May 11, 2007

A Plea from Baghdad

by Michael J. Totten

From Mohammed Fadhil in the New York Daily News
It is up to us to show tyrants and murderers like Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah, Syria's Bashar Assad, and their would-be imitators who seek to control Iraq's people and wealth that we, the people, are not their possessions. They can't take out our humanity and they can't force us to back down.

The world should ask them to leave our land before asking the soldiers of freedom to do so.

[...]

Those who prefer to bury their heads in the dirt today, and withdraw from this difficult fight, will be cursed forever for abandoning their duty when they were most capable.
I have nothing else to say but read the whole thing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 11, 2007 10:10 PM

Comments

Why is that the anti-war movement sells withdrawld as a "Get out of jail free" card? We are locked by gravity in the same planet as the beheaders and school bombers. We have noplace to go to get away from them.

It's time we let the barbarians know that they are locked in with us, and they are the ones who should be afraid.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at May 11, 2007 11:23 PM

Sadly, removing a Middle Eastern despot doesn't guarantee that the "good" people will take his place.

Posted by: alphie at May 11, 2007 11:34 PM

Withdrawing from Iraq before it is stable certainly doesn't either.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 12, 2007 12:04 AM

Iraq will never be stable. Why waste American lives on a failed nation/people?

So what if we hung the guy who thought Hitler was an hero and Stalin knew how to run a state properly? The people, enough of them anyway, went along with it. The American invasion didn't shock them out of the stupidity, it put them where they needed to be (victims because someone else failed for a change).

Arabs need to push their hate to someone else because they fail at everything. Fuck them, they should eat their hate. I hope the next time we deal with them we ditch the proportionality (or whatever it is) and smack them in the head with a sledge hammer.

Posted by: mikek at May 12, 2007 12:24 AM

Mikek, how does your rant relate in any way to Mohammed Fadhil? He and millions like him have nothing to do with what you're talking about. Instead of hitting the bastards with a sledgehammer, you want to hand Mohammed and his family to them instead?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 12, 2007 12:55 AM

I doubt America is going to do anything about Iran, Syria or Hezbollah.

It would have been far more helpful if Fadhil had named who he thinks the "good" and "bad" Iraqis are in his piece instead.

Posted by: alphie at May 12, 2007 02:43 AM

Mr. Totten,

My heart goes out to Mr. Fadhil and the rest of the Iraqis and well the rest of the Middle East. But in all honesty, the path the Bush administration has put us on will NOT benefit Iraq, nor stop our "enemies" or Iraq's enemies from doing what they want to do. The moment you understand this, the moment conservatives understand this, the moment Iraqis understand this, is the moment we finally step into the light of truth.

Israel learned quickly last summer that their plan was a failure and they quickly stopped (comparatively, I should say), unlike Americans who are so stupid and stubborn that they would rather sacrifice success as long as their pride does not get harmed. I've never seen America at a lower point in its glorious history than right now.

What's to be done?

Well to fix the problem, we must start with the removal of Bush, Cheney, Rice, Hadley, et al from power here in America. The longer they are in power, the deeper into this hellhole we go. Nothing positive can be done about Iraq as long as they are in power.

Elect people here in America that are going to be pragmatists not ideologues.

Talk to Iran and Syria. Talking to them does not mean appeasing them. That is a false analogy.

The problems of the Middle East CANNOT be solved militarily. This should be painfully clear with the events of the past five years.

Posted by: Dan at May 12, 2007 06:11 AM

Dan said:

The problems of the Middle East CANNOT be solved militarily. This should be painfully clear with the events of the past five years.

What the last five years proves is that a partial, limited, civilian-friendly, JAG-policed pretense at war -- a "pretend war" that allows neighboring countries to provide advanced deadly weapons, training and sanctuary to our enemies and allows terrorists to stream freely into the country -- a "pretend war" that allows neighboring countries openly dedicated to our destruction to pursue nuclear weapons allows their fanatical leader to come onto our soil to deliver anti-American speeches at the UN -- a "pretend war" that allows terrorists to hide in Mosques, schools, hospitals and other places deemed off-limits by our rules of engagement -- a "pretend war" in which the civilians of the conquered country are allowed to form whatever type of government they wish, even if it is a hostile theocracy, and are allowed to elect whatever officials they wish, even if they elect officials sympathetic to regimes dedicated to our destruction -- a "pretend war" in which criminals like Sadr are allowed to roam free inciting whatever violence they wish -- a "pretend war" in which our troops are asked to dig sewers and repair power plants while functioning as a domestic police force for civilians that often as not release the terrorists we capture -- the last five years proves that THAT kind of military effort won't defeat a fanatical enemy.

THAT kind of military effort would have never defeated Japan and Germany, just as a similar type of effort failed to defeat North Vietnam. THAT kind of military effort emboldens our enemies, tells them that we will allow our soldiers to die rather than risk killing civilians and tells them that bin Laden was correct, we are nothing but a paper tiger without the will to use the overwhelming force we posses.

Posted by: Michael Smith at May 12, 2007 06:43 AM

Idealists is exactly what iraq needs. That and less islam. Tons of them.

It seems to me that there's no shortage of idealists in iraq, and right now the terrorists are turning on themselves we should run ?

Are you really that stupid ? Yes, America will probably have to secure Iraq (though less and less) for a generation. It had to secure Europe for a generation. We're 1/3rd of the way.

Everyday a new tragedy in the news. Yet Iraq IS stabilising. The problem is not the iraq policy. It's the reporting about it.

Thanks for reading this site by the way : you'll learn that there is a lot of Iraq that wants to be America's ally for hundreds of years to come.

And never forget. FOR NOW nobody's asking you to lay down your life for anyone. You, however, are asking millions of people to die, just so you can look better on the news. It's not a pretty way to say it, but it's the essence of what you're doing.

Posted by: Tom at May 12, 2007 06:45 AM

Fadhil wonders:

I don't understand why someone who has all the tools for victory would refuse to fight an enemy that reminds us every day that it is evil - with all the daily beheadings, torture and violations of all humane laws and values.

Fadhil, we refuse to use the tools we have because the pacifists, the leftists and the liberals that control our educational establishment have spent the last 5 decades educating our citizens that using overwhelming force is: a) impractical, because it creates more terrorists than it kills, and: b)immoral, because it results in the death of innocent civilians, and: c)unnecessary, because if America would just leave the middle east, stop supporting Israel and send many, many, many, many more billions in foreign aid to the Palestinians, then bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, Ahmadinejad, Assad and all the other monsters would immediately become peaceful.

However: a) History demonstrates that the first of these premises is false, otherwise we would still be fighting an ever-growing number of Japanese fanatics and kamikazes -- and: b) Logic tells us that it is the aggressors that make a war necessary who must bear moral responsibility for the innocents that die -- and: c) bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, Ahmadinejad et al are not rational men with legitimate grievances who will become peaceful once those grievances are addressed.

Unfortunately, we have no leaders capable of grasping this, and no leaders capable of the kind of moral courage it would require to wage war the proper way. The Fadhils of the world will pay the immediate price -- and then we will pay the price later.

Posted by: Michael Smith at May 12, 2007 07:40 AM

Elect people here in America that are going to be pragmatists not ideologues.

Dan,

We are still clearing the explosives imported into Iraq from when the pragmatists controlled our foreign policy. We are also pragmatically ignoring Iran, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. We are pragmatically making deals we know will be repudiated with North Korea.

What is so pragmatic about inviting the terrorists home to attack us instead of fighting them over there?

Pragmatism without acknowledging consequence is impossible to distinguish from idiocy.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at May 12, 2007 08:27 AM

Sadly, Iraq the majority of Iraqis are not like Mr. Fadhil. If they were, Iraq wouldn't have this sectarian government in place right now where arguably an ayatollah is the most influential person in the country.

In any case, Mr. Fadhil should probably be given clearance to live in the US as Iraq is proving to be a lost cause, which is primarily the fault of Iraqis rather than foreigners, much as we don't want to admit it.

Posted by: tg at May 12, 2007 09:09 AM

tg,

Roughly how many Iraqi people do you know? I have dozens of good friends who are Iraqi and very much like the Fadhil brothers. There are too many good people to bring them all home. We need to make things safer abroad so decent people can do well outside the US.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at May 12, 2007 10:01 AM

Patrick Lasswell: "We need to make things safer abroad so decent people can do well outside the US."

I'll wager that your previous statements mocking the notion of being "pragmatic" in foreign policy really meant that you can't stand euphemisms for non-action (hence, the examples you provided).

At the same time, you also wrote what I've quoted above, which almost makes one think that you truly are against pragmatism--the kind without quotes.

I'm not sure what you expect the United States to do. It's impossible to guarantee the security of the world. Of course, we should help our allies, and people in regions where we need support, like Iraq. However, unless it's approaching genocide, it is simply not worth it to get involved in the world's troubles--unless, of course, it benefits us.

Cruel? Sure. But it's simply impossible, not to mention inefficient, to fight wars on humanitarian grounds. The reason it's inefficient is because we could easily have used the countless billions we poured into this war to feed people starving to death in parts of the world that make Iraq look like a well-functioning country.

It will be time to leave Iraq soon. No, not immediately or according to a set timetable. But also no, not when Iraq is a stable democracy, because that is not likely to happen within our lifetimes. We need to get out at the least worst time. Hopefully someone running the show will have the insight to figure out exactly when this is and take advantage of the moment.

The US Army is not good at policing foreign countries full of homicidal insurgents hell-bent on butchering their own people. They can either get out, and lose, or stay and win. After all, winning is easy. Just kick out the media, disallow any form of protest, and kill or imprison anyone that opposes the U.S. presence. Make it a capital offence to criticize Bush. Meanwhile, offer incentives to get people to cooperate. Given the choice of death, detention, and torture or living in peace, the populace will do whatever they are told.

Presto. A quiet, peaceful Iraq. But oops...forgot about that democratic thing.

Can't have it both ways. Not for a long time, anyway.

Posted by: Edgar at May 12, 2007 10:49 AM

"Talk to Iran and Syria. Talking to them does not mean appeasing them."

For what purpose? Iran and Syria don't want to talk to us unless we "appease" them, or else to buy time to pursue their own interests such as (in Iran's case) obtaining nukes. Since Pelosi decided to take your advice and talk to Syria, the result has been a crackdown on Syrian dissidents. But at least we could pat ourselves on the back for being so "pragmatic".

Posted by: Gary Rosen at May 12, 2007 03:41 PM

The Islamic Republic of Iran is rapidly approaching a position where they can accomplish genocide with impugnity. Disengaging from the middle east in general and Iraq in particular will encourage that behavior. My Kurdish friends from Iran who are the victims of sporadic attacks now will be wiped out and if that destroys the Iraqi city of Suliamaniya, the Mullah's will not care.

Your fundamental theorum is flawed because it assumes that genocide arrives with warning and makes itself known to all and sundry. Once we pull back from Iraq, the surrenderists here will be making as much noise as they can to try to cover the sounds of genocide all around them.

I consider myself a pragmatist who thinks beyond the next quarter's casualty reports. Five years from now we need to be able to act decisively. If we surrender we won't be able to.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at May 12, 2007 03:42 PM

Totten, I have been reading ITM for years and I wish them the best. I doubt that there is any possible outcome that will not end in misery at this point.

We will not win unless we admit that the culture is not like ours. You cannot show up with your military in an Arab country talking about civil rights or democracy. They, excluding a few million (few hundred imho) who can't do shit about the situation, do not care. It isn't going to change for the better. The election in Iraq proves the point.

Dictators are not the problem, the people are. They back them and unless you grind them down they will keep this process going. If conflict continues we must either avoid it(won't happen) or break their will(don't want it to happen, but I accept the fact that this is part of life).

I would vote, and bet on, a new strategy: If you cannot tolerate us(anyone) we will not tolerate you(muslims). If you attack us in any way your grand-children(if you make it) will weep over your poor choices. Bring back the fire and let America find her rage:) Spreading democracy isn't going to happen.

Posted by: mikek at May 12, 2007 11:16 PM

Well, Mikek, it is working with the Kurds. Arab Iraqis are having, um, difficulties. Most Lebanese, though certainly not all, have figured it out. They teach democracy in schools there.

I am not optimistic for the region as a whole, but it is not equally bad everywhere.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 13, 2007 01:03 AM

inviting the terrorists home to attack us instead of fighting them over there

still peddling the fly-paper theory?

Posted by: novakant at May 13, 2007 05:58 AM

still peddling the fly-paper theory?

Why does this surprise anyone?

Americans prefer to fight wars on the other side's turf.

Posted by: rosignol at May 13, 2007 06:19 AM

Patrick:

Whose armed forces were the last to have secured Iraq?

Answer: Saddam's.

Why? Because he was a ruthless, evil son of a bitch who did whatever it took to crush any form of resistance. Even with an army that was a joke compared to that of most Western armies, he was able to maintain almost absolute quiet.

Now, on the other hand, if Saddam's army tried to invade Israel, for example, they'd be completely decimated. They might have been good at subduing a civilian population, but they weren't much good at fighting against a highly-equipped modern army.

In the opposite sense, the US Army is good at fighting against other armies, not policing a hostile Arab country. While it probably impressed the Arabs that the US had the balls to try in the first place, we're not impressing them anymore because we can't get a handle on the situation. It also might have impressed the Arab world at first if Saddam had marched his whole army towards Israel at full speed one day. But it would have ceased to impress them once they started fleeing the other way in terror.

The point I'm making is that people in the region will only respect us if we win. And we're not going win at something we're not good at (i.e. suppressing massive Arab insurgencies and preventing civil war). Therefore, let's stick to what we're good at--blowing up and destroying things.

Pulling troops out of Baghdad doesn't mean we can't help the Kurds. If the Iranians send troops into the Kurdish region to massacre them, as you are suggesting, it will take the USAF all of 5 minutes to vaporize entire divions of them. What's required is simply the political will to do so, which you suggest will be lacking if we start to pull out.

I disagree. I think Americans understand the very real dangers we face in the region and at home. If we need to attack Iran, I don't think the "surrenderists" will prevent this.

Posted by: Edgar at May 13, 2007 11:24 AM

Mohammed Fadhil is 2007 and 2006's Ahmad Chalabi. He is also indirectly funded by the department of defense. His opinions may reflect his heartfelt personal beliefs, but they are also unquestionably slanted to appease the egos, and consciences, and warrior spirits of the - mostly nonmilitary - crowd of US conservatives and war hawks to whom his career future is tied. He is absolutely untrustworthy in terms of data and its representation. He's been disowned by the vast majority of the Iraqi blogosphere - and yes, I can name names and provide sources if I care to put in the research.

He's also a lightning rod for the most mendacious, emotionalist, self-decieving arguments of all stripes. Let me tell you, thousands of Iraqis can and do - usually not for English audiences - make the same sorts of emotional, desperate, heartrending pleas for justice - a justice that involves the end of U.S. involvement. In neither case should emotional appeals be judged over facts.

As for the facts:

Roughly how many Iraqi people do you know? I have dozens of good friends who are Iraqi and very much like the Fadhil brothers.

This is meaningless anecdotal discussion. The fact is, surveys show a large majority of Sunni and Shia Iraqis, as well as an overall majority support attacks on US troops. Does Mohammed Fadhil's silver-tongued blather reflect that viewpoint of the average Iraqi. It sure as heck doesn't seem like it.

As for, "What is so pragmatic about inviting the terrorists home to attack us instead of fighting them over there?

What's not pragmatic about this viewpoint is that even a cursory historical review demonstrates amply that fighting them "over there" in no way deters or even makes it difficult for them to fight us "over here". In fact, fighting them over there only makes them more likely to attempt to fight us "over here". Furthermore, Al-Quieda, being a globally franchised and mobile organization, has a presence in tens of countries, most of which we are disinterested in and/or incapable of fighting them "over there". What we have to thank for them not being "over here" is our increased border security, and the fact that the smuggling networks are controlled or influenced by Arab Dictatorships who are fine with the guerillas blowing up US soldiers in Iraq, but not interested in provoking us by allowing bombers to head to the continental US. Our staying in Iraq has nothing to do with it. We can't stop people from entering or exiting Iraq right now. We've never been able to. And we're not about to start being able to. The flypaper theory is dogma at best, mendacity at worst.

Posted by: glasnost at May 13, 2007 01:07 PM

Mike, if you're going to front-page this kind of stuff on your front-page, make like a true journalist and provide some balance. I can name five Iraqi bloggers for you who don't see things the same way as Mr. Fadhil, not to mention his marketing squad at Pajamas Media and the DoD. Why don't you run something from a less-well connected Iraqi? You know they're out there, and if you don't, go look for them. Do some journalism.

Zayed Kasim at healingiraq.blogspot.com is the most professional of the 'other side'. I bet he'd like to help. I'll even ask him for you. Or why not email him yourself?

I find Fadhil representative of a fundamental manipulativeness and storytelling that offends and irritates me.

Posted by: glasnost at May 13, 2007 01:12 PM

Exhibit A:

UPDATE: I am amazed by the headline of this story from the Associated Press. It reads "Iraqi officials discourage U.S. pullout." I clicked on it, wondering if it was a typo, because you may have heard that 144 members of Iraqi Parliament have signed a petition drafted by Sadrist members calling for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal the other day, a development that the U.S. media (with the exception of the Washington Post and the New York Times, which will probably put the story on page 12) has mysteriously not picked up yet. But, no, the AP story was instead about the visit of Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh - who speaks impeccable English, the AP tell us - and (U.S.-appointed) National Security Advisor Muwafaq Al-Rubai'i to Washington to warn Congress members of the disastrous consequences of a U.S. withdrawal. I am still shaking my head.

Mohammed Fadhil = nonprofit version of Muwafaq Al-Rubai'i.

Posted by: glasnost at May 13, 2007 01:14 PM

Why don't you run something from a less-well connected Iraqi? You know they're out there, and if you don't, go look for them. Do some journalism.

Journalists are required to be honest and accurate in their reports, but the concept of 'balance' in journalism is relatively new, and, in the long run, relatively absurd.

The 'balance' concept turns journalism into a sort of special olympics, where every opinion is a winner, where every statement is equally special, despite its accuracy or merits.

The primary goal of journalism is to accurately inform the public about events or issues that concern them. This post does that.

Posted by: mary at May 13, 2007 02:13 PM

Mohammed Fadhil is 2007 and 2006's Ahmad Chalabi...

Speaking of absurdities, I think we've got a winner right there. Go ahead, put in the research, back that one up.

Posted by: mary at May 13, 2007 02:17 PM

Glasnost" He is also indirectly funded by the department of defense.

According to who? You?

Do some journalism

What, exactly, do you think I've been doing lately?

I just got back from Iraq and I'm working on my media embed application so I can go to Baghdad and Anbar Province.

I'll have more journalism from Northern Iraq published here shortly. I'm behind right now for gazillions of real life sort of reasons.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 13, 2007 02:31 PM

It was an odd piece.

Written more to reinforce the base than sway opinions.

A google search of the title shows that in was only reprinted by Malkin, freerepublic, hannity, etc.

I think they call this kind of thing "preaching to the choir."

Posted by: alphie at May 13, 2007 03:09 PM

Alphie: A google search of the title shows that in was only reprinted by Malkin, freerepublic, hannity, etc.

So?

I can find you articles that are only "reprinted" by Kos and Atrios, but that doesn't mean they have no value and aren't worth reading.

Different groups read and are interested in different points of view. The sky is blue, too.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 13, 2007 03:19 PM

According to who? You?

Upon further investigation, I retract, for lack of evidence, the DoD funding claim. Upon further research into things I had only glanced at in passing previously, it was careless of me to conflate
"receives money from American individuals deeply associated with the U.S. foreign policy establishment, and who have set up organizations to influence perceptions of US action" -

and "recieves money from the DoD".

I would now instead say that ITM is funded by people associated with the US government, and with a longstanding, openly acknowledged mission of presenting its activities in the best possible light.
There's an important difference between having your own pro-American bias, and between being funded by organizations created specifically to promote the U.S. agenda.

Anyway, Mike, you do plenty of good journalism. I don't know if this link meets my personal standards, which you're under no obligation to care about, of course. I would rephrase my criticism as follows: This doesn't seem to me to be an objective or representative source, and you'd be better informing your readers to provide contrast with other sources.

For further information:

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/3/29/164613/278

Subsequent investigation by commenters revealed that the Fadhils' blog, Iraq The Model, is subsidized by a charitable organization called Spirit of America.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_of_America_%28company%29

Spirit of America is a non-profit company founded by Jim Hake that raises money for use by United States forces operating in war zones. SoA has solicited money for Special Forces troops operating in Afghanistan and for the 1st Marine Division in Iraq. The organization claims its funds will help build schools for Iraqi children and support media outlets that advance counterpoint to news presented by local Arab-run outlets.

Spirit of America is funded by the "Cyber Century Forum". From their website:

http://www.cybercenturyforum.org/leadership/index.html

about halfway down:

Spirit of America is supported through private sector contributions and in-kind support. It is being launched under the auspices of the CYBER CENTURY FORUM, a 501c3 public foundation dedicated to supporting projects and initiatives involving information technology and services that promote sustainable development and quality of life. The Spirit of America initiative is designed to help Americans serving abroad improve the lives of people where they serve - places like post-war Iraq and Afghanistan. Through Spirit of America's extensive Internet and website capabilities, it will match up donors with requests submitted by U.S. servicemen and women, Foreign Service, USAID and other reconstruction and assistance personnel for things that will help the local people; e.g., sports equipment, clothing, tools, school supplies, toys and tools. The focus will be on items that established aid bureaucracies and the military are not designed to handle and that typically fall in the gaps between large-scale assistance programs. Utilizing the powerful tools of the Internet, Spirit of America provides facilitating networks of people and technology to enable requests from US personnel abroad to be met though an extensive network of donors in the United States. Donors select the specific requests that they wish to support. Spirit of America collects the donated funds and procures the goods, or secures the direct donation of the requested goods, and arranges shipment to the requestor. The requestor distributes the goods according to the terms outlined in their request.

The CCF's director:

has served in diverse technology, media and foreign policy leadership positions in both industry and government for over thirty years. This includes senior policy appointments by three US Presidents (both Republican and Democrat) in full U.S. Senate confirmed positions. During her six year service as the first statutory U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy and administratively as Assistant Secretary of State from 1982-88, Ambassador Dougan oversaw US telecom, IT and broadcast interests internationally on behalf of a dozen federal agencies. She is currently a Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

I suggest reading this in its entirety:

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Spirit_of_America

and making up your own mind.

Ali Fadhil, the former third brother of ITM, had something to say about this, but his blog posts are no longer available on the net.

Ali Fadhil alleged that the SoA staff were using the Fadhil brothers for propaganda purposes. He said that SoA CEO Jim Hake and his former "Director of Logistics and Procurement" Kerry Dupont were "stealing donors money" and lying to both Iraqis and Americans. He said Dupont offered the brothers $300,000 "that we could use to do what we want".

Here's one, and not the only, example of an Iraqi blogger's critique of ITM:

http://ejectiraqikkk.blogspot.com/2006/10/iraq-model.html

Posted by: glasnost at May 13, 2007 03:32 PM

Glasnost, I briefly worked for Spirit of America myself. Jim Hake, the founder, is a friend of mine. He's a good guy. That Mohammad has worked with him as well isn't a point against him in my view at all.

If the fact that I worked for Jim for a short period is a problem for you, so be it. Jim does good work and helps people I care about in countries that have very serious development and security problems.

He raises money to pay for women's resource centers and other such things in Iraq. Good for him.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 13, 2007 04:26 PM

Oh, and what Ali says about Hake and Dupont is bullshit. I know the whole back story on that, and if I could write about it or tell you about it, I would. You can choose to trust me or not. I realize my total lack of information here isn't convincing at all by itself, but I really can't talk about it.

I will say however, that neither Spirit of America nor Ali Fadhil has dove done anything wrong except misunderstand the situation. "The situation" has never even been hinted at in public. You could not possibly guess what it is, so I suggest you don't even try. It's far too weird and random to ever be guessed. What you have read about it does not provide even a hint.

Sorry I have to be vague. Some things are off-the-record, but I am allowed to factor off-the-record information I have into my analysis. Take that for whatever it's worth to you, which I realize may not be much.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 13, 2007 04:33 PM

Oh, and again by the way, my not talking about it is to protect Ali, not Spirit of America.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 13, 2007 04:36 PM

Next week over at Iraqi Bloggers Central we'll be celebrating our three-year anniversary. On our blogroll you will find all the Iraqi bloggers, from Mohammed and Omar to Riverbend and Baghdad Treasure. Just to clarify something, after his split with ITM, Ali Fadhil began his own blog, called "Free Iraqi," which is still accessible. His last post, however, is from last summer.

Over at IBC today is a look at Nir Rosen's NYT Magazine article on exile Iraqis.

*

Posted by: Jeffrey at May 13, 2007 06:52 PM

This is sort of random, Mike, but I don't have any problem, per se, with the institutions listed here. I have no evidence or reason to believe that they're bad guys, and I'm sure they've done plenty of good work.

They're simply not objective. They have a mission, and it's not the same mission as "provide the outside world with the most realistic description of Iraq as possible".

I don't know the people you refer to as people. I simply assess their institutional purpose, and I do not share their agenda in this case. As a citizen, my agenda is accuracy. This reflects my beliefs in the priorities facing the country. Others, good people included, disagree.

I'm trying to avoid being either offensive or slanderous, after my initial outburst. I'm just providing background neccessary for objective evaluation of the editorial.

I do have a problem with Iraq the Model, but it's not even with what they say, as much as the way that their point of view is used by others as a substitute for a broad understanding of the Iraqi situation. They are complicit in this, but it may not be their fault.

You, of course, by providing genuine, honest citizen journalism - are not among the others I refer to. In my opinion.

Posted by: glasnost at May 13, 2007 07:00 PM

Good discussion. As far as Mohammed Fadhil's work, I've read enough of it to know he does good work. He may be biased, but that hardly invalidates what he has to say. He makes valid points, regardless of your opinion on this conflict. FWIW, I happen to agree that we need to win this war, and that it's still possible to achieve a measure of victory, despite that missteps and hard times.

I really don't think it's fair to hold Fadhil accountable for those who link to his work. How is it his fault that Malkin and Hannity link to his work? This was published in the NY Daily News (not the Post, mind you) after all.

At the end of the day, it's an interesting and serious piece.

Posted by: Rafique Tucker at May 13, 2007 07:01 PM

Glasnost,

It's good that you've admitted that you were cavalier with your earlier unsubstantiated claims. Clearly, they were made out of anger. Hey, we're all human here and sometimes our emotions get the best of us.

I've been following the Iraqi blogosphere for close to four years now and was one of the first wave of commenters on that early handful of blogs by Iraqis. Omar, Mohammed, and Ali have always written for themselves and never to please anyone else.

As others have said here, they do have a distinct point of view, just as we all do, but that surely doesn't invalidate what they have to say. They have been consistent and even-handed in all of their blog entries and have persevered when other Iraqi bloggers have given up or reduced their output. Their voices represent a section of the Iraqi populace, just as Konfused Kid's does or Zeyad's does.

While ITM belongs to the first wave of Iraqi bloggers, there has been, since then, a second and now even a third wave (or wavelet, if you prefer).

You might not agree with everything that Omar and Mohammed write on their blog, but if you really believe in democracy and free speech, then you will have to show them the same tolerance you offer to those that have the same opinions as you do.

Omar and Mohammed do speak for other Iraqis and they have never let bitterness deform their blog entries, which reinforces for me just how laudable their efforts have been over the last three and a half years.

Posted by: Jeffrey at May 13, 2007 07:48 PM

"ITM is funded by people associated with the US government,"

Why does it have to be "funded" at all? It doesn't cost much to run a blog. Dentists should be able to afford it out of their own pockets.

I suggest that any funding is likely to be rather small.

Posted by: Don Cox at May 14, 2007 02:17 AM

Unfortunately Mohammed's plea is a little late. Many of the decent people in Iraq have left, or are now dead (see the NYT piece cited above). The Iraqi parliament has signed a draft bill asking the US to set a deadline for withdrawal (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/10/AR2007051000387.html?hpid=topnews), and many US generals are apparently fed up with the whole thing(http://www.tnr.com/blog/theplank). The constitutents for continued engagement today are basically just the Kurds and the American neocon fanatics who would rather destroy the US before they'd admit how wrong they've been on everything. On top of that, Mohammed's tone is guaranteed to anger the more traditional US conservatives. I know my neighbors in NH are basically strong GOP supporters, but they won't appreciate an Iraqi telling them they'll be "cursed forever" if we don't send more Americans to die to pull the Iraqis out of their mess. Mohammed's attempt to portray the threat of Hassad, Iran, etc as a reason to continue US engagement is laughable - yeah, they're bad guys, but they represent no credible threat to the US at all, and most Americans realize this. We're talking about one of the most backward regions in the planet with almost no scientific or industrial capabilities to speak of. We need to isolate these people and get back to engaging with Asia and South America. The Middle East should really be last on our national priorities.

Posted by: vanya at May 14, 2007 08:22 AM

I think that many posters here fail to realize that we are not entirely in control of what happens in Iraq. If US force were going to help, then something, at some point, in the last 4 years might have improved in Iraq. But no one can point to any substantive improvement in the last 2-3 years. Iraq (minus Kurdistan) is less safe and less functional. Please correct me if I am wrong with real data.

And I am sorry, but pining for some real non-"pretend" war is silly. Do you think it will be easier to build an Iraq if we become willing to raze it in order to save it? That line sounds like Col. Kurtz; remember, he was the crazy one. By the way, does Petraeus (who seems a very smart and decent guy) want to fight this so called "real" war. The more people want to "take the gloves off," the less they seem to know.

My sincere concern is that 1) we are ultimately not in control of events and 2) the harder we push and throttle, the further our goals slip away. If these are true, then our efforts are in vain (and we need to change the mission to getting out).

Further, I get the feeling that any peace/governance produced during our presence will be seen as illegitimate by a lot of people - people who will want to set things right, whenever it is that we leave (be that in 1 or 20 years). Iraq is a dismal situation that we are not improving enough to justify the cost to us.

regards, (and thanks to Michael for his good journalism - there's nothing else like it out there, and everyone on the political spectrum benefits from his insights)

Posted by: Ronald at May 14, 2007 08:23 AM

Dictators are not the problem, the people are.

Exactly, Mikek. The US made big mistakes in Iraq but Iraq's current problems come from Iraqi culture - which is based on religious xenophobia, tribal feuding, clan vendettas, and the use of murder to preserve honor. These are deeply embedded codes of conduct and there's nothing we can do about it. Iraqis have to do some serious naval gazing and ask themselves whether they really want to enter the 21st century or not.

Posted by: Toady at May 14, 2007 10:05 AM

Amen, Jeffrey and Michael! One of the reasons why I like ITM as well as several other Iraqi blogs is that it gives us a chance to get a glimpse into another culture and see the humanity involved. I also have appreciated their insights. I'm more inclined to believe those who are actually there and those who spend time in a place than those who just watch events from afar. With all the criticism leveled at them, I keep wondering why are their views considered less valid than others by some people? Aren't differing viewpoints an important part of the changing culture? I don't argue with the fact that tragic mistatkes have been made, but neither should we discount progress that's also happening. Isn't the fact that we now hear from Iraqis worth something?

Posted by: Sallyo at May 14, 2007 10:55 AM

Ronald said:

And I am sorry, but pining for some real non-"pretend" war is silly.

It amuses me how cavalierly today’s liberals dismiss the idea of fighting a war the way we did in defeating two fanatical military regimes which -- at the start of the war -- had us vastly outgunned and outnumbered in terms of military strength.

You can argue that most Americans are no longer willing to fight that way -- and you may be right about that -- but it doesn’t change the fact that history shows us that total warfare works. It works for the simple reason that winning means either destroying the other side's will to fight or destroying his ability to fight, neither of which can be done with a partial, limited, civilian-friendly effort with strict ROEs, off-limits areas that become sanctuaries for the enemy and neighboring countries that are allowed to feed, house, train and arm the enemy with impunity.

Do you think it will be easier to build an Iraq if we become willing to raze it in order to save it?

Do you think the occupations of Japan and Germany would have gone smoothly if we had NOT first brought their civilian populations to their knees and had NOT demanded the elimination of all traces of state-supported and state-sponsored Shintoism and Nazism -- just to name two of the things we did differently?

Posted by: Michael Smith at May 15, 2007 01:16 PM
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