August 07, 2007

An Iraqi Interpreter’s Story

By Michael J. Totten

“Please, sir, can you help me? I must work with Americans, because my psychology is demolished by Saddam Hussein. Not just me. All Iraqis. Psychological demolition.” – Iraqi woman to New Yorker reporter George Packer.

Hammer Baghdad Iraq.jpg
“The Hammer,” Titan Company Badge # S-10296

Iraqis who are not American citizens and who work as interpreters for the American military cover their faces when they work outside the wire. Mahdi Army militiamen and Al Qaeda terrorists accuse of them of collaboration with the enemy. They and their families are targetted for destruction.

Here is the story of one such interpreter who works with the 82nd Airborne Division in Baghdad. He calls himself “Hammer.”

MJT: Why do you work with Americans?

Hammer: When I was 14 years old all I liked was American cars and American movies. America was my dream. It was a dream come true when the United States Army came to Iraq. It was a nightmare in 1991 when they left again.

Maybe someone will think I’m lying, that I’m just saying this. If my friends say something like Russian weapons are the best or German cars are the best I say, no, Americans are. Everyone who knows me knows this about me.

If anyone says Arabs will win against the U.S. they are wrong. The leaders don’t want to be like Saddam. But if the US leaves Iraq it will be a big failure, especially for me. I don’t want to see this. Never.

MJT: Do you like working with Americans?

Hammer: A lot. Especially when I go outside the wire. I feel like a stranger here. When I go back inside I’m home. I have no friends outside, only family. When I go home I stay in my house. I don’t go out on the streets.

MJT: Why don’t you have any friends?

Hammer: I don’t feel like I belong to this society. They think like each other, but they don’t think like me. I can’t continue with them.

I like to know something about everything, to learn as much as I can. In Iraq if you know too much they will laugh and call you a liar.

When I was 20 I liked American music. They don’t like it. (Laughs.)

I don’t like Saddam. I hate his family.

MJT: Why do you have to cover your face?

Hammer: To protect my family. My family lives in Iraq. If they go to the U.S. I won’t have to do it. But I don’t want anyone to know me, to follow me and see where I live and kill my wife and son.

MJT: How did you feel when the U.S. invaded Iraq?

Hammer: Happy. It was like I was living in a jail and somebody set me free. I don’t want Saddam ruling me. Never. I was just waiting and waiting for this moment.

MJT: What do you think about the possibility of Americans leaving?

Hammer: It is like bad dream. Very bad dream. A nightmare. Worse than that. Like sending me back to jail. Like they set me free for four years then sent me back to jail or gave me a death sentence.

MJT: Tell us about living under Saddam Hussein.

Hammer: It was crazy life, like feeling safe inside a jail. If they sent you to an actual jail nothing changed. They arrested everyone, literally everyone, for no reason and sent them to jail for two weeks just so they could see the jail.

I went there three times. The first time because I worked for a movie company. They sent all of us to jail. It had nothing to do with me.

I was given a three year sentence. My family has money, so I paid the judge 50,000 dollars. I gave it directly to the judge, plus four new tires for his car and a satellite TV. He gave me a three month sentence instead of a three year sentence. He scratched “3 years” off my sentence and wrote “3 months” in by hand.

They sent me to Abu Ghraib. I saw so many things. If you want me to talk about that I would need a whole newspaper.

MJT: Tell us a little about Abu Ghraib.

Hammer: On the bus to the jail I didn’t have handcuffs. I asked why. The guard said “Look behind you.”

The first guy behind me got a 600 year sentence.

The next guy got six hanging sentences.

The third guy was sentenced to be thrown blindfolded out of a second story window. Twice.

Another guy f*cked his mother and sisters three times. He was freed on Saddam’s birthday.

Another guy had his hand cut off.

There was this last guy. He went to the market with his wife. She waited in the car when he went to buy something. When he came back to the car his wife was screaming. Two guys were in the car with her. One held her arms and the other was raping her. He grabbed his AK-47 and chased them away. They ran to their car and he shot them. Their car blew up. They were mukhabarat [Saddam’s secret police]. He got a death sentence. On his second day in Abu Ghraib they killed him and sent the mother- and sister-f*cker free for the fourth time.

The guards who ran Abu Ghraib sold hallucinagenic drugs to prisoners for money. They forced me to take them.

You need protection in there. You find someone and give him drugs and cigarettes. You pay off the guards to just punch you in the face or move you to a different cell instead of kill you.

I was freed 26 days after I arrived, on Saddam’s birthday before I finished the three months.

I can’t live with this nightmare anymore.

MJT: What’s it like out there now for the average Iraqi?

Hammer: If you give average Iraqis electricity right now it will be enough. This is the most important thing. Give them power for seven days in a row and there will be no fights.

After the US came and Saddam fell they earned 3 dollars a month. Now they earn between 100 and 700 dollars a month.

Giving them electricity would reduce violence. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself what would happen to this Army base if the power was cut off forever and the soldiers had to spend the rest of their lives in Iraq. Do think think these soldiers would still behave normally?

Iraqis are paid to set up IEDs. They do it so they can buy gas for their generator and cool off their house or leave the country. Their hands do this, not their minds.

TV is the most interesting thing to Iraqis. They learn everything from the TV. Right now they only have one hour of electricity every day. Do you know what they watch? Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera pushes them to fight. If they got TV the whole day they would watch many things. Their minds would be influenced by something other than terrorist propaganda.

Right now they have no electricity. They have no dreams. Nothing. And Saddam messed with their minds. For more than 30 years he poisoned their minds.

You can’t understand Iraq because you can’t get inside their mind. When you get inside their mind…it is a crazy mind.

MJT: Why is Iraq such a mess? Is it the Americans’ fault?

Hammer: No. You can’t blame it on the Americans. Iraqis are number one at fault for this mess. They are greedy and will do anything for money. They are like people who were in jail for 30 years, were suddenly set free, were given money, then had their money taken away. What will they do next? They will kill for money. They are selfish.

They got selfish from Saddam. Iraqi people used to be different. I am the same person I always was, but most Iraqi people are different now. They feel that no one will help them so they help themselves.

MJT: Is there a solution to the problem in this country?

Hammer: Nuke Iraq.

MJT: Be serious.

Hammer: I am serious. If you screen all Iraqis, 5 million of them would be good people. Clear them out, then kill everyone else. Syria and Iran would surrender. [Laughs.]

Right now they see 100 corpses every day in the streets. It’s not okay to kill the bad people who do that?

Ok, if you want a serious solution try this:

Charge money to the families of insurgents. Fine them huge amounts of money if anyone in their family is captured or killed and identified as an insurgent. Make them pay. You can put it into law. Within one week they won’t do anything wrong because they want money. Their familes will make them stop.

The militias pay them 100 dollars to set up IEDs. Fine them thousands of dollars if they are caught and their families will make them stop. Give them that law. Go ahead. Try it.

MJT: What will happen if the Americans leave next year?

Hammer: Rivers of blood everywhere. Syria and Iran will take pieces of Iraq. Anti-American governments will laugh. You will be a joke of a country that no one will take seriously.

I will kill myself if it happens. I am completely serious. The militias will hunt down and kill me and my family. I will beat them to it by killing myself.

I worked for the U.S. government for four years. Everyone who works as an interpreter for four years and gets a signature from a General or a Senator gets a Green Card. My hope is to get this somehow. I will do anything for this.

I am doing this for my son. Everything for my son. I don’t want my son living here getting into religion and militias and Al Qaeda. I want my son to be free, to have a girlfriend, to get married, and to be a good citizen.

MJT: How often do you get to see him?

Hammer: Two days a month. Sometimes two days every two months. I leave this base without my uniform and dress like them, wearing filthy jeans and a t-shirt, so they don’t know I work here. Then drive to my house and hug my wife and son.

MJT: What does he want to do when he grows up?

Hammer: He wants to be an American soldier. He has his chair in his room with an American flag on it. Has a toy M-4. He has a little uniform that I got at the P/X.

When he sees Saddam he curses Saddam. I never told him to do that. He does this himself. When he holds his toy gun he says he will kill the insurgents. He wants to go to Disneyland. His hero is Arnold Schwartznegger – not the Terminator, but Arnold Schwartznegger. He has all his movies.

Bill Gates is my hero. [Laughs.]

MJT: Do you ever get death threats?

Hammer: Seven times. Once I had to sell my car because of it. Some come from Shia militias, others from Al Qaeda. I had two IEDs in front of my car and was shot at with an RPG when I was working in Kirkuk for Bechtel at an oil plant.

MJT: Why is there peace in Kurdistan but not in this part of Iraq?

Hammer: The Kurds got rid of Saddam earlier. They fought against Saddam just like the Shia fought against Saddam, but the Kurds won their war and the Shia lost. In 1991 the Americans were heroes to the Kurds, but they disappointed the Shia and left them to Saddam. They were not reliable. So the next time, in 2003, some Shia thought they should get help from Iran. They know Iran is not going anywhere. Iran is a more reliable ally than the Americans.

The Shia never forgot being abandoned by the Americans. They talk about this all the time, still. They know the U.S. will leave Iraq and they will face Al Qaeda alone.

Shia people here are very simple, very easy. They are easy to control. They don’t need too many things. Just electricity, rights, a decent life, a good opportunity to get a job.

MJT: Would it be possible to flip the Shia supporters of Moqtada al Sadr into supporting Americans instead?

Hammer: Yeah, it’s easy. Just give them those things. You will push away all the reasons for this trouble. 16 percent of the Shia support Moqtada al Sadr. They have no education. They don’t know what to do. I know how these people think. Give them a good reason to join your side and they will do it.

MJT: What is the worst thing you have ever seen in this country.

Hammer: 60 guys from Al Qaeda kidnapped an interpreter’s sister. She had a baby boy, six months old. They raped her, all 60 guys. Then they cut her to pieces and threw her in the river. They left the six month baby boy to sleep in her blood.

We found him on a big farm south of Baghdad. All that was left was his legs and his shoes. The dogs ate him.

I don’t want this for my family.

These people are like animals who came from another planet.

MJT: What is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen in this country?

Hammer: In all my life? When I was seven years old I heard the sound of wild pigeons every morning. Then something happened and I never heard them again.

Then, on the morning of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, I heard the pigeons again.

Really, I am not joking. I can see you don’t believe me, but I am not faking it.

MJT: What is the most important thing about Iraq that the Americans don’t understand?

Hammer: Don’t just open the jail after 25 years. Let people out step by step. Iraqis need rehab. Give them instant direct freedom and they are going to go crazy. That’s what the U.S. did.

MJT: Will the Americans win this war?

Hammer: I hope it’s going to happen. But it’s not going to happen if the Americans keep doing what they are doing unless they are a lot more patient.

MJT: Anything you want to say that I didn’t ask you about?

Hammer: Because of the few bad Iraqis who work as interpreters for the U.S., no one trusts us. But if you give me a gun I will fight harder than the Americans. You can go home. I can’t. I have to live in this country. If the Americans don’t give a Green Card to me and my family, I have to stay in this prison.

At Camp Taji the First Cavalry Division thinks interpreters are the enemy. They decided that interpreters who aren’t American citizens have to take the American flag off their uniforms before they are allowed to enter the dining facility.

I cried that day.

I wasn’t supposed to, but I complained. I said It’s okay for me to die outside wearing the American flag, but I can’t eat wearing the American flag with Americans? That was the worst day of my life with the American Army.

I’ll tell you what I tell my family. If I die here, wrap me in the American flag when you bury me. I don’t want to be wrapped in the flag of Iraq.

Hammer is looking for employment in and permanent relocation to the United States for himself, his wife, and his son. If you can sponsor him for a Green Card and help save his family, email him at superlink_par@yahoo.com and superlink_70@yahoo.com.

Postscript: Please support independent journalism. Traveling to and working in Iraq is expensive. I can’t publish dispatches on this Web site for free without substantial reader donations, so I'll appreciate it if you pitch in what you can. Blog Patron allows you to make recurring monthly payments, and even small donations will be extraordinarily helpful so I can continue this project.

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Many thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 7, 2007 07:21 AM
Comments

This story breaks my heart on a lot of levels.

Fascinating, MJT, and as always, a very different, unexpected perspective on the situation by letting your interview subject tell it himself.

Posted by: Pam at August 7, 2007 08:22 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 08/07/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M at August 7, 2007 09:23 AM

Definitely heartbreaking.

The one thing that caught my attention is how he suggested we fine the insurgents families for everyone caught. This is similar to what Israel did during the first intifada, where they bulldozed the homes of the families. It worked to great effect except the international community made them stop.

Posted by: Hallson at August 7, 2007 09:42 AM

Hammer's solution sounds reasonable. But I've got a better one: pay Iraqis to harass al-Qaeda with IEDs and kidnappings.

Posted by: Edgar at August 7, 2007 09:51 AM

Michael,

Amazing interview. Not very encouraging, but that's not the point.

Posted by: shaulieh at August 7, 2007 09:53 AM

I think the Danish military contingent airlifted all their interpreters and dependents from Iraq to new lives in Copenhagen as they withdrew.

We British will leave ours behind to get killed... what of the Americans...?

Posted by: Microraptor at August 7, 2007 10:02 AM

By Microraptor: "We British will leave ours behind to get killed... what of the Americans...?"

I do not know but something tells me we will not be any better.

Posted by: leo at August 7, 2007 10:12 AM

"But I've got a better one: pay Iraqis to harass al-Qaeda with IEDs and kidnappings."

How about if someone pays you $100 to plant a bomb we'll give you $500 if you give us the bomb and finger the guy who paid you - and you keep his hundred. Orif a neighborhood keeps their roads IED free for a month, by whatever means they choose, they get a nice development grant, say $10,000. If we can fight the insurgents by simply writing checks, that's right in our wheelhouse.

Posted by: junyo at August 7, 2007 10:19 AM

"pay Iraqis to harass al-Qaeda with IEDs and kidnappings."

How to ensure that whoever is being harassed is Al Queda and whoever is harassing is not?

Posted by: leo at August 7, 2007 10:24 AM

leo: How to ensure that whoever is being harassed is Al Queda and whoever is harassing is not?

Don't use Sunnis. And ask for video footage (Arab guerillas love reality TV, so it won't be hard).

Posted by: Edgar at August 7, 2007 10:28 AM

I thought that this part was the most important section:

Giving them electricity would reduce violence. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself what would happen to this Army base if the power was cut off forever and the soldiers had to spend the rest of their lives in Iraq. Do think think these soldiers would still behave normally Iraqis are paid to set up IEDs. They do it so they can buy gas for their generator and cool off their house or leave the country. Their hands do this, not their minds.

It reveals many things.

1. Iraqis want regular life. We are failing to give them that. After four years we still have not been able to give the Iraqis more than half an hour to an hour of electricity per day. That is pathetically bad!

2. Those who set up the bombs may not really be "enemies" per se, but just regular guys who need some extra money.

3. There just simply are not enough soldiers in the country. Time and time again this is said, but it continues to need saying, because we really do not seem to understand the practical aspect of this. If we do not have enough soldiers, we WILL LOSE. There is no point to continue a losing cause if we do not pursue it with the proper amount of soldiers. It is a waste of time, money, energy and priceless resources---our soldiers.

The system and infrastructure are not properly set up in Iraq. Basra is showing this quite clearly. Instead of working for the state, Shi'ite groups in Basra are splintering into tribes to see who should rule. This is because at their core, the tribe is of greater import than the nation-state. There is no way the Sunnis are going to trust Shi'ites to give them the political power to ensure Sunnis feel comfortable within the nation-state of Iraq. As such, there will continue to be instability until enough people have died.

I wonder, will America ever hold those who pressed for this failure of a war accountable? Or are we going to allow them to get away with it?

Posted by: Dan at August 7, 2007 10:29 AM

junyo,

I like that. Sort of neighborhood watch program.

One problem though.

I just remembered a movie with Charlie Chaplin where he was a guy who was replacing broken window glass and he had a boy an assistant who was breaking windows to keep his boss busy.

Posted by: leo at August 7, 2007 10:31 AM

Michael, just awesome, as usual. I'm fascinated by Hammer's bird fixation. I was hypnotized by the birds upon awakening at Erbil’s Hawraman Hotel. And during a long convo w/Alan A. outside Suli’s Red Security Building he too waxed poetic about birds. When he & his family fled to the Iranian border during the Anfal they encountered no animals. When they returned home all the fowl in his yard were huddled in one corner, protecting their eggs.

Unusual / fascinating.

Stay safe / best regards,
Scott

Posted by: Scott Moshen at August 7, 2007 10:35 AM

"Hammer's solution sounds reasonable. But I've got a better one: pay Iraqis to harass al-Qaeda with IEDs and kidnappings."

Hilarious. It might just work, too, although as the other commentators alluded to, it's open to abuse.

Excellent article!

Posted by: Yankee Doodle at August 7, 2007 10:37 AM

If we can fight the insurgents by simply writing checks, that's right in our wheelhouse.

I think we would lose a battle of the checkbooks. Remember that they've - supposedly - got KSA & other OPEC elements on their side vs. our Congress.

Posted by: urthshu at August 7, 2007 10:56 AM

America needs to stop applying American solutions to Middle Eastern problems.

I'm only half-joking about paying Iraqis to attack al-Qaeda. That's the kind of thing that works: playing people off against each other. It's an extremely tricky game, to be sure, but it's the only way to do it.

Syria is master of this game. I think the U.S. should meet with the Syrians, but only for advice--not "help."

The Syrians could teach doctoral-level courses on using temporary alliances, propaganda and deception to pacify Arab populations.

Posted by: Edgar at August 7, 2007 10:58 AM

Dan
I can help you out wrt #3.
Here ya go.
No mere nattering nabob of negativism, you. Right?.
You're a SOMEBODY! Right?

And let's stay focused buddy. I did my part in the jungle and am now so old and bald that they won't take me.
Hell Bruce Willis is a kid by comparison and they wouldn't take him.

Let's keep this about you Dan.
Fix this mess for us.
OK buddy?
Thanks pal.

Posted by: Stephen M at August 7, 2007 11:38 AM

Hmmm.

1. There is absolutely no acceptable reason why there isn't a plan already in place to give Iraqi interpreters and other valuable Iraqi workers a means of immigrating into the US. Bush et al are so intent on making every last person in Mexico a citizen and yet they cannot be bothered to offer this gift to those that work hardest for it?

outrageous.

2. I've always been concerned that we handed over self-government far too soon. Frankly I think probably should still be governing Iraq directly rather than the ignoble hodge-podge that exists there now.

Posted by: memomachine at August 7, 2007 12:22 PM

I have created a Facebook Group to help raise awareness of this issue:

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=4093644522

Please join and help spread the word.

Posted by: Joe Aston at August 7, 2007 01:45 PM

"Those who set up the bombs may not really be "enemies" per se, but just regular guys who need some extra money."

Dan, the instant you plant an explosive device who's express purpose is to kill US soldiers or your fellow countrymen, couldn't give less of a G-damn about your motives, you're a fucking enemy. There are other ways to make extra money, even in Iraq. They're just not as easy as murder.

"I just remembered a movie with Charlie Chaplin where he was a guy who was replacing broken window glass and he had a boy an assistant who was breaking windows to keep his boss busy."

That's true, and almost any system you devise will be exploitable. On the other hand, every bomb/artillery shell/block of plastic explosive turned in for reward is a weapon not in public circulation, and that won't potentially injure someone. Sometimes you don't need to plug the leak, it's enough to slow the rate at which you take on water. The real battle is the internal and external perception of security and stability; if $20 mil in local awards/bribes cuts violence by a measurable factor, that's a net win IMHO.

"I think we would lose a battle of the checkbooks. Remember that they've - supposedly - got KSA & other OPEC elements on their side vs. our Congress."
I think you're right, but I also don't think we actually need to win that battle long term. If we adopted fundamentally Reagan's strategy against the Soviets during the Cold War, simply increasing the cost of operations to the enemies financiers, we accomplish a couple of things. It squeezes their single dimensional economies more than it does ours, increasing the chances that there's not enough money to both spread around internally to prop up their regimes and support the insurgency/terror. And unlike the Soviets, they can't get the money to the foot soldiers legally or directly; by forcing them to get more illicit money into the country to suppport their operations we increase the odds of snagging a transaction or a middleman. If what the translator says is correct, and a large portion of the insurgency's manpower is motivated by profit and not idealogy, and we can even slightly disrupt their cashflow, we're golden. Dan's part-time bomber loses his profit motive and thus get taken out of the equation, and we're fighting a lot less people, and killing the most dangerous ones. Again, IMHO.

Posted by: junyo at August 7, 2007 01:58 PM

Recently there was a panel in NYC by Committee to Protect Journalists, on the topic of Iraqi fixers and translators - George Packer was on it, also Steven Vincent's widow Lisa and his translator Nour whom Lisa had just gotten into the US, and a Kurdish journalist Ayub Nuri who told his story in the NYTimes a few weeks ago.

I recorded the panel here - the sound isn't great but you can make out most of it.

More about Lisa and Nour.

Also there is the story of Khalid Hassan who was assassinated working for the NYTimes.

I hope Iraq becomes a place where all these people (the ones still alive, anyway) can live in peace, but until them we owe them refugee status and it isn't happening. Lisa testified about it to a Senatorial panel.

Also as long as I am on this topic let me plug the Steven Vincent Foundation to assist families of local fixers/stringers/reporters who have been killed in war-torn areas.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 7, 2007 02:38 PM

I've always been concerned that we handed over self-government far too soon. Frankly I think probably should still be governing Iraq directly rather than the ignoble hodge-podge that exists there now.

I agree. But I know why we did it. Otherwise the usual suspects would say, "see? the Americans want to rule you, they lied about letting you vote." In fact we wanted to delay the voting but Sistani insisted we hold elections when we did and he had a lot of power.

There was no good solution. We should have been less politically correct all down the line, and killed the right people like Sadr as soon as they made enough trouble. But also people like Sistani didn't want us to, and if we crossed them THEY would make trouble.

Ideally we would rule for 5-10 years and build up self-government gradually.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 7, 2007 02:44 PM

BTW on the panel someone asks George Packer what's the best way to learn what's really going on in Iraq and not just get spun by media, and Packer says to read Iraqi blogs. He says he reads 4-5 every day and they always know what's going on before the media does.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 7, 2007 02:53 PM

nd unlike the Soviets, they can't get the money to the foot soldiers legally or directly; by forcing them to get more illicit money into the country to suppport their operations we increase the odds of snagging a transaction or a middleman.

At the Media as Theater of War conference in Herzliyah (you might remember this Michael) Nitsana Darshan-Leitner gave a presentation about how her Center represents terror victims, bringing lawsuits against Iran, the Arab Bank and the PA. One result is that Iran can no longer keep its money in Europe. No bank in Europe, period. They have to carry millions of dollars in cash in suitcases.

I have audio of it here. (Look for the little blue arrows.)

Posted by: Yehudit at August 7, 2007 03:13 PM

Also David Paulin did a nice roundup of the Lisa/Steven/Nour story on his blog, with lots of links (Let me point out that the people who helped Nour get to the US include the UNHCR and Ted Kennedy, who some of us think of as misguided and appeasers. It is good to get an occasional reminder that life is more complex than ideology.)

Posted by: Yehudit at August 7, 2007 03:33 PM

Excellent post, and it describes very well our failure to understand the depth of Iraqi psychic damage is the real cause of a war gone badly. This dopey idea of every sect getting a slate of candidates was supposed to cure this?! It reinforces the divisions! In order to survive in Iraq, it's obvious that you have to hard and cold as a stone--and hence their politics.

Clearly, it goes much deeper than which sect controls the parliament. To compare their situation with Northern Ireland is so juvenile it's stunning. All I can hope and pray is that Petreaus gets it. The people need security; Jeffersonian democracy comes later.

Posted by: Patricia at August 7, 2007 03:45 PM

If we - U.S., U.K. - leave these people behind, we can forget about having allies in the future. And frankly, we don't deserve them.

Why would anyone on the fence pick us, and why would potential friends stick their necks out, when even the men and women who accompany ours in to combat - endangering their families as well as themselves - are left to suffer and die?

Posted by: MattW at August 7, 2007 04:03 PM

This guy is fearing for his life and MJT gives out his eamil address, hello, if we are reading this they are too!

Stop helping the enemy!

Posted by: Todd at August 7, 2007 04:06 PM

Stop helping the enemy!

Calm down. Email addresses are not linked to physical location or identity.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 7, 2007 04:18 PM

America is but a dream. Our country is greedy too and only think of themselves. You see it in the food stores and driving down the highway. The American people no longer have the stomach to finish this war and the politicians feed on that.

Nuke Iraq? Nah, nuke the crap out of Iran and Syria they are the problem. While your at it nuke Pakastan and the mountains where the cowards hid in their caves. The preach religion and Alah then rape a woman. Suck my ass Al Qudia!

Posted by: JW at August 7, 2007 04:33 PM

Excellent story! My favorite part? Clear out the 5 million decent Iraqis and nuke the rest. Simple. Worked as a response to Pear Harbor and we have never had a problem like that again with Japan. People from all over will say that this is cruel and inhumane....hate it for 'em.

Posted by: Karen at August 7, 2007 05:00 PM

The guy knows what he is talking about, after spending almost two years in the military in 2003 and 2004, and got injured by a HIED, I conquer with what he is saying. We got into this war by being too politicaly correct, what we should have done is being tough from the begining.

Posted by: GG at August 7, 2007 05:23 PM

True, America, like any other country is filled with greed and can think only of themselves, but here in America there are a LOT of people who are noble, tolerant, and generous. JW says America is a dream, I don't believe that at all. America is filled with both good and bad, but i am willing to bet more on the good then the bad. I feel for this Iraqi man's plight. This is a man who knows what he is talking about, i say give his words SERIOUS consideration. I agree with GG that this country has become too politically correct which has severely hurt us. If we want to win, we have to change our tactics, but i do believe we can win if we start becoming more open to people like this interpreter in Iraq.

Posted by: SM at August 7, 2007 05:56 PM

Wow. I am impressed by the meeting of the minds here on such a hotly debated issue. It's a breath of fresh air to read something different than the typical finger-pointing and politicing that goes on daily. I really appreciate the responses on these comments from really intelligent people that lay out viable solutions and discuss some of the potential pitfuls to others without becoming down right insulting.

What an amazing blog entry to hear from Hammer. Thank you, Michael, for being crazy enough to go out there and get the interview.I understand so much better why things are happening the way they are and why people are acting the way they do. Westerners really don't get it, do we? Our lives couldn't be more different from theirs. They get an hour of t.v. and if my cable goes out for an hour, I'm irritated. I will think twice and zip my lip next time. We are so spoiled. Really helps to put things in perspective.

My heart longs for the day when our nationalism and patriotism arises in us as strong as Hammer expresses it.

Posted by: Jen Evans at August 7, 2007 06:07 PM

Todd: Stop helping the enemy!

Don't be an ass. He asked me to do that in case someone can help him.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 7, 2007 07:53 PM

With only a few thousand soilders dead nuking is out of the question. If I had the money I would hire this guy "HAMMER" as my body guard ASAP. He is grounded and fixated on FREEDOM. I love it. Good luck to you HAMMER, I hope to see you in the USA once you and your family get that card. I wish you the best.........JOHNNY

Posted by: JOHNNY QUEST at August 7, 2007 07:54 PM

Considering all the hooplah here about infrastucture now imagine what those folk must feel.They have had at minimum 30 plus years of minimal power and daily rations of things we take for granted.Now,toss in the daily mental abuse they faced constantly and its no mystery that what he says of the average Iraqies state of mind can be nothing but true. If you let loose all of the criminals in this country and said
'rule thyself" ,Well,not much of a stretch to imagine the chaos here. So if we actually do give a flying fig about getting these folk a chance at a life of normalcy it behooves us to keep grinding at the small things like electricity,political cohesion,community cooperation et al that we take for granted and they have never known. Just my 2 cents.Thanks Mike from a fellow portlander who gets it.

Posted by: Rich K at August 7, 2007 09:46 PM

Thanks for this interview Mike. And your nearly last question "What would you like to talk about that I have not already asked you?" Was so reasonable, simple, and yet often overlooked by the MSM, thanks. Stay safe. See you soon. -S

Posted by: sean at August 7, 2007 10:06 PM

"Nuke Iraq"

No arguments here.

Posted by: USAPatriot at August 8, 2007 12:51 AM

You know, as a guy who once upon a time signed on to launch nuclear devices (small, underwater ones...but still) I find it disheartening to find people tossing around the idea of using these weapons so shallowly. Killing 15 million or so people will certainly give us "street cred", but it will also demolish our capacity to respond in less than overwhelming force. In case you forgot, or just never were serious enough about modern force projection to ever learn, that is how we lost in Vietnam and afterwards were unable to respond effectively for years.

The key here is to break the tactic of terrorism, make it obsolete like heavy horse cavalry and massed longbowmen. Unless and until we can beat this tactic, we will see it used against us again and again. We have to beat this method and make brutality a bad choice. (Aggression is breaking down a door, throwing in a flash-bang grenade, and shooting anyone who doesn't stay down. Brutality is raping the wife and daughter of the man you just executed.)

For a lot of people in the military, this is a matter of honor. For a lot of people who have forgotten about, or never understood the importance of honor, this is about blowing people up. (Obviously, I'm nowhere near as frustrated with the Iraqi people as Hammer is. Of course, I have US citizenship.)

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 8, 2007 01:35 AM

Great report MJT. Thanks.

If we leave Iraq before winning, we certainly ought not leave people who have helped us, and in doing so risked the lives of themselves and their family, to the mercy of the chaos and revenge killing that will result.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at August 8, 2007 04:10 AM

Anyone know how the American flag issue at the dining facility in Camp Taji got resolved?

Posted by: J.R. at August 8, 2007 05:30 AM

"I think we would lose a battle of the checkbooks. Remember that they've - supposedly - got KSA & other OPEC elements on their side vs. our Congress."

KSA+OPEC cannot even dream of outspending Congress. :)

Posted by: leo at August 8, 2007 05:49 AM

How about using the frozen funds of the various terrorist-front "charities" to pay for anti-al Qaeda attacks?

And here's another tactic:

Use captured insurgents as remote-controlled suicide bombers against terrorist targets. Kind of like the Israeli "good neighbor"/human shield thing, but with a twist.

Picture it. Troops surround a house and demand that the terrorists surrender using a megaphone. They refuse, so Ahmed the insurgent walks up the steps of the house.

One of the terrorists inside peers through the window and sees him coming. He crouches beside the door, and when Ahmed begins to knock, the terrorist quickly lunges at the door, opening it for a split second and pulling Ahmed in at gun point. He slams the door behind him.

They look at each other for a moment. The former insurgent smiles almost apologetically at his compatriot.

And then...

Boom.

Posted by: Edgar at August 8, 2007 06:23 AM

Dan:
Thank you for what you do. I do not think there are many who would take the risks you take to bring us this perspective.
I have been a staunch supporter of the war, but not a big fan of how we have fought it. I think if more people have the opportunity to connect with an Iraqi civilian like "Hammer" they may have a better understanding of why we can not leave till we have finished the job and that country is safe for the Iraqis, and for the world.
I had no idea about "mixers" and this situation, thank you for educating me. I will do what I can to support you and those who risk their lives to get the truth to the rest of the world about what it is like over there. It is the only hope we have of getting this country and Europe to get on board with what we are trying to do in Iraq.
It is very easy to be here in our own safe cacoon shielded from the realities of life in Iraq and to say we need to quit and leave Iraqis to "fend for themselves". When quite litterally that means let them be slaughtered. Aside from the huge importance of having another democracy in the middle east, we must not walk away from Iraq any more than we could walk away from Europe when Hitler was invading.
Thank you for this perspective and I will be glad to support this cause to the best of my ablity.

Posted by: Rick at August 8, 2007 06:47 AM

First of all, kudos to Michael Totten for his excellent reporting. I hope many, many people read his words. Secondly, does Michael (or anyone else) know what is involved with sponsoring someone for a Green Card? People may be interested in helping in some capacity but know absolutely nothing about the process. Thanks!

Posted by: Wade at August 8, 2007 07:31 AM

Hey I'm In Canada, I support the USA 100 percent of the way, most Canadians do, its just not acceptable in our society to do anything but be jelous and thus hate Americans. The same people who hate on Americans 24/7 her love your money and can't understand why no Americans Vacation here anymore. I hope one of you guys is sponsering "Hammer" to come to the united states and get his green card. For the love of God if nobody that reads this site does that I will lose alot of faith in your great country.

Don't let me down guys.

Colin ( In Nova Scotia)

Posted by: Colin at August 8, 2007 07:34 AM

What we have in Iraq right now is so called primary distribution of capital. We are just trying to lessen the amount of blood it usually takes.

Posted by: leo at August 8, 2007 07:46 AM

Americans are the best people in the world, but the US government does not always do the right thing. For example, the US govt supported Saddam Hussein for years. They gave him billions of dollars worth of weapons during the 1980s, including chemical weapons/Anthrax. When Saddam gassed the Kurds the US state department sided with Saddam. The US government has never apologized for its support of Saddam Hussein - it should.

Posted by: James at August 8, 2007 08:47 AM

Rick,

It is very easy to be here in our own safe cacoon shielded from the realities of life in Iraq and to say we need to quit and leave Iraqis to "fend for themselves". When quite litterally that means let them be slaughtered.

Hmmm, slaughtered by whom exactly? The 100 or so members of Al-Qaeda? Please! Just who would "slaughter" these poor Iraqis?

Posted by: Dan at August 8, 2007 09:04 AM

Dan: Please! Just who would "slaughter" these poor Iraqis?

I'm positive you just did a "line" before you "wrote" that. Time to call it a "night."

Let's begin the "list":

Sunnis "slaughtering" Shia civilians
Shia "slaughtering" Sunni civilians
Kurds "slaughtering" Arabs
Arabs "slaughtering" Kurds
Kurds "slaughtering" Turks
Turks "slaughtering" Kurds
Criminal gangs "slaughtering" people for money
Saddam's old buddies "slaughtering" collaborators
Arab Muslims "slaughtering" Arab Christians

and on...and on...

Posted by: Edgar at August 8, 2007 09:25 AM

For a lot of people who have forgotten about, or never understood the importance of honor, this is about blowing people up.

Correction: ...this is more than about blowing people up.

Clarification: The US military is currently the best it has ever been, it is in the field, it is overwhelmingly staying within the bounds of strict discipline, they have the best tools, they are getting better tools, the economy they protect is growing, and their enemy is particularly despicable. Given all that, yielding the field on the basis of less than 1% casualties per year is unthinkably dishonorable.

If we cannot muster the will to win this fight, we cannot muster the will to protect ourselves anywhere. Surrender is an existential threat.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 8, 2007 10:39 AM

Thanks MJT & Hammer.

Just a couple of points.

1) I'm a supporter of the Iraq war for a whole bunch of reasons.

2) I was not thrilled with the way the occupation was run. I believe that we should not have been in such a hurry to form a national governmnet but should have started at a more local level instituting the rule of law, etc. But, as has been pointed out, this might not have been a good choice. Which leads me to .....

3)20/20 hindsight isn't. Sure you can say that "Gee X didn't work out well; we should have done Y." BUT how do you know that Y wouldn't have been worse? You don't know what the path would have led to if you started down a divergent path in the past. The best you can do is hope that the people in charge have their heads screwed on right, are operating on principle and are willing to make changes. We aren't face with nice clear good vs. bad decisions in most cases. We're faced with not great vs. bad or pretty good vs. a little better or, in Iraq, pretty shitty vs. brutally evil.

Posted by: AlanC at August 8, 2007 10:52 AM

The same people who hate on Americans 24/7 her love your money and can't understand why no Americans Vacation here anymore

Easy, you're damn Canadian dollar is too high. Back when it was 75 cents US to 1 Can, we used to go all the time.

Posted by: vanya at August 8, 2007 11:37 AM

For example, the US govt supported Saddam Hussein for years. They gave him billions of dollars worth of weapons during the 1980s, including chemical weapons/Anthrax.

No they didn't. While relations between Hussein and the US government certainly thawed during the eighties, "billions of dollars worth of weapons" were not given to Iraq by anyone, much less the US. The USSR sold them a lot of weapons, and some equipment was sold by US companies to Iraq that was later converted to military use, but no one was giving out gifts of weaponry and chemical weapons precursors.

It's not hard to look stuff like this up before making claims about it. I encourage you to do so.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 8, 2007 12:21 PM

If we cannot muster the will to win this fight, we cannot muster the will to protect ourselves anywhere.

Please. Failing to win the peace in Iraq has nothing to do with the US being able to protect itself. The nation did not fall to invading commie hordes after Vietnam, and will not fall to hordes of crazed Jihadists if it fails in Iraq.

Mind you, oil might be a bit trickier to get a hold of in the long run though...

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 8, 2007 12:25 PM

DPU: No one was giving out gifts of weaponry and chemical weapons precursors.

Oh, really.

I suppose you haven't seen the video clip of Rummy shaking Saddam's hand.

And I also don't suppose you noticed what Saddam did after the handshake?

Didn't think so.

Here's what: he put his hand in his pocket.

What did Rummy give the Iraqi dictator? Nobody really knows. But I assure you it was not a lifesaver.

Posted by: Edgar at August 8, 2007 12:31 PM

Obviously, Rummsfield handed him the keys to the Lincoln bedroom.

Duh

:rolls eyes:

Posted by: Michael in Seattle at August 8, 2007 01:00 PM

dpu,

Please. Failing to win the peace in Iraq has nothing to do with the US being able to protect itself. The nation did not fall to invading commie hordes after Vietnam, and will not fall to hordes of crazed Jihadists if it fails in Iraq.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_terrorist_incidents
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Trade_Center_bombing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11%2C_2001_attacks
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khobar_Towers
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1998_U.S._embassy_bombings
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uss_cole

We are not fighting the Vietnam war. The Vietnamese war was also a counter-insurgency, but there was no organized effort on the part of Communists to take the war in Vietnam to American shores. Nuclear brinkmanship probably had something to do with this, but Soviet culture was also in play.

In the war we are fighting, today against non-state, militant Islamic organizations and others, not forty years ago against state based communists, there is a real risk of substantial harm to US citizens at home and abroad.

Not everything is about threat of invasion. The purpose of our national security system is to protect US interests at home and abroad. Dying by arteriosclerosis is slower than execution by firing squad, but that doesn't make it more palatable as a future. We will suffer fatally if we do not vigorously defend our interests.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embargo_Act_of_1807

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 8, 2007 01:02 PM

Not everything is about threat of invasion. The purpose of our national security system is to protect US interests at home and abroad.

Which is why many opposed the war on the grounds that it would have a paradoxical effect.

The point remains that the US will not fall apart or fail to protect itself should it fail in Iraq. And it isn't just a matter of having sufficient will to win. All the will in the world may not be enough to succeed in Iraq.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 8, 2007 01:31 PM

Dying by arteriosclerosis is slower than execution by firing squad, but that doesn't make it more palatable as a future.

Of course, but there's also the matter of confusing a case of hangnail with a case of arteriosclerosis.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 8, 2007 01:33 PM

dpu,

The point remains that the US will not fall apart or fail to protect itself should it fail in Iraq. And it isn't just a matter of having sufficient will to win. All the will in the world may not be enough to succeed in Iraq.

That is factually untrue on both counts.

The US substantially suffered after the abandonment of Vietnam. Our economy suffered, we suffered in our relations abroad because we settled for realpolitik instead of using force. Everybody knew they could push the US and we wouldn't push back, so we got pushed pretty hard and we still haven't recovered.

All the will in the world will in fact quiet Iraq, Saddam Hussein proved that. All the will in the world means abandoning your principles and identity to accomplish a set goal. It is a stupid saying unless you understand what will is. Go rent "The Usual Suspects" for a primer on will. For advanced studies, see "Triumph of the Will". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_of_the_Will We do not want to have to rely on will alone, we can do better than that.

What makes your comments particularly limited is that they do not acknowledge that we are doing better in Iraq since the Surge started, and not just militarily.

By the way, blood poisoning from a hangnail is in fact fatal. Perhaps you should look into systemic failure more closely. Waiting until you are actually circling the drain is a bad plan.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 8, 2007 01:47 PM

All the will in the world will in fact quiet Iraq, Saddam Hussein proved that.

I had assumed that we were talking about possibilities that did not involve returning to the status quo before the invasion.

What makes your comments particularly limited is that they do not acknowledge that we are doing better in Iraq since the Surge started, and not just militarily.

I also did not acknowledge that the world is round. Did you take that to mean that I think it flat?

The Iraqi government is on the point of collapse. July's casualties are high for the time of year, but that would be true whether the surge was working or not. By which benchmarks are you claiming that the surge is improving the situation?

By the way, blood poisoning from a hangnail is in fact fatal. Perhaps you should look into systemic failure more closely. Waiting until you are actually circling the drain is a bad plan.

Yes, but someone who claims every hangnail is about to kill him has a mental disorder.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 8, 2007 01:56 PM

Parliamentary governments are designed to fail, if they do not fail during changing times they do not improve. There probably need to be elections held this fall or winter.

I am shocked, shocked to discover that casualties rise in the middle of an offensive! Of course, if you want to talk about real casualties...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_somme Overall, however, the first day on the Somme was a failure. The British had suffered 19,240 dead, 35,493 wounded, 2,152 missing and 585 prisoners for a total loss of 57,470.

That is what failed efforts look like.

Yes, but someone who claims every hangnail is about to kill him has a mental disorder.

And somebody who has already lost toes to hangnail and refuses to view further hangnails as serious problems is a fool.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 8, 2007 02:17 PM

Parliamentary governments are designed to fail, if they do not fail during changing times they do not improve.

Parliamentary governments that fail due to sectarian parties pulling out of the government while their militia death squads duke it out in the streets has little to do with improvement during changing times. I do admire the chutzpah required to give it that spin, though.

I repeat - what benchmarks are you using to claim that the surge has improved the situation?

That is what failed efforts look like.

Demonstrating that somewhere in history conditions have been worse is a particularly desperate debating technique. It also has nothing to do with the point, as I already indicated that the casualty figure prove nothing one way or the other.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 8, 2007 02:24 PM

Michael,

Thanks for an interview that offered a lot of information about an ally and his concerns if readers can read the lines and inbetween. Our disconnection to the occupation is tragic, and our so called discussions about 'the war' leave out the main players.

I cannot imagine the courage and desparation he must be feeling, and how hard it must be to also think his asylum an unlikely occurrance at the moment for the sake of his wife and baby. More of these would be valuable.

Be safe.

Posted by: Dan at AngryBear at August 8, 2007 02:33 PM

In the great scheme of consequences from Vietnam, we might also take note of the Soviet freedom of action that encouraged them to invade Afghanistan, the long-term results of which we got to all see one bright fall morning.

Posted by: Bravo Romeo Delta at August 8, 2007 03:14 PM

...we might also take note of the Soviet freedom of action that encouraged them to invade Afghanistan...

Blaming the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on US failure in Vietnam is a bit of a stretch, isn't it?

...the long-term results of which we got to all see one bright fall morning.

Those results were caused by some of those who drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan. That is an even more tenuous connection to Vietnam.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 8, 2007 03:29 PM

I repeat - what benchmarks are you using to claim that the surge has improved the situation?

Military Anecdote:
http://michaelyon-online.com/wp/bread-and-a-circus-part-ii-of-ii.htm

US Poll Numbers:
http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2007/08/latest-poll-sho.html
10% shift in one month

Mainstream Media:
http://www.breitbart.com/print.php?id=D8QRMCU00&show_article=1
The new U.S. military strategy in Iraq, unveiled six months ago to little acclaim, is working.

Think Tanks:
http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/080607_iraq-strategicpatience.pdf

What benchmarks are you using to show that the surge is failing...that actually matter more? How much experience do you have with conditions on the ground in Iraq?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 8, 2007 03:34 PM

What benchmarks are you using to show that the surge is failing...

Where did I say that it was failing? And as I haven't said that, what did I say that made you assume that I think it is failing?

So your benchmarks for success are Michael Yon's experiences, an opinion poll of Americans, a media article, and a think tank?

I would have thought that things like reduced incidents of insurgency, number of refugees returning, and increased political stability would be appropriate benchmarks. Improved polling of Americans would be a decent benchmark if the aim of the surge was to increase government popularity.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 8, 2007 03:47 PM

dpu,

I've cited specific references which you do not appear to have checked. This is a degree of superficiality that is insulting to the point of trollishness.

If you want to meet hot guys in your area who want to chat, go to a different web site and leave me alone.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 8, 2007 04:37 PM

I've cited specific references which you do not appear to have checked.

You have cited a Michael Yon piece, a poll that indicates an increase in approval of the surge, an opinion piece in the media, and a PDF file that crashed my browser.

Beyond that, I'm afraid that my mind-reading skills are somewhat lacking.

If you want to meet hot guys in your area who want to chat, go to a different web site and leave me alone.

Wow, your argument must be far weaker than I thought. I win.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 8, 2007 04:47 PM

DPU:Please. Failing to win the peace in Iraq has nothing to do with the US being able to protect itself.

Now how in the crap do you know that??? Osama Bin Laden believed the United States a paper tiger when he attacked us on 9/11, citing Reagan's withdrawal from Beirut THIRTY YEARS EARLIER, and you claim to know how failure in Iraq will affect us tommorow or 50 years from now?

Please, don't make me laugh.

Posted by: Carlos at August 8, 2007 05:09 PM

I repeat - what benchmarks are you using to claim that the surge has improved the situation?

Read it and weep:

The morale of our GIs is higher than ever.

Civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began.

Former allies of AQ are turning against them and asking us for help.

In the last six months Iraqis have begun to turn on the extremists and turn to the Americans for security and help.

Today the Sunni sheiks there are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies. Just a few months ago, American marines were fighting for every yard of Ramadi.

In some of Baghad's roughest neighborhoods life is slowly coming back with stores and shoppers.

The American high command assesses that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable partners (at least for as long as American forces remain in Iraq).

Corrupt and sectarian Iraqi commanders who once infested the force have been removed.

Far more Iraqi units are well integrated in terms of ethnicity and religion.

In the past, few Iraqi units could do more than provide a few soldiers to put a thin Iraqi face on largely American operations. Today, in only a few sectors do American commanders complain that their Iraqi formations were useless — something that was the rule, not the exception in late 2005.

American military formations brought in as part of the surge and the increasing competence of the Iraqis has had another critical effect: no more whack-a-mole, with insurgents popping back up after the Americans leave.

The coalition’s new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working. Although much more needs to be done to create jobs, a new emphasis on microloans and small-scale projects was having some success where the previous aid programs often built white elephants.

The surge has allowed the military to fashion its own advisory groups from battalion, brigade and division staffs. Dozens of military officers who before the war had known little about governance or business are now ably immersing themselves in projects to provide the average Iraqi with a decent life.

Many towns and neighborhoods are standing up local police forces, which generally prove more effective, less corrupt and less sectarian.

There's more.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/30/opinion/30pollack.html?ex=1186718400&en=79665c886df0d9fc&ei=5070

Posted by: Carlos at August 8, 2007 05:44 PM

Carlos,

You have responded honorably and with a strong grasp of fact and reason. You are hereby excused from further responses to dpu. You aren't what he is looking for and he is not interested in arguing facts.

Thank you for a better response than I gave. I was already on my last nerve with him.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 8, 2007 06:01 PM

Patrick Lasswell: If you want to meet hot guys in your area who want to chat, go to a different web site and leave me alone.

For what it's worth, I agree with you, on political matters.

But you've just responded to a reasonable argument by a long-time commenter by calling him a homosexual.

Get a grip. And stop accusing everyone who disagrees with you a "troll." Or worse, as you've just done.

Dismissed.

Posted by: Edgar at August 8, 2007 06:50 PM

Oh and Carlos,

I'm not sure what you thought about this: You are hereby excused from further responses to dpu.

But it's clear that Pat has an issue with control.

Posted by: Edgar at August 8, 2007 07:28 PM

It seems to me Pat has an issue with intellectual dishonesty. DPU is an eternal pessimist in the face of progress by the surge, yet he poo poos the progress at every turn. At times, even honorable men lose their patience with whiney pessimists. This behavior tends to bring out the worst in people, especially when the stakes are so very high and the effort on behalf of some to help is so very lacking.

Posted by: Kenneth at August 8, 2007 08:08 PM

DPU is a pessimist, but he is not a troll.

He offered to buy me ice cream if/when I visit him in Vancouver, BC. Trolls don't offer to buy me ice cream.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 8, 2007 08:11 PM

3)20/20 hindsight isn't. Sure you can say that "Gee X didn't work out well; we should have done Y." BUT how do you know that Y wouldn't have been worse? You don't know what the path would have led to if you started down a divergent path in the past. The best you can do is hope that the people in charge have their heads screwed on right, are operating on principle and are willing to make changes. We aren't face with nice clear good vs. bad decisions in most cases. We're faced with not great vs. bad or pretty good vs. a little better or, in Iraq, pretty shitty vs. brutally evil.

The most frustrating thing about this whole situation is how people just can't seem to get that. Iraq is a wicked problem. It is by definition impossible to do it right. "OK" is the best we can hope for and that's better than it was. I am sure some other choices would have been better in the long run but faced with several choices all of which have both pros and cons, there is no way to know ahead of time. You just have to pick one - hopefully based on your values and experience, maybe mixed with a little intuition - and follow it through and then deal with what happens next, and next, and next....

This drives Idealists, and utopians, and anyone who hates ambiguity, nuts.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 8, 2007 08:24 PM

The USSR sold them a lot of weapons, and some equipment was sold by US companies to Iraq that was later converted to military use, but no one was giving out gifts of weaponry and chemical weapons precursors.

Russia supplied Saddam with most of his weapons, followed by France and then China. In case you're wondering why the UNSC resolution to depose Saddam failed.

These are the folks who were bribed with Saddam's Oil for Food money. We are not among them. Also we created and patrolled the no-fly zones which allowed the Kurdish people to survive. Other nations have way more to answer for that we do.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 8, 2007 08:33 PM

Totten, is this your idea of a moderate Iraqi? A sell out who thinks his country should be nuked? And who tries to comfort you by saying, "the Shia are easy to control"? I mean he is obviously doing it to beg for a Green Card, but this is really low.

For some reason, wherever you go, Lebanon, Kurdistan or Iraq, you're always looking for people like this guy.

Posted by: amused at August 8, 2007 08:45 PM

Amused: Totten, is this your idea of a moderate Iraqi?

No. He is obviously extreme. "Nuke Iraq," come on, I don't think that's a moderate opinion and you goddamned well know it.

For some reason, wherever you go, Lebanon, Kurdistan or Iraq, you're always looking for people like this guy.

I don't look for them, they are all over the region. I run into them constantly. You have obviously never been to the Middle East.

Did you know pro-American opinion is higher in Lebanon than it is in Canada? And the Kurds are more pro-American than Americans.

Anyway, who did you expect me to meet while embedded with the Army? Iraqis who hate Americans don't work with Americans.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 8, 2007 08:57 PM

And the Kurds are more pro-American than Americans.

You can chalk that up to our Liberals. Besides AQ, they are the most anti-American people on the planet. With friends like them we don't need enemies.

Posted by: Carlos at August 8, 2007 09:02 PM

Green card this, and green card that.
Some people seem to think the solution to the world's problems is to give everybody on the planet a green card.

Posted by: L at August 8, 2007 09:35 PM

No. He is obviously extreme. "Nuke Iraq," come on, I don't think that's a moderate opinion and you goddamned well know it.

He sounds like Lefty Westerners trying to be funny. "Let's nuke Amerikkka. He he he."

Posted by: Yehudit at August 8, 2007 10:27 PM

Did you know pro-American opinion is higher in Lebanon than it is in Canada?

Is there anywhere pro-American opinion is lower than it is in Canada?

Posted by: bgates at August 8, 2007 11:30 PM

Heck MJT, I'd buy you some ice cream, even a real milkshake, if ever you are in the Raleigh, NC area .

Posted by: Ron Snyder at August 9, 2007 04:25 AM

Kenneth: DPU is an eternal pessimist in the face of progress by the surge

And why shouldn't he be? Given the track record of "progress" so far in Iraq, it's fairly obvious the surge will not have a meaningful, long-term result. Yes, it's depressing, especially to people who supported the war and still do.

It would be great if everyone could remain optimistic, but there's definitely a case to be made that the surge won't work.

You think pessimism brings out the worst in people. I agree that it can't get much worse than hurling bigoted, anti-gay insults at another commenter.

Posted by: Edgar at August 9, 2007 05:42 AM

Green card this, and green card that.

If the likes of DPU have their way, 90% of Iraqis will want and need a green card.

Posted by: Carlos at August 9, 2007 07:10 AM

I don't pretend to be on par with the other commenters in my knowledge of much of anything, but I read and I learn! Thank you, Michael and stay safe!

Posted by: Chris at August 9, 2007 07:22 AM

Nor do I, Chris, but I know a commenter with a political agenda when I see one. And I know just about everyone on the Left has a tremendous amount of capital invested on a US loss. A win in Iraq would put them out of power for quite some lengthy period of time. Thus, the better things go in Iraq, the testier they become.

Posted by: joe at August 9, 2007 07:44 AM

A win in Iraq would put them out of power for quite some lengthy period of time.

Exactly. Yet they could accuse the Right of being similarly vested politically in the outcome. To which I preemptively respond that, yes, the Right's fortunes hang on America's success (nothing wrong with that), while the Left's hang on America's failure. For shame.

Posted by: Carlos at August 9, 2007 08:35 AM

Carlos: If the likes of DPU have their way, 90% of Iraqis will want and need a green card.

That's absolutely moronic. He never said he hopes that the U.S. fails in Iraq.

MJT,

I don't understand why you felt the need to defend him against "troll" accusations, but haven't said anything about people taunting him with anti-gay insults.

Posted by: Edgar at August 9, 2007 09:29 AM

Gotta love when wikipedia, and media releases are favored references to prove points. That shows a complete lack of knowledge as to what a reputable reference is.

Patrick,
I don't know where you think you get off slurring anti-gay rhetoric. Is that the way you act when you have no valid response to someone's argument? Are you still in the 3rd grade? If you no good response to a solid argument, then deal with it in a manner that isn't slanderous, insulting, and bigotry.

To comment you your question as to if DPU has experience on the ground in Iraq, is that to mean that anyone who hasn't fought in Iraq has no place in commenting on the war? That's the most ludicrous assertion I've ever heard. I guess by that rational American citizens who have never had experience in politics shouldn't be allowed to vote either. Since by voting you are commenting on your political preference regarding candidates.

Posted by: JohnDakota at August 9, 2007 09:39 AM

Hey Patrick,

I almost forgot, you still haven't cited your philosophy publications. I'd still love to read anything you've had peer reviewed. But without a citation I'll take that as you have none though. If that's the case I wouldn't go around commenting on people's argumentation style, and how yours is so much better (when in reality it's a whole lot of fluff).

Posted by: JohnDakota at August 9, 2007 09:42 AM

DPU is an eternal pessimist in the face of progress by the surge,...

I haven't said anything one way or another regarding the success of the surge other than to ask what the benchmarks were. The fact that several commenters have taken that to mean that I oppose the surge, or think it's failing, or that I hope that it fails speaks volumes about their own mindsets, not mine.

For the record, I hope the surge succeeds. I don't think that it will because of the nature of the difficulties that Iraq faces and the nature of those who are opposed to stability in Iraq. In terms of whether it is currently succeeding or not, I have no idea. My own benchmarks for success will not be measurable for a while.

Edgar: But you've just responded to a reasonable argument by a long-time commenter by calling him a homosexual.

Not that there's anything wrong with that :) But thanks.

MJT: DPU is a pessimist, but he is not a troll.

I like to think that socialists are optimistic to the point of insanity. Besides, my pessimistic notions about how things would turn out in Iraq make me more of a realsit, wouldn't you say? But thanks, I appreciate the comment.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 9, 2007 11:07 AM

Heh. "realsit" == "realist" in my post above.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 9, 2007 11:14 AM

While dpu may not be a troll, he was astonishingly annoying yesterday, to the point where he earned the comparison to internet spam and late-night television commercials. He also failed to acknowledge any of my point or cite references of his own while continuously calling for my criteria. That's the point where it seemed to me that he was seeking out social contact more than intellectual honesty. If some people want to interpret my comments as anti-homosexual, that would be intellectual dishonesty.

Besides, I'm 43, curmudgeonly, overweight, straight, and have a bad haircut. How can you assemble that and take it seriously when I pose myself as a "hot guy?" Get real.

I almost forgot, you still haven't cited your philosophy publications.

The writer of this comment is trollish. Establishing your own requirements then hounding people across multiple threads to pursue them is trollish behavior. I do not get to require anybody to shut the hell up and then hound them across multiple threads when they fail to do so. You are not the boss of me and this is not your blog. I do not respect you and I do not respect your behavior, especially when you claim authority you clearly do not have.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 9, 2007 11:30 AM

DPU: Not that there's anything wrong with that

Definitely not. And it's sad because this blog has a good track record of not tolerating anti-semitism and racism.

It shouldn't tolerate outburts of vile homphobic invective either, like we heard from Patrick.

It's unfortunate that this kind of talk is often ignored and dismissed as no big deal. But it has to be combatted whenever it pops up.

Posted by: Edgar at August 9, 2007 11:34 AM

Kids, don't make me pull over this car.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 9, 2007 11:34 AM

Edgar, I know Patrick and I know that he did not intend his comment the way you interpreted it. His brother is gay. He is not an anti-gay person.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 9, 2007 11:36 AM

He is not an anti-gay person.

Ah. It was a compliment then?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 9, 2007 11:38 AM

While dpu may not be a troll, he was astonishingly annoying yesterday, to the point where he earned the comparison to internet spam and late-night television commercials.

You must be new at this.

He also failed to acknowledge any of my point or cite references of his own while continuously calling for my criteria.

You didn't make any point that I could see. And what references should I cite while trying to identify what basis you have for saying the surge is succeeding?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 9, 2007 11:41 AM

Patrick,

Trollish? You commented that I was ignorant as to how a well formulated argument is organized. That if I were learned I would understand your posts were all full of essential material to explain "complex" ideas (I'd disagree about that complexity, but that's besides the point). So I only asked to show proof that you yourself are so learned and respected as an authority on anything. Having something published by a peer reviewed source isn't overly difficult, but shows that there is some original, and logical thought put into whatever has been published, as opposed to your own personal opinion of your own argumentation style (which is obviously biased).

If asking for authentic, reliable proof of something YOU claim is true is trollish, then I guess we should take everything you say is valid irregardless of how crazy it may seem.

Posted by: JohnDakota at August 9, 2007 11:41 AM

Michael,

They can't take a joke. They won't listen to reason while they think they have right, or something they can present as injury, on their side.

I am not going to cede the point, but I regret that the quality of discourse on this thread failed your standards.

On the plus side, it appears that our diabolical plan to present ourselves as iconic figures searching for truth is working like a champ. Yesterday I presented myself as "hot guy" and nobody pointed and laughed.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 9, 2007 11:46 AM

If asking for authentic, reliable proof of something YOU claim is true is trollish,...

Some people feel attacked when asked to back up their opinions. I'm never really sure if that is a personality quirk, because they're not good at explaining their opinions, or because they don't have much of an argument.

At any rate, if anyone else has a cohesive reason for thinking that the surge is succeeding, I'd love to hear it. Or maybe we could at least come to a consensus as to what would demonstrate success.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 9, 2007 11:47 AM

Perhaps we can all refrain from engaging in personal attacks for the time being. It really isn’t a useful way to forward the discussion, although it is tempting. And enough with this Anti-Gay nonsense. The comment was not inherently anti-gay, it was Anti-DPU, and he can take care of himself. While it may have been an unnecessary swipe, it is projection to read anti-gay sentiment into it, and seems to be an attempt to discredit and deflect the discussion from the actual topic at hand with PC hypersensitivity.
Last time I checked, peer review was not a requirement to post opinions in the comments sections. Patrick’s Blog is linked to by MJT extensively and is easily accessible by clicking on his name at the end of his comments. I am sure he welcomes all visitors to his blog to judge his body of work. There are some relative newcomers to the comments sections who are not familiar with the un-written Rules of Engagement, and over reacting isn’t helpful and sets a bad precedent.
I appreciate the work MJT is doing and would rather he be allowed to focus on producing more great work than moderate squabbles in the comments.
High road, Gentlemen, Take the high road.
-L

Posted by: Lindsey at August 9, 2007 11:48 AM

DPU,

Don't feel so bad. Most of the time I also have no idea what the point of his posts are too until I take a few minutes to re-read the posts and filter them for substance. Oh well I guess those are the breaks!

Posted by: JohnDakota at August 9, 2007 11:49 AM

Yesterday I presented myself as "hot guy" and nobody pointed and laughed.

On the internet, no one knows you're a dog.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 9, 2007 11:49 AM

I'll make it easier for everyone:

P. Laswell and co.: Surge is working. For proof look at personal experiences of people on the ground. Look at military reports, polls, and media reports, and analyses by think-tanks who are studying the conflict.

DPU: We don't know if surge is working. If it is, the proof is found by using quantititive measures (lower numbers of attacks, number of people coming back to Iraq, length of time a government stays in power, etc.).

This is a reasonable argument to have. Why are people so bothered by it?

Posted by: Edgar at August 9, 2007 11:52 AM

"On the plus side, it appears that our diabolical plan to present ourselves as iconic figures searching for truth is working like a champ. Yesterday I presented myself as "hot guy" and nobody pointed and laughed."

I giggled! :)

OK, you guys posted while I was writing, so please excuse if my post is an unnecessary addition. I don't want to stir the pot...
-L

Posted by: Lindsey at August 9, 2007 11:52 AM

This is a reasonable argument to have.

I welcomed the surge, but felt that in order to have a long term effect, the commitment had to be far larger. The small amount of resources committed seemed to smack of a quick fix, and we've seen too many of them from this administration with poor results. And at the time, in this comment section, I predicted that in the Iraqi government would instruct the Shia militias to take a break for the duration of the surge and go after the Sunni militias instead (one commenter in this thread predictably diagnosed me with BDS for that, although the prediction seems to have come about).

At any rate, the real test of whether the surge has succeeded will be if it meets its stated goals, namely reducing the sectarian violence in Baghdad and remove al Qaeda from Anbar.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 9, 2007 12:06 PM

Patrick: our diabolical plan to present ourselves as iconic figures searching for truth

Uh, I don't try to present myself as an iconic figure. I'm just a person with a Web site.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 9, 2007 12:09 PM

DPU: I welcomed the surge, but felt that in order to have a long term effect, the commitment had to be far larger. The small amount of resources committed seemed to smack of a quick fix, and we've seen too many of them from this administration with poor results.

For what it's worth, I pretty much agree with this. I have seen positive results of the surge with my own eyes. In some cases the results are extraordinary. Will it hold? It very well may not. Americans do want a quick fix, especially America's liberals. A stable and democratic Iraq cannot be made in the microwave.

If Petraeus's report next month is positive enough, he may be able to purchase some patience from the American public. That is what we all should hope for. Otherwise, Iraq is probably finished. Anbar Province is coming along nicely, but there will be no quick fixes in Baghdad.

What I think DPU might be missing is that the current strategy actually works (for now), whereas the previous strategies did not. The American military has learned a great deal about counterinsurgency by making mistakes and learning what doesn't work. "Clear, hold, build" works well where it has been implemented. See Ramadi (or wait for my reports from Ramadi).

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 9, 2007 12:18 PM

That's why it is such a cunning plan, milord...

Oh crap! I just cast myself as Baldrick!

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 9, 2007 12:19 PM

In some cases the results are extraordinary. Will it hold? It very well may not.

I would still qualify the surge as working if it creates enough of a breathing space for some kind of political, economic, and social infrastructure in place that could deal with sectarian violence after the surge.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 9, 2007 12:24 PM

I just cast myself as Baldrick!

And I just spent the last two evenings watching Blackadder seasons one through four. Now I'm stuck with a mental image to go with the name. Things can only go downhill from here.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 9, 2007 12:26 PM

Little boy kisses little girl (or vise versa).

Adult sees it and make big deal out of it.

Who would be pervert in this situation?

The one who kissed or the one who had dirty thoughts?

Posted by: leo at August 9, 2007 12:34 PM

leo: Little boy kisses little girl...Adults...make big deal out of it. Who would be pervert in this situation? The one who kissed or the one who had dirty thoughts?

Er...leo? What exactly does that have to do with fighting insurgents in Iraq?

Unless you mean it metaphorically:

The Sunnis are the "little boy," the Shia are the "little girl," and the "parents" are the American left. And the "kissing" is killing -- something that's natural in the middle east but Americans are appalled by.

Yeah, I can see that.

Answer: the kiddies are the ones with the sick minds. The parents are only trying to help them.

Posted by: Edgar at August 9, 2007 12:41 PM

leo,

You also did not include a link to your philosophical underpinnings to that analogy!

The finger points at the moon...

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 9, 2007 12:57 PM

Awwwww.. someone seems a little mad that he doesn't have any solid rebuttals. Need a hanky?

Anyway leo didn't need to cite anything. He posed a question. You seem to have issues with identifying differences between arguments and questions. But that's OK. Everyone starts out somewhere.

Posted by: JohnDakota at August 9, 2007 01:01 PM

Peace through a shared love of Blackadder.
See, we can all get along!
Patrick, you don't look anything like Baldric, you are much taller.
-L

Posted by: Lindsey at August 9, 2007 01:35 PM

I'll bet Leo can respond on his own if he feels the need. I doubt he requires so much 3rd party help.

Posted by: lg at August 9, 2007 01:40 PM

You all are correct. My last comment has nothing to do with insurgency.

It had to do with few social questions some of you have raised.

Personally, all I want is to get back to discussing issue of insurgency and not of bigotry or of sexual preferences or of anything like that.

PS. Sorry for the delay with reply. Been busy.

Posted by: leo at August 9, 2007 01:59 PM

Some years ago Sean and I got in an argument about genetics and being Irish. Something about being named after an Irish person provided me with a genetic destiny in Sean's argument. It was some years ago but, for reasons that didn't make sense to me then, I was supposed to be mean to English people because my name was Patrick.

Finally, I explained to Sean that neither of us were sufficiently Irish because we had not adjourned to the nearest pub, gotten piss drunk, and settled the matter in the alley with our fists. (Okay, I added the pub and piss drunk part just now.) Sean accepted that argument, and I'm pretty sure he would take (or give) a friendly ass kicking with dignity if he were raised in Dublin instead of Salem, Oregon.

I get angry at Sean every once and a while, but he is still worth arguing with. He routinely acknowledges valid points when they are made and will refrain from using arguments when told that they are beyond the pale. I sometimes consider the inviting nature of Dublin pub debating rules when chatting with Sean, but I've overcome the urge.

There are some people in this thread who clearly would benefit from greater familiarity with Dublin pub debating rules. Enhancing their clarity through percussive maintenance seems like the fastest route to enlightenment.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 9, 2007 02:14 PM

Patrick,

Wow, well put man! That has to be by far the most awesome version of "If I knew where you lived I'd beat you up!" conveyed over the internet yet. That also says a lot since it's been said uncountable times. Congrats!

And yes, I do agree you have some good arguments. I just feel they have lots of fluff that's not needed. That's all.

Posted by: JohnDakota at August 9, 2007 02:34 PM

My internet access has been pretty limited lately, so I'll say thanks to DPU for wading against the current for me. Picking up where he left off with Mike:

What I think DPU might be missing is that the current strategy actually works (for now), whereas the previous strategies did not. The American military has learned a great deal about counterinsurgency by making mistakes and learning what doesn't work.

I can't speak for DPU, but my personal skepticism incorporates this perspective, rather than dismissing it. I don't think you, or Ken Pollack, are making these favorable stories up as a favor to the military, but I do question "what do they mean?".

As I said in my long dissent, Mike, you're being shown tactical pictures, not strategic ones. Just because people are seeing improvements doesn't equate to 'now we can win'. Improvements can be made to a dire situation without those improvements being conclusive. Or, to put it another way, have any of these newly energized Iraqi troops, any of this "one third decline in civilian casualties in some areas" ( a statistic too secondhand and casual to be believed), any of this "high Army morale" - has any of this ended the insurgency? Moreover, does any of it genuinely threaten to end the insurgency, or are we just ***putting a lid on it***?

It's more than just "reducing civilian casualties from 3000 a month to 2000 is not victory, even if it means you can honestly say "things are looking up!". It's also, reducing civilian casualties from 3000 a month to 2000 a month doesn't mean that if you wait another six months, you'll reduce the conflict by another year, and then the year after that, it's over.

"Clear, hold and build" has been producing tactical successes since 2004 while the strategic situation continued to deteriorate. I don't have any facts that demonstrate a genuinely dramatic improvement, of the sort that promises to end the war in our favor. All I see so far is a mitigation of the conflict by degree being paraded, (not by you) as, basically, victory.

General Petraeus' public remarks indicate that he knows that the US military is in no position to force a capitulation on our enemies. That's why he admits that we're just icing to a political resolution that seems unlikely to happen until after we leave. None of the power brokers in Iraq want that resolution to include "and US forces get to stay until the whole region is rearranged to their satisfaction."

Posted by: glasnost at August 9, 2007 03:41 PM

Anyone who wants to see how far the situation is from normal can look at the poor guy in this interview, who loves America and suggests, even jokingly, that we fix his home country by nuking it. This guy has no home in Iraq now, and it's clear he knows it. He's a citizen of GreenZone-ia. He's a refugee.

Posted by: glasnost at August 9, 2007 03:47 PM

I should also add that although I may think Patrick's version of "If I knew where you lived I'd kick your ass" is awesome, it's also the perfect example of the fluff I've been talking about. It's 225 words to say what I said in 10.

Posted by: JohnDakota at August 9, 2007 04:39 PM

glasnost,

As I said in my long dissent, Mike, you're being shown tactical pictures, not strategic ones.

How is the Army supposed to show Michael an expanding Gross Domestic Product?

Is there something like in Hogwarts where the different houses get points magically added and subtracted where everybody can see it? If there was such an artifact, wouldn't all the terrorist factions try to blow it up immediately?

You seem to be asking for something that cannot be answered satisfactorily. More than that, you are asking for something that the enemy is working extensively to make sure that can never be answered to your satisfaction.

I am reminded of a classic work of English Literature: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071853/quotes
King Arthur: I command you, as King of the Britons, to stand aside!
Black Knight: I move for no man.
King Arthur: So be it!
[They fight until Arthur cuts off Black Knight's left arm]
King Arthur: Now, stand aside, worthy adversary!
Black Knight: 'Tis but a scratch!
King Arthur: A scratch? Your arm's off!
Black Knight: No, it isn't!
King Arthur: Well, what's that then?
King Arthur: I've had worse.
King Arthur: You liar!
Black Knight: Come on, you pansy!
[They fight again. Arthur cuts off the Knight's right arm]
King Arthur: Victory is mine!
[Kneels to pray]
King Arthur: We thank thee, Lord, that in thy mercy -
[Cut off by the Knight kicking him]
Black Knight: Come on, then.
King Arthur: What?
Black Knight: Have at you!
King Arthur: You are indeed brave, Sir Knight, but the fight is mine!
Black Knight: Oh, had enough, eh?
King Arthur: Look, you stupid bastard. You've got no arms left!

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 9, 2007 04:55 PM

JohnDakota, who exactly appointed you the comments police? The unnecessary Snark is really not welcome. If you don't like Patrick’s style, DONT READ IT! These little pokes and jabs are boring. At least address the merit rather than the expository style of the comments, or better yet, keep it all to yourself.
"...the idiot looks at the finger"

Posted by: lg at August 9, 2007 05:01 PM

What is this Iraqi national with an L3Com logo masquerading as a Titan employee doing with a US Army strip.

Impersonating a US soldier?

Huhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

Posted by: ilsm at August 9, 2007 05:12 PM

"King Arthur: Look, you stupid bastard. You've got no arms left!"

Its right about time for Black Knight to declare Divine Victory. :)

Posted by: leo at August 9, 2007 06:16 PM

Uh, I don't try to present myself as an iconic figure. I'm just a person with a Web site.

Too late, Michael. You are an iconic Middle East War Correspondent Blogger.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 9, 2007 07:43 PM

I would still qualify the surge as working if it creates enough of a breathing space for some kind of political, economic, and social infrastructure in place that could deal with sectarian violence after the surge.

And the breathing space has to be a couple of years long, at least, to develop that infrastructure. And if we'd been hardass enough in the beginning we could have started that clock running in 2003.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 9, 2007 07:50 PM

This is frightening. Don't go to Mosul, Michael.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 9, 2007 07:51 PM

lq;

Who appointed me comment police? Well specifically, I've only targeted Patrick. That wouldn't really mean I'm a police, I'm a person asking about Patrick, since police means I'd be regulating everyones practices. Secondly Patrick attacked me when I kindly asked that he clarify certain things. Insinuating I was retarded (similar to his anti-gay insults, or aggressive physical threats)because I had to sift through his jargon to get to his true points.

I have no problem dealing with people's jargon, I do have problems with dealing with people's physical and bigotry insults. So if you can deal with bigotry, and inflammatory insults with a delicate nature then you're a better person than I. I on the other hand would prefer to show the bigot and inflammater why they're wrong. By no means is that Snark, it's standing up for ones self.

If you have a problem with that, then I suggest you take some of your own medicine and not comment.

Posted by: JohnDakota at August 9, 2007 09:24 PM

ilsm: Impersonating a US soldier?

That's the uniform the Army requires him to wear. He isn't impersonating a US soldier. His "rank" identifies him as an interpreter, and he does not carry a weapon.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 9, 2007 09:44 PM
No they didn't. While relations between Hussein and the US government certainly thawed during the eighties, "billions of dollars worth of weapons" were not given to Iraq by anyone, much less the US. The USSR sold them a lot of weapons, and some equipment was sold by US companies to Iraq that was later converted to military use, but no one was giving out gifts of weaponry and chemical weapons precursors.

Yes - but all of this was knowingly and intentionally paid for by the US government.

When drug deals are done in the US, the buyer must generally first hand over his cash to one member of the drug gang, before a different member comes along and delivers to him the contraband.

This allows lawyers, such as double-plus-ungood, to claim that their clients are innocent. Nobody intelligent is actually fooled by the ruse - but if the defendant has friends in high places all he needs is plausible deniability.

Why the defendant in this case gave special permission for the export of WMD precursors to one of the most vicious men in the world - is something Americans deserve to know.

Posted by: James at August 9, 2007 10:07 PM

this is the dam that Yehudit above refers to.

thats a LOT of water being held back.

Posted by: mister scruff at August 10, 2007 05:10 AM

That's absolutely moronic. He never said he hopes that the U.S. fails in Iraq.

Edgar,

does anybody besides Osama Bin Laden ACTUALLY SAY they want the U.S. to fail in Iraq? Hardly ever. Yet everything some people say makes that desire more than clear. For instance, they don't say the U.S. should "fail", but they do say we should 'withdraw' or 'redeploy to Okinawa.' I'm sorry, is there a difference between that and failure? No. So spare me the intellectual dishonesty. Thank you.

People have a powerful desire to be vindicated, and only a U.S. failure will vindicate everything they've been saying for the last 4 years. They finally go on "the record" as saying they want the surge to succeed, but everything they've said prior and afterwards belies that.

Posted by: Carlos at August 10, 2007 08:59 AM

Carlos: does anybody besides Osama Bin Laden ACTUALLY SAY they want the U.S. to fail in Iraq? Hardly ever. Yet everything some people say makes that desire more than clear.

In other words, DPU is praticing "taqiyya."

You are hereby excused from any further response.

Dismissed.

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 09:16 AM

You are both practicing disingenuousness. A common practice on blog threads. It's our version of taqiya. And your snarkiness isn't going to stop me from noticing and commenting on it.

Posted by: Carlos at August 10, 2007 09:29 AM

DPU,

Carlos has made it clear that if you say something contrary to what he thinks you believe, he'll just assume it's a lie.

Dismissed.

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 09:43 AM

Carlos has made it clear that if you say something contrary to what he thinks you believe, he'll just assume it's a lie.

I have a Greasemonkey script that converts everything Carlos says into more pleasant things about pie, so I don't pay a lot of attention to him. We're both happier that way, and I don't believe that I'm missing much

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 10:02 AM

It's the mark of a true fanatic when they convert whatever you say into whatever they want to believe you think. And as any dialog must begin with the premise that the other person is at least telling the truth, then the only thing that I can imagine that he is here for is to vent.

Past behavior on his part leads me to think that there are some bizarre issues that he needs to work out. We may be therapy, and that I don't mind.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 10:09 AM

Carlos has made it clear that if you say something contrary to what he thinks you believe, he'll just assume it's a lie.

I think you missed my point entirely. I base what I "think" people believe precisely on what they have said. And one little comment on "the record" doesn't erase 3-4 years of blog threads to the contrary.

But we're giving DPU more importance than he deserves. My point being only that if the likes of DPU have their way, 90% of Iraq will be clamoring for Green Cards, whether he intends for our "failure" (withdrawal, redeployment, whatever) or not.

Posted by: Carlos at August 10, 2007 10:10 AM

Carlos,

You arrive at this magical number of 90% how? Contrary to what you may want to believe, the US is not the center of the universe, not everyone wants to live there. There are many other countries (western) where these people may go to, England, France, Canada, to name a few. So I don't really understand your point.

If you're afraid 90% of the people in Iraq will move to the US, you can sleep tonight knowing that's not even remotely possible. If you are associating with Iraqi's moving to the US as a twisted logic that with them will come terrorists from Iraq, I suppose that's possible. As it is also possible that terrorists will come to the US from any other country. But in terms of probability, it's far more probable that terrorists will come to the US through Saudi Arabia, for example, than Iraq.

I suppose it's also possible that space trash will destroy your car later tonight, but do you really worry about that? No because it's highly unlikely. I think you're over exagerating here. Take it easy man.

Posted by: JohnDakota at August 10, 2007 10:30 AM

My point being only that if the likes of DPU have their way, 90% of Iraq will be clamoring for Green Cards, whether he intends for our "failure" (withdrawal, redeployment, whatever) or not.

As this conversation seemed to merit it, I've turned my pie script off. Carlos, nice to see you. Now perhaps you could pull a single comment out of the last four years that demonstrates that I hope things will collapse in Iraq. Just one.

I'll keep the script off for a while while you put up.

I anticipate that what we'll see is something along the lines of either "I have better things to do with my time", or "it's not what you say in any one comment, it's the hidden meaning that one gets from the overall tone of posting."

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 10:36 AM

Carlos: One little comment on "the record" doesn't erase 3-4 years of blog threads to the contrary.

I've been reading this blog for quite awhile, too. I disagree with DPU on most issues.

The thing is, he's now being portrayed as dishonest, lazy and anti-American. He's been accused of being a "troll" and directly insulted by other commenters.

I don't know him personally, and am not defending him because I think he's a good guy. I'm defending him because he's exactly the kind of person I'd like to debate with on this blog.

The bottom line: many people can't respond to an argument without saying "you idiot, you didn't read the article I linked to," "you're being intellectually dishonest," "you don't have personal experience." It's annoying and it's going to turn this place into either a pointless trench-warfare debate or an echo chamber.

Everyone should visit Israel. You can have a heated argument about even the most sensitive issues and rarely will anybody take it personally.

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 10:37 AM

And reading back over your comments, I see this: For instance, they don't say the U.S. should "fail", but they do say we should 'withdraw' or 'redeploy to Okinawa.

Just to save you from looking in the wrong places, I do not favor a US withdrawal from Iraq. Quite the opposite, I support an escalation of US forces there. I was deeply opposed the invasion on the grounds that it almost no chance of success, but now there is the risk of extreme destabilization of the region if the US pulls out.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 10:41 AM

MJT: "Uh, I don't try to present myself as an iconic figure. I'm just a person with a Web site."

Some people are born great,
Some people have greatness thrust upon them. :)
-L

Posted by: lindsey at August 10, 2007 10:51 AM

Just to save you from looking in the wrong places, I do not favor a US withdrawal from Iraq.

We didn't have to look too far for that, now did we. Thanks for proving my point for me. Like I said, and I'll repeat, if the likes of you have your way, 90% of Iraqis will be clamoring for Green Cards. That was my point, and you helped make it for me. Now let the snarkiness and insults begin anew.

Posted by: Carlos at August 10, 2007 10:51 AM

Fine. I misread your last post. You've switched your position on Iraq and I won't question your sincerity about it anymore. Accept this as my apology, and withdrawal from the field of battle.

Posted by: Carlos at August 10, 2007 10:55 AM

many people can't respond to an argument without saying "you idiot, "you're being intellectually dishonest,"

From the guy who called me "moronic". LOL. Sorry, I couldn't help but respond to that one.

Posted by: Carlos at August 10, 2007 10:58 AM

Carlos: Let the snarkiness and insults begin anew.

You asked for it.

Carlos is intellectually dishonest. He's here looking for hot guys, not for a reasonable debate. He doesn't have any personal experience in the region.

The surge isn't working, and he knows it. He's deliberately trying to annoy people with his dishonesty, lack of experience, and his underlying gay dating agenda.

Was that enough?

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 11:00 AM

Carlos: From the guy who called me "moronic". LOL. Sorry, I couldn't help but respond to that one.

I called your point that DPU wanted the US to fail moronic. It is.

If I write that, say, the Iraq war was only about Haliburton, you can call my argument moronic, too.

Dismissed.

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 11:04 AM

Dismissed.

Edgar,

or should I call you colonel Klink? Your comments are equally buffoonish. Notice I didn't call YOU a buffoon. I merely said your comments are buffoonish. Don't take it personally.

Posted by: Carlos at August 10, 2007 11:22 AM

Carlos: I merely said your comments are buffoonish. Don't take it personally.

I don't. Let's get together for a game of mini-golf over the weekend.

Dismissed.

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 12:10 PM

meanwhile, in the uk, we have far left "anti-war" scum calling the interpreters "quislings"

this appeared on the guardian website today:
Keep these quislings out

the authors blog is here

Posted by: archduke at August 10, 2007 12:11 PM

You've switched your position on Iraq...

No I have not. My position has always been that the chances of meeting the stated goals in Iraq were very low. At this point, the US is in the same position as the guy tricked in to holding a bucket of water against the ceiling with a broomstick, except that in this case the bucket is full of acid.

We can argue about how dumb it was to get into that position in the first place, about who warned him in the first place it was a bad idea, about how much it's going to hurt to drop the bucket, and about how he can't hold the bucket there forever. But at this point, all one can do is hope that something comes along that will fix the problem.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 12:14 PM

DPU: At this point, all one can do is hope that something comes along that will fix the problem.

That doesn't sound like a very good idea to me. I think the opposite is true: we didn't take this war seriously enough at the beginning and now we have to get our act together and make it work.

As much as it might antagonize the Iraqis, I think the Americans need to get more involved in their business.

They have the right idea, militarily, with troops learn their areas of operation inside and out nowadays. But I think at the political level the US has very little insight into the whole sectarian dispute. Someone needs to understand it fast. It's not as simple as them all killing each other to sort it out.

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 12:22 PM

If you're afraid 90% of the people in Iraq will move to the US, you can sleep tonight knowing that's not even remotely possible.

johndakota,

yes, it's obvious you didn't understand my point. I'm not afraid that 90% of Iraqis will move to the U.S. if this mission fails, I'm afraid that 90% of Iraqis will WANT or need to move to the U.S. (or Europe) if this mission fails. And the number could in fact be higher than 90% for all you know.

Posted by: Carlos at August 10, 2007 12:40 PM

And the ghostly whisper of Jefferson echoes through history:

A full measure of liberty is not now perhaps to be expected by your nation, nor am I confident they are prepared to preserve it. More than a generation will be requisite, under the administration of reasonable laws favoring the progress of knowledge in the general mass of the people, and their habituation to an independent security of person and property, before they will be capable of estimating the value of freedom, and the necessity of a sacred adherence to the principles on which it rests for preservation. Instead of that liberty which takes root and growth in the progress of reason, if recovered by mere force or accident, it becomes, with an unprepared people, a tyranny still, of the many, the few, or the one.

...

Unfortunately, some of the most honest and enlightened of our patriotic friends, (but closet politicians merely, unpractised in the knowledge of man,) thought more could still be obtained and borne. They did not weigh the hazards of a transition from one form of government to another, the value of what they had already rescued from those hazards, and might hold in security if they pleased, nor the imprudence of giving up the certainty of such a degree of liberty, under a limited monarch, for the uncertainty of a little more under the form of a republic.

From a letter to Lafayette Monticello from Thomas Jefferson - 1815

As I've said, before and again... exporting democracy works, only if the People can appreciate that democracy. For the Iraqi people (in general), their biggest fight for democracy involved a purple finger and waving for cameras. The sacrifice wasn't personal, driven by ideas, but more collateral, driven by the unfortunate fact that a large minority of their fellow citizens are actively trying to blow up the people bringing them democracy.

I'm not sure why the Administration thought that things would go well in Iraq. I don't know why they believed that the people would quickly modernize in their thinking. If perhaps we had not been distracted by this ideal, we may have maintained a better handle on the country. Hopefully, we'll learn for the next time this situation arises.

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at August 10, 2007 01:03 PM

Ratatosk: I'm not sure why the Administration thought that things would go well in Iraq.

Everyone know about the left-wing types that sit in an artificial academic bubble. But people forget that right-wing academics are often just as delusional.

The theory behind the Iraq war was sound. What was was lacking was good insight into the sectarian problems in Iraq, something I'll admit I knew next to nothing about until several years ago.

Look at the experiences of the Israelis with the Shiites in southern Lebanon. At first they were a relatively docile population. But Israel pissed them off in various ways over the years, and then Iran stepped in and fanned the flames. Now they're dangerous enemies.

I don't think anyone in Israel expected to make enemies of the wider Shiite population, but it happened anyway. In the same sense, I don't think many people in the Bush administration expected the sheer viciousness of the current insurgency.

Who could have predicted, for example, that the UN compound would be targeted with a massive bomb after the war ended? It just doesn't make sense unless you have a grasp of the blood-curdling depravity of some of the armed groups in Iraq. They make Hamas look like boy scouts.

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 01:25 PM

Hey Rat, long time no see.

Edgar: I think the opposite is true: we didn't take this war seriously enough at the beginning and now we have to get our act together and make it work.

Well, yeah, sure. But that's the kind of generalized statement that one can make about anything that isn't going well.

Here's what needs to be done, IMO, to fix things.

- There needs to be a massive influx of US resources into the country to repair the infrastructure and to provide security (a megasurge). That is unlikely to happen because political will is flagging, the global economy is somewhat precarious, and the US military is already quite stretched. Breaking the US military is probably not a good idea. On top of that, allocation of further military resources limits what can be accomplished elsewhere (providing a credible threat to other parties, for example).

- The above has to be done in a way that undermines the jihadist propaganda machine. I have no idea how that can be done.

- Regional strife needs to be dealt with, Iran in particular. Iran cannot be dealt entirely by military means, so the only remaining tool is diplomacy. That may now be impossible for domestic political reasons, but it also needs to be realized that a free Iraq will be an Iranian ally.

- Find a solution to the Kurdish issue that does not require division of Iraq. I have no idea what that might be.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 01:33 PM

It just doesn't make sense unless you have a grasp of the blood-curdling depravity of some of the armed groups in Iraq.

It also makes quite a bit of strategic sense. Many parties wanted this to be a "holy warriors vs. US crusader juggernaut" fight. Driving out the UN certainly focused that vision.

Or the UN was simply an attractive target because their security sucked...

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 01:37 PM

The theory behind the Iraq war was sound.

I am not of the opinion that we should be leaving now, but I must disagree with this statement. The theory was not sound.
1 It did not take into account known variables (Iran and Syrian influence, backlash from the Shia, Armed resistance from Non-Saddam groups)

2 It did not take into account that there was a high likelihood of unknown variables (like AQ In Iraq coming into existence)

3 It ignored the advice of the very generals put in charge of War Games focused on the theory. (General Zinni's wargames showed a need for very large numbers of troops and a strong chance that there would be a long term urban insurgency)

4 It was also not sound from a traditional conservative understanding of political systems. Democracy cannot be simply exported and handed to a nation of people in a gift wrap. The entire concept is completely ludacrious.

5 The plan did not take into account the wisdom of entertaining reviews from dissenting voices. There was A vision, that One vision was the only vision and this is what we have.

We screwed up and unless we can admit that we screwed up, we'll screw up again in the same way.

As for Iraq, perhaps a more representative government that is not a complete democracy, may be the best we can hope for. Hell, Musharraf seems like a better bet than anything we're about to get in Pakistan and that's not democracy. Abbas seems like a much better option (from our perspective) than what the Palestinian people actually voted for. That's why I found Jefferson's comments to the Marquis so appropriate.

Posted by: Ratatosk at August 10, 2007 01:56 PM

The above has to be done in a way that undermines the jihadist propaganda machine. I have no idea how that can be done.

I think the answer is simple enough. The U.S. has to do propaganda like the Arabs. When insurgents act up in Fallujah, announce that the army is going to fight the "traitors" and "enemies of Islam." Keep telling Iraqis about Iranian plots to undermine stability, and remind them constantly about the Iran-Iraq war, etc.

I can't really say this without sounding condescending, but Arabs that have lived in dictatorships are generally very susceptible to propaganda, even the kind that sounds absurd to western ears.

Find a solution to the Kurdish issue that does not require division of Iraq. I have no idea what that might be.

Why are people so afraid of Iraq being divided? It might actually be a good idea. I'm pessimistic about the prospect of the Kurds Michael writes so much about getting along with the rest of the country for much longer. They already live in their own world, anyway.

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 01:59 PM

When insurgents act up in Fallujah, announce that the army is going to fight the "traitors" and "enemies of Islam." Keep telling Iraqis about Iranian plots to undermine stability, and remind them constantly about the Iran-Iraq war, etc.

I believe that isn't much different than what is currently being done. I doubt this has the same appeal that "defenders of the faith" has, especially when one side is regarded as a foreign occupying force, and when figures like al Sadr enjoy such popularity.

Why are people so afraid of Iraq being divided?

Because Iran and Turkey are fundamentally opposed to an independent Kurdistan and will do whatever they have to to destabilize it and harass it, because there will likely be war between the three sides over allocation of oil resources that other outside parties would become embroiled in, thereby disrupting global oil access and wrecking the global economy, and because Sumer would likely become an oil-rich Iranian ally or province.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 02:12 PM

Ratatosk,

I think your first two points are mixed up. I think the US figured al-Qaeda would show up at some point--i.e. a known variable. But I don't think it was a known variable that there would be a massive insurgency by the Sunnis and that they and the Shiites would slaughter each other.

I'm pretty sure everyone realized the plan was risky. But at heart, it wasn't anything too outlandish. Its premise was that the vast majority of Iraqis would want freedom and a better life and would cooperate with Americans to get it.

I would agree with on your 4th point, about democracy. But I wouldn't go so far as to call it ludicrous. It doesn't make sense--at least to me--that a population wouldn't want or even understand democracy. This is not the stone age. Iraqis are well aware of the benefits of democracy. My personal opinion, though, is that the populace suffers from a sort of double-think, one that prevents them from trusting the US, even though it's pretty obvious the Americans are not trying to screw them and sincerely want to help them. It took decades of propaganda to get them to this point: scores of Iraqis are willing to die fighting a country that liberated them from tyranny. It has no parallel in history.

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 02:17 PM

DPU,

I'm not in favor of an independent Shiite state. As for the Kurds, I know the Turks are vehemently opposed to their statehood. But those are the breaks. The Americans will have to pick sides. And I think the Kurds will be a better ally then the Turks will be many years from now. They just need to be given a chance.

I don't think the Iranians and Turks will have nearly as much success destabilizing Kurdistan as they (well, only the Iranians) have had in the rest of the country. Kurdistan is highly autonomous as it is, and it's extremely stable compared to the red zone.

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 02:24 PM

I don't think the Iranians and Turks will have nearly as much success destabilizing Kurdistan as they (well, only the Iranians) have had in the rest of the country.

I think that if we've learned anything in the last few years, it would be how easily a society can be destabilized by those with sufficient will to do so.

Turkey can do an awful lot of damage, and they played the Iraqi PM like a flute in his recent trip there. I wouldn't underestimate them.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 02:32 PM

I'm not in favor of an independent Shiite state.

A democratic Iraq would likely be an independent Shiite state, partition or not. And Iraq is already an Iranian ally.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 02:37 PM

I think the US figured al-Qaeda would show up at some point--i.e. a known variable.

I'll give you that... indeed, it was one of the "fight them there" arguments...

But I don't think it was a known variable that there would be a massive insurgency by the Sunnis and that they and the Shiites would slaughter each other.

One year before the invasion, the military folks running the War Game simulation warned that such a thing was extremely likely.

I'm pretty sure everyone realized the plan was risky. But at heart, it wasn't anything too outlandish. Its premise was that the vast majority of Iraqis would want freedom and a better life and would cooperate with Americans to get it.

The problem is that such an idea IS outlandish. If it wasn't Iraq, a nation skewed by religious, cultural and dictatorial programming... if it wasn't a nation with deep links to Iran, Saudi and Syria... well then, maybe we could try such a thing, but there has yet to be a successful liberation such as was envisioned here and Iraq surely wasn't the place to field test such an idea.

I would agree with on your 4th point, about democracy. But I wouldn't go so far as to call it ludicrous. It doesn't make sense--at least to me--that a population wouldn't want or even understand democracy. This is not the stone age. Iraqis are well aware of the benefits of democracy.

I think you confuse our perception of things with theirs. Jefferson's point wasn't that conceptually people wouldn't understand democracy... His point was that if they hadn't already bought into the concept before the revolution, then they weren't likely to appreciate the product once the revolution was over. They had no real personal stake in this fight. They didn't have to overcome the challenges, they didn't rise up and join forces to overthrow a dictator. This is very important.

Money would not convince a Revolutionary to plant IED's against his own revolution. The Iraqi people have spent decades bottled up under extreme pressure, if we had perhaps, slowly unscrewed the cap, then maybe we wouldn't be covered in soda right now. (Maybe we still would have been... there's no backtracking to find out though).

My personal opinion, though, is that the populace suffers from a sort of double-think, one that prevents them from trusting the US, even though it's pretty obvious the Americans are not trying to screw them and sincerely want to help them. It took decades of propaganda to get them to this point: scores of Iraqis are willing to die fighting a country that liberated them from tyranny. It has no parallel in history.

Perhaps, I think it may be much more complex than that though. The Iraqi people have been programmed for decades to think that Americans are evil. They get news from biased sources. They have strong religious and blood ties to people that would like to see the US with a black eye (if not worse). If they have invested nothing in this democracy, they probably don't mind selling out. (any general use of the term Iraqi or 'they' should not be considered to mean ALL, but only applied in a general sense to the nation.)

Oddly enough, if we replace Iraqi and American with Democrat and Republican (either way) in the sentence: The Iraqi people have been programmed for decades to think that Americans are evil. They get news from biased sources. I think we'd get a lot further in understanding the problems here at home.

Posted by: Ratatosk at August 10, 2007 02:42 PM

...scores of Iraqis are willing to die fighting a country that liberated them from tyranny. It has no parallel in history.

Sure it does. The Philippines at the turn of the century and post-WWII Vietnam.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 02:55 PM

DPU: Sure it does. The Philippines at the turn of the century and post-WWII Vietnam.

Not the same thing. The Americans didn't fight a war to "liberate" the Phillipines per se, they merely took it away from the Spanish. The Fillipinos wanted to be fully independent so they rebelled against American rule.

By contrast, the Americans would be more than happy to have a prosperous, independent Iraq. They don't want Iraq as a strategic possession.

Same goes for Vietnam. The French wanted to keep their colonial administration in place, not create an independent, democractic Vietnam.

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 03:13 PM

Edgar,

Societies reject foreign occupation like the body rejects infection.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at August 10, 2007 03:25 PM

For the Iraqi people (in general), their biggest fight for democracy involved a purple finger and waving for cameras. The sacrifice wasn't personal, driven by ideas

Yeah, not like any of them risked assassination for voting, not like any polling centers were at risk of being bombed, not like any of them have been assassinated for participating in their new government or joining their new police force or armies or judging former Baathist officials or publishing newspapers or anything like that. No personal sacrifice at all.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 10, 2007 03:50 PM

Creamy Goodness: Societies reject foreign occupation like the body rejects infection.

Please don't steer us back towards the hangnail analogies. That was a dead end.

Oh, but I can't resist.

The body also rejects certain beneficial implants. But you can trick it into accepting them sometimes.

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 03:52 PM

Yeah, not like any of them risked assassination for voting,...

I think you'll find that Rat is a reasonable and thoughtful commenter, and that sarcasm isn't required to make a valid point.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 03:52 PM

Iraqis are well aware of the benefits of democracy. My personal opinion, though, is that the populace suffers from a sort of double-think, one that prevents them from trusting the US, even though it's pretty obvious the Americans are not trying to screw them and sincerely want to help them.

They know we bailed on Vietnam leaving hundreds of thousands of boat people in our wake. They know half our government wants to do the same thing to them. They know we play both sides of the fence, giving billions to Suadi and all. They know the war is not popular at home. They are legitimately scared shitless we are going to leave. They have seen us waffle before people like Sadr.

So why should they trust us? It isn't double-think, it's a very clear view of reality.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 10, 2007 04:00 PM

I think you'll find that Rat is a reasonable and thoughtful commenter, and that sarcasm isn't required to make a valid point.

I'm fitting in with the tone here. And I think that comment deserved the sarcasm, it was a pretty contemptuous comment.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 10, 2007 04:02 PM

People are getting offended way too easily here.

By the way, for the record, I will apologize to Patrick. I visited your Web site before and know you are a decent guy. I also respect your service in the military. I'm not here to annoy people. But people are attacking each other left, right and center and in the grand scheme of things, I doubt my posting style is that offensive.

In any case, if we were all sitting down together, I doubt anyone would be making rude comments.

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 04:11 PM

Not the same thing.

No, obviously not. We are past the age of colonialism, and obtaining territory was not the purpose of going into Iraq.

Consider, though, what the US response would be tomorrow if the Iraq government formally asked that US forces be withdrawn immediately.

Consider also what the generally held Iraqi opinion of what the US would say might be.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 04:17 PM

In case anyone missed it, there's been a big kerfuffle at the Guardian (UK)'s Comment is Free over an article written by Neil Clark about Iraqi translators working for the Coalition who are now seeking asylum in the UK. Clark writes:

'let's do all we can to keep self-centred mercenaries who betrayed their fellow countrymen and women for financial gain out of Britain.

If that means some of them may lose their lives, then the responsibility lies with those who planned and supported this wicked, deceitful and catastrophic war, and not those of us who tried all we could to stop it.'

Thankfully, there was a quick barrage of generally disapproving comments to Clark's ridiculous suggestion and then the Guardian went and closed the thread and has now moved the article swiftly off the main Comment is Free page.

In response, discussion is continuing at Harry's Place.

Posted by: Nick at August 10, 2007 04:18 PM

Yehudit,

I think you misunderstood. I don't mean the average, law-abiding Iraqi who doesn't trust the U.S. because they figure they won't be around long.

I'm talking about the people who join insurgent groups because they sincerely believe that the U.S. wants to kill Muslims, steal Iraq's resources, or whatever. That's who I was referring to when I said "don't trust."

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 04:19 PM

I'm fitting in with the tone here.

If that's the tone you are comfortable with, then snark away.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 04:21 PM

Thanks for clarifying, Edgar. Although I still don't think it's surprising, given the soup of tribal resentments, political paranoia, and chaos and discomfort they live in.

I'm sorry, DPU, I'll be nice. And if you ever come to NYC, Mary and I will buy you ice cream. :-)

Posted by: Yehudit at August 10, 2007 04:59 PM

I have been reading these blog for quite awhile and I post comments occasionally when I have the time. I trolled through the comments concerning this article and they are extremely amusing. A suggestion for Michael might be to provide open threads for people to just discuss random issues, discuss related issues in the ares, or post some statistics, similar to the graph showing the mortality rates from Vietnam and Iraq, which sparked a number of heated responses. The idea for the open threads is merely to keep people on point in discussing topics related to the article. This is merely a suggestion for a way that may help keep people discussing the actual issues raised in the article.

Posted by: mantis at August 10, 2007 05:22 PM

Carlos,

Yes, for all I know it may be higher than 90%. And for all I know hamburgers eat people in Iraq too since I've never been there. But it's seems to reason that your suggestion is highly inflated for reasons I mentioned previously.

If all you want to do is speculate, don't defend your speculations as hard facts. Be genuine about your contentions.

Posted by: JohnDakota at August 10, 2007 06:31 PM

I'm sorry, DPU, I'll be nice.

Not a problem, Y. I know from other encounters that you are also a thoughtful and considerate poster. The tone here is so unusually polite for a change that it would be nice to keep going for a bit.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2007 06:49 PM

Carlos,

Sorry I haven't been getting your back today. The tone of the thread went to hell and I just decided to let this one slide.

On the plus side it seems to have driven Edgar openly mental with his use of the word "dismissed" and that can't be all bad. Perhaps he just hasn't gotten the memo on diminished returns. Probably he just doesn't care how lame it looks without the original post in context.

I'm really sorry that this thread went down the drain, but honor has been served and arguing about it further just gives them the recognition they are seeking. If you know the bear joke, they aren't here for the hunting...

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at August 10, 2007 06:53 PM

Another interesting article Michael.
Discussion is also.

A "Why Bush Sux" thread might distract the trolls for a while.

Sent a few dollars via Paypal.
Hope you can stay till at least the Generals report.

Posted by: Tom at August 10, 2007 08:31 PM

Patrick,

You must be more dense than diamond. I can't be sure about this, but Edgar saying dismissed started the same time you used the very same lame comment. Doing some very basic association (the type a child could do) would reason that he's pointing out how ridiculous you seem when you say such things.

Posted by: JohnDakota at August 10, 2007 09:02 PM

Patrick Lasswell: Carlos, Sorry I haven't been getting your back today.

Meet the new duo of destruction. Ignorant and obnoxious, they'll throw a tantrum whenever you disagree with them.

With a limited grasp of the facts, poor attention to detail and an offensive posting style characterized by homophobic rhetoric, they're a force to be reckoned with.

They deserve to be together.

Posted by: Edgar at August 10, 2007 09:11 PM

does anybody besides Osama Bin Laden ACTUALLY SAY they want the U.S. to fail in Iraq? Hardly ever. Yet everything some people say makes that desire more than clear. For instance, they don't say the U.S. should "fail", but they do say we should 'withdraw' or 'redeploy to Okinawa.' I'm sorry, is there a difference between that and failure? No. So spare me the intellectual dishonesty. Thank you.

I won't insult you, Carlos, if you don't insult me. I'll take this on directly. "Success" and "Failure" in Iraq are abstract concepts you've associated with what's happening in Iraq. They're arbitrary, and by themselves as concepts, they're meaningless. Where they fall is your personal choice and not one thing more. For many people, we succeeded in 2003. For others, we succeeded in 1998, whether we knew it or not, when the UN got the last of the chemical weapons out of Iraq. For others, success will be when we reform the Middle East through our occupation of Iraq, and I'll say that one event wouldn't cause the other by itself if you gave it five thousand years. It's stupid to persist in doing one thing until it succeeds in making something else happen, when the two are not causally related.

To further refine the point, it reveals a lot about you that what you see as moral collapse here is "hoping the US fails in Iraq". That's what you see as what matters - that the US validates its own actions. It's a mirror of what you're accusing us of. Personally, I don't much care either way if the US "succeeds" or "fails" in Iraq, with the associations you and GWB have decided to attach to that, because, first, those are a pair of manipulated and trivial buzzwords, to which the triggering events change constantly or are never really defined at all, second, because the US is bigger, stronger, and more important than whether the Washington Post decides to give General Petraeus a gold star, or whether we withdraw in 2008 or 2009, which is pretty much what's going to be used to pick between "success" and "failure" - but third, and by far the most important, is because I think the appropriate thing to worry about in Iraq is not the US, but the 'success' or 'failure' of Iraq, or more precisely its citizens - or to translate 'success' and 'failure' into something relevant, whether or not they can live normal and safe lives. I think our military occupation is counterproductive to that, and I don't see it happening until we leave, and there's no level of Al-Quieda brutality that demonstrates to me that we are the solution to said Al-Quieda brutality. In fact, said brutality demonstrates quite clearly that we are not the solution. If we were the solution, there would be nothing to see.

As for the US, we have nothing at stake except the egos of decision-makers. There's nothing of any importance that we stand to gain and nothing we stand to lose that matters strategically to the US at all. The oil will be sold whoever sits on it, and radical Islam has two-thirds of the globe or more from which to plot attacks on us. None of the US's problems are about to be solved there. There's only the ever-shouted prospect of all of those problems getting worse, and to state as briefly as possible, I don't think it's anything we can't handle.

If you want to talk about 'success' and 'failure' for the United States in terms that matter, talk about the success or failure of our country as a whole, to safeguard the life, liberty, and happiness of its citizens. Our presence in Iraq, and the model of state behavior it exemplifies, is a threat to all of those things in the long run. So withdrawing from Iraq is 'success' for our country to me.

You think you own this debate, and The Meaning Of Things has been handed down to you on tablets from Yehovah. It's intellectually convenient for you to assume that I want America to fail, because it's the only way you can interpret withdrawal from Iraq. But I want America to succeed, and I want America to withdraw, and I am very serious about the combination. If that doesn't make sense to you, than say it. Quit the bullsh*t omnisecence that leads you to pretend you can see into my soul and know that I want America to fail. 'Success' and 'failure' don't stand for the same things for you as they do for me, and you have no god*amn copyright on them.

Posted by: glasnost at August 10, 2007 09:15 PM

To be fair, as someone who has nothing in common with the viewpoints of Carlos or Patrick, I think that some people are now being ruder to them than they often are to others, or perhaps equally rude, but in greater volume and numbers.

It's not really anymore satisfying than the typical reverse. I'm a fan of DPU because he usually avoids insulting people unless heavily provoked. Edgar, you'd be more effective with more work on that.

Posted by: glasnost at August 10, 2007 09:30 PM

Creamy Goodness:

"Societies reject foreign occupation like the body rejects infection."

Japan.

Germany.

Apparently Creamy Goodness has a desperate need to prove him/herself to be a historical idiot.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at August 11, 2007 12:23 AM

Off topic, but I'd appreciate your support. I am looking for the interview with the Lebanese shiia or sunni cleric (I cannot really remember) MT met in Lebanon. I am sure MT posted the guy's name/email for contact. I searched the archive but no luck so far.

Can anyone help? Thanks

Posted by: Manuela at August 11, 2007 03:10 AM

Poster bgates above asked, "Is there anywhere that pro-American opinion is lower than in Canada?"

He may have intended that humorously, but the serious answer is yes, many places are less pro-American than Canada. Among them, according to a large-sample 2005 poll by the Pew Research Center, are Britain, France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan and Indonesia. I realize that the inclusion of Lebanon is contrary to another post above, so here's a link to the poll I'm citing:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8324290/

If in fact U.S. popularity has increased lately in Lebanon -- excellent news.

Posted by: CJ at August 11, 2007 04:19 AM

Actually, this is the definitive link on the survey above -- it's a table showing favorability/unfavorability to the U.S. in general in 47 countries.

http://pewglobal.org/reports/images/256-4.gif

Posted by: CJ at August 11, 2007 04:45 AM

Yes, for all I know it may be higher than 90%. And for all I know hamburgers eat people in Iraq too since I've never been there. But it's seems to reason that your suggestion is highly inflated for reasons I mentioned previously.

dakota,

Snarkiness is a great device for humiliating your opponents when you actually have something intelligent to say, which you obviously don't. Otherwise you just end up sounding like an ass. Your quibbling with my 90% figure has to be one of the most meaningless and stupid points of contention I've ever run across on a blog thread. I'm not biting. Oh, and it's obvious you aren't smart enough for snark either (see lame burger "analogy"). I suggest you stick a more straight delivery.

Posted by: Carlos at August 11, 2007 07:28 AM

glasnost,

Yeah, sorry about that. But Pat made a badly-supported argument and insulted DPU with anti-gay slurs when it got demolished. Even when caught red-handed, he refused to apologize for the remark and pretended it had been taken out of context or some other nonsense. He also threatened John Dakota.

He deserved a bit of a verbal smackdown. And he sure got it.

I'm finished with him and Carlos now. They can breathe easy.

Posted by: Edgar at August 11, 2007 07:33 AM

Carlos,

Give the whole "snarkiness" thing a rest. Clearly, you just learned the meaning of the word and can't get enough of it.

We're all proud of you, but it's time to look up a new word in the dictionary.

I'm serious, Carlos. I know you usually only submit to orders from Patrick, but I'm asking you nicely.

Posted by: Edgar at August 11, 2007 07:42 AM

glasnost,

because I'm on the road today and because I don't have more time to adress your post, no, failure in Iraq is not "relative", just as failure in Somalia and Lebanon wasn't relative when we decided to turn tail and run. My own attitudes about what constitutes failure or success aren't a fraction as important as how our enemies perceive failure and success. Our enemies in the middle east and elsewhere aren't going to play little word games about how relative failure and success are the way we have the luxury of doing here in the U.S. for the sake of party politics and saving face for our constituents. If Clinton called Somalia a success doesn't mean our enemies did. Osama most certainly didn't when he cited it as evidence we're a paper tiger. Our enemies know a defeat when they see one, and it will come back to bite us the way it always does when we lose. Yes, I like to be validated too, but for the sake of my country I'd be happy to be proven wrong in the long-run. No, I'd be THRILLED to be proven wrong in the long run. Can you say the same? The fact that you consider it all so relative reveals a lot about your own mindset and irresponsible attitude. That's not intended as an insult.

Posted by: Carlos at August 11, 2007 07:44 AM

They can breathe easy.

LOL. The little pipsqueak flatters himself.

Posted by: Carlos at August 11, 2007 07:48 AM

Carlos,

Snarkiness is a great device for humiliating your opponents when you actually have something intelligent to say, which you obviously don't. Otherwise you just end up sounding like an ass. Your quibbling with Edgar using ad hominem attacks has to be one of the most meaningless and stupid arguments I've ever run across on a blog thread. I'm not biting. Oh, and it's obvious you aren't smart enough for snark either (see lame pipsqueak "comment"). I suggest you stick a more straight delivery.

Posted by: JohnDakota at August 11, 2007 08:08 AM

Gary Rosen,

Germany and Japan: major surgery. The infection metaphor holds.

I actually thought Edgar expressed things very nicely. :)

Apparently Creamy Goodness has a desperate need to prove him/herself to be a historical idiot.

∗shrug∗

There are very few people reading whose minds are not already made up. When I bother to argue on the internet, I target this select subsection exclusively. So although I have addressed my reply to you, it is actually intended for others.

Convincing an organism to trust a foreign invader is inherently difficult. The instinctive, healthy response is to fight it off, because foreign entities always put their own interests ahead of yours.

It is possible to overcome this automatic self-defense mechanism, but it requires considerable effort.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at August 11, 2007 08:22 AM

One Brit writer has a distinct opinion on Iraqi translators:
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/neil_clark/2007/08/keep_these_quislings_out.html

I hope we help these guys and provide a place for them here.

Posted by: ElamBend at August 11, 2007 10:08 AM

Edgar:

"It would be great if everyone could remain optimistic, but there's definitely a case to be made that the surge won't work."

Pessimism is the easy out. Anybody can think up things that could go wrong, or reasons the surge might not work, but if there's a case to be made that it can't work, I'd sure like to know what it is. By surge, I assume you mean the whole deal, not just the strictly military component. The only convincing argument I've heard, to date, is that Americans won't be willing to give it the time or the resources to work.

Posted by: JM Hanes at August 11, 2007 03:25 PM

just as failure in Somalia and Lebanon wasn't relative when we decided to turn tail and run.If Clinton called Somalia a success doesn't mean our enemies did. Osama most certainly didn't when he cited it as evidence we're a paper tiger.

Ah, the "morale of our enemies argument". Horsefeathers. We "turned tail in Lebanon" and left immediately when we threatened to be pulled into a hopeless counterinsurgency, and lost... nothing for it. Israel stayed for 15 years, and lost roughly 1000 soldiers, and Hizballah was.. the same as when they started. Excellent example of my point.

Al-Quieda aren't waverers or fence-sitters. The idea that they get discouraged and give up when we "win" in Iraq, is laughable. The idea that they only attack us because we "turned tail" in Somalia is a joke. The net benefit of the history you cited is that Al-Quieda gets to tell nasty little stories around its campfires. Smart opponents should avoid giving a da*n, because people that, frankly, hate you, will always find a way to rationalize you as a weak target.

Our enemies know a defeat when they see one, and it will come back to bite us the way it always does when we lose.

It comes back to bite us more often according to things you'd call "winning" more than the kinds of things you'd call "losing". Which is exactly why "success" is relative, because "success" that doesn't lead to actual beneficial results isn't really successful. Kind of like this surge.

The fact that you consider it all so relative reveals a lot about your own mindset and irresponsible attitude.

The fact that you consider it all so absolute reveals a lot about your own mindset and irresponsible attitude. Not intended as an insult. What a useful set of paragraphs that was.

Posted by: glasnost at August 11, 2007 06:07 PM

Who cares if Osama has a different definition of success? If we manage to change Iraq from an enemy dictator into an allied or neutral democracy, then we will have succeeded. This has already been accomplished, regardless of the high murder rate, which is a problem for the Iraqi people to solve in their own time.

The US should be moving to Iran soon, and just leave 20k troops in Iraq. If Osama calls that losing, fine, the US lost. Now the US needs to lose in Iran, then lose in Syria, lose in Lebanon, lose in the Sudan, lose in Zimbabwe, lose in North Korea. Then we'll reevaluate where we can lose next. When the whole world is lost, ie every country is a liberal democracy, then the US can take all its troops home, and lose in the US if it wants. I don't care.

The US has presumably already lost in Australia (where I live), because it has withdrawn almost all of its troops. Quite frankly, I'm happy the US lost. We still have murders, bank robberies etc since the US pulled out with its tails between its legs. I suspect the same will happen after a withdrawal from Iraq too. I'm sorry Australia isn't pulling its weight to help you lose in Iraq. But at least we contributed something. We contributed a lot more in previous wars, but this current one is a complete disgrace. Maybe it's because the troops are tied down in East Timor or something. I don't know. It doesn't help that half of our population is morons who opposed liberating 27 million people from Saddam's state-slavery/holocaust. That shocked the hell out of me too. I always thought that Australians roamed the world looking for people to liberate. In the first Gulf War we had bipartisan support and about 90% approval for the war. I've no idea what went wrong. But it is a national emergency.

Posted by: Paul Edwards at August 11, 2007 07:00 PM

this is both encouraging & heart-breaking!

Posted by: Winston at August 12, 2007 01:35 AM

Why are there still problems with electricity?

I'd love to see an interview with some of our people who handle that side of it.

Posted by: Aaron at August 12, 2007 03:20 AM

Smart opponents should avoid giving a da*n, because people that, frankly, hate you, will always find a way to rationalize you as a weak target.

glasnost, are you seriously trying to tell us that al Qaeda and other Islamist groups wage war because they 'hate us'?

Posted by: mary at August 12, 2007 06:31 AM

I am not of the opinion that we should be leaving now, but I must disagree with this statement. The theory was not sound.
1 It did not take into account known variables (Iran and Syrian influence, backlash from the Shia, Armed resistance from Non-Saddam groups)

2 It did not take into account that there was a high likelihood of unknown variables (like AQ In Iraq coming into existence)

3. It ignored the advice of the very generals put in charge of War Games focused on the theory. (General Zinni's wargames showed a need for very large numbers of troops and a strong chance that there would be a long term urban insurgency)

- Regional strife needs to be dealt with, Iran in particular. Iran cannot be dealt entirely by military means, so the only remaining tool is diplomacy. That may now be impossible for domestic political reasons, but it also needs to be realized that a free Iraq will be an Iranian ally.

These criticisms and suggestions are valid, but like most suggestions from the left and the right, they ignore the elephant in room, Saudi Arabia and our alliance with them.

The Sauds have been funding the insurgency and they've been supplying the majority of suicide bombers. Al Sadr is powerful because he's one of the few terrorist/gangsters around who can protect the Shia from the saudi-assisted Sunni terrorists. The majority of the Shia in Iraq despise the Saudis, and the fact that we have such a close 'friendship' with Saudi Arabia does not make us trustworthy.

Our government still considers the Saudi royals to be friends and allies, even after the Saudi-sponsored act of war that was 9/11, so why should anyone trust their judgement?

Part of the reason this alliance survives is because our government believes that we need to use the Sauds as our pawns in our never-ending cold war battles with the Russians and the Chinese. The Russians are just as dumb as we are, and they use the Iranians as their pawns. The Sauds and the Iranians, who are perfectly capable of working together when they need to, gain legitimacy and money from these cold war games. We and the Russians are the ones who are really being played.

Our biggest mistake was to ignore the fact that you can't install a Marshall plan until you get rid of all the fascist groups in the area. We got rid of Saddam, but we left the Iranians, the Sauds and all the minor nasty groups still in power. As long as we insist on playing outdated cold war games, Iran and Saudi Arabia will always be invulnerable, and they will be able to create insurgencies to attack legitimate governments in Iraq, Turkey, Morocco, Thailand, the US, Israel, the Netherlands, etc.

Diplomacy is the only answer, but diplomacy with the troglodytes in Iran would be a complete waste of time. The only diplomacy that matters is an effort to end the old cold war games, to create a genuine alliance with the old cold war enemies. We can't trust the Russians or the Chinese, but we share their economic and technological goals. Diplomacy and war require that we be allied with creepy regimes. We should ally with the creeps who can actually help us, who did not slaughter 3,000 American civilians in an unprovoked act of war.

Posted by: mary at August 12, 2007 08:56 AM

Mary, your argument has some sway in terms of what type of approach the Americans should take. The recent arms deal w/ the Sauidis also brings the usuals string of criticism (much of it deserved). It seems you are advocating the United States should embrace the former Cold-War opponents in an attempt to out-maneuver the Sunni and Shia strongholds in Iran and Saudi Arabia. The idea has merits in it will provide a much more powerful counter-balance toward unwanted aggression from these regimes, but I am having trouble grappling w/ the logistics of such a plan. Are you proposing we dispose of these regimes? Do we put forth some type of economic embargo to hinder their ability to finance terrorism? I especially don't see any type of economic sanction working since this would be a very powerful incentive for Russia and/or China to take advantage of of expanding their oil resources in the region. At this point, the United States has put itself in such a position where it has to find a way to salvage victory and maintain the progress they have made so far. The only powerful weapon I can see is the potential for a democratic ally (a HUGE if) to emerge from Iraq to showcase what happens when you take the power out of murdering dictators/Islamic Fundamentalists etc., etc.

Posted by: mantis at August 12, 2007 03:54 PM

Great article MJT. Just wanted to mention that Saudi Arabia supported the Nazis during WWII and supported the USA during the Cold War. Egypt supported both the Nazis and the Russians. Also Lebanon is the world's greatest terrorist state and Jordan, propped up by England does not allow Jews to be citizens of Jordan. The Fergana Valley is one big hot spot also, where Turkey has invested billions of dollars to build mosques. One more thing; there are a lot of Palestinian commanders of al-Queda but you would not know that by watching CNN or listening to Olmert and Abbas. So the question is who are our real friends in this region? None of them, we should have a foreign policy of shifting alliances and lily pad military bases to reach out and touch our enemies.

Posted by: James Just at August 12, 2007 05:11 PM

Do we put forth some type of economic embargo to hinder their ability to finance terrorism? I especially don't see any type of economic sanction working since this would be a very powerful incentive for Russia and/or China to take advantage of of expanding their oil resources in the region.

Without Russian backing, the military strength of the Iranians is a joke. Without our backing the Sauds have no power and no defenses. The "Sunni and Shia strongholds" are the weakest, most pathetic enemy we've ever faced. If it wasn't for the cold war games we play, these 'strongholds' would have been destroyed years ago.

The Russians have a powerful and effective intelligence organization. They did manage to effectively target Shamil Besayev, their Saudi funded 'bin Laden'. The Chinese have the simple threat of the number of boots they can put on the ground. We have the most powerful and effective miitary force on the planet. It's in all of our interests to stop playing these games.

We all need oil, but no one needs the Saudi, Iranian, Yemeni, Sudanese or Iranian regimes. When we stop playing the cold war game, we don't need the pawns anymore. Hopefully, the Sauds, Iranians, Sudanese, etc. will be smart enought to realize that, and they'll stop playing games too.

to showcase what happens when you take the power out of murdering dictators/Islamic Fundamentalists etc., etc.

We haven't taken power away from the murdering politicans or the Islamic Fundamentalists. In many cases, we're giving them more power.

Posted by: mary at August 12, 2007 07:00 PM

I don't really understand the comment, but I do consider Israel an ally of the United States. I would also consider Northern Iraq a supporter, even though this may be tested w/ a strong support of Turkey. Focusing on a larger picture, the support of some key Central Asian countries could provide future key allies. The continual support of Georgia and the Uzbek and Kazakh region could pay off in the long term. (Disclaimer: I am aware that both of these countries are rather "harsh" on opposition media and other voices of opposing views but there is significant room for growth

Posted by: mantis at August 12, 2007 07:04 PM

So the question is who are our real friends in this region? None of them

If you read the articles in MJT's blog, you'll see that we have plenty of allies in Lebanon, Kurdistan and elsewhere.

Another thing we should change about our foreign policy is to give our friends at least as much respect as we give our enemies.

Posted by: mary at August 12, 2007 07:06 PM

Mary, you never really answered the question. Yes, we have the most powerful military on the planet, I will concede this. But I think you are WAY oversimplifying the solution by just saying we should quit playing Cold-War games. You are simply speaking in indefinable terms about "games". Do you mean we just reallocate financial support from the Sauidi's to someone else? I'm guessing you are trying to put into words that the Russians are backing the Iranians and the US is backing the Saudis is what you mean by the "Cold-War game". You are making some pretty broad assumptions in that statement alone. You then go on to point out that if we do quit playing the games, the Saudi's, Iranians, Yemenese et al. will hopefully realize they are being played like pawns and fully come to their senses. I think you may have a semblance of an argument with the Russian support for Iran and continued US support for Saudi Arabia (against mountains of evidence that we should not) but if you could quantify your argument a little more in terms of what you hope to achieve and how, using tangible terms instead of blanket terms. We could discuss some real alternatives besides just hoping things work out if we stop playing "games"

Posted by: mantis at August 12, 2007 07:18 PM

Just so, I'm not accused of the same thing. I believe we are at the tipping point in Iraq. We have fully committed ourselves and there can be no pulling out at this time. In terms of Saudi Arabia, I was against the arms deal, but I accept the US sometimes must employ realpolitik in the region even though it has burned us more than a number of times. I think the continual support of Mubarak in Egypt is bad, but it works better than have the Muslim Brotherhood in power. I think the United States should apportion a larger amount of money from defense support for these countries to restructuring their civil institutions, specifically in respect to property rights and infrastructure. The idea of helping to form pro-democratic groups also seems inviting, but it is pretty hard to do in practice (how do you ally yourself w/ a government while at the same time hoping to put in a new, democratically elected government) I have a few other suggestions, but these are just some ways I feel our money could be better spent.

Posted by: mantis at August 12, 2007 07:27 PM

We need to declare victory and get the hell out of Iraq. I hate to say it, but it feels like most Iraqis were better off with Saddam.

Recognizing that we can't put the genie back in the bottle, the US should seriously consider allowing Iraq to separate into three different entities. The Kurds one, The sunni the other and the Shia as the third nation. Yes we will lose one of those to Iran, but Iran has enough problems managing their own economy, integrating the Iraqi Shiites will destabilize them further. Saudi Arabia would hopefully step in and provide support for the Sunni Iraqis. As a condition of this separation there should be an agreed oil revenue sharing plan.

Posted by: Graham at August 12, 2007 07:50 PM

Patrick wrote:
Some years ago Sean and I got in an argument about genetics and being Irish.

Anyone with a last name of La Freniere is NOT Irish. Pass it on. Going to Ireland once does not make you Irish.

Posted by: Graham at August 12, 2007 07:55 PM

Do you mean we just reallocate financial support from the Saudi's to someone else?

Can you think of any reason why we should call the Saudis our allies?

We should reallocate support and alliances to our former cold war enemies who could become unreliable yet beneficial "friends". Both Russia and China are threatened by terror - in some cases, they're threatened by the terror our Saudi allies produce. We all share the need to put an end to that mess.

The Cold war is over. China owns a good portion of our economy due to their funding of the Iraq war. Russia can be nasty to other, smaller nations, but France has that problem too. In the world stage, we have to befriend regimes that are sometimes less than democratic. If we're going to play realpolitik games, we should at least play them to our advantage.

You then go on to point out that if we do quit playing the games, the Saudi's, Iranians, Yemenese et al. will hopefully realize they are being played like pawns and fully come to their senses.

The Saudis, Iranians, Yemenese et al. have always known that they're being used as pawns, and they're taking advantage of us too. When we're friendly to the Israelis, the Saudis go and talk to the Russians or the Chinese. When we get angry at them, they dig up that old Israel/Palestinian 'peace plan'.

I would hope that if we did quit playing cold war games, and if we did provide a united front, the Saudis, Iranians et al. would realize that they have a choice between:

a.selling their oil at a reasonable rate and stopping their support of terror and their war against Israel/America/Russia/China/Europe/Thailand, etc.

or

b. ceasing to exist.

Either way, with a united front, in a fairly short time we could stop worrying about the troglodyte Islamists and their terror gangs. In the past few years, our focus on the problems they've created has been a terrible waste of time and money. We could then start working on more productive efforts, like the space race and the re-strengthening of the world's economy.

Posted by: mary at August 12, 2007 08:29 PM

Graham: Anyone with a last name of La Freniere is NOT Irish.

That is not the last name Sean was born with. Long story, I'll let him tell it if he feels like it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 12, 2007 11:47 PM

"There are very few people reading whose minds are not already made up. When I bother to argue on the internet, I target this select subsection exclusively. So although I have addressed my reply to you, it is actually intended for others."

Ooooh, what a putdown. It doesn't bother me because you of course haven't the foggiest idea of how I "make up my mind". I've found that most people who accuse others of "having their minds made up" or "not being open-minded" usually have their own minds made up, on the other side.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at August 12, 2007 11:51 PM

glasnost, are you seriously trying to tell us that al Qaeda and other Islamist groups wage war because they 'hate us'?

What, do I sound like George Bush?

No, but seriously, as explanations go, it's not neccesarily bad just because it's simplistic. The backstory and event record that got Al-Quieda's level of greivance up to the boiling point may be more complex than that, but none of that matters now. Al-Quieda has powerful built-in institutional incentives to wage war on America, because that's how they built their name recognition, fundraising base, that's the propaganda they sold to their low-level agents, etc, etc. As the Palestinians have found out, it's not easy to train your population base to hate a country and then turn on a dime. We can make concessions to placate as many as 99 or 99.x% of normal Muslims, but the 1% or 0.1% that are committed Al-Quieda supporters mostly want to blow us up, because they hate us, nothing more specific. This is something conservatives usually say, and when applied to Al-Quieda specifically, they're not neccesarily wrong.

Having said that, the reason Iraq is a stupid, counterproductive battlefield is because we're fighting 5% Al-Quieda and 95% other. Petraeus has tried to fix that ratio, but his success has been marginal.

Posted by: glasnost at August 13, 2007 04:32 AM

I mostly disagree with people on here, so, Mary, I thought I'd say something positive for once. I agree with most of what you say about the region.

The reason a lot of people support the Iraq War as a method for regional transformation is because no one has shown them a better idea. I think we could change the area drastically simply by changing the way we do business. Egypt and Saudi Arabia need ultimatums: democratize, or make it on your own.

Actually that wouldn't be the end of it: there needs to be a whole lot more arm-twisting and US support for dissident groups, a lot more forceful than what's going on now, but that's the start. Also, it's absolutely vital that China is on board , and is willing to refrain from filling the leaks when we pull out our funding. China is the real curveball in a genuine non-invasion-based Middle East Reform plan, see Zimbabwe for examples.

Posted by: glasnost at August 13, 2007 04:39 AM

Mary your ideas (see glasnost) are predicated on a faulty assumption. That is what is wrong with virtually all of these internet policy discussions.

Your fallacious assumption, on which your whole argument relies, is that Russia and China and etc. are desireous of the same ends that we are.

They are not. Not now and probably never.

Russia cozies up to IRAN as part of its strategy to dislodge the US from it's single superpower position. That is their main point!!!!!! Same with China. Any agreements with them have to have an overwhelming benefit to them individually because they don't want to benefit US!!!!!!!

The other flawed assumption (though you might not be making it) is that the US has total control and no one else is a free actor.

Al Q is not attacking us because they hate us or because of anything we do. They attack because in their estimation it is the proper tactic on their road to the world wide Caliphate. The fact that how and when they did this is driven by their estimation of us as a paper tiger doesn't speak to the underlying goal.

And last but not least everyone has to remember that there are only so many buttons available to push and we may not know what they do till after the fact. Choices aren't always good vs. bad. They can be bad vs. worse (Egypt is probably an example of that one). And not doing anything is as much a choice with consequences as anything else.

Posted by: AlanC at August 13, 2007 08:44 AM

Al Q is not attacking us because they hate us or because of anything we do. They attack because in their estimation it is the proper tactic on their road to the world wide Caliphate. The fact that how and when they did this is driven by their estimation of us as a paper tiger doesn't speak to the underlying goal.

I totally agree with that. Al Qaeda wages war with us for the same reason all aggressors wage war - we're in their way.

Russia cozies up to IRAN as part of its strategy to dislodge the US from it's single superpower position. That is their main point!!!!!! Same with China. Any agreements with them have to have an overwhelming benefit to them individually because they don't want to benefit US!!!!!!!

I know that, that's why these known factors should be included in any diplomatic action. Roosevelt didn't ally with Stalin because he trusted Stalin, he allied with Stalin because Russia could kick Nazi ass. Alliances between nations work if they're mutually beneficial. We all share the need to eliminate the terrorist threat.

In the long run, 'superpowers' can probably gain more, tradewise, from cooperation than from competition.

9/11 and the Saudi attacks against our soldiers in Iraq are proof that our alliance with them is not mutually beneficial, yet our government still cozies up to them. If we think that this alliance will help us preserve our 'superpower' position, we're dead wrong..

Posted by: mary at August 13, 2007 09:19 AM

I hate to say it, but it feels like most Iraqis were better off with Saddam.

It isn't and the vast majority of them don't feel that way. You have to really underestimate how nasty his police state was to come to that conclusion. Not only did he imprison, torture, and kill huge numbers of people, and isolate the country from the rest of the world, he didn't even make the trains run on time.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 13, 2007 01:13 PM

there are a lot of Palestinian commanders of al-Queda but you would not know that by watching CNN or listening to Olmert and Abbas.

I'm not surprised but I would like more details on this. Names?

Posted by: Yehudit at August 13, 2007 01:16 PM

It isn't and the vast majority of them don't feel that way. You have to really underestimate how nasty his police state was to come to that conclusion. Not only did he imprison, torture, and kill huge numbers of people, and isolate the country from the rest of the world, he didn't even make the trains run on time.

There have been a number of polls on that that familiar with the train schedules under Hussein, I know that right now the electricity and water is still sporadic, there are an enormous number of refugees, and a large proportion of the Iraqi population have lost family members to violence in the last four years.

Hussein was a thug and it's good that he's gone, but let's not minimize the suffering that's going on right now.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 13, 2007 02:07 PM

Oops, a cut and paste messed that up, sorry. Let's try again:

-----------------

There have been a number of polls on that that differ with you on this, Yehudit. And while I'm not familiar with the train schedules under Hussein, I know that right now the electricity and water is still sporadic, there are an enormous number of refugees, and a large proportion of the Iraqi population have lost family members to violence in the last four years.

Hussein was a thug and it's good that he's gone, but let's not minimize the suffering that's going on right now.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 13, 2007 02:09 PM

I need help please contact me.
I have many documents from the US Army that certify I'm and my family in danger.
If you are interested in my story please contact me @ iraqi_55555@yahoo.com
please help me I'm in imminent danger

Posted by: iraqi intrrpreter at August 25, 2007 03:23 PM
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