to move enough implements via Ebay or local sales to pay for the start-up. The catch is I am putting this together with as near to zero cash outlay as possible. Got the space, some hammers, other tools, plans drawn up for the bellows and most of the supplies for same in hand. I , too, have a local smiths I know.

If you've "dabbled" to the point where what was once a square rod has become an elegant hook...all is lost! I can't even describe what hammerwelding a steel edge onto a century-old axe is like. Metal doesn't speak so much as let you know when you've done something right. You'll know. It's relaxing to me.

Posted by: TmjUtah at December 6, 2004 02:21 PM

Nice! We'll have to trade stories via email. One of my friends makes fantastic rapier hilts using a forge made out of a beer keg. It's great.

Apologies to all for the tangent. Now back to the regularly scheduled hatefest/lovefest/general melee.



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At a time when rising tuitions are pricing many working-class Americans out of a college education, the upscale campus is becoming the base of American progressivism
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Posted by: Daniel Kauffman at December 7, 2004 02:41 AM


I had just skewered one of Hamza's articles a week before this one came out. I was surprised to see him come back with one like this- fair and balanced.

For the record, it's not Sadr City anymore- Allawi changed it to "Thawra" when the junior Sadr started acting like such a douche. I guess the AP hasn't picked up on this yet...


Posted by: 2Slick at December 8, 2004 04:16 AM

Slick, maybe we should wait and find out what the people who live there want to call the place.

Sadr looks like a viable politician unless we manage to assassinate him. Allawi is universally seen as an american stooge, he has no credibility with anybody but us. Which of them gets to name places and make it stick?

Posted by: J Thomas at December 8, 2004 09:45 AM

Now I may just be an uneducated grunt (albeit an uneducated grunt who has been fighting in Sadr City since April), but this Kwiatowski person seems a bit unhinged. She's a retired Air Force LTC, huh? Good for her. However, I know a boatload of 21-year-old infantry privates with a better, more balanced understanding of what's going on in Iraq. They haven't been Pentagon horse-handlers like Kwiatowski, but they have, you know, actually been fighting and dealing with the situation over there.

As far as Sadr City is concerned, I'd like it to be peaceful again, but I have no illusions. Just as soon as some guy with a turban and a beard (like our buddy al-Sadr himself) tells them to start trying to kill us again, the good residents of Sadr City will happily comply.

Posted by: File Closer at December 9, 2004 12:19 AM

Oh, and J. Thomas, al-Sadr is many things, but he is not a "viable politician." If he was, he'd have co-operated with us from the start, rather than whip his followers into a blood-frenzy at the behest of his Iranian masters. As far as al-Sadr's assassination goes, it seems rather unlikely at this point, it'd be a PR disaster. Unless, of course, some enterprising "contactor" steps up to do the job...

Concerning Allawi being seen as an American stooge, perhaps that is the perception among the press is the West, but the true situation is a bit more nuanced. A few weeks ago I was a vehicle commander on a security detail for Allawi, and the people in Sadr City were quite pleased that he came to see them. No national politician in Iraq had ever come to Sadr City (at least thats what the folks in the neighborhood told me), and many residents were impressed mightily that he braved the danger of assassination to visit.

And, the naming controversy: Sadr City is named after Mohammed al-Sadr, the father of the current jackass, and the area has always been called "al-Thawra District" (it's also known as District 21, but I've never heard anyone call it that, 21 is just the name on maps and documents). It is my understanding that the Iraqi government has been pressing for increased use of the official district name rather than the unofficial nickname, but the reason cited above was correct: the government hates al-Sadr, and justifiably so.

Posted by: File Closer at December 9, 2004 12:33 AM

J Thomas-

Yeah, what he said...

File Closer,

Thanks for sounding off. I was in Mosul back when the 101st ran the place. I've got 3 weeks left on my current tour (Arifjan, Kuwiat- I can't believe they give us tax free and hazardous duty pay over here).

Thanks for your service, and keep up the great work.


Posted by: 2Slick at December 9, 2004 02:02 AM

File Closer, maybe you have heard different rumors from me. What I got from the mass media was that Sadr was taking a very popular political stand, that the US occupation had to end. And we then said he couldn't run for office, and we censored him and tried to arrest him for a trumped-up murder charge, and we did arrest some of his ward heelers. Sadr had every reason to think we were about to kill him or put him in Abu Ghraib. Then he started getting his followers to fight back. See, he was running a normal political campaign until we told him that he couldn't. We didn't let him cooperate, and twice he quit fighting when he was promised that we would let him run for office. The first time he got that promise and stopped fighting, the americans said we hadn't made any promises and we went on killing his followers and trying to arrest him. So unless the media have all been lying about that, you're wrong about this particular thing.

I'm glad to hear that Allawi has been out getting support, and I'm glad to hear that his american guards are guarding him competently. Many accounts say he wouldn't last two days without US soldiers guarding him. But I don't know what they base that estimate on since as far as I've heard he's never ever been away from US troops since we flew him into iraq.

A very quick web search found the claim that the area was named Madinat al-Thawra, "Revolution City", in 1963. But later it was mostly called Saddam City and now Al Sadr City. I'm not sure why you'd prefer the other name. I can see why Allawi would prefer it, since Sadr has at times been the most popular politician in the country, while Allawi has never had more than about 5% support.

Kwiatowski appears to me to be most knowledgeable about the Pentagon and such, and what she hears about iraq is mostly what the Pentagon hears and not what the troops who're actually there know. She's learned a whole lot about PNAC and the neocon cabal, and that's enough to unhinge anybody. Those guys are plain crazy and they're the civilians who're telling your top generals what to do.

When you run into one of those things that just does not compute, that seems unbelievably stupid, it's possible that it's one of those SNAFUs that happen sometimes in any large organisation. But the way to bet is it comes from the civilians at the top.

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