October 01, 2007

The Peace Corps with Muscles

“Peace

RAMADI, IRAQ – Now that major combat operations are finished almost everywhere in Iraq’s Anbar Province, the United States Army and Marine Corps are more like a United Nations peacekeeping force with rules of engagement that allow them to kill if they have to. “We’re like the Peace Corps with muscles,” is how one soldier put it when I left with his unit at 4:00 in the morning to deliver food stuffs and toys to needy families in the countryside on the edge of the desert.

Actually, we did not leave at 4:00. We were supposed to leave at 4:00, when the weather outside wasn’t a blast furnace, but we were late leaving the base. I waited in front of my trailer to be picked up from 3:55 in the morning until 5:00 before a small convoy of Humvees finally showed up to get me.

“Humvees

“Good morning, sir,” said Lieutenant Evan Davies from Rochester, New York, as climbed out of his truck to shake my hand. “Let’s go roust the CAG out of bed.”

The CAG, Civil Affairs Group, was still in bed? We were supposed to leave an hour ago. Our humanitarian aid drop was scheduled before dawn for good reason. We were suffering a heat wave in Iraq – in August no less – and hoped to finish the mission before the molten sun finished us off. I grudgingly dragged my sorry ass out of bed at 3:30 like I was supposed to, but there I was, an hour and a half later, being told to go wake up the CAG.

We drove a few minutes and stopped next to a cluster of spartan trailers.

“I think the CAG is over here somewhere,” Lieutenant Davies said.

He and I poked around in the dark trying to figure out where the rest of the men were.

“Hmm,” he said. “I’m not exactly sure where they are.”

He knocked on the door of a darkened trailer.

An Asian man with long black hair opened the door and squinted at us.

“We’re looking for the CAG,” Lieutenant Davies said. “Aren’t they supposed to be around here somewhere?”

“Nah, man,” said the young man we had just rousted from bed. “We’re State Department here. The CAG is…I don’t know, they moved somewhere else a while ago.” He shut the door.

We walked to another bunch of trailers. Lieutenant Davies rapped on one of the doors.

A grizzled and bald 60 year old Arab man came to the door.

“Good morning, sir,” Lieutenant Davies said. “We’re looking for the CAG.

“They aren’t here,” said the man kindly. “Come, come, I will show you.”

He was an Iraqi who worked as a cultural and political advisor for the United States military and didn’t seem to mind in the least being dragged out of bed before sunrise. The Civil Affairs Group was just around the corner and he showed us where to go.

“Sorry for waking you up,” I said.

“It is no problem,” he said and smiled as he put his hand on his heart.

The Civil Affairs guys woke up on command and were ready to leave almost instantly.

“We just need to load the food in the trucks and we’ll be ready to go,” said the lieutenant.

The shipping container that held the foodstuffs for needy Iraqis was locked. No one knew the combination needed to unlock it, so someone went to fetch bolt cutters and returned a few minutes later.

“Let's hope this is the right container,” he said and busted open the padlock.

“Using

The container was empty.

“Somebody's going to be pissed in the morning,” Lieutenant Davies said.

“Woo hoo!” one of the soldiers yelled in the dark. “Another fucked up adventure in the United States Army. I love it!”

The lieutenant introduced me to our Iraq interpreter.

“How do you like working with Americans?” I said.

“That's a hard question to answer,” he said.

“Ah, come on,” I said. “There's no wrong answer and I won't quote you by name.”

“Well,” he said. “Sometimes I get really irritated.”

“Disco

“Yeeeeaaaahhhhhh!” bellowed a young soldier in his best imitation of a frat boy yell as another shipping container was busted open with bolt cutters. “We got it now!”

Apparently they found the food.

“But I just keep reminding myself,” our interpreter said, “that they're here to help our army and police.”

Iraqi police officers showed up in large pickup trucks given to them by the United States Army. They loaded up the trucks with food and toys as the first light of false dawn appeared in the east.

“IP

“The mission is a little bit FUBARed,” Lieutenant Davies said. “We were supposed to be back in time for breakfast, but it's too late for that now. I sent some soldiers over to the D-FAC [military dining facility] to get some chow for us now so we can eat before we move out.”

A dust storm was beginning to blow in from the west. It looked like thin fog, only I could ever so slightly taste it. I grabbed a plastic water bottle from the backseat of a Humvee and felt a fine graininess that had built up on the outside. Severe dust storms will block out the sun and make the air cooler, as cloud cover will, but this dust felt as though it would only make the air hotter by making it heavier, which is what usually happens.

Several soldiers returned from the dining facility with servings of the Big Fat Heart Attack Special in Styrofoam boxes. Inside each container were biscuits and gravy, breakfast pizza, fifteen pieces of bacon, and plastic silverware wrapped in a napkin. I didn't want to appear too hungry or greedy, so I waited until a few others had opened theirs first. The Americans stood around and ate while the Iraqis loaded the trucks. This was one of the (very) few times the Iraqis appeared more hard-working than the Americans.

“Sitting

Most of the Americans ate their breakfast off the hood of a Humvee while standing up. I sat down in the driver's seat of a golf cart. A soldier sat down in the passenger seat.

“What are you doing here in August anyway?” he said.

“A fine question,” I said as I seriously wondered why I hadn't waited for October or even November. The heat in Iraq during the summer is enough to make a religious man rail against God. I'm baffled, frankly, at how human civilization began in a place so inhospitable to human beings. Someone, I forget who, compared facing the afternoon breeze to sticking a hair dryer in your face while pouring sand on your head. That pretty much says it. It is much worse than in a place like Arizona, for instance, because you can hardly catch a break from it unless you stay on base in one of the buildings.

“It's ridiculous here in the summer,” he said. “At Camp Ramadi you take one step outside and dust explodes.”

“It must be nice in the winter,” I said.

“Actually, it's worse,” he said. “All this dust turns to mud.”

The dust was finely grained, almost like talcum powder. The soldiers call it moon dust, and it's more than six inches deep in some places, like a soft inland beach.

“It has the consistency of chocolate pudding when it's wet,” he continued. “Sometimes you think it's okay to walk on because the ground looks all cracked and dried up. So you go ahead and step on it, and then....GLORK!...your foot breaks through and you're more than boot-deep in the mud. You get that shit on you and it's not coming off. Winter is miserable.”

“Soldiers

We ate in silence for a few minutes while he, apparently, wondered whether or not he should say what he was thinking.

“Are you going to bash us or what?” he finally said.

“I didn't come all the way out here in August just to bash you guys,” I said. I felt some sympathy for his complaint, but was at the same time tired of hearing it. “I write what I see and hear, good and bad. You won’t get bad press from me unless you act badly.”

Thank you,” he said. “You'll be the first.”

I'm hardly the first. I know several journalists, political liberals as well as conservatives, who write it straight and don't wallow in soldier-bashing. But the soldier-bashing that's also out there sure does make an impression. Every journalist who embeds in Iraq must hear these complaints as often as I did, and I heard it daily.

We finished breakfast and loaded our gear and ourselves into the Humvees. The gunner in my Humvee made fun of our driver.

“We got guys like him in the Army,” he said to me and jerked his thumb toward the front seat. “Short. Skinny. All they're good for is driving.”

“Hey!” our short and skinny driver said in mock outrage. “You need us. Without us, y'all can't move out!”

Lieutenant Davies rode in the front passenger seat.

“What exactly are we delivering this morning?” I said.

“Rice, flour, cooking oil, baby formula, and Beanie Babies,” he said.

“No Beanie Babies,” said the gunner.

“No Beanie Babies,” said the lieutenant.

“We got Beanie Babies!” said the driver.

“Ok, Beanie Babies,” said the lieutenant. “We're basically following the Iraqi Police at this point. They know who in the area needs help the most. Ever since the insurgency was beaten the economy has flourished. Shops have opened up everywhere. It’s definitely a good sign. But unemployment is still really high and lots of people are desperate.”

We drove through blowing dust as the white sun rose above the plains of Mesopotamia.

“Humvee

A few Iraqi women were already out in the fields.

“Women do all the agricultural work,” Lieutenant Davies said, “as well as run the household. Iraqi men are lazy. They don't do shit.”

I heard something along the same lines from quite a few soldiers. I doubt I've ever been in such a masculine environment as I was during my time with the American military, but these guys sounded downright feminist when they talked about gender roles in Iraq, especially in Anbar Province which is noticeably more conservative and retro than Baghdad.

On the side of the road leading out of Ramadi two men wearing keffiyahs sat in wooden chairs in front of a butcher shop. They sipped from plastic tea cups next to a cow's carcass, its detached head, and a bloody hand axe.

“Oh, that's nice,” Lieutenant Davies said, “cutting up a cow on the side of the road like that.”

I tried to snap a quick picture, but was too slow.

We followed the road along the snaking Euphrates River through the desert. A mile-wide ribbon of green flanked each side of the river where hand-dug canals fanned out water for irrigation. After blowing through a few Iraqi Police checkpoints the convoy stopped in a dilapidated agricultural area.

“Farmland

It was only 7:00 in the morning, but already at least 90 degrees outside and getting noticeably hotter by the minute. I left my body armor and helmet on the seat in the Humvee. Farmland outside Ramadi feels safer than Kansas these days (at least when I'm with the Army) and my protective gear was an uncomfortable nuisance that made me feel paranoid and ridiculous. No one would let me go outside the wire unprotected in Baghdad, and I wouldn’t do it even if it were allowed. But many soldiers and Marines take off their helmets in and around Ramadi because it is no longer a war zone. No one said anything to me when I also took off my Kevlar.

An Iraqi Police officer screamed into the voice-garbling loudspeaker on one of the trucks and let the community know we were there to give them some food.

“IP

The police trucks and Humvees rolled along at perhaps one mile an hour as women, children, and a few men emerged groggily from their homes and walked up to the convoy.

Iraqi police officers handed heavy bags of flour and rice to adults and gave out smaller packages to the children..

“Bag

I walked along and took pictures. Two Iraqi women cornered me and spoke to me in rapid-fire Anbar-accented Iraqi Arabic as though they expected me to understand everything perfectly.

“La etkellem Arabie katir,” I said. I don't speak too much Arabic. I could only understand a few fragments. They were utterly bewildered by this, as though I must be stupid for not comprehending. So they repeated the same exact sentences, only more loudly.

“Woman

I didn't mind. They were simple people and they needed my help. I gestured toward the Iraqi police and suggested they follow me to one of the trucks where they could have a proper conversation with someone who lived there and really could help. All I could do was take pictures and notes. It was an awkward moment. I felt dumb and also like an intruder for seeing humble people in moments of weakness at dawn in front of their houses.

“Man

Children swarmed the roads and fought their way to the sides of the trucks. The Iraqi police yelled at them as they handed out items. The Americans quietly provided security for everyone while this was happening.

“Soldier

A traditionally dressed Iraqi men emerged from one of the houses and hugged some of the American soldiers. They seemed to know each other, and they exchanged a few words in Arabic.

Bundles of newspapers were pitched over the side of one of the trucks. Young Iraqi boys opened the bundles and handed them out to others one at a time.

“Kid

Other young boys tugged on my shirt. “Mister, mister! Picture, picture!”

I did want pictures of children, but they were annoyed whenever I took pictures of anything else. “Mister, mister!”

“Nagging

“Girl

“Thermos

“Three

“Iraqi

“When I went home on leave someone called me mister at a restaurant,” Sergeant Shumiloff said. “I almost wigged out on him. What's the matter? he said. Nothing, I said. I'm okay.”

“Shumiloff.jpg"
Sergeant Shumiloff

The Humvees and police trucks drove more slowly than I walked. We covered a mile or so of road, depleting the stocks of goods in the trucks as we went. Some Iraqi kids followed me on foot the entire time and wouldn't stop asking for pictures.

Make me famous! some seemed to be saying. Others, less fortunate, had different ideas in mind. Don't forget me, their faces seemed to say. Don't forget us. We're hurting.

“Sad

One of the Iraqi police officers was so young I could hardly believe he was even 18. He carried a bat with him wherever he went and sometimes looked like he was ready to crack heads if the needy got too unruly.

“How old is he anyway?” I said to Lieutenant Davies.

“He is really young,” he said. “But he’s one of the best they have on the force. We’re trying to get him promoted.”

The Iraqi Police busted open boxes of Beanie Babies. The kids went wild as though large stacks of money were handed out. They pushed, shoved, hit each other, and yelled as each scrambled to get the next toy.

“Pushing

“Boys

“Girl

“Man

The young Iraqi police officer, whom the lieutenant said was the best, kicked a young boy hard and sent him sprawling into the dust. The poor kid cried for his mother. Tears mixed with the dirt on his face and muddied his cheeks. Nobody said anything to the officer or offered to help the boy up. I wondered whether I should try to rein him in if he did it again.

Iraq is a painful country. It hurts those who live there, and it hurts those who go there. It isn't the saddest place I've ever visited – Libya earns that dubious distinction. But it is the most distressing, not only because of the violence and horror almost everyone who lives there has experienced, and in many places still experiences, but because it's hard to shake the dreadful feeling that terrible forces are gearing up to punish the place even more.

Anbar Province, while broken by war, is sort of okay.

“Young

“Iraqi

But the long shadow of Baghdad – which is anything but okay, and which was my jump-off point for Ramadi – falls over the city from the east. Nowhere in Iraq can be truly stable and secure until every other place is also secured.

The Iraqi Police handed something in small bags to the locals.

“Handing

“What’s in the green bags?” I said to Lieutenant Davies.

“Sand,” he said.

“No, not the sand bags,” I said and laughed. “I know what a sand bag is. I mean the green bags the police are handing out.”

“Ah,” he said and laughed. “Chai.” Tea. “What’s sad is that these people are so poor they probably would be happy with useless handouts of sand bags at this point.”

“Poor

One of the kids ran up to him, pointed to the east, said something in Arabic, and laughed.

“He asked if we would go over to the next tribal area and kill everybody who lives there,” the lieutenant told me and rolled his eyes. “He’s only kidding, but you see how it is here.”

We walked together in silence for a few moments.

“They think we can do a lot more for them than we can,” he said. “Like we’re all-powerful.” I’ve heard that many Iraqis think the Americans are so powerful they can fix Iraq at will any time, which means there must be some sinister reason why they want Iraq to remain broken. Some Lebanese I’ve met think the same way.

“President Bush can fix Lebanon in ten minutes,” a Beirut taxi driver once told me. “So why doesn’t he?”

“Some of them call me Sheikh Daoud,” Lieutenant Davies said. Daoud is Arabic for David, which is not exactly his name, but it’s close. “They say hey, you’re a sheikh, you can make stuff happen. I say, well, that’s just a nickname you gave me. We’ll see.”

“Lieutenant
Lieutenant Evan Davies

Everything from the trucks was finally handed out. It was time to head back to the Blue Diamond base even though there wasn’t quite enough for everyone to get what they wanted.

As I climbed into my Humvee and prepared to close the door, several children ran up to me and said “Football!”

“La football,” I said. No football.

We did not have any footballs.

“Football! Football!” a boy said and pointed at my feet.

I looked down. Sure enough, there was an American football at my feet.

Our gunner had already climbed into his turret. I pulled on his pant leg.

“Can I give them this football?” I said.

“What football?” he said.

“There’s a football at my feet.”

“Football! Football!” the kids kept saying.

“Nah, man, that’s our football,” the gunner said.

“Mister, mister! Football, football!”

“Give me that football,” the gunner said. I handed him the football and half expected him to toss it to the kids. “It’s my football!”

“Football! Football!” the kids yelled.

“Laaaaaaaaaa!” the gunner yelled. Noooooooooo! “Sorry, kids. Wal-Mart’s closed.”

And we drove away.

This is what it’s like now in and just outside Ramadi. This mission is the kind of thing embedded journalists see, which is why most war correspondents embed somewhere else. Soldiers Hand Out Newspapers and Rice isn’t much of a headline, and it’s even less of a scoop. But this is the kind of work soldiers do now every day in what was recently the most violent place in Iraq.

That doesn’t mean reporters who go somewhere else aren’t doing their jobs, but it mostly explains why you rarely see coverage from Anbar.

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.

“Blog

If you prefer to use Pay Pal, that is still an option.

If you would like to donate for travel and equipment expenses and you don't want to send money over the Internet, please consider sending a check or money order to:

Michael Totten
P.O. Box 312
Portland, OR 97207-0312

Many thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 1, 2007 12:13 AM
Comments

Thanks for another great article. I hope that the Iraqis are able to use the opportunity we are offering them to get their country together, in whatever (peaceful) form works best for them.

The war aside, Iraq does not sound like I place I would put on my list of the Top 5 places to visit in the Med or ME.

Ahh, I miss the days of the SNAFU, especially one to start the day.

Hard to blame the G.I's attitude towards the press, especially since the traditional media has done so poorly in this area, and especially their partisan bias. There have been some outstanding exceptions, but I guess my point is that they have been the exceptions.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at October 1, 2007 04:14 AM

I'm glad I'm only the second person to post. I'm not much for the arguments, just not in my constitution. But every time you publish photos of the children, it strengthens my resolve to help do SOMEthing positive there. I know one of your other readers raised the idea of 'adopting' an iraqi family. i think that's a great idea. my gf lives in a dominican section of washington heights near the GWB - george washington bridge. anyway, a few weeks ago we took a postprandial walk & street fairs aplenty were happening. Seeing the children bounce around in the moonwalks, watching their parents eating snow cones and cotton candy, my mind went to these children and i entertained a fantasy of sponsoring a street fair in iraq (provided a. security was reliable, and b. it wouldn't offend any one's cultural sensibilities).

anyway, the children: "make me famous, or don't forget me, i'm still suffering." i challenge any american to view those shots and not feel in their heart that we must continue to help.

best,
scott

Posted by: Scott Moshen at October 1, 2007 05:25 AM

Genuinely curious question here. Why do the adults want to have photos taken with the American soldiers? Is it just for fun in a slow town or do they want that to be shown to the American people that they are "friendly?"

Also, I notice some of those beanie babies were of pigs and dogs...hopefully we won't see a reprise of the Afghanistan protests over soccer balls issue there! I doubt it though - most Muslims are nowhere near as obsessive about that kind of stuff as people think. Just thought our purchasing staff could do a better job with that. How do they get those toys anyways?

Posted by: Aaron at October 1, 2007 06:19 AM

The children sure tug at one's heartstrings. Of course, being there and being subjected to constant badgering by the kids, I suppose it can wear thin after awhile. I need to reserve judgment. I appreciate your "telling it like it is", Michael. I think you do a balanced job. Thank you and keep it up.

Posted by: Roger L at October 1, 2007 06:56 AM

Good article Michael. I've been loving the photos of the kids. And I'm not just impressed at you being able to say ANYTHING understandable in Arabic, but that you write the word's sound in English so well. Arabic is not an easy language, to say the least.

Posted by: Joe at October 1, 2007 07:40 AM

Just thought our purchasing staff could do a better job with that. How do they get those toys anyways?

Donations?

Posted by: Yehudit at October 1, 2007 08:11 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 10/01/2007
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 October 1, 2007 08:12 AM

Aaron: most Muslims are nowhere near as obsessive about that kind of stuff as people think.

That is correct.

I hadn't even noticed some of the toys were pigs and dogs.

Muslims aren't supposed to eat pork, but many do anyway and they don't mind pigs being around. Many Iraqis have dogs as pets and guard animals.

Rage Boy is media phenomenon mostly. Not sure if even he would care about this.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 1, 2007 09:47 AM

"They pushed, shoved, hit each other, and yelled as each scrambled to get the next toy."

I thought only middle-aged suburban American women did that for Beanie Babies!
See, we aren’t so different after all.
:)

Posted by: lindsey at October 1, 2007 10:08 AM

Michael, you mentioned that you know of some other reporters that write straight. Can you suggest any names?

Posted by: Paul MacPhail at October 1, 2007 11:22 AM

William Langeweische, Jon Lee Anderson, and Robert Kaplan are terrific “mainstream” media reporters.

Langeweische writes for Vanity Fair. He was at the Atlantic. His work on various subjects – Iraq, aviation, the US/Mexico border, jailhouse riots in Brazil, third world nuclear weapons, the cleanup at Ground Zero, and the Sahara -- is consistently excellent. Jon Lee Anderson wrote The Fall of Baghdad in more or less the same style I write my blog. Robert Kaplan, who also writes for the Atlantic, wrote a terrific first-person account of fighting in Fallujah in Imperial Grunts.

Langeweische and Anderson both oppose the Iraq war, and Kaplan supports it. All three are excellent whether you agree with their opinions or not.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 1, 2007 12:07 PM

Once again, Mr. Totten, an excellent piece. It's simultaneously heartening and heart breaking. I've been against the war from the get go, but it's good to see we're doing some good. What breaks my heart is the poverty and dependence on handouts. You address that talking about seeing people in moments of weakness. What is the employment situation like in that area? Are they going to be dependent on handouts for the long term?

Posted by: Gus at October 1, 2007 12:22 PM

Mr. Trotten,

What you are doing is outstanding. I have been deployed twice to Iraq with the Marines. It is very rare to have journalist come into the An Bar province at all. Usually CNN only shows up when there is a large battle and a high death toll. Thanks for all of the hard work.

Semper Fi

Chris

Posted by: chris at October 1, 2007 12:25 PM

Michael,
I served in Ramadi in the bad old days. I know the stories about handing out food and toys aren't glamorous, but thank you for taking the time. I was a Company Commander, and feel fortunate to have had only one soldier killed in action. When we left for home I wondered what good we'd done. I hope that Ramadi continues on the path to healing. I don't have much else to say, just thanks for writting about it.
Brian

P.S. There was a bridge over Iraq Highway 1 between Ramadi and Faluhja. It was over a pretty big canal. Do you know if it is still standing?

Posted by: Brian Benner at October 1, 2007 12:40 PM

Brian,

I don't know if that bridge is still standing. At least five in Anbar have been blown up, one in Ramadi, one on the Jordanian border, and three others. I'm not sure which are the three others.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 1, 2007 12:42 PM

Got to love those T shirts the Kids have on. Looks like somebody has been sending clothing over there.

Posted by: bman at October 1, 2007 01:18 PM

It is so sad and tragic. According to the transcript provided to the Spanish newspaper, we could have removed Saddam from power without even invading the country. And all these poor children would never have had to go through the hell they've been through these past four years. Nearly 4000 Americans and counting would not have had to die. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would not have died. We could have just let Saddam go off into exile. Was it really necessary to invade the country? Was it really necessary to disband the army?

So so sad.

Posted by: Dan at October 1, 2007 01:20 PM

Michael,

I had a question I hoped you would answer back before you left, and I guess I still have it now.

Having been there now (Northern Iraq does not count, as you have pointed out numerous times before), do you have hope for the mission? In your opinion, is there a real chance that we can do some good there and leave a stable society in our wake, or are we just throwing good money after bad?

Your Ramadi dispatches incline me to the former, but when you mention Baghdad you seem to incline to the latter.

Posted by: shaulie at October 1, 2007 01:29 PM

Dan,

"It is so sad and tragic. According to the transcript provided to the Spanish newspaper, we could have removed Saddam from power without even invading the country. And all these poor children would never have had to go through the hell they've been through these past four years. Nearly 4000 Americans and counting would not have had to die. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would not have died. We could have just let Saddam go off into exile. Was it really necessary to invade the country? Was it really necessary to disband the army? "

How would that be different?

What about power vacuum?

Wouldn't it be worst result ever?

Why wouldn't each and every wonnabe come to Iraq to clame a stake?

Posted by: leo at October 1, 2007 01:33 PM

MJT
Excellent article. Got a bit of a chuckle at the end. When the kids were wanting the football and the gunner yelling "Laaaaaaaa". Do they know what football and the sport are, or were they just being kids and seeing a "toy" and wanting it? And another thing I got a chuckle out of was the first pic of the article. Looks like a "ghost" soldier. You can see what looks like a helmet then a body, no neck. Just a little humorous since its October. Did you shoot film or digital?

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 1, 2007 01:36 PM

Dan, what are you doing here? Take your liberal propaganda back to your website - you are not wanted here!

Posted by: Bozo at October 1, 2007 01:40 PM

Kevin,

I shoot digital. When there is very low light there is often blurring because the shutter is held open longer.

Bozo,

Dan is welcome to stick around. I'm curious why he thinks everything would be fine if the Americans never showed up. Iraq has serious problems that have nothing to do with the US, problems that almost all of us underestimated. We got ourselves into quite a mess over there, but the mess wasn't created by us. Iraq's history didn't begin in 2002.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 1, 2007 01:48 PM

Dan,

Are you referring to the offer by Saddam to leave for $1 billion? Or is there a new story?

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 1, 2007 01:50 PM

Shaulie: do you have hope for the mission? Your Ramadi dispatches incline me to the former, but when you mention Baghdad you seem to incline to the latter.

Not a lot. Only a little.

I think of the mission mostly as damage control at this point.

It looks to me like the US and Iraq are screwed if we stay and more even screwed if we leave.

But I don't know what is going to happen. No one does. I give it a one-in-four shot, but that's a gut-feeling guess.

Iraq isn't quite as bad a place as it was, but it is still an emergency room case as a whole. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

If anyone can "save" Iraq, Petraeus can because he knows what he is doing. If he can't pull it off, probably nobody can. If the Iraqis don't get their act together it doesn't matter how good Petraeus is at his job.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 1, 2007 01:58 PM

Michael,

It looks to me like the US and Iraq are screwed if we stay and more even screwed if we leave.

I think this is true of the whole world, it's just that a lot of people don't realize the scope yet. The only thing worse than intervening is failing to intervene. I really wish things weren't so, but the price of civilization is intervention. The barbarians can't be wished away.

I remember the dismay the Kurds expressed when I told them we would be needing them to help our children and grandchildren clean up Africa.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 1, 2007 02:21 PM

Dan, Dan the time warp man. Why don't you just give it? I really believe a man with Saddam's ego would just go away for a $1 billion dollars. The man had money stashed all over the world as well as Iraq. The thing is if he would have just lived up to his end of the bargain; he'd still be in power today. It's good to know that you have to revert back to that old arguement, because you have no answer to the fact that the surge is working.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at October 1, 2007 03:33 PM

meant to say "give it up?

Posted by: Pete Dawg at October 1, 2007 03:34 PM

More near-tear jerking honesty, Michael.
"I felt dumb and also like an intruder for seeing humble people in moments of weakness at dawn in front of their houses."

This felt so true, and real -- and relevant to me in Slovakia and a couple years ago in Kenya.

IMO, the Arabs need to visit the Kurds and see what the "Bush plan" was -- liberation and let the locals start developing. The Sunni pride/ foolishness to be willing to murder American liberators, or hide/ support the murderers, is one big reason it's a mess.

Whenever I hear about unemployment, I'm disappointed at not hearing about those who provide employment. Entrepreneurs. Business owners. Iraq, like all poor areas, needs more folks willing to work their butts off to start a business, and hire others. Low cost loans, fairly easy to get, would be a big help.

Even more long-term help than more Beanie Babies.

Aren't you still supporting/ in contact with Spirit of America? They've done fine stuff.

Thanks again for your fine work. But I think Iraq's looking a lot more promising than Darfur.

Were there any Iraqis angry with Iran at supporting terrorists in Iraq?

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at October 1, 2007 04:02 PM

Great report, Michael. Welcome to the insanity and inanity of the US Army! The conversations you related made me laugh out loud because they rang so true; I heard many a similar sentiment when over there last time. As far as the MSM deafening silence goes, I have a phrase I use to describe it: No News Is Good News.

This works on two levels. One, very little they report will ever be good news, and when weeks go by without any such doom and gloom you can be assured that it's good news for the good guys.

Keep up the great work, and see you over there in December if you're still around by then.

Posted by: Buck Sargent at October 1, 2007 04:14 PM

The New York Times just published some good news. It's a full article, this time: Iraqi Violence Ebbed in September, Reports Say.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at October 1, 2007 04:21 PM

I think the "soldier bashing" results more from the news judgment of the editors than the writing of the correspondents. They publish what fits their prejudices.

Posted by: hdgreene at October 1, 2007 04:52 PM

Michael:

Thanks again for your reporting efforts here. Covering the commonplace events provides valuable context for the overall American mission in Iraq.

Moreover, while you or other reporters may consider Anbar a media backwater now, I believe what happens in the province over the next 18 months will determine the ultimate fate of Iraq. Right now, the Sunnis are holding a very weak hand in their negotiations with the Kurds and Shias simply because they have no oil revenues. What leverage they do have derives largely from their potential for making trouble. This situation undermines all efforts toward a political settlement and reconciliation.

Nevertheless, the US DOE estimates that the largely Sunni-controlled Western Desert, essentially Anbar province, holds possibly 85 billion barrels of reserves. If true, that would immediately elevate Sunnis to at least an equal status with the other ethnic groups and jump start the region's economy, eliminating a wealth of Sunni frustration over unemployment and their second-class status with the central Iraqi government. (By my calculations, every Anbar Sunni would enjoy a $1+ million endowment if the US DOE estimates can be confirmed.)

Hence, to my questions:

Are the Sunni sheiks in Anbar aware of the US DOE report and does it have any credibility with them or, for that matter, the other ethnic factions?

Given the relatively secure environment throughout Anbar, has there been any effort at the provincial or national level to bring in Western oil companies to begin conductiing geologic surveys and exploratory drilling there?

Stay safe and don't let your guard down. I admire your initiative and courage.

Posted by: Cordell at October 1, 2007 04:59 PM

Michael- Great reporting as usual. I think it's funny as hell that you have to defend yourself constantly to the soldiers you inbed with. Now, I'll agree that there some straight shooters in the MSM, but apparently not enough of them.

I do empathize with you in regards to watching people suffer in poverty. My family came from the Philippines. My father and father in-law grandfather joined the US Army because they remember the kindness the GI's showed the Filipino people. They both wanted repay in kind; especially when America needed people in the Korean War.

We go back to the Philippines every other year. We have family in Manila as well in Leyte. The poverty is just overwhelming. One rule for a Filipino returning to Philippines bring lots of Spam. They love that stuff. Well, when we go back almost the entire barrio knows we are back; so my family starts handing out the Spam. Well some of the people started to get a little rowdy, one of my cousins took his bambo and cracked a teenage kid over the head. I was about to say something, but my father pulled me back. He said "don't get involved son. You don't live here. It's just the way of things." So don't feel like the Lone Ranger. It basically sucks.

Stay safe. Are you planning to go to Baghdad in the near future?

Posted by: Pete Dawg at October 1, 2007 05:00 PM

An excellent article. I really appreciated reading about the other things that are happening. My son is in the Marine Corp and stationed somewhere around there. I hope he is getting to do work like this, since as a typical mom of course I worry.

Stay safe and thank you for some unbiased reporting

Posted by: Lorraine at October 1, 2007 05:16 PM

Thanks Mike for another great view of events on the ground! You, MIchael Yon and the other independent embeds are doing great work! Please keep it up as long as circumstances and resources permit. Blood sells, good news doesn't. We need the good news, or even the slightly good news, to offset the relentless body count in the main stream media (cited exceptions above not withstanding.)Please pass on to Lt. Davies (if you're still with them,) or your next embed, we remember them and honor their service, even if outside their training parameters :D. Pass on to the Iraqis we're in their corner, regardless of tribe or religious affiliation, as much as we can be. NOBODY unless he/she is a heartless AQI fanatic likes to see kids in distress.

Posted by: Tom Jones at October 1, 2007 06:38 PM

Michael,

Dan is welcome to stick around. I'm curious why he thinks everything would be fine if the Americans never showed up. Iraq has serious problems that have nothing to do with the US, problems that almost all of us underestimated. We got ourselves into quite a mess over there, but the mess wasn't created by us. Iraq's history didn't begin in 2002.

The most recent mess was definitely created by us, Michael. Iraq has certainly never been heaven, or anywhere near perfection, but, let's play that what-if game that so many like to play with World War II. What if Saddam took off on his own, left Iraq with $1 billion and lived in exile the rest of his days. It's been done before, and it has been fairly effective for the country involved. Fewer people die this way, too.

So what if? Would we have diverted our attention from the REAL enemy? Would we have planted all those 150,000 troops that have been in Iraq these past four years over in Afghanistan? Would we have allowed Bin Laden, our REAL enemy to escape?

The people of Iraq would have welcomed us without any violence done to them or their country. They wanted Saddam gone, and exile means he is gone. By not going after his head, you keep the Sunnis from getting too resistant to your plans. You don't fully satisfy the Shi'ites or the Kurds, but you're not in there for revenge or even vengeance. That's not your purpose. Your purpose is to ensure that there is no power vacuum (which did occur once we went in, regardless of how many troops we had there, and that we won the war---we never really had control of the country).

And Saddam, in exile? Do you think he'd live for very long? Do you think he didn't make enough enemies? Who would mourn his assassination? I know of nobody.

9/11 really messed up our heads, Michael. We forgot our sense of decency and rightness and instead let our ugly sides come out, our warmongering, our violent tendencies, our desires to, as Thomas Friedman put it long ago, to make them "suck on this!" What kind of decent person says that we should go into the Middle East, wag our finger at the locals, say "suck on this" for the only reason being because we can?

I feel really sorry for all those Iraqi kids you pictured. They are scarred for life over what they have seen these past four years. It is a shame that they have to suffer because one George Bush refused to take an offer from a crazed dictator to leave his country behind. Give him the money, man. He'll get his reward. But protect America, first. Protect the innocent first. We failed to do that. And now the sorrow comes.

Of course, we haven't learned our lesson yet. By next summer, we're most likely going to be at war with Iran. We really need to get away from this madness.

Posted by: Dan at October 1, 2007 07:21 PM

Cordell,

Can you provide a link to a DOE report? All I'm aware of is a report by IHS, a Colorodo company, which has generated some skepticism.

Brushing all these findings aside, the U.S. energy analysts I.H.S., for reasons yet to be uncovered, reveals surprising and shocking figures of estimates totaling 100 billion barrels. Who are we to believe? Is it logical and sane to doubt the surveys by IPC, the National Oil Company, giant foreign oil firms and recent surveys by U.S. groups and believe the I.H.S?

I don't disbelieve the IHS report yet, but as it is the outlier, we need corroborating evidence.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at October 1, 2007 07:34 PM

A sad article.

It's easy to get lost in the minutiae and the pictures of all these well-intentioned Americans, and grateful iraqis, wanting to be help and wanting to be helped - and then make the leap to assuming that we must be helping, because we want to be.

Of course, in real life, there are unintended consequences. All you have to do is look at the widely varying consequences for Iraqis in 2003-2007, assuming, of course, a consistent level of U.S. altruistic motive during the entire period.

Posted by: glasnost at October 1, 2007 07:54 PM

I'm hardly the first. I know several journalists, political liberals as well as conservatives, who write it straight and don't wallow in soldier-bashing. But the soldier-bashing that's also out there sure does make an impression. Every journalist who embeds in Iraq must hear these complaints as often as I did, and I heard it daily.

I sincerely admire you for the unpopular work of sticking up for journalists, Mike.

Having said that, I'd love to see someone.. anyone.. open field.. come up with any article in any major newspaper that has ever done anything remotely like "soldier-bashing."

If you could find three, I'd be suprised. If you could find ten, I'd be genuinely stunned. (We're not talking DailyKos diarists, folks, but paid journalists).

In real life, bad news is reported. Soldiers' own opinions about the missions and each other are quoted. And, occasionally, stories are printed based on plausible events that turn out later to be untrue - which can and does happen to anyone, in any profession.

But no one ever calls soldiers names or makes negative assumptions about their personalities or qualities.

Everyone in every profession accuses the conveyors of information of a hostile agenda when negative information is conveyed. It's a consistent truism. The media reported good things when there seemed to be good things to report everywhere - like March and April, 2003 - and the hostile agenda was miraculously absent.

Remember the days when Donald Rumsfield was carried by the media as a hero? I do.

Coverage is driven by events.

Posted by: glasnost at October 1, 2007 08:03 PM

Dan:

I agree with you - We should take all 150,000 of our troops out of Iraq & send them into Pakistan to get OBL (& hope he is there). On the land route to Pakistan, I think we need to pass thru Iran. I guess we need to deal with them first.
(how many Muslim countries does that make? 4? -
almost sounds like a freakin crusade).

But we do need to deal with Iran - osama can wait. He'll piss off someone sooner or later.
(what's the reward up to? 25M? 50M?).

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at October 1, 2007 08:38 PM

I enjoyed your reporting of the day to day activities in Iraq. As a former soldier I know that
soldier's complain and are sometimes not politically correct. Back in the day, none of this was usually seen in print. I think it is good to have others see the real situation. Unfortunately some people that have no concept of the conditions involved may find the soldiers as being rude or uncaring towards the locals. Talking smack between each other, and often others sometimes helps keep soldiers sane. Reporting the interaction and sometime FUBAR's are good. SNAFU

Posted by: hodag at October 1, 2007 09:04 PM

Michael-
You wrote:
“They think we can do a lot more for them than we can,” he said. “Like we’re all-powerful.” I’ve heard that many Iraqis think the Americans are so powerful they can fix Iraq at will any time, which means there must be some sinister reason why they want Iraq to remain broken. Some Lebanese I’ve met think the same way.

I've been warning about this to anyone that would listen for years now. I learned of this phenomenon in Egypt in the '70s. I see it as a part of the conspiracy obsession that is also an impediment to progress there. I don't know what the answer is(got some ideas though) but I'm pretty sure that they are going to need to develop some self confidence so they won't have to look for boogie-men to blame their problems on.

Posted by: TBinSTL at October 1, 2007 09:49 PM

Dan,

What do you believe would have been the course of events if Saddam had gone into exile? Who would have risen to power? What form of government would have ruled? Given that the world seriously believed there were WMD, what about that issue? There so many questions that you need to answer.

These are seriously posed questions. If you want me or any other reader to accept your argument, then you need to give a reasoned, rational and sound position of what the alternative would have produced that is better than the course that was taken.

For me, sound arguments can sway my opinion, but grandstand game calling is useless noise. I agree that war produces death and suffering; however, I do not agree that Saddam's exile would have prevented death and suffering in Iraq. The evidence of these past years shows a country embattled with itself far greater than with the USA. The only leader that would have held Iraq together after Saddam would have been another tyrant. That country's stability at that time was possible only because of the exact tyranny that we went there to remove. It was a country of two possible destinies: greater tyranny or collapse. In either case the depravation would have continued.

The costs of the war, both human and financial, are far greater than was originally estimated; but the value of our being there is immeasurable. To wordsmith on the title of this article,"The Peace Corps with Muscle", I challenge that the real message of this war has been peace through strength. The Iraqi are beginning to discover the taste of freedom, democracy and self worth and it makes them hungry for more. It is a victory for the Iraqi people and a victory for the USA.

Posted by: Kevin China at October 1, 2007 10:04 PM

Dan,

So what if? Would we have diverted our attention from the REAL enemy? Would we have planted all those 150,000 troops that have been in Iraq these past four years over in Afghanistan? Would we have allowed Bin Laden, our REAL enemy to escape?

This is a very badly thought out set of questions.

We have many enemies for a variety of reasons. One of the key reasons is that our freedom and success is a living repudiation of tyrants who deal with failure. Regrettably for your assertions, our "REAL" enemy is contained and trapped to a life of general futility. Putting Osama Bin Laden in prison or pine box does little to reduce his current level of effectiveness.

Putting more bodies into Afghanistan would have increased our logistics requirements to the point of decreasing returns. After a while you are guarding troops who are guarding troops who are carrying supplies to the people who are carrying supplies...and so on ad infinitum. The Soviets learned this lesson in the 1980s the hard way.

Not every element of a successful war plan has to be slam-dunk triumphs with banners and bugles. As long as you can keep your enemy afraid and disorganized, you are preventing their victory.

Finally, Bin Laden put years of effort into his escape. In 2002 after a few weeks of on-the-fly attack plans, he got away from us through the mountains in the winter. Since you are unclear on military matters, allow me to assure you that chasing people through the mountains in winter is hard. Try putting 120 pounds of gear and weaponry on, then go on a brisk hike through the Rockies in December. Remember to have several hundred people who hate you shooting at you during your jaunt.

By the way, Osama's escape happened more than a year before we went into Iraq. Attacking Saddam had nothing whatsoever to do with Bin Laden's escape. It appears dishonest for you to ask those questions in that order. It indicates a lack of intellectual integrity and prevents people from taking you seriously.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 1, 2007 11:20 PM

Creamy Goodness:

Regarding the debate over Iraq's potential oil reserves, particularly those in the Western Desert, a Brookings Institution article from May 12, 2003 provides perhaps the best overview and analysis:

http://www.brookings.edu/views/op-ed/fellows/luft20030512.htm

To summarize, here are a few key excerpts:

. . . Over the past several months, news organizations and experts have regularly cited Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Information Administration (EIA) figures claiming that the territory of Iraq contains over 112 billion barrels (bbl) of proven reserves—oil that has been definitively discovered and is expected to be economically producible. In addition, since Iraq is the least explored of the oil-rich countries, there have been numerous claims of huge undiscovered reserves there as well—oil thought to exist, and expected to become economically recoverable—to the tune of hundreds of billions of barrels. The respected Petroleum Economist Magazine estimates that there may be as many as 200 bbl of oil in Iraq; the Federation of American Scientists estimates 215 bbl; a study by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James A. Baker III Institute at Rice University claimed that Iraq has 220 bbl of undiscovered oil; and another study by the Center for Global Energy Studies and Petrolog & Associates offered an even more optimistic estimate of 300 bbl—a number that would give Iraq reserves greater even than those of Saudi Arabia. In a Guardian interview before the war, Taha Hmud Moussa, Saddam's deputy oil minister, said that all of Iraq's oil reserves "will exceed 300bbl when all Iraq's regions are explored."

. . . In truth, the DOE has no method of independent evaluation at all. Its main source of public data is the Oil & Gas Journal (OGJ), a leading trade journal of the oil industry. Over the years, the OGJ has become the most widely quoted source of reserve assessments. Its data is used by the much quoted annual British Petroleum Statistical Review of World Energy and by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). However, the reserve figures published annually by the OGJ are hardly beyond reproach. . .

. . . As for undiscovered reserves, external auditing is even more difficult and Iraq's claims are even more dubious. Issam al-Chalabi, Iraq's oil minister from 1987 to 1990, admitted in the March 24, 2003 issue of the OGJ that Iraq's oil figures are "preliminary in nature since work was often interrupted by political problems, and the technology used is now outdated." Large parts of the country, especially in Iraq's Western Desert and its northwest, are still untapped and need to be explored. This is where the DOE and USGS really part company. According to the DOE-EIA's Iraq web page, deep oil-bearing formations located in the vast Western Desert region could possibly yield as much as 100 bbl. This again contrasts with the detailed data of the USGS, which suggests only a 50 percent possibility of 6.6 bbl in Iraq's Western Desert petroleum system. Even under its most optimistic scenario, the USGS predicts no more than 14 bbl coming from this area.

However, there are some facts that are undisputed. First, Iraq has considerable oil reserves and low production costs. Second, because of Iraq's isolation over the last decade—during which exploration technology has greatly improved—there has been almost no use of the most sophisticated exploration techniques such as seismological surveys, magnetometers, and sniffers in Iraq. Furthermore, most of the fields have not been explored down to the deepest layers of the ground, where plenty of oil can be found. Out of the 74 fields that have been discovered and evaluated, only 15 are actually operating. In addition, there are 526 prospective drilling sites in Iraq today, but just 125 of them have actually been drilled. Of those, 90 have shown potential as oil fields, but only 30 have been even partially developed. This means that once on the ground with sophisticated exploration tools, petrogeologists could establish in relatively short time a far more accurate picture of the scope of Iraq's reserve than the one we have today. . .

Those who believe the recent IHS report was merely cooked up to pacify the restive Anbar province should note that the 100 billion barrel DOE estimate cited in the above Brookings article was produced prior to the Iraq War and the subsequent Sunni insurgency.

Posted by: Cordell at October 2, 2007 12:52 AM

Michael, this was another fantastic story. Please keep up the good work.

I couldn't help but notice the the shirt of the kid in the 27th picture down (5th picture up). He has on a shirt with a bunch of Japanese manga (comic book) characters. Being a manga and anime collector I couldn't help but notice one small thing and it's that the shirt is displaying yaoi ("boys love"). Yaoi is a Japanese homosexual male love story.

Screw the dogs and pigs, that kid's got gay on him!

Michael, go back with some of those pens that you turn upside down to reveal the naked ladies. The kid might not care one way or the other but I bet right now the parents are fuming.

Posted by: Robert Munoz at October 2, 2007 01:11 AM

Patrick: the price of civilization is intervention. The barbarians can't be wished away.

LOL! keep this quote around in case anyone ever accuses you of being a neo-colonialist. with this documentation, you can prove that they're wrong because you're an old school colonialist. keep bearing the white man's burden, ustaz kurtz!

Posted by: reader at October 2, 2007 01:26 AM

I sincerely admire you for the unpopular work of sticking up for journalists, Mike. (ed comment--- He wasn't exactly doing that,g. Just observing that not ALL 'journalists' were agenda driven and structurally BIASED.)
...
Coverage is driven by events.
---glasnost
-------------------------------------------------
Ever since the Sept. 10 testimony of Gen. David Petraeus, we've heard less and less from the mainstream media about the war in Iraq. The old adage "no news is good news" has never been truer. That the media are no longer much interested in Iraq is a sure sign things are going well there. Instead, they're talking about the presidential campaign, or Burma, or global warming, or . . . whatever.
Why? Simply put, the news from Iraq has been quite positive.
----- IBD Editorial Commentary

Hmmm, two very dissimialar viewpoints on the 'media'. One states categorically that the 'media' simply reports reality and cannot be blamed if that reality happens to be bad. And the other implies that the 'media' reports only BAD reality, and simply ignores all else as non-news(much like that famous tree falling in the forest), thus creating a deliberately FALSE reality. Who to believe ? Who to believe ? It's a tough call for sure. Almost requires the efforts of a modern Solomon to laser thru the levels of nuance .

Now personally I am leaning towards door #2. But that's just me. Must lack that all-important nuance gene.

Posted by: dougf at October 2, 2007 06:10 AM

Your article was well written and truthful. I am the Deputy Team Leader of the Fallujah Emmbedded Provintial Reconstruction team just south of your position. What you experienced, we all do on a weekly basis. The beanie babies are sent from family and friends from the states along with make-up and scarves for the ladies. We were worried at first, but we had the female marines had out the items to the ladies. The Iraqis are an interesting people, but you would understand that by now. Good luck in your travels, stop by Camp Fallujah if you have a chance.

Posted by: Major Joseph Posato at October 2, 2007 06:20 AM

I'm a first time reader to your work. At first, I must admit, I didn't like what I was reading... it seemed as though you were targeting the Soldiers, despite caiming to them to tell it like it was. I continued through your story, with somewhat of a negative attitude. After finishing the article, I felt as if I betrayed myself and wanted to read it again but without the bias. Your work is very good! Your photos are nice. I appreciate that you have made the effort to "Tell it like it is." And you did.

In response to "glasnot"

An article doesn't have to come right out and say, "Soldiers Suck" to bash on Soldiers. An article can be biased, tell only a partial story, or not put a situation into context. In Michael's current article, he could have mentioned the kicking of the young boy by the Iraqi and digressed into a diatribe about American Soldiers disregard for the poor helpless Iraqis. The fact is that the Soldiers were there assisting with the donations to the local society. The Police and Soldiers must have security as well. Kids carry bombs as well as adults.

As an apparent writer, glosnot, you know this already. You probably have great talent and could spin things anyway you wanted. Much the same as the liberal and conservative media. I encourage you to be more like Michael and write what is seen... everything... good and bad... primetime newsworthy and stuff that's not even worth gossiping about.

My guess is that as the large media companies continue to try to earn money... more people will turn to journalist's, author's and reporters who do work like this article.

Posted by: Jon at October 2, 2007 06:46 AM

Aha. So this is where my nephews' beanie babies ended up. So much for that useless fad, looks like it had a lot bigger meaning than I thought. Love to you and your soldier friends

Posted by: Todd at October 2, 2007 06:48 AM

Great story. I spent some time in Cairo, Egypt, and the kids there also clamored for pictures and for me to play soccer with them; probably the comparisons between the two situations stop there, but I felt like I could relate. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: phil at October 2, 2007 06:57 AM

What if Saddam took off on his own, left Iraq with $1 billion and lived in exile the rest of his days.

Saddam was working with the UN and with the Europeans to profit from the oil-for-food program. Whoever replaced him would play the Saddam role as Saddam played it.

Saddam II would play the same games, threatening the US to make himself look big to the Muslim world, pretending that he had WMDs to hide, stuffing his money into his mattress, killing people who remotely threatened him, preparing a spider hole to crawl into.

That 1 billion dollars would be the equivalent of the money we pay to the Palestinians and the Egyptians - extortion money paid with no results offered. If we paid such a huge sum, the entire world would realize that we were idiots and rubes. Every leader of a country that was low on cash at the moment would say 'I've got WMDs and I hate America too!' and expect to be paid. Talk about easy money.

We would continue to play our role, freaking out about any mention of nukes, threatening war, considering 'dialogue' or offers of more pointless extortion money/bribes. If we didn't freak out about the WMDs, someone else would. In any case, there would eventually be a war, Iraqis would die, chaos would follow and the insurgents would come in. Since America is the only nation with a reasonable military force, we'd have to deal with the problem.

Since Europeans resent us because they're so weak, and since they'd lose the money Saddam II provided, they would hate and blame us as they do now. The Kurds probably wouldn't like us as much as they do now because they'd know that we were traitors and suckers for paying Saddam I 1 billion dollars. Otherwise, we'd be where we are now.

Posted by: mary at October 2, 2007 08:03 AM

A group in Central Illinois has been collecting Beanie Babies and shipping them to the soldiers to give to Iraqi children. It has been fun being involved and then to see and read about the children receiving the toys warms my heart. Here is the website for our group:www.toys-for-troops.com/. It started as a mom wanting to help her son, a soldier.

Posted by: Kate at October 2, 2007 09:10 AM

reader,

Colonialists are interested in taking land for their own use, to become lords and masters. They form colonies and maintain control for themselves. The problem with your kneejerk response is that it gets in the way of comprehension.

I do not want to go back to Africa and invest tens of thousands of lives in an excruciating effort to extract the continent from barbarism. Regrettably, asking politely for the people of Africa to stop descending into tribalism and intolerance has failed.

I also do not want to go to Africa and brutalize the locals so that I can be a king of men, or even to loot King Solomon's Mines.

I reluctantly conclude that it is necessary to go to Africa to prevent their disintegration from poisoning the world.

Why do you want to continue the suffering in Africa? Just so you won't be accused of being a colonialist? Are you that afraid of labels that you would condemn a billion people to debasement and death?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 2, 2007 10:53 AM

Reader,

Is Senator Obama also an old school colonialist when he talks about doing something about Darfur?

When President Clinton apologized for not intervening in Rwanda, was he apologizing for not being an old school colonialist or a neocolonialist?

When the Western left agitated for sanctions on South Africa's apartheid regime, was that an example of neocolonialism or old school colonialism?

Just curious how all of this works.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 2, 2007 11:15 AM

Is Senator Obama also an old school colonialist when he talks about doing something about Darfur?

I think that Reader's point was that when one talks about the "barbarians", one is evoking the now century-old sensibilities of the civilizing influence of one's own culture vs the savagery of the barbarians that one is trying to either modernize or to kill.

In other words, the mindset involved, not necessarily the actions.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 11:55 AM

Thanks Michael for the excellent report!

RE: Saddam's exile. I find it interesting that the report of this secret discussion also included Saddam's desire to take HIS WDM WITH HIM, but somehow that part doesn't seem to register with those who poopoo Bush for not taking Saddam up on his exile.

BTW, Saddam wasn't going to go into exile, he was just retiring and passing the reigns to his sons. I don't remember reading in the report of this secret discussion that Saddam's sons were also part of the exile package. What about Chemical Ali, was he part of the package too? Or any of the other Deck of Cards?

I also wonder, if Saddam had gone into exile, would the French and Germans then moved for the UNSC to lift the sanctions of Saddam? Put that in your pipe and smoke it! Saddam sippin’ scotch on the Riviera while his boys are back in Iraq with the recipes!

Posted by: Texas Gal at October 2, 2007 12:04 PM

Thanks Michael for the excellent report!

RE: Saddam's exile. I find it interesting that the report of this secret discussion also included Saddam's desire to take HIS WDM WITH HIM, but somehow that part doesn't seem to register with those who poopoo Bush for not taking Saddam up on his exile.

BTW, Saddam wasn't going to go into exile, he was just retiring and passing the reigns to his sons. I don't remember reading in the report of this secret discussion that Saddam's sons were also part of the exile package. What about Chemical Ali, was he part of the package too? Or any of the other Deck of Cards?

I also wonder, if Saddam had gone into exile, would the French and Germans then moved for the UNSC to lift the sanctions of Saddam? Put that in your pipe and smoke it! Saddam sippin’ scotch on the Riviera while his boys are back in Iraq with the recipes!

Posted by: Texas Gal at October 2, 2007 12:05 PM

sorry for the double post. I thought it said connection failure.

Posted by: Texas Gal at October 2, 2007 12:06 PM

I think that Reader's point was that when one talks about the "barbarians", one is evoking the now century-old sensibilities of the civilizing influence of one's own culture vs the savagery of the barbarians that one is trying to either modernize or to kill.--dpu

And your point therefore is ?

Surely it cannot be that it is per se unreasonable, unjust , or unfair to draw normative conclusions about the 'betterness' of one set of cultural assumptions over another set of different cultural assumptions.

Or can it ?

Posted by: dougf at October 2, 2007 12:25 PM

DPU: I think that Reader's point was that when one talks about the "barbarians", one is evoking the now century-old sensibilities of the civilizing influence of one's own culture vs the savagery of the barbarians that one is trying to either modernize or to kill.

Okay, but that doesn't mean the Janjaweed aren't barbaric. They clearly are.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 2, 2007 01:05 PM

Michael-

I was hoping on a future article you could expand on the way the women are being treated in Anbar. And are they starting to speak up for themselves? I thought it was funny how you observed that the soldiers were sounding like feminists. Are the young girls being preped for some indentured servituted in marriage? Or is there hope that through education they might better their circumstances?

Posted by: Pete Dawg at October 2, 2007 01:18 PM

And your point therefore is ?

My point is to clarify what was being talked about, at least from my perspective.

Surely it cannot be that it is per se unreasonable, unjust , or unfair to draw normative conclusions about the 'betterness' of one set of cultural assumptions over another set of different cultural assumptions.

Nope, it was to try and point out that there might be some communication problems in the comments.

Or can it ?

No. Just clarification.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 01:29 PM

Okay, but that doesn't mean the Janjaweed aren't barbaric. They clearly are.

As are all other factions in that disagreement.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 01:31 PM

DPU,

As are all other factions in that disagreement.

So should we ignore the genocide because even though one side is expansively evil, all sides are barbaric?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 2, 2007 01:36 PM

So should we ignore the genocide because even though one side is expansively evil, all sides are barbaric?

Gosh, that's an easy one. No.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 01:37 PM

... even though one side is expansively evil...

What makes only one side on that conflict evil? Which one, and why only that one?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 01:39 PM

What makes only one side on that conflict evil? Which one, and why only that one?--dpu

Now normally if this were 'another' situation, I might find myself opposed to such sentiments as betraying that infamous 'equivalency' fallacy, but in Darfur and hell-holes like it, I agree completely with you. The latest disaster there involving AU troops was evidently promulgated by one of the 'rebel' groups. I wouldn't sent troops to Darfur or any place like it, unless they had Instructions as to the ultimate end-goals, FIRM orders to be the baddest boys on the block, and ROE to match.

Neo-colonialism or no.

Posted by: dougf at October 2, 2007 01:57 PM

DPU,

What makes only one side on that conflict evil? Which one, and why only that one?

I never said that. I said that one side was expansively evil. Getting people from the West to act responsibly at all is difficult enough lately. It is somewhat easier since 9/11 to explain to people in the West that the barbarians looking at you and fingering their knives really mean it.

You are certainly welcome to consider yourself exempt from the above generalization. Even after 9/11, it appears to be impossible to get you to believe that there are people out there perfectly willing to cut your throat for your beliefs. It may not be impossible to convince you, but it is difficult to distinguish your skepticism from obstinate and suicidal irrationality.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 2, 2007 01:58 PM

I wouldn't sent troops to Darfur or any place like it, unless they had Instructions as to the ultimate end-goals, FIRM orders to be the baddest boys on the block, and ROE to match.

Like in Somalia?

These situations are extremely tricky, and Darfur is trickier than most. One of the long acknowledged problems with UN or AU deployment there is that they would quickly become targets of all sides, and retaliation would lead to an ugly free-for-all. That would end up making the situation far worse than it already is.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 02:00 PM

I said that one side was expansively evil.

Okay, Which side, and why only that side?

Even after 9/11, it appears to be impossible to get you to believe that there are people out there perfectly willing to cut your throat for your beliefs.

Once again, you are displaying absolutely awful mind reading abilities. I'd give it up if I were you.

I'm not sure who on earth you're thinking of when you make these bizarre pronouncements, but it sure as hell isn't me.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 02:03 PM

Like in Somalia?---dpu

Are you saying that Somalia had all of the things that I would require or merely 'some' of them, or perhaps NONE of them ?

I grant you that the ROE might have been robust enough, but the 'reasons' for being there seemingly shifted over time into a non-cohesive morass. It's not very useful to kill off a bunch of clansmen unless you are doing it for a REASON. A reason that is more comprehensive than tying to get your ass out of the frying pan. Not that getting out of the frying pan is not a perfectly good reason at the time and in itself. It just does not 'lead' anywhere tangible.

And again I agree with your comments on the use of UN/AU forces in these cesspools. Against all the odds they can and often do make the situation worse. Not only for the reasons you suggest but also because the troops sent are very often one small step up from uniformed thugs themselves and proceed to brutalise the very people they are sent to protect. Thus not exactly winning friends and influencing people.

Posted by: dougf at October 2, 2007 02:18 PM

Sudan is a violent and backwards country. Barbaric, if you will. Seeing as genocide is the worst crime in the world (at least I can't think of anything worse) what's wrong with Patrick and me placing extra blame on the Janjaweed?

No side is guilt-free, but that doesn't mean they all deserve to get the same amount of crap.

I remember the "pox on all their houses" attitude from the Yugoslav war, which looks even worse in hindsight than it did at the time. Let's not go there.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 2, 2007 02:25 PM

Are you saying that Somalia had all of the things that I would require or merely 'some' of them, or perhaps NONE of them ?

All of them.

I mention Somalia because it was a similar situation (a complex political situation based on resource wars and tribal/clan relationships). As you point out, the goals and aims changed, but they were pretty clear at the outset. And proving that they were the meanest sons of bitches in the valley didn't do much in the long run.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 02:26 PM

DPU,

Once again, you are displaying absolutely awful mind reading abilities. I'd give it up if I were you.

Once again, you are displaying absolutely awful text reading comprehension. I used the word "appears" to indicate what a number of readers of your posts have perceived and described.

Your intransigence may not be actual, but it is apparent. You can argue that you did not intend to appear impossibly unreasonable, but after all these months, it is going to take a lot to be convincing.

Michael may be willing to cut you some slack for your invitation to buy him ice cream, but we have different standards.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 2, 2007 02:30 PM

...what's wrong with Patrick and me placing extra blame on the Janjaweed?

Extra blame? I only see sole blame.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 02:31 PM

Patrick, why are you ducking the question that I've put to you twice now?

Which side in the Darfur conflict are you labeling as expansively evil, and why are you not applying that to both sides?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 02:33 PM

To clarify my position on this somewhat...

The Janjaweed are a brutal and repressive force in the Sudan, and what there actions in Darfur can be described according to some criteria as genocide.

However, this description leads many to believe that if one side of the conflict is bad, then the other side must be good. In the last couple of years, I've seen a great deal of nonsense about this conflict that can be traced back to that overly simplistic view.

All sides in this series of complex struggles have some really nasty attributes, and I prefer to see as many sides addressed as possible.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 02:43 PM

Your intransigence may not be actual, but it is apparent. You can argue that you did not intend to appear impossibly unreasonable, but after all these months, it is going to take a lot to be convincing.

Why on earth would I be interested in clearing up your misconceptions about me and what I might be thinking?

I'm just interested in refuting them when you put them in print as though they were fact.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 02:49 PM

And proving that they were the meanest sons of bitches in the valley didn't do much in the long run.--dpu

But that is precisely the point ---- Clinton bugged out in the SHORT RUN. Not really because he sat down and 're-evaluated' the mission and its cost/benefit ratio but simply because he could not stomach the 'images', and he had not previously thought the process through to an achievable end.

The US proved it was the 'baddest boy on the block' but then it left the neighbourhood post haste. If the mission had been 'critical; then they should have rearmed and kicked Aidid's ass until he begged for 'peace'. Which considering the pounding his forces took in 1 day would have been very shortly in the future. How many thousands can anyone lose ? When it gets down to just you and cousin Mustapha, your options tend to be somewhat limited.

So 'with all due respect' I must disagree on the criteria satisfied scale here.

I rate it as a 1.5 out of 3 and I am being 'generous' due to the ROE factor(which may very well have been distorted due to the immediate nature of the Black Hawk situation). Would the ROE have allowed for the free use of gunships in the 'normal' course of events ? I have my doubts.

Clear Mission --- Not really(unless you count some airy-fairy peacekeeping idea as a clear mission. And it was not backed by any will or resolve at home. All show --- no go. More a photo-op than an intervention,

ROE --- OK. Kick Ass & Take Names. With above reservations taken into account.

Bad Boys --- Yes but only ONCE and not for any over-riding strategic purpose. And then basically--- ADIOS, don't forget to write. So in effect by the logic of the 'neighbourhood',--- NO.

Posted by: dougf at October 2, 2007 02:54 PM

Clinton bugged out in the SHORT RUN. Not really because he sat down and 're-evaluated' the mission and its cost/benefit ratio but simply because he could not stomach the 'images', and he had not previously thought the process through to an achievable end.

My recollection was that there seemed to be nothing that could be done by the US military that would improve the situation, and certainly nothing worth the lives of more US forces.

As far as loose ROE, I think that would eventually turn all sides in the conflict against the US. But what do I know?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 02:59 PM

DPU,

My recollection was that there seemed to be nothing that could be done by the US military that would improve the situation, and certainly nothing worth the lives of more US forces.

I wish my recollection of events included a comprehensive understanding of all assets, doctrines, capabilities, and expected results of military operations available to the United States at a given moment. Or perhaps it is just that your perception of the US military does not include the possibility of successful action?

Can you name any circumstances where US military action would be successful or improve a situation?

Are you familiar with Operation Restore Hope?

Is there a special reason why you are willing to let tens of thousands of Somali's die to prevent a handful of US casualties?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 2, 2007 03:16 PM

My recollection was that there seemed to be nothing that could be done by the US military that would improve the situation, and certainly nothing worth the lives of more US forces.
As far as loose ROE, I think that would eventually turn all sides in the conflict against the US. But what do I know?

I think we can agree on the futility of Somalia. As in Darfur, if you don't go to consciously 'remake' the place(which is FUBARED or you would not even have to consider going at all)--- DON'T GO.

Otherwise you just end up, well like Somalia. Sure you can 'win' the thing if you are willing and able to decimate the place, but WHY ? It still is the cesspool it was. Just shot to pieces. And you have no idea how to put it back together. Sometimes long-term interests or perceived long-term interests will compel you to 'get involved', but otherwise,not.

On the Darfur issue and your battle with Patrick, I heard a BBC report this week about Darfur. A long-term observer on the ground there said and I thought it was a succinct and telling summation of the problem ---- There are no good guys left (on any side).

So as I said I agree with you. Perhaps not for the exact precise same reasons but agreement is agreement I suppose. Not a place I would go unless I both planned to and had the capability of, 'altering' it in a very fundamental sense.

It truly looks to be a 'quagmire'.

Posted by: dougf at October 2, 2007 03:18 PM
Perhaps not for the exact precise same reasons but agreement is agreement I suppose. Not a place I would go unless I both planned to and had the capability of, 'altering' it in a very fundamental sense.

It truly looks to be a 'quagmire'.

Agreed. About all that can be done by outside forces at this point is humanitarian aid and facilitating negotiations.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 03:36 PM

Can you name any circumstances where US military action would be successful or improve a situation?

In my opinion? Sure. Afghanistan. The Balkans. Iraq, both to repel them from Kuwait and to put pressure on them to comply with sanctions. Credible threat of military force has also been an incentive in quite a few circumstances. And, as you point out, humanitarian aid provided by the US military has been quite effective, including after the Tsunami.

Is there a special reason why you are willing to let tens of thousands of Somali's die to prevent a handful of US casualties?

Sigh. More mind reading.

I'm not willing, but neither do I have a say in it. I believe that the US military itself restricts its intervention in humanitarian causes unless there is a ten-thousand-to-one exchange of lives saved to US casualties.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 03:43 PM

Is there a special reason why you are willing to let tens of thousands of Somali's die to prevent a handful of US casualties?

Can't speak for others, but from my perspective it is clear that some parts of the world are so FUBARed that nothing short of a full-scale American invasion and decades-long occupation will have any chance of fundamentally changing and improving the peoples prospects for peace and prosperity.

Somalia is one of those places, as is Darfur.

And since there are no American interests in Somalia or Darfur, I'm not inclined to intervene, provided they keep the killing amongst themselves, of course.

Posted by: Dogwood at October 2, 2007 04:12 PM

Me, above: I believe that the US military itself restricts its intervention in humanitarian causes unless there is a ten-thousand-to-one exchange of lives saved to US casualties.

Oops, I misspoke. From Romeo Dallaire's Shake Hands With the Devil:
As to the value of the 800,000 lives in the balance books of Washington, during those last weeks we received a shocking call from an American staffer, whose name I have long forgotten. He was engaged in some sort of planning exercise and wanted to know how many Rwandans had died, how many were refugees, and how many were internally displaced. He told me that his estimates indicated that it would take the deaths of 85,000 Rwandans to justify risking the life of one American soldier. It was macabre, to say the least.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 04:52 PM

About all that can be done by outside forces at this point is humanitarian aid and facilitating negotiations.

Somalia, Sudan and Afghanistan are Islamist states, inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is both inspired and funded by Wahhbist Gulf states.

The Wahhabis can't take all the credit for these Mad Max style hellholes, though. The Muslim brotherhood was also inspired by Hitler.

The western left may try to blame these hellholes on the US and the western right may try to blame them on the UN, but neither the US or the UN wanted these states to turn out this way.

On the other hand, the Islamists consider these states to be shining examples of the promise of Islamism. They produce the warriors and slaves the Gulf states need. They may have encouraged the invasion of Iraq because they were hoping that Iraq would become another shining Islamist state.

Bin Laden called Afghanistan under the Taliban a perfect Islamic state. If we want to prevent more genocide and jihad we should try to prevent the creation of more perfect Islamic states.

Posted by: mary at October 2, 2007 05:26 PM

The western left may try to blame these hellholes on the US ...

I'd be interested in seeing any cite that you may have that blames the Islamist government of Sudan on the US.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 05:48 PM

I'd be interested in seeing any cite that you may have that blames the Islamist government of Sudan on the US.

According to many on the left, Islamism (and the slavery that goes with it) is to the Sudan as apple pie is to America. Islamism is indigenous, non-colonialist and therefore sanctified and good. Why would they 'blame' this on anyone?

However, they do blame the deaths that occur in this Islamist paradise on the US. Don't you remember the bombed aspirin factory story? According to 'intellectuals' like Chomsky, that caused thousands, maybe eleventy million Sudanese deaths!!

Just like the oil for food program did in Iraq and the American occupation is doing right now. Will we remember these fables years from now?

Oh, and this anti globalist believes that the zionist nature of the 'stop genocide in Darfur' campaign is just a trick, meant to divert our attention from the murderous American occupation of Iraq. Maybe zionists had something to do with the aspirin factory debacle too...

Of course, it's all about the oil. And the water. And maybe some olive trees too.

Posted by: mary at October 2, 2007 06:12 PM

I strongly approve of the notion of a Peace Corps with muscles

Dave Livingston
Captain, Army (retired)
Volunteer, U.S. Peace Corps, Group Liberia One, 1962-4
Lieutenant, 1st Infantry Division, Viet-Nam, 1966-7; Captain, 101st Airborne, Viet-Nam, 1969-70

Second tour in 'Nam verifiable online, should anyone care to do so. Just go to vietnamproject.ttu.edu/banshee & once there check the unit roster for my name.

Posted by: Dave Livingston at October 2, 2007 06:35 PM

Hey Michael,
It looks like the Syrians are lighting fires in Lebanon (maybe). I was in Greece a month ago when there were fires there. Lots of people said it was arson. I don't doubt some of it was but not all; Greece was freakin' hot and really, really dry.

Any word about Lebanon from your 'sources'?

Posted by: Keith at October 2, 2007 06:57 PM

Can you name any circumstances where US military action would be successful or improve a situation?

How about: dettering, repelling, avenging, and destroying the perpetrators of attacks on the United States?

It's not hard. In fact, it's the fundamental purpose of armies.

Why isn't that enough for you, Patrick? Why are you wedded to the idea of armed, organized violence as a tool for positive social change?

----

If the Army absolutely couldn't stand sticking to the goal of deterring or destroying attackers/attacks on the United States, and absolutely has to mediate disputes overseas, there's a very simple rule you can follow: only go where you're invited. If you can't maintain consent in foreign territory, with the sole exception being in retaliation events - then leave.

The whole thing is a lot like training a dog. For best obedience, keep very limited goals, immediately punish violations and avoid punishing things that are not violations.
This leads to certain conclusions about Darfur - next comment.

Posted by: glasnost at October 2, 2007 08:13 PM

There is no one in Darfur worth supporting. It would still be better if the violence died down, and we should indeed use all available non-violent means to pressure the Sudanese and the rebels to make that happen. If the Gulf Arabs were willing to do that, the Sudanese government would have already capitulated.

On the other hand, Sudan as a state is a lot like Iraq in 2001, without the bullseye on its chest. If you destroyed the Sudanese regime, it would quite possibly be the end of the Sudanese state. Sort of like Iraq. "Sudan" would become "Khartoumia".

That's not an objectively bad thing, but you'd have to kill an awful lot of dominant-group Sudanese Arabs to get them to accept that. Kind of like Iraqi Sunnis.

So, is it still moral if you have to kill 500,000 Sudanese Arabs to get them to stop killing 500,000 Darfurians?

What if another 500,000 Darfurians die while you're killing the 500,000 Sudanese? Is that final result moral, as long as the Sudanese, in the end say, "ok, we'll play ball now."?

Posted by: glasnost at October 2, 2007 08:13 PM

At least, though, with Darfur, we'd be intervening to stop something that was actively killing lots of people. I am by no means sure that the outcome for the people of either Sudan or Darfur would be good, see above comment, but it's a lot closer to a genuine cassus belli than we ever had in Iraq.

Posted by: glasnost at October 2, 2007 08:14 PM

I am by no means sure that the outcome for the people of either Sudan or Darfur would be good, see above comment, but it's a lot closer to a genuine cassus belli than we ever had in Iraq.--glasnost

So close and yet so far. Right on Sudan. Right on Darfur. Wrong (Again or rather Still) on Iraq. And in this case unlike the song, 2 out of three IS bad. And no I don't intend to beat the Iraq horse any more. Strong horse / weak horse. Don't care. Just don't want to pound the poor creature any longer. Sad, abused thing should now be under a PETA imposed cease-and-desist order.

And because I find myself in a pedantic mood at this moment in time ----- I believe that it's Casus Belli not Cassus Belli.

ps -- "So, is it still moral if you have to kill 500,000 Sudanese Arabs to get them to stop killing 500,000 Darfurians?"

Asked and answered --- "There is no one in Darfur worth supporting."

In another situation the answer might well be different. It depends heavily on the 'worth supporting' thingy. For example someone SHOULD have been willing to kill lots of Hutus if that could have prevented the horrendous Tutsi massacres. Aggressor / victims. Now that I would have supported, but then again I guess no-one was 'invited' by BOTH parties.

Posted by: dougf at October 2, 2007 08:47 PM

According to many on the left, Islamism (and the slavery that goes with it) is to the Sudan as apple pie is to America.

I'd be interested in seeing any cite that you may have that blames the Islamist government of Sudan on the US.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 2, 2007 10:17 PM

Here is my suggestion:
1. Let China deal with Darfur and be the global heroes. They have a keen interest in African resources. Perhaps they can spread their ideal of a "harmonious society" there as well.
2. Let India deal with the Taliban. Pakistan is falling to Taliban extremism anyway, so, the Indians are certainly going to be more invigorated then ever to become engaged. I just hope they get there before the Taliban and AQ find the nukes.
3. Let Hillary deal with Somalia. We all know her balls are bigger than Billie's.

Posted by: Kevin China at October 2, 2007 10:41 PM

Here is my suggestion:
1. Let China deal with Darfur and be the global heroes. They have a keen interest in African resources. Perhaps they can spread their ideal of a "harmonious society" there as well.
2. Let India deal with the Taliban. Pakistan is falling to Taliban extremism anyway, so, the Indians are certainly going to be more invigorated then ever to become engaged. I just hope they get there before the Taliban and AQ find the nukes.
3. Let Hillary deal with Somalia. We all know her balls are bigger than Billie's.

Posted by: Kevin China at October 2, 2007 10:43 PM

glasnost,

Why isn't that enough for you, Patrick? Why are you wedded to the idea of armed, organized violence as a tool for positive social change?

Incidents of armed organized violence occasionally are reviewed for effectiveness. Sometimes the effectiveness review results in meaningful changes that improve the process. This almost random and always incomplete review process is orders of magnitude more honest and substantial than the reviews of unarmed efforts.

General Curtis LeMay's strategic bombing methods were abandoned as a failed policy as a result of review. This caused a number of changes in US military structure. Kofi Annan's failed policies were reviewed but the improvement of the process was actively opposed.

I have examined the record of pacifist change efforts and found it wanting as a method of managing barbarism. Ghandi and King were successful because they were confronting people who were committed to civilization. That condition no longer applies. The people setting and paying for IEDs revel in their hypocrisy, there is no integrity to leverage.

The non-violent activists have reached an end to their effectiveness because they adopted an absolutist position that was outmaneuvered over time. In the absence of new and innovative leadership with integrity and charisma, the pacifist movement embraced dogma over results. If my friends who live in constant danger could be saved by chanting and demonstrating, I'd be on the Kum Ba Yah express in a heartbeat.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 3, 2007 01:15 AM

Patrick,

Your comment doesn't answer the fundamental question: Why is it the responsibility of the United States to fight barbarism worldwide?

If it is our responsibility, then we're going to be invading a lot of countries because there is a hell of a lot of barbarism around the world. Look out Burma, here we come!

I'm not a pacifist, but I don't support intervening in Darfur or Somalia or other hell holes of the world unless there is a national security interest at stake.

It is hard enough maintaining political support for wars that are important to our country, i.e. Iraq. How much more difficult would it be to maintain that support for strictly humanitarian-type missions?

Somalia gave us the answer. All it took was for a couple American bodies to be drug through the streets of Mogadishu and we as a nation were ready to get out.

Intervening militarily in every instance of barbarity is simply a bad idea that can not be politically supported over the long term.

Finally, on a personal note, I'm not willing to lose a single American life to help anyone in Darfur, Somalia, or other hell holes.

I place more value on American lives than on the lives of anyone else on this planet. If we're going to lose some of those lives in combat, then it better be for a worthy cause that is important to the national security of the United States.

Justify intervention on those terms, then I might support it.

Posted by: Dogwood at October 3, 2007 06:16 AM

I'd be interested in seeing any cite that you may have that blames the Islamist government of Sudan on the US.

Why are you re-asking a question I already answered?

Posted by: mary at October 3, 2007 07:52 AM

Why are you re-asking a question I already answered?

Because you didn't cite a left-wing source that blames the Islamist regime in Sudan on the US that I could look at.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 09:26 AM

Because you didn't cite a left-wing source that blames the Islamist regime in Sudan on the US that I could look at.

I never said that left-wing sources "blame" the Islamist regime in Sudan on the US. I said "The western left may try to blame these hellholes on the US", as in the left may try to blame the actions and the existence of these hellholes on the US. Which they do.

I did say: "According to many on the left, Islamism (and the slavery that goes with it) is to the Sudan as apple pie is to America. Islamism is indigenous, non-colonialist and therefore sanctified and good. Why would they 'blame' this on anyone?
However, they do blame the deaths that occur in this Islamist paradise on the US. Don't you remember the bombed aspirin factory story?"

You didn't answer my question. Don't you remember the infamous aspirin factory fable?

Posted by: mary at October 3, 2007 10:15 AM

I said "The western left may try to blame these hellholes on the US", as in the left may try to blame the actions and the existence of these hellholes on the US. Which they do.

Ah, okay, misread your meaning. Sorry about that.

Don't you remember the bombed aspirin factory story?

Yup.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 11:16 AM

If my friends who live in constant danger could be saved by chanting and demonstrating, I'd be on the Kum Ba Yah express in a heartbeat.

I don't know who your friends are, but surely that's a natural reason to want to take action. On the other hand, your assertions about the futility of non-violent change are way overstated, and I think you know it. Would Lebanon be better off today if the anti-Syrian movement had used guns? Wasn't even the Israeli intervention in 2006 ultimately a lot less violent than the with-guns approach of the 1980's? What about the Ukraine? Would that political movement have left the state in better shape if it had been armed?

What about Taiwan? Are those guys a failure for the non-violent nature of the regime change?
What about the former USSR?

That condition no longer applies. The people setting and paying for IEDs revel in their hypocrisy, there is no integrity to leverage.

Sure, Al-Quieda is barbaric. They're even more barbaric than Saddamn. And they came to flourish in Iraq as a result of ... organized violent intervention. That's not a blame game, just a causal observation. Violent revolutions usually remain violent and exacerbate violence. The result is not a liberated society.

That's the problem with Darfur, as I sketched it out. An enemy determined to be a barbarian will make sure that the net consequences of your violent revolution will be bad for the people involved. Morally, ignoring that likely outcome is irresponsible.

If it wasn't for Al-Quieda's dysfunctional barbarism, we'd still be stuck in neutral in Anbar. Our limited "success" has occured with the catalyst of other people's atrocities. A counter-insurgency gameplan that relies on things getting so grim as to make an occupying army look like a relief is not going to be a gameplan for making Iraqis better off. Simplified, it involves fighting while things get 100% worse and then leveraging that to win support for improving them by 50%.

The key is that there are actually plenty of examples of non-violent civil campaigns making solving problems, including in authoritarian states. Governance structures change over time, subject to internal pressure. Al Quieda's integrity isn't relevant: they are aberrations and would never have been responsible for governance anyhow. The other people setting IED's are often our partners, so if they have no capacity for acceptance of non-violence governance changes, than that's tantamount to admitting our mission is fruitless, because the point of our mission is persuading them to accept that very thing. Ironically, we're teaching acceptance of non-violent change through violence-enforced means.

Posted by: glasnost at October 3, 2007 11:32 AM

glasnost,

On the other hand, your assertions about the futility of non-violent change are way overstated, and I think you know it. Would Lebanon be better off today if the anti-Syrian movement had used guns?

Lebanon and Syria are not barbarians. While I despise the fascism of Syria for its perversion of civilization, it still is civilization. Your example is false, so far, although Assad seems increasingly willing to slouch into hell to maintain power. The anti-Syrian movement worked as a non-violent exercise of power because both elements are parts of the fertile crescent and have been civilized since the concept was invented.

While I loathe Abbas, he is civilized. Alawites cannot survive surrounded in such close proximity to barbarian fundamentalists unless they are protected by civilization. This is why Nancy Pelosi is an idiot for showing up wearing a barbarian head scarf in Syria to meet Abbas. She might as well have worn a t-shirt with big letters saying: I support the genocide of your people!

The key is that there are actually plenty of examples of non-violent civil campaigns making solving problems, including in authoritarian states.

Not against barbarians. Authoritarian is not barbarian, it is perversion. Russia was and is a boundary case with a peculiar mix of barbarism and civilization, but during the Soviet era the nomenklatura leadership yearned to be viewed as sophisticated. I'm sure you are more familiar with this experience firsthand than I am.

Can you cite an example of non-violence surviving against expansionist barbarism?

My most recent example of this happened on Saturday in downtown Portland when I saw a bunch of Black Bloc anarchists go to a anti-war rally carrying a banner that read "F*** the Troops". The anti-war rally organizers did not have the capacity to kick them out. If they can't summon the power to boot a bunch of idiot hipsters in black armed with nothing more than a dirty bedsheet, how do they expect to successfully confront murderous fundamentalists armed with IEDs and AK-47s?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 3, 2007 12:19 PM

This is why Nancy Pelosi is an idiot for showing up wearing a barbarian head scarf in Syria to meet Abbas.

Huh? She's not wearing a scarf in the photo of the event. Nor is she wearing a scarf when meeting with Assad.

Are you sure that you have the facts correct here, Patrick?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 12:53 PM

My most recent example of this happened on Saturday in downtown Portland when I saw a bunch of Black Bloc anarchists go to a anti-war rally carrying a banner that read "F*** the Troops". The anti-war rally organizers did not have the capacity to kick them out. If they can't summon the power to boot a bunch of idiot hipsters in black armed with nothing more than a dirty bedsheet, how do they expect to successfully confront murderous fundamentalists armed with IEDs and AK-47s?

Hopefully, you waded into the demonstration and gave them a good thrashing, Patrick. I know that you aren't a pacifist.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 01:00 PM

Patrick,

I agree that Syria is not a barbaric country, and compared with, say, Al Qaeda in Iraq it is quite civilized. But the regime plays footsie with barbaric forces in the region, partly to appease them and partly because they are useful against its more civilized enemies in Israel and Lebanon. So Syria makes itself a boundary case.

I'm not a fan of the hijab, but dismissing it as "barbaric" is a bit much. Assad might see it that way as it is a symbol of sorts for the Muslim Brotherhood which would hang him from a lamppost if they had the power to do so, but that doesn't make it so.

I'm happy to see that Pelosi did not wear a hijab in her meeting with Assad. This is the first time I've seen that photo. The only other photos I've seen of her in Syria showed her wearing a hijab. She shouldn't have worn one at any time, but I'm glad she didn't wear it all the time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2007 01:07 PM

The only other photos I've seen of her in Syria showed her wearing a hijab. She shouldn't have worn one at any time, but I'm glad she didn't wear it all the time.

She wore one while visiting a mosque. Should she have refused?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 01:10 PM

DPU: She wore one while visiting a mosque. Should she have refused?

Yes, if she could. The picture I've seen shows another women (who looks Arab) standing right next to her who isn't wearing a hijab.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2007 01:13 PM

My wife has been inside mosques with me in the Middle East in places much more conservative than Damascus. No one ever told her to wear a hijab.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2007 01:14 PM

Yes, if she could. The picture I've seen shows another women (who looks Arab) standing right next to her who isn't wearing a hijab.

And if the photo is taken as she entered or exited the mosque, and the other woman was not?

What about Condi and Laura?

Isn't this more a case of showing respect to one's host than anything else? For example, here, here, and here.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 01:23 PM

No non-Muslim woman should wear a hijab unless it's required, as it is in Iran.

You are free to disagree, but I'm telling you, I've only ONCE seen anyone do it. It is a totally bizarre thing to do, and so abnormal that you could almost say it never happens.

I realize diplomats behave more formally than the rest of us, but that doesn't change the fact that it is bizarre.

The only exception to this I've seen was a 50-year old American woman in Suleimaniya, Iraqi Kurdistan, where more than 50 percent of the local women don't wear a hijab. The woman looked completely ridiculous and oblivious to the way the women around her actually dressed.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2007 01:30 PM

I've been to mosques where a hijab is not required.

Oddly enough, the place that had the strictest rules about hijab and mosque couture was in (politically secular) Istanbul. Women couldn't go into the Blue Mosque without a head covering and, if men were wearing shorts, they were given a blue wrap to cover their legs. Islamic fashion critics were posted at the front door to keep inappropriately dressed tourists out.

Also in Istanbul - there was one seat open on a crowded ferry. I was sitting with a bunch of people who were dressed in 'secular' modern clothes. A woman in a hijab tried to take a seat but people refused to move aside for her. A woman dressed in 'modern' clothes tried to take the seat, and everyone moved to make room for her.

I don't know if ladies' clothing issues are so politically fraught in Syria, but if they are, Nancy goofed.

Posted by: mary at October 3, 2007 01:39 PM

You are free to disagree, but I'm telling you, I've only ONCE seen anyone do it.

I'm not arguing that it's required. I'm arguing that just as Bush might don a yarmulke when visiting a synagogue, Pelosi did the same when visiting a mosque.

Why is there criticism for Pelosi when she does this, but there is none for Laura Bush Or Condi Rice when they do it?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 01:46 PM

Mary: Women couldn't go into the Blue Mosque without a head covering

That's odd. Shelly went into the Blue Mosque with me two years ago at Christmas. Neither she nor any other woman wore a hijab.

A woman in a hijab tried to take a seat but people refused to move aside for her. A woman dressed in 'modern' clothes tried to take the seat, and everyone moved to make room for her.

That, on the other hand, is not odd at all in a country where most women don't wear it.

The hijab ain't all that.

Shelly and I watched in amusement as some Gulf Arab women walked down the street in Tunis wearing abayas. Everyone, including the local Arab women, stared at them in amazement and what looked like horror.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2007 01:47 PM

z,i>Women couldn't go into the Blue Mosque without a head covering and, if men were wearing shorts, they were given a blue wrap to cover their legs. Islamic fashion critics were posted at the front door to keep inappropriately dressed tourists out.

I've seen exactly the same requirements at Catholic cathedrals.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 01:47 PM

Oops. Once more:

Women couldn't go into the Blue Mosque without a head covering and, if men were wearing shorts, they were given a blue wrap to cover their legs. Islamic fashion critics were posted at the front door to keep inappropriately dressed tourists out.

I've seen exactly the same requirements at Catholic cathedrals.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 01:48 PM

DPU: Why is there criticism for Pelosi when she does this, but there is none for Laura Bush Or Condi Rice when they do it?

I didn't know they did it. I don't think they should have.

I'm arguing that just as Bush might don a yarmulke when visiting a synagogue, Pelosi did the same when visiting a mosque.

Bush should not don a yarmulke in a synagogue. That's for Jews, not Christians.

I think this sort of thing is absurd, so I guess I would make a terrible diplomat.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2007 01:49 PM

DPU: I've seen exactly the same requirements at Catholic cathedrals.

I've seen that at Catholic cathedrals. Never once seen it at a mosque.

Apparently the Blue Mosque is under new management, because that requirement didn't exist two years ago.

I'm not saying no mosques require it, but it's not typical like most Westerners probably think it is.

In this thread above someone pointed out how the Beanie Babies given out to Iraqi children are dogs and pigs, but none of the Iraqis care. And that's in Anbar Province, which is super conservative.

Westerners think Muslims in the Middle East are much more conservative and fundamentalist than they really are. It annoys me constantly.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2007 01:53 PM

I didn't know they did it. I don't think they should have.

Maybe this would be a better question for Patrick.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 02:11 PM

Michael,

I'm not a fan of the hijab, but dismissing it as "barbaric" is a bit much.

The wearing of the hijab and other more extreme modesty restrictions are being driven by Wahabi fanatics, a group that Lawrence was decrying as transient barbarians ninety years ago. Oil is a preservative, or at least the money from it holds together ideology that should have crumbled long ago.

Pelosi was wearing the hijab to cater to the barbarians, not because it was required. I base this statement on her pattern of yielding to anti-western groups on matters of appearance to gain standing. Can you imagine her unwilling to pander to the barbarians so she could score political points?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 3, 2007 02:27 PM

Pelosi was wearing the hijab to cater to the barbarians, not because it was required.

Condi and Laura too?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 02:33 PM

DPU,

Condi and Laura too?

Can you cite the specifics of the incident you are referring to so there is a baseline on which to decide? Or are you just snarking?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 3, 2007 02:44 PM

Patrick,

Condi and Laura did wear hijabs. (Eyeroll.) DPU linked to photos.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2007 02:54 PM

It is not reasonable to expect non-Muslim women to wear the hijab. It's silly to appease enemies by wearing one, and if friendly Muslims want Western women to wear one they can get over it. If they can't get over it then they aren't going to be genuinely friendly for long anyway. As I mentioned above, my wife has accompanied me to many conservative Arab Muslim places, and no one ever asked her or forced her to wear one.

Of course we should respect others, but they should respect us as well. I don't expect Muslim women to go bare-headed on my account. I expect at least that much from them, and I don't think I'm being unreasonable.

By the way, I think the requirement for overly conservative dress at some Catholic cathedrals is unreasonable. But at least they wouldn't reject Nancy Pelosi when she wears her usual conservative clothing.

And if a Catholic cathedral required Muslim women to remove a hijab, I would also say that is unreasonable.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2007 03:03 PM

<>i>Can you cite the specifics of the incident you are referring to so there is a baseline on which to decide?

Sure. Condi Rice was visiting a mosque in Tajikistan, I believe, while Laura Bush was visiting the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 03:05 PM

Gah!! Once more --

Can you cite the specifics of the incident you are referring to so there is a baseline on which to decide?

Sure. Condi Rice was visiting a mosque in Tajikistan, I believe, while Laura Bush was visiting the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 03:06 PM

Of course we should respect others, but they should respect us as well. I don't expect Muslim women to go bare-headed on my account.

But you probably expect visitors to your house to be clothed though, I would think, even if they were nudists at their own home.

Yes, an extreme example, I know. I do know people who get all tight-assed about women in the street who are in purdah.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 03:19 PM

DPU: But you probably expect visitors to your house to be clothed though

Yes, just as I expect someone who goes into a mosque to be clothed. That is so not the point.

The point is that a non-Muslim wearing a hijab in the Middle East is totally bizarre, not by American standards but by Middle East standards. I've spent a lot of time over there and have only seen it once.

If I thought this were an important argument I would ask my friends in Suleimaniya, Iraq, what they think of that weird old hippie-looking American lady walking around in a hijab. I'd bet 1000 dollars they think she's a complete and total idiot, especially as fewer and fewer women in that city bother to wear it themselves anymore. It's a throwback worn by village bumpkins who recently moved to the city, not by urban people and certainly not by international people who aren't even Muslims.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2007 03:29 PM

The point is that a non-Muslim wearing a hijab in the Middle East is totally bizarre, not by American standards but by Middle East standards.

Hey, I take your word for it. One would wonder, though, why Laura Bush's handlers dressed her up like that.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 03:33 PM

DPU: One would wonder, though, why Laura Bush's handlers dressed her up like that.

Perhaps they are overly sensitive out of ignorance (wouldn't surprise me), and perhaps diplomats have their own rules that include this sort of thing as a matter of course. Diplomats aren't regular people so perhaps what is dumb for you and me is appropriate for them.

In any case, a lot of "regular" people saw Nancy Pelosi (et al) in a hijab. That might have gone over well with the 12 people around her when she wore it, but it annoyed millions who saw the photo. I would have rolled my eyes if she did it in a friendly country like Turkey, but it's worse that she did it in Syria.

If the mosque required it, she should have skipped the mosque. She should have known she would look ridiculous in those photos.

What (maybe) works in diplomatic circles doesn't necessarily work in the public eye. This is not always fair, but it is what it is, and she and her staff should know it. Look how much crap Donald Rumsfeld got just for shaking Saddam Hussein's hand in a long-ago picture. He still hasn't lived that one down. I'm sure shaking Saddam's hand seemed perfectly reasonable at the time under the circumstances, but I'll bet he wishes he didn't do it in front of a camera.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2007 03:45 PM

I mean, whether it's fair or not, whenever I see that photo of Rumsfeld and Saddam I think of the bad old days when US administrations buddied around with fascists because they were anti-communist, including genocidal regimes like the one in Indonesia that killed off something like one-in-four people in East Timor. Actually, I think it is fair that I make that connection.

And, fair or not, when I see Nancy Pelosi in a hijab I can't help but think of that dumbshit lady in Suli who was completely oblivious of the cultural norms around her and who desperately tried to "fit in" by copying the retrograde, provincial, and poorly educated portion of the society.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2007 03:52 PM

I think of the bad old days when US administrations buddied around with fascists because they were anti-communist, including genocidal regimes like the one in Indonesia that killed off something like one-in-four people in East Timor.

The bad old days?

I only have a few minutes, but may I present Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo on his tour of the Whitehouse with Condi Rice. He thinks he's God (not "a" god, "The" God), and is allowed to imprison, torture, and kill whoever he likes because of his divinity. He had his uncle killed so he could take power. His country's main asset is oil.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 04:09 PM

In any case, a lot of "regular" people saw Nancy Pelosi (et al) in a hijab.

And Condi, and Laura. So why do we keep only mentioning Nancy?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 04:11 PM

DPU,

The photos of Condi and Laura weren't seen by as many people, probably, at least in part, because Jerusalem and Tajikistan are not hostile.

He thinks he's God (not "a" god, "The" God), and is allowed to imprison, torture, and kill whoever he likes because of his divinity.

Lovely.

Did Condi greenlight the guy, as Kissinger did with the Indonesians and their invasion of East Timor? I'm not saying she didn't. I don't know, never heard of him.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2007 04:27 PM

The photos of Condi and Laura weren't seen by as many people, probably, at least in part, because Jerusalem and Tajikistan are not hostile.

Probably also because the rightwingosphere published the hell out of that photo to the point where a lot of people just assumed that she was wearing the headscarf for the whole trip. As that ties neatly into a lot of paranoid fantasies about Pelosi, not many seem to have had any inclination to questioned it.

For the record, it took me about thirty seconds on Google to discover the actual facts of the matter.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 04:51 PM

DPU,

Tajikistan is a nominal ally. Israel is an existential ally. (If one of us goes, the other follows.) Syria is a long term enemy that is abetting the murder of our troops. (Unlawful combatants murder, because if you don't wear a uniform when attacking you don't get legal protection.)

While I do not like that Laura and Condi wore head coverings, I have tremendously greater respect for those two women than I do for Nancy Pelosi. Laura Bush and Condi Rice have more character in their nails than Nancy Pelosi has ever possessed.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 3, 2007 05:07 PM

DPU: Probably also because the rightwingosphere published the hell out of that photo

Sure. The photo irritated lots of people, including me.

It's more irritating than Condi wearing a hijab in Tajikistan (although that is also irritating) because Tajikistan isn't a hostile country.

If Nancy Pelosi wore a hijab in Tajikistan she would have gotten a lot less crap for it. And if Condi wears a hijab in Damascus, she'll catch hell from the rightwingosphere.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 3, 2007 05:08 PM

I only have a few minutes, but may I present Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo on his tour of the Whitehouse with Condi Rice. He thinks he's God (not "a" god, "The" God), and is allowed to imprison, torture, and kill whoever he likes because of his divinity. He had his uncle killed so he could take power. His country's main asset is oil.

The dude is bad news and treats the people of his country very, very badly. But I guess it's okay for US oil companies to move in and deal with the guy - maybe that's why Bush has laid out the red carpet for him. I don't have it in for oil companies (I work for one) but I find it disgusting for companies to make deals with total scumbags like Obiang.

Posted by: markytom at October 3, 2007 06:40 PM

Shelly and I watched in amusement as some Gulf Arab women walked down the street in Tunis wearing abayas. Everyone, including the local Arab women, stared at them in amazement and what looked like horror.

I saw the same reaction in Malaysia. When those same Gulf Arabs began to bow to Mecca, the Malaysians reacted as a bunch of New Yorkers would to Pentecostals on the subway who began to suddenly speak in tongues.

Shelly went into the Blue Mosque with me two years ago at Christmas. Neither she nor any other woman wore a hijab.

It may have something to do with the group that was dealing with the tourists in the mosque at that time. It may also have something to do with the secular vs. Islamist issue and the controversy about the general elections that were about to take place (June 2007).

One op-ed I saw in the English-language paper said that if Turkey elected an Islamist government, all secularists should emigrate.

From what I read in the paper and saw on the street, in Turkey, the headscarf is seen as a sign that the wearer sympathizes with Islamists, not just Islam. I'm not sure if the same can be said about Syria..?

Once we were inside the Blue Mosque, the English-speaking secular guides made fun of the whole process. But we still had to cover our heads and knees.

Posted by: mary at October 3, 2007 06:50 PM

If Nancy Pelosi wore a hijab in Tajikistan she would have gotten a lot less crap for it. And if Condi wears a hijab in Damascus, she'll catch hell from the rightwingosphere.

Color me more than a little skeptical. I think that given Patrick was just broadcasting that Pelosi wore a hajib for here visit with Abbas when she did nothing of the sort, there's a bit of blind partisanship at work here.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 09:18 PM

Regardless of who wore the hijab, going and schmoozing with Asad is not a good idea. We have never truly been friendly with Syria, at least in my lifetime.(36) It is symptomatic of the philosophy you must negotiate with the perpetrators to reach a solution. It's worked real well in Israel with the Palestinian issue. Feel nothing but love coming from the West Bank and Gaza. Bush has made a big mistake supporting Fatah, even if it is support of the lesser of two evils crap. And now Olmert authorized the release of Fatah prisoners. If he was on shaky ground before, he just sealed his defeat.

DPU, dude you're slippin'. That's several boo-boo's with the italics. ;-)
Besides, how can the Equatorial Guinea leader be God. I am God. How dare he try to be Me! I'll sue.lol

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 3, 2007 09:24 PM

Regardless of who wore the hijab, going and schmoozing with Asad is not a good idea.

As military action is not an option, then dialog is one of the few remaining tools. And, to head off a round of yeah-we-can-too-we'll-kick-his-ass, the reason that there hasn't been a case of regimechangeitis in Syria thus far is because there are some truly nasty characters in the wings who would love it if Asad was out of the way. It might also occur to people that it's better if someone like Pelosi is engaged in dialog rather than Condi or Cheney.

DPU, dude you're slippin'. That's several boo-boo's with the italics. ;-)

Yeah, I know. I'm into the fourth straight day of a migraine, so there are a greater number of formatting errors than usual. Apologies all round.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 09:56 PM

"Sure. Condi Rice was visiting a mosque in Tajikistan, I believe, while Laura Bush was visiting the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem."

... while Pelosi was sucking up to a brutal thug who, emboldened by her implicit sanction of his legitimacy, cracked down on dissidents almost as soon as she left.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at October 3, 2007 10:06 PM

..... while Pelosi was sucking up to a brutal thug who...

Uh huh. Were you there for the conversation?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 3, 2007 10:11 PM

DPU-

Remember Pelosi's bungling of the message from Olmert? She made it seem as though Israel's position had changed; Olmert had to issue a statement that it hadn't.

So even if she wasn't sucking up, she certainly played the old telephone game poorly.

Posted by: MartyH at October 3, 2007 10:19 PM

Once we were inside the Blue Mosque, the English-speaking secular guides made fun of the whole process. But we still had to cover our heads and knees.

Now that I think back on the visit, I remember that the Islamic dress code folks did not actually tell the women to cover their heads. They only directly chided the men who were wearing shorts. But, since the women in my group covered their heads, I did the same. When we were inside for a while, my husband pointed out other women in other groups whose heads weren't covered. So,I took my scarf off my head and put it back in my purse. No one complained, but lots of women kept their heads covered.

That was the only mosque I've ever been in where tourists' clothing was an issue.

Color me more than a little skeptical. I think that given Patrick was just broadcasting that Pelosi wore a hajib for here visit with Abbas when she did nothing of the sort, there's a bit of blind partisanship at work here.

For me, Pelosi's visit was an example of blind partisanship. Since she hadn't researched Syrian culture, and since the Lebanese were not happy about her visit, it seemed that the purpose of her trip was not to soothe tensions in the Middle East. The purpose of her trip was to defy Bush, who objected to the trip.

The whole thing was mostly was a show for the Democrats and the media back home.

Posted by: mary at October 3, 2007 11:25 PM

Agree with you Mary; Pelosi's act was openly partisan. DPU is openly liberal, and not in the good sense of the word; i.e. not in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan mold, rather, ummm, in the Dan Rather mold.

Am sorry about DPU's migraine though, not a fun experience.

DPU, were you there for the conversation that Pelosi had? No. Do you know that Pelosi did not wear a headcover in meeting with Assad? No. There is a picture of her wearing one during her politically opportunist visit, and one of her not wearing one while with Assad.

Imitrex

Posted by: Ron Snyder at October 4, 2007 04:54 AM

DPU is openly liberal...

Man, are you ever off. I'm a bit to the left of that. But most have this discussion has nothing to do with right/left politics. If the implication is that I'm showing partisan loyalty to Pelosi, don't bother. I don't have much regard for Pelosi.

DPU, were you there for the conversation that Pelosi had? No.

Which is why I don't speculate on what was discussed, and why I refrain from saying things like she was sucking up.

Do you know that Pelosi did not wear a headcover in meeting with Assad? No. There is a picture of her wearing one during her politically opportunist visit, and one of her not wearing one while with Assad.

These is a picture of her wearing one while visiting a Mosque, and no others. So why would anyone assume she wore one at any other time? And as Assad is a secularist, why on earth would she be wearing one when meeting him? He's likely be more impressed if she wore a Big Bird suit.

For that matter, as the Baathist regime is one of the more secular regimes in the Middle East, what do people imagine she was trying to do in this imagined state of purdah? Impress the Muslim Brotherhood, who were expelled from Syria in the early 1980s?

Or is just assumed that all unfriendly dictatorial Arab regimes must be Islamist, and therefore Pelosi was showing subservience?

There's some very weird thinking going into all this, guys.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 05:54 AM

Imitrex

Yeah, I have the injectables, which work like a charm. But I've been told not to use them while they're controlling my blood pressure, which is almost there.

This has been your double-plus-ungood health report.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 05:56 AM

Yeah, I know. I'm into the fourth straight day of a migraine.--DPU

My sympathies, man. Never had them myself but a dear friend used to suffer horribly from the accursed things. They are truly a curse.

Hope the cycle breaks soon and you can get back to being your normal (albeit annoying :-) ), self.

Posted by: dougf at October 4, 2007 06:03 AM

Hope the cycle breaks soon and you can get back to being your normal (albeit annoying :-) ), self.

Thanks. It's tapering off, but as one of my migraine symptoms is chattiness, I'd assume that I become less annoying as the situation improves.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 06:08 AM

Regardless of what your opinion is on Pelosi's visit, I don't think anyone can dispute the lesson learned is that such actions do not produce any tangible benefits. Quoting Hanson yet again:

"Nancy Pelosi et al. gave sermons on the need to include Syria in regional discussions and to open a dialogue with this “key player.” Here’s what that olive branch won in reply, a boast from dictator Assad that Syria is essential to the killing of Americans in Iraq:

“To the east there is the resistance in Iraq, to the west there is the resistance in Lebanon and to the south there is the resistance of the Palestinian people…We, in Syria, are at the heart of all these events. Syria, the Arab region and the Middle East are going through a dangerous period. Destructive colonial projects are seeking to divide and reshape our region…Every Syrian citizen supports the Iraqi people who are resisting the American occupation.”

“Destructive colonial projects” means offering someone the right to vote and have some freedom of expression, in other words to say no to thugs like Assad, Ahmadinejad, or Khadafy."

My personal opinion is she should have known better from the get-go, but in the very least I should hope that this lesson was not lost on her after the fact (or anyone else), and let that guide our future actions.

Posted by: Joe at October 4, 2007 06:10 AM

Well, once again, I have no idea what was discussed, but no matter what was discussed, I wouldn't think that Assad would emerge from the meeting vowing to implement democracy forthwith.

What I would hope went on was the opening of dialog between Syria and the US. I know that many here don't think that a worthwhile endeavor, but frankly, I don't see any other way forward.

If there is, I'd like to hear what it is.

Regarding Pelosi and grandstanding - she had just won an election, hadn't she? So what would the point of that be? She's more likely to be roundly condemned for talking to Syria than praised.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 06:17 AM

"I wouldn't think that Assad would emerge from the meeting vowing to implement democracy forthwith."

No, but I wouldn't expect him to reward her "opening of dialog" with condemnations either (well, those who thought her visit futile from the start expected such a thing).

As for not seeing any other way forward, I have to agree that I don't see any clear answers here either. Although where you declare actions like Pelosi's as the only way that you see left, I group it as something that is also unacceptable, and we need to keep looking for something else. Right now with Syria, very much like the War on Terror in general, we often have bad choices and worse choices to choose from. Let's hope a better choice presents itself (although it may not be a "good" choice either, but I'll take just about anything besides military action or "opening a dialog with"/pandering to a dictator who uses his country's government as a pillar of support for terrorism).

Posted by: Joe at October 4, 2007 06:57 AM

As for not seeing any other way forward, I have to agree that I don't see any clear answers here either.

Good lord, man. This is the internet, you're never ever supposed to admit that.

But yeah. You know, there are a hell of a lot of nasty people out there, and supporting dialog with them when you just wish that history would sweep them aside just feels wrong.

There's a scene in Romeo Dallaire's book on the Rwandan genocide when he has to meet with one of the ringleaders of the murderers. He has to do it in order to try and negotiate an end to the killings in that area. Before he goes, he unloads his gun and leaves the bullets behind because he doesn't trust himself to not just shoot the fucker on sight. At the beginning of the meeting, he shakes the guys hand, and notices that the guy's shirt sleeves have small splashes of blood all over them.

He completed his negotiations, but he's haunted by it to this day, I think. But he did what he had to do.

Sometimes, you need to talk to scumbags.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 07:16 AM

DPU:
"Yeah, I know. I'm into the fourth straight day of a migraine, so there are a greater number of formatting errors than usual. Apologies all round"
You sir, are an animal. Working the blog while also working a migraine for multiple days. Even though we don't see eye to eye, I tip my hat to you sir. Hope you are feeling better today.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 4, 2007 07:17 AM

Working the blog while also working a migraine for multiple days.

It was only crippling on Sunday, which I spent in bed with a pillow over my face. But thanks, it's almost gone now.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 07:25 AM

DPU:
"As military action is not an option, then dialog is one of the few remaining tools. And, to head off a round of yeah-we-can-too-we'll-kick-his-ass,..."

Not calling for military action, yet. But negotiating with the perps isn't the solution either.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 4, 2007 07:27 AM

One of the best posts I've seen on Iraq lately. The dialogue and descriptions had the flavor of a well-written sitcom. The interpreter's response to the question on working with Americans was particularly entertaining. I'm not making light of the story of Iraq, it is just pleasant to spend some time reading a story like this, in which the word 'normal' comes to mind.

Posted by: Stanford Matthews at October 4, 2007 07:28 AM

The problem with talking to Assad is that he scores "legitimacy" points when you do it, while he suffers in the propaganda department when you refuse.

The more he is isolated, the more he feels like he needs to dial it down. When scads of diplomats visit him, he feels like he's becoming more "relevant," that his exporting terrorism strategy works.

Tony Badran has been writing about this phenomenon for years.

Snubbing him is a lot less violent than blowing his country up, and it triggers no blowback.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 4, 2007 10:37 AM

The more he is isolated, the more he feels like he needs to dial it down.

Or turn to Iran or China, as he has been doing. Which equates to a considerable loss of influence for the US.

Snubbing him is a lot less violent than blowing his country up...

Blowing his country up is not a realistic option, and everyone knows it. And I don't understand what subbing him is supposed to do. Make him feel lonely? If snubbing him is all that is left, then you get this.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 10:51 AM

Pelosi distraction aside:

Does anybody have an example of non-violence succeeding in defeating expansionist barbarians?

The obvious "Bambi vs. Godzilla" ludicrousness of the confrontation masks the distinct failure of pacifism to manage the problems of our time. Nobody expects pacifists to actually do anything in areas of actual conflict, but they still keep trying to make the rules from outside.

The "Absolute Moral Authority" of the pacifist ideology protects practitioners in civilized places from the scrutiny they need to develop effectively. Ideas that sound great in the University inspire millions of idiots to protest things they deliberately do not understand and put forth methods they will not put to the test.

Does anybody have examples where non-violence succeeded over expansionist barbarism?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 4, 2007 11:02 AM

Does anybody have examples where non-violence succeeded over expansionist barbarism?

European "soft power" in the Balkans - absorbing the problems into the EU with the power of economic attraction rather than direct confrontation. It took a long, long time to make for better change in the region though. I don't know if that meets your "expansionist barbarism" definition though.

DPU - Sometimes, you need to talk to scumbags.

This sounds more like the attitude of a pragmatist where the ends justify the means. But the problem lies in how far do you go? Do you sacrifice one's ethics to get to the desired result? Where do you draw the lines? Truth is that everyone has their own chosen beliefs and arbitrarily draws their own internal sets of lines - there is no "right" or "wrong" answer.

Posted by: markytom at October 4, 2007 11:36 AM

Do you sacrifice one's ethics to get to the desired result? Where do you draw the lines?

These are all reasonable questions, but are completely subjective, and are going to vary depending on the individual.

My own view is that one works with desirable goals in mind, and works toward those goals while maintaining ethics along the way. I don't see dialog with Assad as violating those ethics, as I don't think that dialog by itself encourages the bad behavior that one is attempting to curtail.

In this case, driving Syria further into the arms of Iran is not, to me, a desirable outcome.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 11:44 AM

DPU,

Of course you sometimes have to talk to scumbags. Sometimes you even have to make bogus "alliances" with them. (The Allied alliance with Stalin against Hitler is one of the biggest examples of this ever.)

There are, however, times when you shouldn't even have dialogue because it is actually counterproductive. That is not generally the case, but sometimes it is. If the scumbag benefits from the dialogue because it makes him look more powerful and more reasonable, while at the same time you gain nothing, then you shouldn't do it.

Assad wants Lebanon, international support for his regime, and a bigger role for himself in the region. We have no common ground with him. Ceding any of those points to him would be evil if we are not physically forced to do so at gunpoint.

One reason he wants negotiations is so that he can falsely portray himself as "a man of peace" who is trying to be reasonable. It's bullshit, and we shouldn't give that to him unless he changes his attitude and decides that he's serious.

"Dialogue" does not mean the same thing to you as it does to him. Don't be a sucker.

None of this means I think we should never talk to scumbags or enemies. For example, dialogue with the Sunni insurgents in Iraq (minus Al Qaeda) is a good idea and has produced results. That, in large part, is because our goals and their goals have some overlap. There is actually something to discuss because many of their demands are reasonable. They should be accomadated, at least to an extent, if they are willing to stop killing people. (They don't want American forces to stay in Iraq forever, they don't want to be oppressed by Shias, etc.)

None of Assad's demands are reasonable. We should not surrender to a single one of them, nor trade anything for them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 4, 2007 12:09 PM

DPU,

Also, remember when James Baker traded Syrian support for the ouster of Iraq from Kuwait in exchange for a green light to rule Lebanon? Assad wants a repeat of that. I'm glad we're not giving in.

Tony Badran has documented literally dozens of cases where European diplomats went to Damascus and returned horrified and much more staunchly anti-Syrian than they were earlier. So I guess there is an upside to "dialogue." It is instructive.

I'd love to be able to ask Nancy Pelosi off the record if she had a similar experience. I'll bet she did. Most of the European diplomats who returned were more naive than she. These people are generally accustomed to "dialogue" with civilized people. Talking to Assad is a shocking experience. Making a deal with him is not like making a deal with, say, the Republican Party, which is what Pelosi is used to.

I doubt, DPU, this is the kind of results you hope to get out of dialogue with Syria, but those are the results we have. Maybe I'm reading you wrong, though. That goes on a lot around here, I know.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 4, 2007 12:17 PM

Then what do you see happening with the strategy that you propose?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 12:58 PM

In this case, driving Syria further into the arms of Iran is not, to me, a desirable outcome.

How do you know that making a strong stand against Assad is driving Assad further toward Iran? Seems to me he's already there.

Could be that Assad is just buying time while he continues to destabilize Lebanon - there seems to be a storm brewing there and it ain't good for the Lebanese. I've read that Assad is making deals with an Al Qaeda faction as well to help destablize Lebanon. The Israeli's gave Syria a warning shot by conducting an airstrike in Syria last month (a declaration of war of sorts) since the Syrians continue to supply Hezbollah - seems that nobody cares too much about it though. The Cedar Revolution may end sooner than people think, unfortunately.

Posted by: markytom at October 4, 2007 01:05 PM

Also, remember when James Baker traded Syrian support for the ouster of Iraq from Kuwait in exchange for a green light to rule Lebanon?

As I recall, one of the conditions that Hussein gave for his withdrawal from Kuwait was that Syrian troops withdraw from Lebanon. I also seem to recall that Syria didn't need much convincing, and that it and Saudi Arabia were the prime forces behind requesting US intervention, as both were at risk from the Iraqi military machine.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 01:08 PM

How do you know that making a strong stand against Assad is driving Assad further toward Iran? Seems to me he's already there.

You think that they are as close as they could possibly be?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 01:12 PM

You think that they are as close as they could possibly be?

Personnally, I don't think it matters to Assad right now what the US does, but I speculate he would prefer "dialogue" over threats. I don't think the US (or anyone else) will do anything if PM Senoria's government is forceably replaced (again) by Syrians. Israel seems to be the one to lose the most out of it but their last attempt to fight Hezbollah was a disaster.

An exerpt from here seems to help explain what may be going on:

The Fatah al Islam is the latest marriage of convenience between a group of committed Jihadists, rotating in the al Qaeda’s constellation but gravitating around Damascus influence. The group accepts Bashar’s support and the Syrian regime tolerates the organization’s “Sunni” outlook: Both have a common enemy, even though they may come at each other’s throats in the future. The men of Bin Laden anywhere in the world, including in Lebanon, have the same standing order: Bringing down the moderate Arab and Muslim Governments (even in multiethnic societies) and replace them with Emirates. The men of Bashar Assad and Mahmoud Ahmedinijad have converging goals, bring down the democratically elected Government in Lebanon and replace it with a Hizbollah-Syrian dominated regime, as was the case before 2005. Thus each “axis” has one objective in Lebanon: crush the Seniora Government. They will take all their time to fight each other after.

Posted by: markytom at October 4, 2007 01:41 PM

Michael,

Ceding any of those points to him would be evil if we are not physically forced to do so at gunpoint.

It would also be evil if we were physically forced to do so at gunpoint. Sometimes you must tell them to pull the trigger and find out what comes next rather than cede the point. (Religious faith is useful in these moments, according to most accounts I have heard.)

This is true in both pacifism and more rational philosophies, but not practiced to any great extent by pacifists anymore. Part of why Ghandi and King succeeded is because they put people at risk. Part of why their successors fail is because they are so risk limited.

Possibly the recent aversion to describing actions as evil and opposing them for the good is due to increasing sophistication. It is difficult for me to distinguish that kind of sophistication from cowardice in its results. I was raised by people who went to jail and risked death rather than act violently to further their cause. My standards are different.

Still and all, I do not see that pacifism wins over barbarism. This is why the anti-war movement strikes me as so very hollow. They cannot win and will not admit the failure of their methods.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 4, 2007 01:45 PM

An exerpt from here seems to help explain what may be going on:

I dunno about that, the connections between Fatah al-Islam and Syria look extremely sketchy. And as Hezbollah could be a far greater destabilizing force in Lebanon than what appears to be a splinter group off a splinter group, and hasn't done much destabilization at all, I'd have to express my doubts that Syria has much to do with them.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 01:58 PM

DPU,

The strategy I propose is to make Assad afraid to continue his current strategy.

Fear of dire consequences is what got his troops out of Lebanon. He didn't leave because the March 14 Lebanese asked him nicely.

"I am not Saddam Hussein," he told Time magazine just before he ordered his troops home. "I want to cooperate."

He left because it was in his interests to leave. Keeping his troops in Lebanon became, he believed, too dangerous.

Assad's father sponsored terrorism against Turkey. Then Turkey threatened to invade Syria. Syria hasn't messed with Turkey since then.

That's the attitude the civilized world should want from Assad. Scaring him is, so far, the only thing that has ever worked. If Nancy Pelosi wants to go over there and scare the daylights out of him, that's fine with me.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 4, 2007 02:04 PM

DPU: the connections between Fatah al-Islam and Syria look extremely sketchy.

Maybe you should read Tony Badran more.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 4, 2007 02:06 PM

Maybe you should read Tony Badran more.

No thanks.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 02:14 PM

Sometimes, you need to talk to scumbags.

Yes, but you should talk to the right scumbags. If we're supposed to be fighting terrorists, it doesn't make sense to ally with terrorists. That's why a "dialogue" with Syria would be a waste of our time.

If we're supposed to be fighting terrorists, we should ally with others who are also opposed to terrorist regimes, (even if they do happen to be scumbags). Russia, Lebanon, India and, if we had to, even scummy regimes like China would be useful allies. Their governments have have numerous problems, but their populations have a wealth of talent and potential. Their military and intelligence agencies are reasonably strong. Dialogue with these countries, despite the scumminess of their governments, would be a productive use of our time.

Syria is weak, militarily and economically. Iran is also weak - they wouldn't be able to make the threats they're making without Russia's help. There is no point to dialogue with them.

Posted by: mary at October 4, 2007 02:16 PM

I'd have to express my doubts that Syria has much to do with them.

Here is more. But I agree - I would be surprised if he gets too close to these Al Qaeda factions. But it does look like he'll take advantage of them to do some of his dirty work for him.

Do you see any hope for the Cedars Revolution lasting much longer?

Posted by: markytom at October 4, 2007 02:23 PM

Markytom: Do you see any hope for the Cedars Revolution lasting much longer?

No. Syria, Iran, and their Lebanese allies are in the process of killing it, and no one is doing a damn thing to stop them except "dialogue," which doesn't do shit.

The Turks are the only ones who have truly figured out how to stop Syrian terrorism, and they did it without firing a shot. Hardly anyone even knows about it, but its effectiveness can be adduced by common sense. Is anyone surprised that the credible threat of a Turkish invasion put an end to Syrian-sponsored terrorism in Turkey?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 4, 2007 02:47 PM

Is anyone surprised that the credible threat of a Turkish invasion put an end to Syrian-sponsored terrorism in Turkey?

For me, this is what the snub strategy is missing. If there were a credible threat of military action, then I can see it having an effect. But there is none at this point, so I don't see it working.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 03:00 PM

Here is an interesting post on People Power that explores why peaceful protests sometimes work and sometimes don't.

I think the China-Burma ties discussed in the post may provide an example of expansionist barbarism mentioned by Patrick.

Posted by: Dogwood at October 4, 2007 03:00 PM

No. Syria, Iran, and their Lebanese allies are in the process of killing it, and no one is doing a damn thing to stop them except "dialogue," which doesn't do shit.

And since Israel played most of their cards last year I don't think they are really seen as a credible threat anymore by Syria (wrt Lebanon anyway). The Israeli's may have been the only hope for the Lebanese Cedars Revolution, and they blew it. Sad.

Yes, but you should talk to the right scumbags.

But how many times have we seen the "right" scumbags in the short-term turn into even worse "wrong" scumbags in the long-term? Making a deal with the devil almost always ends up badly.

Posted by: markytom at October 4, 2007 03:06 PM

By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer
52 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - President Bush warned Syria on Thursday against interfering in Lebanon's presidential election and said he is sending a top military commander to Beirut to find more ways to help Lebanon fight extremists...

"The United States strongly supports the success of democracy in Lebanon," Bush said after meeting with Saad Hariri, leader of the anti-Syrian majority in Lebanon's parliament. "The United States is more than just an admirer. We want to help as best as we possibly can."

"I am deeply concerned about foreign interference in your elections," Bush told Hariri, adding that many nations have called on Syria to stay out. "We expect Syria to honor that demand," he said.

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at October 4, 2007 03:07 PM

But how many times have we seen the "right" scumbags in the short-term turn into even worse "wrong" scumbags in the long-term? Making a deal with the devil almost always ends up badly.

True. We should only deal with scumbags if we have to, like when we allied with Stalin in WWII. Only as a last resort.

Posted by: mary at October 4, 2007 03:11 PM

DPU: If there were a credible threat of military action, then I can see it having an effect. But there is none at this point, so I don't see it working.

That's why I said it would be fine with me if Nancy Pelosi decides to go over there and scare the daylights out of him.

It only takes a tiny fraction of our military power to kill him. We don't need to send hundreds of thousands of troops.

I'm not saying we should kill him, I'm saying he needs to fear violent consequences if he is going to commit violence against others. That is the way the world works. If he can kill with impunity, he will continue to do so forever.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 4, 2007 03:21 PM

markytom:

I don't think the US (or anyone else) will do anything if PM Senoria's government is forceably replaced (again) by Syrians. Israel seems to be the one to lose the most out of it

Seems to me like the people who lose the most if democracy gets rolled back in Lebanon are the Lebanese.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at October 4, 2007 03:25 PM

It only takes a tiny fraction of our military power to kill him.

And if he's killed, Islamist lunatics take over Syria. He knows it, Israel knows it, Saudi Arabia knows it, everyone knows it, so it ain't going to happen.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 03:28 PM

A lot of what I think of this has already been said, but I will throw a couple more twigs in:

DPU-
Not being rhetorical, but I am genuinely confused. Your argument against the snub strategy is that there is no credible threats of force being presented against the Syrians, but it seems you consistently have ruled out a military option as unrealistic. Shouldn't you be advocating the higher threat of force so that you can avoid dialog with "scumbags" when there is another option? Maybe I'm not reading you right?

"Sometimes, you need to talk to scumbags."
What I would say to that has already been covered by others. I'd just like to toss in that of which I already hinted at: the realpolitik of past "realists" (for the most part Republicans) of dealing with regimes like Hussein's and Assad's is something I want to get away from nearly as badly as the Democrats' appeasement of those same regimes. I think the time has come to find another way, and I think Michael has hit on one such 3rd avenue (snub his quest for legitimacy while scaring him with a credible danger should he support terrorism against you).

Posted by: Joe at October 4, 2007 03:34 PM

Like I said, DPU, I'm not advocating we replace his regime or even kill him personally. But killing him personally does not necessarily mean Islamist lunatics take over. It wouldn't take much for the U.S. to help shore up a more moderate person in the current government as his replacement. It could be worked out in advance.

I'm not saying we should do it, but threatening to do it would scare the hell out of him.

Anyway, how much worse could an Islamist government be? Syria is already a brutal police state that exports terrorism to its neighbors. If Syria becomes a more violent place while Lebanon, Israel, and Iraq become less violent places, well, that's something to consider.

Again, I'm not saying we should opt for that today instead of the status quo. But I will want to opt for that if Syrian belligerence crosses a certain threshold. Assad should at least be warned that there is a limit to what he can get away with. Maybe he knows that well enough already, but these kinds of dictators very often do not.

Here's a serious question for you: If you were charged with going to Damascus to talk to Assad, what would you say if it were up to you personally? I'm sure you're aware that politely asking him to please be nice to others will get you nowhere.

A big problem I have with the "more dialogue" crowd is that so many advocate it as if the very act of talking itself will resolve problems. It may work like that with your wife and kids, but not so easily with murderous dictators. What do you want to say to this man? I basically told you what I would say, so let me know what you would say. I am genuinely curious.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 4, 2007 03:43 PM

Your argument against the snub strategy is that there is no credible threats of force being presented against the Syrians, but it seems you consistently have ruled out a military option as unrealistic.

I'm not sure why you see this as inconsistent. I think the snub strategy would work if accompanied with a credible military threat. I don't think that there is a credible military threat, therefore it isn't a good strategy, to my mind.

Shouldn't you be advocating the higher threat of force so that you can avoid dialog with "scumbags" when there is another option?

But it doesn't matter if I advocate a higher threat of force or not. The US military cannot launch another invasion. Neither can Israel. Small military strikes against various facilities may be a way to put on the pressure, but if too much is put on, it risks destabilizes the regime, and there is a very real chance that those who replace Assad would be much, much worse, and much less predictable.

Does that clear up my position?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 03:43 PM

DPU: Does that clear up my position?

Yes. But if you want me to sign up for more "dialogue," I need to know what you would say to this man and why you think it would improve the situation.

Bear in mind that he craves this sort of attention because it makes him look more legitimate. Showing up for discussion with him costs you, so you need to get something out of a meeting with him in addition to the fact that you can say "I had a meeting with him."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 4, 2007 03:49 PM

But killing him personally does not necessarily mean Islamist lunatics take over. It wouldn't take much for the U.S. to help shore up a more moderate person in the current government as his replacement. It could be worked out in advance.

You have much more confidence in the predictability and stability of Middle Eastern politics than I do. I also think that that anyone taking power in Syria with the blessing of the US is pretty much committing suicide. I don't think there would be many takers.

Anyway, how much worse could an Islamist government be? Syria is already a brutal police state that exports terrorism to its neighbors.

You really think that it couldn't be worse? The country is already under a great deal of stress due to over a million Iraqi refugees, and Assad is having a lot of trouble keeping a lid on the home-grown Islamists. I think further destabilization of the region due to another attack on an Arab country, and another Islamist dictatorship, and another Shia fundamentalist state next door to Saudi Arabia is going to be, well, pure magic.

If you were charged with going to Damascus to talk to Assad, what would you say if it were up to you personally? I'm sure you're aware that politely asking him to please be nice to others will get you nowhere.

I'm a programmer, Michael, not a diplomat, so I'm not sure why you're asking me. Ask me something about Java, I'm your man.

I'd be curious what you would have said to Mao or to Brezhnev in 1970. Both were considered to be not only scumbags, but nuclear-armed scumbags who wanted to kill us all. If everyone had had the "no dialogue" mentality, we might all still be facing nuclear missiles. If we were lucky, that is, and not elemental carbon.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 03:54 PM

DPU,

I don't have a "no dialogue" mentality. I oppose dialogue with this particular government and this particular time.

If you can't think of anything worth saying to Asaad, why insist we talk to him? Your faith in the value of talking to killers is greater than mine.

For what it's worth, I think Syria is doomed to go through a crazed Islamist period no matter what happens. I've already resigned myself to the idea. It's not going to be pretty, and Assad is not the kind of man who can prevent it. Keeping him around while he murders people in three countries, in addition to his own, is not something we should be signing on to do forever and ever no matter what he does.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 4, 2007 04:22 PM

If you can't think of anything worth saying to Asaad, why insist we talk to him? Your faith in the value of talking to killers is greater than mine.

I can't think of a way to fix the shocks in my car, but that doesn't mean I think it's impossible to do. And even though diplomatic breakthroughs were made with the Soviets and Chinese over thirty years ago, I have no idea what was said. That doesn't mean that it didn't happen, it just means that I'm no diplomat.

I'm not even sure that diplomacy would do any good. I do know that not much else has a chance of success, IMO.

I've already resigned myself to the idea. It's not going to be pretty, and Assad is not the kind of man who can prevent it. Keeping him around while he murders people in three countries, in addition to his own, is not something we should be signing on to do forever and ever no matter what he does.

And people call ME a pessimist.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 4, 2007 04:34 PM

DPU,

I am by nature an optimist. But I see absolutely no reason to be optimistic about the future of Syria. I'd like to be, but it is completely unjustifiable.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 4, 2007 04:40 PM

DPU, appropriate comment that you are a programmer, not a diplomat, so don't ask you diplomatic questions. I'd ask that you don't state what either the US or Israel can or cannot do militarily either. Unless you have also become a military expert.

Apparently Khadaffi took us seriously a few years ago and modified his behaviour; apparently Assad took Turkey seriously a few years ago. I rather think that we could make Assad take us seriously also.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at October 4, 2007 06:30 PM

Michael - I am by nature an optimist. But I see absolutely no reason to be optimistic about the future of Syria. I'd like to be, but it is completely unjustifiable.

How did it get to the point that neither the US nor Israel are credible threats against Syria, and the Europeans don't seem to care about either Syria or Lebanon? Seems that the Lebanese have been totally abandoned at this point in time.

Creamy - Seems to me like the people who lose the most if democracy gets rolled back in Lebanon are the Lebanese.

Goes without saying. If I were Lebanese I would be looking for the quickest way to get the hell out of there.

Posted by: markytom at October 4, 2007 07:31 PM

I agree that Syria is not a barbaric country, and compared with, say, Al Qaeda in Iraq it is quite civilized.

Psychologists have run experiments demonstrating that US citizens are willing to, as far as they know, abuse prisoners and inflict severe physical pain on people with electric shocks, simply because they're told to. Over 50 percent, that is. I'm sure someone here has heard of these.

Barbarism is situational. Yet another reason why barbarism's unteaching through violent methods is inherently problematic.

The entire debate - all of it - about Pelosi and the headscarf is stupid. Totally worthless idiocy from front to back. Nothing more than gotcha political games and meaningless symbolism. Symbolism has to be understood and appreciated for its effects on stupid people, but intelligent people should understand how completely trivial it is what Pelosi wears in Damascus.

In theory, any trying to work out deals would be a different story - except for the inconvenient fact that the administration is already working with Syria. Anyone really think we could be reconciling with Iraqi sunnis without consent from the leaders in Damascus and, by extension, the involvement of Assad. Please. As a reward, he was invited to the next Iraq conference. You can look it up.

Even if we haven't made explicit deals with Syria for Lebanon, we've made implicit ones. It's not really the end of the world, either. The car bombings are bad, but widespread violence has not erupted. Syria's tacit acceptance of that was probably part of the deal.

Syria's a bunch of bastards. I'd love to be stiffing them, but you can't stiff them and tame the Iraqi Sunnis. Pick one. Not both. Personally, I'd hand Iraq to the Shiites. But we're in love with the political value of making Iran the next boogeyman, so no dice.

Posted by: glasnost at October 4, 2007 07:55 PM

First line is a quote, not my thoughts.

Posted by: glasnost at October 4, 2007 07:55 PM

glasnost,

Barbarism is situational. Yet another reason why barbarism's unteaching through violent methods is inherently problematic.

I disagree. You are not stupid and I can see how you would want to make this statement, but I disagree. I think it is more accurate to say that civilization is gradual and unevenly distributed. Atavism is a constant threat, and since each of us arrives on this planet a selfish and demanding barbarian, we all have the capacity to revert.

A lot of what Michael has been talking about scaring Assad is a matter of providing substantial feedback to the perils of barbarism.

It is also worth noting that barbarians always lose to civilizations that choose to survive, although they can do a lot of damage. The long term damages of cultural selfishness always destroy barbarians. The amount of damage a barbarian empire can do with access to modern destructive materials and methods much greater now, though. We don't have the barriers of space or the lack of imagination protecting us that we used to.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 4, 2007 09:22 PM

glasnost: Psychologists have run experiments demonstrating that US citizens are willing to, as far as they know, abuse prisoners and inflict severe physical pain on people with electric shocks, simply because they're told to. Over 50 percent, that is.

The Milgram experiment.

65 percent (26 of 40) of experiment participants administered the experiment's final 450-volt shock,

The entire debate - all of it - about Pelosi and the headscarf is stupid.

Amen.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at October 4, 2007 10:16 PM

Glasnost: Barbarism is situational.

I doubt you would say that if you were stranded in Somalia and wishing you were in California, regardless of the fact that many Californians will behave badly in lab tests.

Life isn't a lab test. Civilization exists, however you want to define it. You'll know that on a whole new level if you ever leave it and go to a place where it doesn't exist.

Los Angeles will not become the next Mogadishu unless it is nearly destroyed in a cataclysm. I'll bet it would still fare better post-cataclysm than Mogadishu does on a good day.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 4, 2007 10:22 PM

Michael,

Los Angeles will not become the next Mogadishu unless it is nearly destroyed in a cataclysm.

I was in San Diego for the riots in LA when they had to mobilize the National Guard. I would like to think that things have gotten better, but I watched people yield to atavism in California.

Riots happen and they are dangerous when indulged. The situation in 1992 was a mess with a bad police chief and a idiotic mayor who wouldn't talk to each other. That lack of communication let the city burn.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 4, 2007 10:45 PM

Los Angeles will not become the next Mogadishu

Milgram was more interested in Berlin than Mogadishu:

Milgram devised the experiments to answer this question: "Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?"
Posted by: Creamy Goodness at October 4, 2007 11:14 PM

Human nature is what it is. We're all theoretically capable of acting like Nazis, rioters, or militia thugs. Yet most of us do not, and such behavior is much more common in some places and times than in others.

Los Angeles isn't comparable to Gaza or Haiti just because there was a riot a few decades ago or because human lab rats threw a volt switch under bizarre circumstances.

Civilization is real. Doubt it? Leave for a month and come back.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 4, 2007 11:54 PM

Michael, my compliments. Your reporting shows the side that for me matters most: human aspect. Strategically reporting (war) never gets into this depth. To read this sentence and to see the photo of this little boy made me shiver with emotion (and frustration because I and nobody else can do anything to make the hurt go away)

"Don't forget me, their faces seemed to say. Don't forget us. We're hurting."

OMG :(

Posted by: tsedek at October 5, 2007 03:01 AM

"And if he's killed (Assad), Islamist lunatics take over Syria. He knows it, Israel knows it, Saudi Arabia knows it, everyone knows it, so it ain't going to happen."

Assad will go eventually. And Islamist lunatics will come eventually. By protecting Assad's rule Israel is only delaying inevitable.

Will Syria be as fertile ground for Islamists as, let say, Afghanistan or even Iraq?

Posted by: leo at October 5, 2007 05:51 AM

"But killing him (Assad) personally does not necessarily mean Islamist lunatics take over (Syria). It wouldn't take much for the U.S. to help shore up a more moderate person in the current government as his replacement. It could be worked out in advance."

Helping to replace Assad with moderate will probably be wrong. Resentment for US is too high in the region. Every good deed will be interpreted in worst possible way.

"Islamist lunatic" bit has to play out on its own first. Only when Syrian are ready to accept help we can provide it. I think this is the lesson we are learning in Anbar today.

Posted by: leo at October 5, 2007 06:05 AM

We're all theoretically capable of acting like Nazis, rioters, or militia thugs. Yet most of us do not, and such behavior is much more common in some places and times than in others.---MJT

I'm glad that you included 'times' in this analysis. While it is true that some 'places' are more prone to neo-barbarism either because they are barely advanced from medieval times even now or because the prevailing culture is inherently 'illiberal',the veneer of civilization of actually quite thin.

If a repeat of the 1930's economic devastation arrived, I think some 'interesting' social movements would suddenly arise and none of them would be what we might call 'civilized'. Particularly if it appeared to be the new 'norm'. It is the historically unique creation of 'widespread' social wealth that allows us to dream on in our splendid isolation ,and believe that what is HERE, is what must always be. And it is now so taken for granted that we don't even notice it any longer. But NOTHING lasts forever.

Nothing.

Posted by: dougf at October 5, 2007 11:31 AM

It is the historically unique creation of 'widespread' social wealth that allows us to dream on in our splendid isolation ,and believe that what is HERE, is what must always be.

Most reasonably affluent Roman towns had indoor plumbing and well-built roads.

After the empire fell, humanity lost those established technologies for about a thousand years. I'm sure those Romans couldn't imagine that established knowledge and technology could disappear that way.

Posted by: mary at October 5, 2007 03:57 PM

mary,

Most reasonably affluent Roman towns had indoor plumbing and well-built roads.

I was reading Road Through Kurdistan by A. M. Hamilton from the seventy years ago. The following quote stuck with me:

The grain was sown broadcast by hand as it was in Biblical days. A better method was known four thousand years ago, for an engraving on a stone seal of the Sumerian period has been found that shows a plough of exactly the type I have described, but with a seed-sowing tube attached which fed the grain into the newly-formed furrow, much as an agricultural drill sows grain on the up-to-date farm of modern time."

In Iraq, they had better agriculture in 1927 BC than they did in 1927 AD. They are still lagging, and many of their current practices are destructive. There is also the work ethic of the men noted in the story, although I have seen men working the fields in Iraqi Kurdistan in July. The problem is that they were threshing the wheat by hand, in a country with 11% of the known world oil reserves. There probably aren't many people here who really grasp how incredibly wasteful of human talent that is, but it is like pushing your car to work and back every day.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 5, 2007 09:36 PM

In Iraq, they had better agriculture in 1927 BC than they did in 1927 AD. They are still lagging, and many of their current practices are destructive.

That's true, at least Western Culture recovered from its downturn. It's scary how a culture can take a huge backwards turn, then just stagnate for centuries.

Posted by: mary at October 6, 2007 09:01 PM

Patrick: "Does anybody have examples where non-violence succeeded over expansionist barbarism?"

No.

History shows us that force is the only language that the US responds to.

Posted by: Microraptor at October 7, 2007 02:21 AM

Microraptor: "History shows us that force is the only language that the US responds to."

History does not show what you purport; though, wait a minute, YOU have a track record of being selective in chosing snippets of history (real or imagined) to support your distorted worldview.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at October 7, 2007 05:30 AM

History shows us that force is the only language that the US responds to.

No, history shows that the US responds to Saudi terrorism with apologies and promises to be better allies with our Wahhabi friends. It shows that the US respods to Palestinian threats of terrorism with bribes and 'peace processes'. It shows that we respond to punk dictators who pop up every once in a while shouting 'I've got WMDs and I hate America' in the same way that a cartoon elephant responds to a mouse. We jump up on a chair and shriek with terror.

If the US or other nations responded to the many acts of war emanating from the gangster regimes in the Middle East the way a rational actor should, we wouldn't have the problems we have now. We respect their laws more than we do our own. That's one reason why the region is such a mess.

Of course, given that so much of the area is so backwards it could be used as a set for a biblical epic without changing anyone's style of dress or their farming equipment, our actions are not the most important reason why the area is such a mess. The problems started a very long time ago.

Posted by: mary at October 7, 2007 05:50 AM

I doubt I've ever been in such a masculine environment as I was during my time with the American military, but these guys sounded downright feminist when they talked about gender roles in Iraq

I've noticed the same thing. My husband can be a right macho knucklehead at times, but even he gets pretty steamed about the way he sees the role and the plight of women in Iraq. Warms my feminist heart.

Thanks for painting the picture the rest of the US hardly ever gets to see.

Posted by: Jennifer at October 7, 2007 06:56 AM

Microraptor: History shows us that force is the only language that the US responds to.

If I thought you were being serious, I'd ask you to give us all these historical examples of more civilized people using violence against us to get us to behave. But there aren't any.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 7, 2007 11:29 AM

Michael,

I have a technical question about your reporting. Do you use notetaking or taping, or both? If you use notetaking, do you use standard shorthand or one you've created yourself? If you use a taperecorder, which kind do you use? A minicassette recorder or digital?

Here's a Poynter column on the subject: To Tape or Not To Tape.

And how is this complicated by having to use interpreters when talking to non-English-speaking Iraqis?

Thanks in advance for your reply.

*

Posted by: Jeffrey -- New York at October 7, 2007 01:09 PM

Jeffrey,

I use an Olympus digital voice recorder and a notebook. The recorder isn't all on the time, so stray comments get written down by hand. I don't know shorthand, so I just leave out unnecessary words like "the."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 7, 2007 02:22 PM

Westerners think Muslims in the Middle East are much more conservative and fundamentalist than they really are. It annoys me constantly.

Sounds like a really good topic for a post.

Love your field work!

Posted by: M. Simon at October 7, 2007 05:38 PM

Michael,

You are awsome and I will say prayers for you.

Keep safe,

Joey

Posted by: Joey McLean at October 8, 2007 11:11 AM

I'd ask you to give us all these historical examples of more civilized people using violence against us to get us to behave. But there aren't any

I think you're forgetting the War of 1812.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 9, 2007 12:43 PM

DPU: I think you're forgetting the War of 1812.

I, for one, would welcome our new Canadian overlords as long as I get to live in Vancouver.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 9, 2007 01:04 PM

keep up the goodwork! put up some google adsense ads, they're great for bringing in money!

Posted by: ilya at October 10, 2007 12:27 AM

I first heard about Michael Totten on the Hugh Hewitt show. He read the entire Ramadi-2 post. I shared both the post and Hugh's audio with several friends.

I wish there was a podcast for this blog so I could listen to it while working or driving. I know it's pathetic, but I don't carve out much time to read...but I want to get all of Michael's info. I have a text reader called TextAloud.

I've made a donation, and plant to support Michael regularly. Thank you for your hard work!

Posted by: Sam M at October 12, 2007 09:41 AM
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