October 21, 2007

On to Fallujah with the Marines

I’m out of fresh material from Iraq, so I’ll be heading back in a few weeks to get more. This time I plan to visit in Fallujah. I’ll spend more time there than I did in either Baghdad or Ramadi, and I’ll embed with the Marines instead of the Army.

Fallujah all but demands more time and attention. On the surface it resembles Ramadi. But Fallujah is meaner and murkier. This is the notorious city from which the Sunni insurgency was launched in full force. Open kinetic warfare raged there longer than it did anywhere else in Iraq. If any city could be described as the heartland of the insurgency, this is it.

The relatively straightforward story of Al Qaeda and the Americans battling it out for the hearts and minds of Iraqis in Ramadi doesn’t really apply in Fallujah. The insurgents there were always more popular, and they fought under many flags. Abu Musab al Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden were hardly the only figures inspiring insurgents to violence. When Saddam Hussein was captured, Baghdad cheered. Fallujah rioted.

Author Bing West describes the city this way in No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah:
Cities acquire caricature, if not character: New York is frenetic and brash; San Francisco is liberal and laid-back; Los Angeles is imbued with glitter and celebrity. Ask Iraqis about Fallujah, and they roll their eyes: Fallujah is strange, sullen, wild-eyed, badass, and just plain mean. Fallujans don’t like strangers, which includes anyone not homebred. Wear lipstick or Western-style long hair, sip a beer or listen to an American CD, and you risk the whip or a beating.

For centuries the city had traded with – and stolen from – merchants who were headed east to Baghdad. The frontier town bordering an open desert attracted thousands of outcasts and criminals. In the early twentieth century European travelers learned not to tarry in Fallujah. After Iraq won its independence in 1959, Fallujah became a source of enforcers for the ruling Sunni-dominated Baath Party. The city’s tough reputation continued under Saddam…

With forty-seven mosques in its neighborhoods and fifty more in the neighboring villages, Fallujah was called “the city of a hundred mosques.” For decades the city had been the repository of the extreme Wahhabi, or Salafi, traditions flowing in from Saudi Arabia. Saddam, distrusting Fallujans’ fundamentalism, had restricted their movements and used them as his cat’s paw.
Fallujah looks as sinister as Mordor from far away, even from inside Iraq. But it isn’t that bad, at least not anymore. Somehow the city has been almost pacified.

How? What does that suggest about the future in the rest of the country? Can anything pro-American, or at least non-anti-American, grow in a place like Fallujah, or is the war there just in a lull? What do the Marines, steeped as they are in realism, think of this place? Is Fallujah ready to join the rest of Iraq, or has the rest of Iraq joined Fallujah?

These are the first questions I’d like to have answered. What questions would you like to have answered about this as-ever notorious city?

Please leave your own questions in the comments. And please consider a donation through Blog Patron or Pay Pal and help me buy war zone insurance and airfare.

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Many thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 21, 2007 09:12 PM
Comments

I understand perhaps in error, (like that could even be possible) that Fallujah was even in Saddam's day a little fiefdom unto itself overrun with even more criminality or rather criminals than the rest of Iraq.

Is it still largely run by 'criminals' ? Who does 'run' the place ? Is there any sense of 'community' there now ?

Who now runs Iraqi Security in the city ? Is it the 'police' or neighbourhood groups or both ? Are Fallujans more or less 'content' as long as the US although they are 'occupiers', don't behave as 'occupiers'.

What jobs are available for Iraqis there ? Are there plans to do anything about the problems of people having no income or having too much time on their hands ?

A while ago I read about US plans to restart some large Iraqi manufacturing operations which were closed by the War. It was understood that these were by nature inefficient but they soaked up large numbers of people and kept them out of mischief. Is anything being done on this front ?

What 'systems' actually work there. Water, sewage, electricity. You know the basic stuff.

When will the traffic be free to flow in the city as I understand that at last report, it was devided up into more or less self-contained security areas and freedom of movement was seriously restricted due to the risk of car bombs.

I guess what I am really interested in is ---

If the conflict all stopped tomorrow, what would the people there do with themselves ?

Posted by: dougf at October 21, 2007 10:09 PM

Michael,

If you read The Honoured Society by Norman Lewis, you will find a description of Corleone, a Mafia stronghold with a fearsome reputation and a physical presence that reflects it, has strong echoes with your description of Falluja.

I'm afraid the comparison is not optimistic. He wrote this in the 1950s and, by all accounts, not much has changed to this day. Sadly, such cultures are ominously persistent.

Posted by: Adrian Hope at October 22, 2007 02:26 AM

Did the highly kinetic scrubbing of Fallujah kill a lot of locals, or did mostly foreign fighters die? Is there a definable harking back by locals to that event, or are they realistic about it?

Posted by: Andrew Lale at October 22, 2007 02:50 AM

Good luck. I guess I'm not going to add something like "try and get the opinions of people off the USArmy radar map", because I don't want you to die...

Posted by: glasnost at October 22, 2007 04:07 AM

As always, your personal experience and perception of the city, and what the Marines think of the city.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at October 22, 2007 04:08 AM

Should be interesting. 2-1 IA Bde moved out of the city to the Thar Thar region and IP is in-lead there...

Posted by: DJ Elliott at October 22, 2007 05:59 AM

I’m out of fresh material from Iraq, so I’ll be heading back in a few weeks to get more.

So that you can cater more to the war boosters. You might as well stay home. You of all people have the sense to know better than what you're doing. You know a lot about the Arabs and, in bits and pieces, real empathy comes through in your writing. But you always make it add up to a bottom line that pro-war readers want. You'll quote mercenaries from private security who brag openly about how the war made them rich, but that will just whiz by as coloratura. You'll describe a swampland of tribal and religious authority, but you'll summarize it only as who we won over. As if you can't guess that the US is paying the sheiks and they will turn when the payments stop. Or that Iraqis know how to cater too, when they talk to Americans.

You summed it up pretty well in your article on the Shia "awakening". "If you're looking for a reason to hope" was the conclusion. That is a good description of your paying readers. The problem is, one day that source of money will dry up. Then no one will respect a record of reporting "reasons to hope" instead of the truth.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 22, 2007 07:10 AM

Jim Harris,

"You summed it up pretty well in your article on the Shia "awakening". "If you're looking for a reason to hope" was the conclusion. That is a good description of your paying readers. The problem is, one day that source of money will dry up. Then no one will respect a record of reporting "reasons to hope" instead of the truth."

Are you accusing Michael of being dishonest or you just do not like conclusions he arrives to based on facts?

Please, clarify.

Posted by: leo at October 22, 2007 08:58 AM

Then no one will respect a record of reporting "reasons to hope" instead of the truth.--Jim

Well at the worst he has until that point in time. I don't respect some people now.

But you did one thing with your posting,Jim. You made 'glasnost' seem almost detached. And as to the 'truth' you babble on about so forcefully. What you mean ,of course, is YOUR truth. Not THE truth. BIG BIG difference.

We ALL know about the sheiks and their attraction to money. And about the 'religious figures'. These revelations are not a surprise to anyone, and certainly not something a genius like you needs to point out to the rest of us war boosters . We might be a trifle slow for your tastes, but we're not that slow. We plod along and when facts smack us in the face we tend to notice. Sometimes we even throw in a Doh ala Homer when something interferes with our preferred narrative. But we do notice.

Thanks anyway for sharing. I'm sure others appreciate it as much as I.

Instead of Michael 'staying home' as you so cheerfully advise because his reports don't fit YOUR required narrative, how about you simply don't visit here ? You'd evidently be much happier not to have your world-view disturbed, and the rest of us could happily continue to wander around in our self-delusional fantasy world. A win-win for all as I see it. For example I myself NEVER visit certain sites because they aggravate me. I know what they are saying and I don't agree with it. Why should I listen to it again ? Been there : done that.

Frankly, Jim, as to the truth which you say you possess, as opposed to those who listen to those few reporters who 'cater to the war boosters', you'll forgive me if I say that IMO, you couldn't handle the TRUTH.

Some of us are 'optimistic' on Iraq but MJT has said that he is at best only about 50% optimistic that things might work out well. And before Sept-Oct he was a lot less optimistic than that, and he has pointed out in graphic details the flaws he has seen in Iraqi society, and the many problems he sees in the future. Now maybe that makes him a 'war-booster' in your books.

I suggest however ,Jim that perhaps instead of casting aspersions on Michael's 'honesty', that you might try to read some new books.

Just FYI and all that.

Posted by: dougf at October 22, 2007 09:07 AM

Are you accusing Michael of being dishonest or you just do not like conclusions he arrives to based on facts?

His conclusions are a face of "hope" that doesn't fit his facts. It's like the vacation from hell when the relatives just keep telling each other that they are having a great time.

On the contrary, he is a lot more honest in the details than a lot of his rivals. That is why the spin over them is such a big disappointment.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 22, 2007 09:21 AM

Michael,

I would be interested in a comparison between Fallujah today and Fallujah of 6 months or a year ago. Not just on the military side but also on the local economy and infrastructure. Are things improving, static or getting worse? I think the best way to gauge where we are going is to take a look at where we have been.

Posted by: joefrommass at October 22, 2007 09:31 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 10/22/2007
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 22, 2007 09:40 AM

To anyone that criticizes Michael's reporting, I have one thing to say: you can go to Iraq too. It is a big country, no one is stopping you from going there and doing your own reporting.

If you think someone doesn't have the facts right, or they are spinning it, then go do your own research.

Posted by: Keith at October 22, 2007 10:00 AM

Jim Harris: You might as well stay home.

I write what I see, hear, and think. Not what you think. Who the hell are you? And tell me why I shouldn't just kick you out of here right now?

If you have anything constructive to add, stick around and add it without insults. Otherwise, leave.

You summed it up pretty well in your article on the Shia "awakening". "If you're looking for a reason to hope" was the conclusion. That is a good description of your paying readers.

My paying readers did not pay me for that article, nor did they pay me for the article I quoted inside that one where I was more pessimistic. Commentary and the New York Daily News paid for those.

Also, I cited a New York Times article as the source, which is hardly a "pro-war" newspaper.

If I wanted to put a happy spin on everything I wouldn't have felt the need to publicly take back some of my previous pessimism that was corrected by the reporting in the New York Times.

You might think you have Iraq all figured out by staying home, but I'm not arrogant enough to think I have it all figured out even while traveling and working there on a regular basis.

Anyway, I don't need to justify myself to you. You have no effect on my life, and if you only came here to insult me you won't last long.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2007 10:09 AM

Doug F - I'm quite sure you're the one who can't handle the truth - particularly if you have to come to this site to get 'information'.

The truth is the Iraq disaster is a war crime of the highest order. Fact.

And as such, we should leave immedietely, apologize for our crimes and pay massive reperations to a government of the Iraqis own choosing.

And by the way - we can go where we like. And more of us interested in truth and justice should be coming here to tell sadly delusional people such as yourself what a fact is....

Posted by: neo lies at October 22, 2007 10:11 AM

Bon voyage. I look forward to reading what you write. Be careful.

Posted by: David Kenner at October 22, 2007 10:12 AM

Neo Lies: if you have to come to this site to get 'information'.

You are banned, not for thinking the Iraq war is a "war crime of the highest order," but for introducing yourself by calling me a liar on my own Web site.

Any future comments by you will be deleted.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2007 10:16 AM

Michael-

My questions revolve around-"What are we doing to enable the civilian and political infrastructure to stand up on its own?"

What are city services like? Electricity, water, sewer, garbage collection, etc.? What is the Fallujan's attitude toward reconstruction?(Assuming that reconstruction is occurring.) For example, are they enthusiastic participants? Do they feel that it is owed to them? Is it a plum to be awarded to friends and withheld from enemies? From your Ramadi reporting, there seemed to be community spirit to clean up and rebuild the city. Is that the case in Fallujah? What are the Marines doing to build the community up?

Also, do the Marines act as intermediaries with the Iraqi government? I've heard that Baghdad withholds support from Sunni areas; do our Marines get involved in these internal problems?

Thanks,

Marty

Posted by: MartyH at October 22, 2007 10:25 AM

Michael,

How has "COIN" impacted Fallujah? Other independant journalists report Iraq (thru 2007) is turning favorably due to the realization "WE" are the lesser of two evils. We (US) don't want their oil or women. AQI destroys the civil population. Can a society locked into a 1700 mentality live peacefully now that they have experienced the barbarianism of AQI?

How is this possible given the teachings of the Qur'an?

Thanks for your work, keep defending your honor, and stay safe.

Posted by: Don't Tred On Me at October 22, 2007 10:47 AM

Jim Harris sys:

"His conclusions are a face of "hope" that doesn't fit his facts. It's like the vacation from hell when the relatives just keep telling each other that they are having a great time.

On the contrary, he is a lot more honest in the details than a lot of his rivals. That is why the spin over them is such a big disappointment."

I am confused. If Michael's facts are correct what upsets you?
Do not like Michael's conclusions? Draw your own. See the spin? 'Unspin' it.

If you came here in hope to change someone's mind you will not succeed by throwing insults. Quite the contrary.

May be you should apologize to Michael and to all of us and start anew?

Posted by: leo at October 22, 2007 10:49 AM

leo: If you came here in hope to change someone's mind you will not succeed by throwing insults.

Oh, man. I knew I was doing something wrong.

Posted by: Edgar at October 22, 2007 11:12 AM

If you came here in hope to change someone's mind you will not succeed by throwing insults. Quite the contrary.

Well said leo. When one is insulting and degrading all that happens is stubborness. People shut down and hold onto their own beliefs even more tightly. Leave out the insults and people will give more thought to what is said. Understand that that doesn't mean they will change their position, but will at least give consideration.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 22, 2007 11:16 AM

I'd quite like to know what the locals believe the international forces in Iraq are hoping to achieve.

I know that attitudes have beem far more optimistic in the country in the past year, but Fallujah seems to be aside from the rest (as you noted in your comparison with Baghdad, and as I've noticed in your writing on Ramadi compared with the description you've given). After all, the allied forces did invade their country, depose the government and provide the kindling for a civil war. Falluja seems to be worse for wear in terms of reconstruction and positive attitude, and I was wondering what they think of that in terms of the occupying forces.

Incoherence! Score!

best wishes, don't get shot or anything,

James L.
Edinburgh

Posted by: James at October 22, 2007 11:17 AM

Michael,

Personally, I suspect that Fallujah will remain a nasty place to visit for many years. But it doesn't necessarily have to be a hotbed of anti-American sentiment.

If bad people come like us, or at least become indifferent to us, is that a bad thing?

Posted by: Edgar at October 22, 2007 11:18 AM

Michael:

I'd like to know if any changes in the attitudes translates to how they deal with the central government, i.e. are they now more prone to work within the government rather that boycott?

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 22, 2007 11:19 AM

What I'd like to know about Fallujah is the average citizen's view on the insurgency there in 2004. Is it viewed as "us against the occupiers" or "foreign terrorists against liberators" or something in-between. Are these Iraqis just waiting it out to strike at a moment of their choosing, is it a place where radicals are mixed with ordinary people wanting to live their lives, how can we view this region? Thanks for your info, keep safe.

Posted by: Gyokuran at October 22, 2007 11:19 AM

`come to like us,' I meant

Posted by: Edgar at October 22, 2007 11:20 AM

Sounds like fun, wish I could join you ;-)

I'm interested in perceptions. Here the perception depends on the color of your politics, it seems. If you're Red then every mistake 'isn't that bad' and every win is a Big deal, if you're Blue then every win is lame and every mistake is the next Disaster.... and its not our lives on the line.

So what about the people in Iraq and Fallujah? Do they get fed spin? Do they see the daily issues as just more of life in Iraq? Do they see American troops as responsible or irresponsible when it comes to mistakes? How honest are our troops and the Iraqi government being about problems (like the current mess with Blackwater)? Does that issue exist only in the minds of Americans, fed by the media, or are the Iraqis really pissed, or do they see it as a mistake made by non-US military?

On top of that, your interviews in Anbar showed a group that hated AQ, but also hated the government in Baghdad... or at least didn't seem to think much of them. Is Fallujah the same? Are they standing up for themselves as a community or as part of a nation?

So be safe and bring back the scoop ;-) As always, we'll be waiting with baited breath!

Oh and to Jim Harris, if he's still reading here. I'm not a war booster. I have never supported the invasion of Iraq and I hang out here because MJT appears more honest in his reporting than 99.9% of the other media sources. His personal optimism is not the same thing as political spin...

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 22, 2007 11:48 AM

Ratatosk: His personal optimism is not the same thing as political spin...

I appreciate that you see the difference. I am by nature an optimist. And I did support the invasion initially so I'd like to think that wasn't a horribly stupid move. I also know many Iraqis personally and would like to think they won't be massacred because of what's happening and may happen.

Still, as I have said before, I'm not terribly optimistic. If I had to bet money on the outcome, I'd bet on a bad outcome. But the way I see it, odds of a decent outcome are somewhere around 30 percent, whereas earlier this year I figured the odds were more like 5 percent.

Really, though, I don't have a freaking clue. These percentages are based as much on gut-level instincts as they are on information. Iraq is way too fluid and unpredictable for any of us to honestly think we know what is going to happen. If Fallujah, of all places, is sort of okay, maybe Baghdad can be too. But Fallujah erupted very suddenly and horribly, and could do so again. No one predicted the Samarra mosque bombing (how could they?), and that catalyzed at least two years of stupid gratuitous violence.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2007 12:02 PM

Michael,

Safe travels. I look forward to your next dispatches. A small addition to the tip jar to help cover some of the expenses. I hope others that enjoy your work will do the same.

Rob

Posted by: Rob at October 22, 2007 12:34 PM

No one predicted the Samarra mosque bombing (how could they?), and that catalyzed at least two years of stupid gratuitous violence.

If a reasonably easy task like destroying a building can cause years of sectarian strife, and there are enough people there who benefit from sectarian strife, then a + b = c.

Hence my pessimism.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 22, 2007 01:13 PM

How do Fallujahns see themselves -- before Saddam and now after?

BTW: Anyone know what happened to Dan: did he get banned?

MJT, keep up the stellar work!

Posted by: dajida at October 22, 2007 01:41 PM

Dan is not banned.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2007 02:04 PM

DPU: Hence my pessimism.

I hear ya.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2007 02:05 PM

God speed, Michael, stay safe. If you are passing thru NYC let us know.

I am very interested in organizational change. Cultural change. It's almost impossible to do at a corporate level, although lots of management consultants make bucks trying. Several orders of magnitude more difficult/complex/etc for a country, obviously.

But it can be done to some extent. Heck, look at NYC. (Vote for Rudy.) I am interested in the micro changes which percolate out to the macro level. Sounds like Fallujah is a control group - a town that was nasty before Saddam. Does Fallujah revert to being nasty, but the way it was before? How does that fit into the new Iraq? Does Fallujah undergo some higher order change as a result of confronting people even nastier than they were?

Michael if you want to write a screenplay, an Iraqi version of Kurosawa samurai movies would be very appropriate. Worked for Sergio Leone, and it does seem like the Wild West out there.

Posted by: Yehudit at October 22, 2007 03:47 PM

dougf:

you couldn't handle the TRUTH.

Did you order the code red?

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at October 22, 2007 03:54 PM

And tell me why I shouldn't just kick you out of here right now?

Because first of all what I have to say is not mainly about you as a person. I don't think that you're ugly or stupid or even inherently dishonest or anything like that. You write well and at times you have expressed real sympathy for the people that you write about. Otherwise there would be no point in my praising or criticizing you in your blog.

No, this is about the approach that you have chosen to take in your work. What you call "optimism" is really taking sides. It's about a war that you asked for and a guy that you said you voted for. So it's a very convenient kind of optimism. Of course in a war, there is a fine line between optimism and callous disregard. After all, William Westmoreland was an optimist in Vietnam and Vladimir Putin is an optimist in Chechnya.

Do you want to ban that criticism? That's your call of course, but you would do better to follow the example of the New York Times. They do accept bashing in their letters section from time to time; and they accept it in their blogs all the time. The comments in their blogs don't have to be "constructive", they just have to stay broadly on topic. That is how to take the high road. If you want to restrict your comment section to fans, it won't hurt me; the Internet is a big place.

You objected that I have nothing constructive to say. In fact I did already imply constructive criticism. In passing you talked to two war profiteers who openly gloated about the money they were making. And how a lot of it was tax free if they spent it on vacations. It was almost prescient, because just a few months later some of these guys shot and killed 17 civilians in Baghdad, without any demonstrated provocation. And they're exempt from both Iraqi and American criminal law. A few weeks later another crew of them killed two Armenian Christian women.

So one constructive suggestion is that you should find out more about the contractors who you can meet by accident and who describe themselves as addicted to money. It seems that some of them are addicted to violence too.

Another suggestion would be to go to talk to the millions of Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria. And if you do talk to them, it's very important not to just be an optimist. Obviously you have to be pretty desperate to bang on Syria's doors. Optimism amounts to disregarding the real grief of these people.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 22, 2007 04:07 PM

Jim,

I'll grant that sometimes it feels like MJT provides little depth into lots of ugly side alleys ... While focusing instead on the giant street carnival. Those alleys are full of lots of really nasty stuff that might get someone killed. Sure he only gets to meet the people that his protection can let him meet. Yes, that will slant the story somewhat... but its not like he's hiding that fact. We understand that these are stories of his experiences and what he gets to see/hear within limits of his personal safety, not solid objective facts.

The way in which people see only a black and white world may be most obvious in ignorant actions and words by people deluded by religion and politics, but your brand seems just as insidious. Not every person who writes must do so objectively. Not every person who writes a good story is trying to hide the bad ones and not every positive story from Iraq has the White House spin on it... only the ones from Fox News.

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 22, 2007 04:27 PM

Jim Harris: What you call "optimism" is really taking sides. It's about a war that you asked for and a guy that you said you voted for.

Well, fine. I've said as much already myself. Isn't the same true of you, too? Your pessimism is also a way of taking sides, and is about a war you opposed and a guy I'm sure you did not vote for.

That's fine and perfectly natural. Nothing wrong with you, and nothing wrong with me. We all have our opinions and are lying if we say otherwise. I know many reporters who oppose the war and predict a bad outcome -- and vice versa -- and who do a good job reporting the facts. Professionalism is not for hawks or doves alone.

We all take or took sides in this argument. I'm not automatically wrong just because you don't happen to agree with me. Someone will think I'm wrong no matter which side I'm on, so I can't take the mere existence of disagreement from a stranger seriously unless you have something substantive to say and can make a convincing fact-based argument.

Maybe supporting the Iraq war was wrong. Believe me, I've considered the idea hundreds of times. But I'm not going to reverse myself until it's over. What if we win and Iraq turns out okay? I'm not going to keep changing my mind back and forth as the death toll rises and falls. There is no point. My opimism waxes and wanes, and like I've said many times, I'm ultimately not optimistic at all at this time.

That doesn't mean I don't hope for a good outcome. Iraq is a real place where real people live. Many of them are good people, and some of them are my friends. I do not want them to have to live in a California-sized Gaza.

So one constructive suggestion is that you should find out more about the contractors who you can meet by accident and who describe themselves as addicted to money. It seems that some of them are addicted to violence too.

Those guys I met worked in construction. They are not "mercenaries." They haven't commited any violence, nor have they seen any violence. They are paid well because they work under crappy conditions that are intolerable for most people. They earn every penny because they suffer every minute. Being in Iraq sucks, believe me. I don't go there because it's fun. It isn't.

Another suggestion would be to go to talk to the millions of Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria.

I'm not in Syria or Jordan so I can't really do that. Getting a visa for Syria will be very difficult for me (because of what I have written about the Assad regime), and going to Jordan is not economically viable unless you want to give me a whopping donation. I'll be happy to go there if so. It would be a nice break from Iraq.

I did publish an interview with an Iraqi who desperately wants to be a refugee and will do whatever he must to get out. It was gloomy as hell, but -- despite what you seem to think -- I am not in the business of whitewashing Iraq. Maybe you missed that story, or have forgotten about it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2007 04:32 PM

Ratatosk: We understand that these are stories of his experiences and what he gets to see/hear within limits of his personal safety,

I should hope so. This should be obvious.

I published lots of photos of friendly children, and also pointed out that children in Sadr City throw rocks at soldiers. I'm not hiding a damn thing, but I'm not stupid enough to wander around Sadr City either. Soldiers rarely go into Sadr City at all (at least as of July when I was in Baghdad) and I'd get away with going there by myself for about 20 minutes before something bad would probably happen to me.

I write primarily about what I see and hear myself. I can't be everywhere and see everything, but I am aware of much of what I can't see -- even if that awareness is skewed by the second-hand nature of the information.

Everything most people know about Iraq is second-hand. So I find it more than a little irritating when some random person tells me I'm wrong about what I saw and heard with my own eyes and ears. It doesn't happen very often, but it did happen in this very thread, and in many other threads, too. I may not always understand correctly what I see and hear, but I'm sure as hell not making shit up or leaving important facts out.

I appreciate, Ratatosk, that you and I have differing opinions and yet you still get this. It's hard for some people.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2007 04:43 PM

Michael,

I am headed to Camp Lejeune tomorrow morning to greet my son, 2/6 Golf company (which had responsibility for the entire Southern half of Fallujah and into the Euphrates River valley towards Baghdad). The commenter above is correct, the IA has left and Fallujah has been turned over to the IP -- sort of, but not exactly. The IA was never a significant actor in the pacification of Fallujah. It was the 2/6 Marines and IP, and the IP needed much confidence building and relied on the Marines for kinetic operations. They will still rely on the Marines in combined IP precincts / combat outposts.

See my coverage on Operation Alljah (interview with then Lt. Col. now Col. William Mullen), along with Bill Ardolino's fantastic coverage. As one interesting thing you might cover, I would like to know how well the replacement for 2/6 does at keeping Fallujah pacified once the ban on vehicular traffic has been slowly lifted. The foundation has been built in Operation Alljah, involving kinetic operations, biometrics, gated communities and neighborhood watches. There is no excuse for going backwards now in Fallujah. Time will tell -- and you can give us the story.

Posted by: Herschel Smith at October 22, 2007 04:44 PM

No one predicted the Samarra mosque bombing (how could they?), and that catalyzed at least two years of stupid gratuitous violence.
If a reasonably easy task like destroying a building can cause years of sectarian strife, and there are enough people there who benefit from sectarian strife, then a + b = c.
Hence my pessimism.
--dpu

Everyone keeps mentioning this act as if it was THE causative factor, and absent it the whole 'civil-war' thingy might not have erupted.

All the Samarra bombing signified was a 'tipping-point'. An historical marker by which it was then possible to measure subsequent events. Sure it was an important Shia symbol, but its destruction represented a reality on the ground. Perhaps it served as a 'justification' for but it did not 'cause' what happened after. What happened BEFORE Samarra led to that. A lot of large-scale terrorist attacks on Shias. A lot of senseless brutal Sunni supported attacks. And after each one the Shias were urged to 'be calm'. Samarra was merely a 'Popeye' moment. A collective -- I've had all I can stands, I can't stands no more. A moment when the Shia collectively came to the conclusion that the bombings were not going to stop unless someone stopped them by whatever means worked. And that far too many of the Sunni were 'colloborating' with the bombers.

So if the pessimism is indeed resulting from an application of an a+b=c formula as dpu states, then the formula should more properly be expressed as a+b+c...+x =z.

It will now,imo, be MUCH more difficult in Iraq to get that many letters to line up in the proper ignition sequence. One just won't do it. It didn't before.

Hence the optimism.

ps--- To Creamy Goodness. I AM indeed finding Jack's character more 'sympathetic' by the day. I'm fairly sure that the makers of that film regret having given him that line.

Posted by: dougf at October 22, 2007 04:50 PM

Your pessimism is also a way of taking sides, and is about a war you opposed and a guy I'm sure you did not vote for.

No, I didn't vote for him, but I also didn't know to support or oppose the war until they had already kicked in the barn door. Only then did it become clear (to me at least) that the case for war had been larded with an obscene amount of optimism.

And you'd be hard-pressed to describe 2003 in any other way. After all, back then they fired their own Treasury Secretary for saying that the war would cost $200 billion. Now no one knows a way to make $200 billion even a fifth of what it will cost.

But I'm not going to reverse myself until it's over.

That's basically saying that you won't reverse yourself until it's too late to matter. That does come through in what you write and that's basically the problem. In any story, not necessarily as serious as a war, you should have the courage to change your mind before it's over.

Those guys I met worked in construction.

All right, they were in construction. But they sounded like mercenaries given the way that they shamelessly bragged about their wealth. (Or maybe not; maybe the real mercenaries are tight-lipped about it.) You certainly could have talked to mercenaries who are paid the same way as these guys. They can't be hard to find.

Besides, the construction contractors don't exactly have a stellar record in Iraq. And rationalizing that they are just well paid for dirty work does not quite explain their attitude. How many people do you meet who brag to total strangers about how much money they make? Who even gloat about their tax breaks? Something was very wrong in that conversation and you didn't follow up on it.

After all, if you're only 30% optimistic, where does the other 70% come from? I hope you're not so partisan as to say that the only problem is Democratic politicians and biased media. Surely war profiteers are part of the problem.

I did publish an interview with an Iraqi who desperately wants to be a refugee and will do whatever he must to get out.

I remember. He was blatantly catering to a certain stripe of American opinion, and beyond that he sounded like he was on crack. Of course he would do whatever he had to do. He would sound like Dick Cheney crossed with Curtis LeMay if he had to. Again, you reported the facts respectably enough, but you didn't connect the dots.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 22, 2007 05:01 PM

What you call "optimism" is really taking sides.

That's your entire thesis in a nutshell-- according to you, MJT took the wrong side. Everything else you write is just window dressing for that.

Posted by: Carlos at October 22, 2007 05:36 PM

Michael--

Godspeed. Wish I could send you a few bucks for your trip. I might have to catch you on the flip-side when the finances get more stable.

If you can't take my money, you can take my prayers.

Posted by: DocattheAutopsy at October 22, 2007 05:53 PM

Jim Harris: Again, you reported the facts respectably enough, but you didn't connect the dots.

He has a point, you know.

You might consider interspersing little notes in your interviews.

For example:

MJT : Do you like working with Americans?

Hammer : A lot. [That is, he likes taking our money]

MJT : Why do you have to cover your face?

Hammer : To protect my family. [Meaning his family can't stand the sight of him.]

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

Hammer : Nuke Iraq. [Well, he's getting a visa to the U.S. anyway--why should he care?]

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

Hammer : In all my life? When I was seven years old I heard the sound of wild pigeons every morning. Then something happened and I never heard them again. [That "something" was probably him shooting at them with an air gun. Moron.]

Posted by: Edgar at October 22, 2007 06:05 PM

Dougf: So if the pessimism is indeed resulting from an application of an a+b=c formula as dpu states, then the formula should more properly be expressed as a+b+c...+x =z. It will now,imo, be MUCH more difficult in Iraq to get that many letters to line up in the proper ignition sequence. One just won't do it.

A good point. Still, they won't be starting from zero exactly. All the attacks before and since the Samarra attacks have not been forgotten.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2007 06:10 PM

Hammer : Nuke Iraq.

That one line pretty much sank the interview. It proved that he is willing to say anything to get his family out. And that he is either crazy, or doesn't respect his employer (the US Army), or doesn't respect Michael Totten himself, or some combination. His fear for his family was the only part that sounded genuine.

Nonetheless his "opinions" were taken by the war boosters as confirmation that Iraqis want the US to stay. I would be surprised if that interpretation was lost on the interviewer. After all, the current slant of Commentary Magazine is no mystery either.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 22, 2007 06:28 PM

Jim Harris: That one line pretty much sank the interview.

Well, it was a joke. Middle Eastern humor is grim.

Nonetheless his "opinions" were taken by the war boosters as confirmation that Iraqis want the US to stay.

Bah. There are so many anti-American Iraqis that Hammer wants to leave forever and has to hide his face so his family isn't massacred. He very clearly set himself apart from his countrymen. That theme ran throughout the entire interview.

I would be surprised if that interpretation was lost on the interviewer.

It's a stupid interpretation. It only makes sense if you ignore 90 percent of what he said.

the current slant of Commentary Magazine is no mystery either.

So what? I also published some pieces in Reason Magazine, which has the opposite slant on Iraq. Reason, as it turns out, which has an anti-war slant, wrote my accreditation letter for the United States military.

What's your point in bringing up something like this, anyway? That I should only let anti-war editors publish my articles? That would be a pretty dumb move on my part. I'll be happy to have my articles appear in any publication of the mainstream left, center, or right as long as they don't edit me to death -- which did happen once.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2007 06:42 PM

Please consider asking Iraqis --a) do they think Iran is supporting the terrorists and the bombings? b) what, if anything, should Iraq be doing about Iran? c) would they feel safe if Iran got nukes?

Partly thanks to you, I'm even MORE optimistic -- so much so, I'm considering voting for Ron Paul! (I really am Libertarian ... paternalist ... pro-freedom)

To Jim Harris, future politics are never "facts". If the USA was willing to commit to staying in Iraq for the next 50 years (it's been 62 and counting in Germany), I'm certain Iraq would "make it" -- into a reasonable place, and the most democratic and economically developed Arab (plus Kurd) country in the Mid East.

[Logically, every "if A then B" statement has a truth table value of true, if A is false]

It is a historical fact that in 1973, there was Peace Accord signed over S. Vietnam -- the US "won". It is also a fact that the Dem Party stopped military intervention and reduced the US cash going to the (corrupt, inefficient, cowardly) S. Viet gov't. It is a fact the N. Viet commies, as any evil empire would do, violated the treaty and took over S. Vietnam, murdering, not war-killing, tens of thousands, estimated hundreds of thousands. And Cambodia suffered the Killing Fields, thanks to the Dem Party (which Michael mostly supports, like so many educated elites in America). Those murders wouldn't have happened if the US had stayed in S. Vietnam, like it stayed in S. Korea.
The future is based on what we choose to do, today -- combined with what others choose to do. Of course, those who think the Iraqis are just (mindless?) "victims", so every death is because of Bush, they don't care any more about Iraqis as people than they care about those in Darfur, or Burma, or Zimbabwe (where is a Peter Gabriel or Bono song now?) -- zilch.

Michael, I'm pretty sure you'd find my 2003/2004 claims about giving Bush an "A-", now "B", based on 2500 US deaths for "A", 5000 US deaths for "B", 10 000 US deaths for "C".

I'm really really glad you're trying to give 30% optimistic, actual numbers. It helps me -- Bush could still drop to a "C". I have yet to see any objective standards of evaluation from anti-war folk. ($200 bil ... now 300, now 500, now 900 ... how much is good, how much is too much? Leftists never have standards) The right metric is US lives lost in Iraq, about 1000 / year, less than 100/month. A lot less than US auto accidents.
(Which would be hugely reduced if all car riders would wear helmets -- which I don't advocate for laws, but it's a point where reduced freedom and comfort increases safety. If drivers aren't willing to save thousands of lives each year by wearing helmets...)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at October 22, 2007 06:47 PM

War zone insurance? Don't shoot for me less than the deductible?

Posted by: Pat Patterson at October 22, 2007 07:00 PM

Jim Harris,

I can understand your position on the war and can appreciate your opposition to stories that have a spin on them, but I have no comprehension of your last diatribe.

I think that most, if not all, of the readers understand that you feel MJT spins his reporting. You have offered a few, weak examples and had your moment. Michael has rebutted and now you decide that being nasty is the best counter reply? You lost the debate.

We all have our opinions here, pro and con, and argue them openly. When it gets too snarky, Michael gives a cool down notice. He gave you yours and you should listen. He has consistently shown that he values opinions from all contributors (except the trolls). I am confident that he values what you say as well, up until the point where you attack him personally.

Michael,

Have you considered more about how to pursue the female perspective of the Iraqis?

Posted by: Kevin China at October 22, 2007 07:04 PM

Do people on the ground think any sort of lasting peace is possible? Is it possible for a Democracy to last (after we leave) in a country as disfunctional as Iraq? Are there leaders at any level who can guide the nation? Do the Iraqi's do anything that doesn't offer an immediate reward (ie: not being corrupt or constantly bringing outside force into the country in an attempt to gain an advantage over rival tribes or other groups)?

Basiclly, are the Iraqi's even capable of maintaining a functioning society or is it another Gaza?

Posted by: Mikek at October 22, 2007 07:26 PM

Kevin: Have you considered more about how to pursue the female perspective of the Iraqis?

Unfortunately, that's a tough one in Iraq. I'll be in one place longer when I get to Fallujah (in mid November), so I may have the opportunity to drill down a bit more, so to speak.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2007 07:37 PM

Well, it was a joke.

There were a lot of other crazy lines in that interview that were just blatant catering to the American right wing. Like the one about crying because he couldn't wear an American pin in the mess hall. Or the one about 60 Al Qaeda guys raping one woman and then killing her --- who was there to count?

Which is not to say that that guy doesn't believe his act. He probably does believe some of it. But the whole interview was over the top, and it was implicitly partisan to offer it as face value.

What's your point in bringing up something like this, anyway?

Actually you brought it up. I said that your conclusions don't really fit the picture that you paint, but that they do cater to a certain paying audience. And you said, but your articles were paid for by Commentary and New York Daily News. That's hardly different though.

But to be fair, you claim to really believe in this "optimism". Or if not optimism, then other rationalizations for the war. So maybe it isn't just about the money. But still, the plain truth is that the Iraq war destabilized and Islamized Iraq. Even withholding judgment until it's "over" is a disservice to Iraqis. It may never be "over", just as it hasn't been in Gaza or Lebanon. It's a disservice to people that you are prepared to understand and sometimes help. Nor is the war any good for America. Yes, I'm taking sides too, but it's the right side. There is no middle ground left in the question and no symmetry in the debate either.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 22, 2007 08:29 PM

Building the trust relationship sufficient to gain access to women in Iraq is a huge pain. There is no sense of confidentiality towards reporters, all men are suspected of dishonorable intentions. Michael and I are each incredibly married to wonderful women and not interested in fooling around. This does not matter because males are presumed to be untrustworthy.

Earlier this year we got to interview one woman in Iraq, and only because she was intensely angry about how Zarqawi's thugs had treated her before the war started.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 22, 2007 08:34 PM

Jim Harris: Yes, I'm taking sides too, but it's the right side. There is no middle ground left in the question and no symmetry in the debate either.

You might as well just write blah blah blah blah blah rather than assert that you're right and I'm wrong and you're superior because of it. No one in the history of the universe has been persuaded by someone with that kind of attitude.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2007 08:51 PM

MJT: No one in the history of the universe has been persuaded by someone with that kind of attitude.

Unless, of course, that person is holding a gun.

Posted by: Edgar at October 22, 2007 09:13 PM

I didn't say anything about anyone being superior. All I'm saying is that rationalizing the Iraq war, or even withholding judgment, is a big mistake on the part of someone who otherwise understands Arabs. There is a consistent picture of tragedy from most of the Iraqi blogs, and a rather different wait-and-see picture on this site. You and they can't both be right.

Washington also provides a consistent picture of war as a financial hemorrhage. $600 billion has been requested so far, which is more than 20 grand for every man, woman, and child in Iraq. What sense is there in waiting until it's "over" when that much money has been spent?

The part of your position that you're putting forward now is intellectual relativism: the debate has two sides and anyone who claims to be right is acting "superior". But the morality of a war is almost never like that. It's usually quite obvious whether a war is a good idea. How could you possibly have no "freaking clue" about this one, after there has been so much water under the bridge?

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 22, 2007 09:19 PM

How could you possibly have no "freaking clue" about this one, after there has been so much water under the bridge?--Jim Harris

Blah,blah,blah -- dougf

Hey MJT was right. It does save a lot of time. Now where is that gun again?

Posted by: dougf at October 22, 2007 09:36 PM

Jim Harris: The part of your position that you're putting forward now is intellectual relativism: the debate has two sides and anyone who claims to be right is acting "superior".

Obviously everyone thinks they are right. That goes without saying. If I thought I was wrong, I would change my mind so I would no longer be wrong. My point is that you should not be a dick about it.

But the morality of a war is almost never like that. It's usually quite obvious whether a war is a good idea. How could you possibly have no "freaking clue" about this one, after there has been so much water under the bridge?

I know people who will be killed if the US withdraws. I am not going to look them in the eye and say "sorry, you need to die now." That just isn't going to happen. I would hate myself if I could do that.

I know people, especially in the North, who get really pissed off when I describe the war as an invasion instead of a liberation. You can ignore these people if you want to, but I can't.

I can make the same kind of point to war supporters: I've met people (Iraqis and Americans) whose family members were killed in fighting that would not have taken place if the US had not invaded. How am I supposed to look them in the eye and say "sorry, but I support the decision that led your loved one getting killed."

War is hell, and I'm in the middle of it. People die if the US does A, and people die if the US does B. I know some of these people personally. If you think this is easy for me I suggest you visit Iraq for yourself and see what it's like when the war comes to life and stops being a left-wing and right-wing talking point. It's a hell of a lot easier to be a self-righteous gasbag about it -- regardless of which side you're on -- when you're eight time zones away from it.

None of the Americans I've met in Iraq are half as certain they're right, whatever their point of view, as the people back home who have never been there.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2007 09:40 PM

I know people, especially in the North, who get really pissed off when I describe the war as an invasion instead of a liberation.

Well, yes, the Kurds. It's not just a liberation; in fact, it's their war of independence. You've talked a lot about that. You just didn't spell out that the White House repeatedly promised that Kurdish secession is not supposed to be the outcome. The Kurds particularly aren't supposed to just grab the northern oil fields.

So to describe this with phrases like "The Other Iraq" is disingenuous. I'm glad that you are pro-Kurdistan; the Kurds are fine people. But something big is missing from your story, if you use euphemisms instead of saying straight that the White House is wrong about Iraqi unity. There are important reasons for the pretense in Washington. On this side of it too, you aren't connecting the dots.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 22, 2007 10:05 PM

Jim Harris,

Washington also provides a consistent picture of war as a financial hemorrhage. $600 billion has been requested so far, which is more than 20 grand for every man, woman, and child in Iraq. What sense is there in waiting until it's "over" when that much money has been spent?

Big numbers! To quote the immortal Count Floyd: Scary!

This kind of alarmist irrationality does nothing to support your argument. The United States has a $13+ Trillion dollar GDP, which means that in the over four years that the war has passed, we have consistently spent 1/86 of our wealth on the war! Put differently, the war in Iraq has cost the US less than $2,000 for every man, woman and child. Our war expenses are coming close to our annual beer spending! Office football pool amounts are being spent to free millions of people! Stop the insanity!

It makes sense to put things in perspective, but you aren't very good at that so far. We are the richest nation in the world and we are treating an insurgency as a minor but lingering threat. All you are pointing out is that rich people can afford to spend a ridiculous amount to protect themselves.

Would it make you feel better if our troops wore comic opera costumes that looked really rich? More chrome plated mess kits? Big parades and pretty horses? Fashion has changed, and we no longer display our troops as fetishes to frighten our opponents...that no longer works. We have to fight our enemies, otherwise they come and kill us.

To honor the sacrifices our troops are willing to make, we choose to spend what is necessary to keep them as safe as possible, as comfortable as we can. That often is not very safe or comfortable, even when it is incredibly expensive. The point of the fight is not to select the lowest bidder, it is to win.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 22, 2007 10:10 PM

Edgar: It was probably the gun that did it, not the attitude.

Jim: I look at your argument - Mr. Totten gives too much of a positive spin to his articles. Though he is optimistic, you believe there is a point where optimism should end and Mr. Totten should change his opinion. Fair enough.

But then I see sentences like these:
"you reported the facts respectably enough, but you didn't connect the dots."
"Yes, I'm taking sides too, but it's the right side."

These make it plain that your complaint is NOT that he's putting positive spin on his facts. YOUR complaint is that he's not putting enough NEGATIVE spin on the facts. And until he does, you won't be satisfied, because until then his reports won't fit with the narrative you've constructed from the other blogs you read. And see that first sentence I quoted? You admit that his facts are straight. If you've been able to draw conclusions from them, good job. Post those conclusions. DON'T tell Mr. Totten that he isn't doing a good job because he didn't draw the same conclusions you did. Besides, if you were able to draw those conclusions from the facts, then presumably other readers will too, and you specifically will be able to keep drawing your own conclusions from the facts he gives, so what's your problem?

Then there's this line:
"It's usually quite obvious whether a war is a good idea."

Since I'm not old enough to remember past wars, I'm no authority, but without evidence backing that statement up it's worthless. If you're willing to tell me whether going into Kosovo, Somalia, Vietnam, various South American and African countries, Korea, etc. etc. etc. had an obvious right vs. wrong, I'll agree with you. But without the evidence it just doesn't seem that way.

Another of your lines:
"But to be fair, you claim to really believe in this "optimism". Or if not optimism, then other rationalizations for the war. So maybe it isn't just about the money."

Ad hominem will get you nowhere.

"But still, the plain truth is that the Iraq war destabilized and Islamized Iraq."

Because the stabilized, Saddamized version of Iraq was so much better? And how is destabilization during war not par for the course?

And another:
"$600 billion has been requested so far, which is more than 20 grand for every man, woman, and child in Iraq. What sense is there in waiting until it's "over" when that much money has been spent?"

When has war not been a financial hemorrhage? That is, when we actually saw the war through to the end. As has been noted, what defines war is not money, but casualties. I don't want to marginalize the deaths of nearly 4000 US troops, but that's a comparatively small number for five years of war. It's not like we're being militarily defeated in Iraq these days.

One last line:
"How could you possibly have no "freaking clue" about this one, after there has been so much water under the bridge?"

Because as Mr. Totten has indicated, he believes (as do I) that there's plenty of room for victory in Iraq thanks to events of the past months. If you disagree, then you disagree, but you've certainly presented no good reasons why the conclusions Mr. Totten reached are invalid.

Posted by: Math_Mage at October 22, 2007 10:18 PM

Jim Harris,

Well, yes, the Kurds. It's not just a liberation; in fact, it's their war of independence.

You are wrong. This is their war for survival. The traditional cycles of genetic cleansing that the Kurds have resisted successfully for thousands of years have become overwhelmingly lethal.

The Kurds are looking down the barrel of a three-way ethnocide and you are disparaging their political ambitions. If the West does not preserve liberal civilization, the racists will have no restraint in the coming century. Part of the reason why your comments seem so disingenuous is that they consistently ignore the increasing trend of violence by unrestrained governments.

The Kurds would like to be independent and united. I would like to travel with my great-grandchildren to the moon on my 200th birthday. Both of these things may happen, but they are on the same schedule. The KRG knows this, even if some of your sources about the Kurds don't. The KRG is not going to throw away survival to pursue an impossible independence and unification.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 22, 2007 10:20 PM

Gah, sorry for double post. Noticed something missing from the above, and wanted to clarify:

Note that I'm not saying that we're necessarily going to win. Neither is Mr. Totten. Though there's room for victory, there's probably more room for defeat (thus his 30% optimism rating). However, Jim, you make it sound like Totten's only option is to concede defeat because there's no chance whatsoever of victory - and that opinion is as wrong as the "sunny skies" opinion that states we've won already. THAT is the point I was trying to make, not that we're going to win or anything.

Posted by: Math_Mage at October 22, 2007 10:25 PM

Jim Harris: But something big is missing from your story, if you use euphemisms instead of saying straight that the White House is wrong about Iraqi unity.

The White House is wrong about Iraqi unity.

Isn't it obvious that I think that since my opinion is at odds with the Bush Administration? So what, though? I'm not using euphemisms to describe a policy disagreement with the White House. I'm just putting my thoughts out there for everyone to consider, whether they're Republicans or Democrats or Iraqis or Israelis or whatever.

I know very well that I can be more effective if I put constructive ideas out in the world rather than seethe and whine about other people's ideas. That's something you should consider yourself.

I don't work for the White House, I've never been in the White House, I don't know anyone in the White House from any administration, and I don't check White House policy or talking points before figuring out what my view is. I form my views from my own knowledge and experience and try my best to write it straight.

Like I said, I'm not interested in left-wing or right-wing politics. I'm not particularly interested in American politics at all. I wouldn't be a foreign correspondent if American politics was my biggest concern.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2007 11:14 PM

We have consistently spent 1/86 of our wealth on the war!

You're rather playing with denominators there, Patrick. Iraq is less than a tenth of the size of the United States --- it is not like the 1941-45 Pacific War --- so of course it can only possibly be a small fraction of our wealth. But it's not all THAT small a fraction of our wealth.
The Pentagon has never estimated more than 20,000 insurgents in this supposedly minor insurgency. So how exactly do 20,000 insurgents cost 30 million dollars each? Something is very wrong with their story of how much this war has cost and for what gain.

To honor the sacrifices our troops are willing to make, we choose to spend what is necessary to keep them as safe as possible, as comfortable as we can.

It would be one thing if that really were what we're spending the money on. But Michael Totten says that you can just bump into contractors in Iraq, who will tell you that they are addicted to money and make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Which is many times what the soldiers make. So who is really being "kept comfortable"?

When has war not been a financial hemorrhage?

When it was any other American war since Vietnam. Or even all of them put together. All of the wars that the US has fought since, put together, fit into a corner of the cost of the Iraq war. Here are the main ones: Panama, Haiti, Kosovo, Bosnia, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan. All of that put together has been maybe $200 billion on the outside, while no one has a plan to keep the Iraq war by itself under a trillion. Iraq is about as expensive as Vietnam, and for the same reason. In both wars, the US chased after a victory that simply does not exist.

You are wrong. This is their war for survival.

I said that the Kurds see it as a war of independence, while you say I'm "wrong", it's actually a war of survival. If we both saw a red apple and I called it an apple, you would tell me that I'm wrong, it's actually red.

Of course the Kurds see it as both at once. Only the White House sees it differently. The White House calls it a war for Iraqi unity. That description just doesn't fit the facts as presented by Michael Totten. But the White House is supposed to be in charge. Why the disconnect?

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 22, 2007 11:37 PM

Jim Harris: The White House calls it a war for Iraqi unity. That description just doesn't fit the facts as presented by Michael Totten. But the White House is supposed to be in charge. Why the disconnect?

I have nothing whatsoever to do with the White House. The White House and I don't see Iraq the same way. You don't see Iraq the same way as the White House either. We both think the White House is wrong about something or other. Okay, but what does that have to do with anything?

If I were the president and there was a disconnect between me and the White House, well, that would be an issue. But there is no alternate universe where I am president of the United States.

Perhaps I misunderstand your point here, but I'm baffled why you think it's significant that I don't agree with the White House.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2007 11:55 PM

Jim Harris,

So how exactly do 20,000 insurgents cost 30 million dollars each? Something is very wrong with their story of how much this war has cost and for what gain.

On 9/11/2001, 19 terrorists caused 1.2 trillion dollars of economic damage. That would come to 63 billion per terrorist when we take your advice. By that accounting, we are spending less than 1/20,000th as much to kill the terrorists in Iraq than when we wait for them here. Maybe you should stay away from numbers.

But Michael Totten says that you can just bump into contractors in Iraq, who will tell you that they are addicted to money and make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Which is many times what the soldiers make. So who is really being "kept comfortable"?

I have a good friend who is making great money as a contractor, after he pulled a tour as a Reservist in my unit. Making money is not evil, even if it makes you angry. The going rate for contractors is what we have to pay to get the people who can do the job in the conditions required. I have worked as a consultant in Iraq and charged significantly because that is what my work was worth. I also am a Reservist and eligible for recall at any moment.

The problem you have is that people are making money for enduring harsh and dangerous conditions to do necessary jobs. So what? The Navy spent over $500,000 on training me to kill Soviet submarines, and I never got to. That was the price the US spent to counter the threat when we were winning the Cold War. You may recall that expenditure strategy worked.

Only the White House sees it differently. The White House calls it a war for Iraqi unity. That description just doesn't fit the facts as presented by Michael Totten. But the White House is supposed to be in charge.

The White House is not the boss of Michael Totten. Perhaps you could have picked up on that from the way his email address doesn't end in (at)whitehouse.gov.

I could spend all night destroying your arguments, but I was hoping that DPU or glasnost was going to pop in here and put up something challenging.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 23, 2007 12:00 AM

Perhaps I misunderstand your point here, but I'm baffled why you think it's significant that I don't agree with the White House.

You wrote many stories that entirely contradict a main objective of the Iraq war as stated by the people who run it. But you wrote them in a style that did not look like a contradiction. You say that it's unintentional, in fact that you have no reason to care. But even if that were true, it's still catering. In many ways the war simply contradicts its objectives. For instance, an old friend of Bush cut an oil deal with Kurdistan that undermines Iraqi unity. If you really want to think of yourself as a responsible independence journalist, then you should be awake enough not to play along with these charades.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 23, 2007 12:04 AM

Michael,

I have no interest in getting tangled in the current kerfuffle, but I did have a suggestion about your next Iraqi trip.

I've read a few too many articles on sexual assault of female soldiers by their own male comrades. It's only begun to be reported in the last few months, but its an issue that I'm unfortunatly familiar with.

In 1996 when I was stationed at Redstone Arsenal, a fellow soldier was raped by a Marine she met on base. While consoling her, two other females admitted to sexual abuse on base. Two weeks later, the Aberdeen Proving Grounds scandal broke. I always looked back at those incidents and considered them anomolies, but what I've been reading lately about female personnel in Iraq and Kuwait is disturbing to say the least. I know you focus primarily on the concerns of the people of the middle east, but any information you could bring back on this issue would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by: Astroninja at October 23, 2007 12:05 AM

The problem you have is that people are making money for enduring harsh and dangerous conditions to do necessary jobs.

If they make a lot more money from the government than the soldiers themselves, then yes, that's a problem! Besides, many of these contractors who rake in the federal money don't endure harsh and dangerous conditions.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 23, 2007 12:08 AM

Astroninja,

This is the most gender integrated military activity in US history. Even though the punishment for harassment and abuse is the most draconian in US military history, there are still problems. A tremendous source of the problem is when units with bad discipline and poor coherence are brought into contact with units they have never seen.

Traditionally, military people look out for their own. When different units are brought in from different services and even countries, accountability lapses. This is a problem, this is being looked at all the time.

By way of counter-point, it is worth considering the libels of Scott Beauchamp published in TNR. The liar Beauchamp claimed to have verbally abused a disfigured woman at a base in Iraq, and later changed his story to say it happened in Kuwait. Within days of this publication, the story was tracked down and found false. Think about that for a minute. I cannot tell you how angry it would make the people in my unit if any of our female sailors were assaulted in any way, and most good units are exactly the same kind of protective.

There are young people in our military who get stupid and do bad things. In the main, though, there has never been a mixed gender military with better discipline in the face of the enemy than ours is now.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 23, 2007 12:18 AM

Jim Harris,

If they make a lot more money from the government than the soldiers themselves, then yes, that's a problem! Besides, many of these contractors who rake in the federal money don't endure harsh and dangerous conditions.

That is not true. Michael rode in a helicopter with the contractors. Waiting on the unshaded pad was harsh. Flying over Baghdad was dangerous. Mortars fired at random into the Green Zone do not check ID cards before landing, ever. Power outages and air conditioning failures do not avoid contractors. Wind borne dust and disease is not solely attracted to uniforms.

I make a lot less money when I am on active duty than when I am consulting in Iraq, but I still volunteer. QED, your argument is flawed because I exist.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 23, 2007 12:24 AM

Michael,

My hand to God, Jim Harris is not a straw man I'm making up to demolish. It just looks exactly like it.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 23, 2007 12:31 AM

Jim Harris: You wrote many stories that entirely contradict a main objective of the Iraq war as stated by the people who run it.

I don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about. Which stories?

But you wrote them in a style that did not look like a contradiction.

So what? The Bush Administration isn't my North Star. I don't check with them and their positions before writing. I don't pay much attention to the administration at all, frankly. When I write about Iraq, I'm writing about Iraq. It's a country, not a Republican or Democrat talking point.

You say that it's unintentional, in fact that you have no reason to care. But even if that were true, it's still catering.

This conversation has gone completely off the rails. Why on earth would I cater to the Bush Administration? I doubt anyone there reads my work.

For the last time, I am not interested in the Bush Administration. If you want to talk about the Bush instead of Iraq, find someone else to talk to. You're changing the subject, and you're talking at me instead of to me.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 23, 2007 02:14 AM

Jim Harris: If they make a lot more money from the government than the soldiers themselves, then yes, that's a problem!

Oh please. Guys who hang sheet rock for a living are not going to work in Iraq for 24,000 dollars a year. And soldiers are not going to make 200,000 dollars a year if you have any say in the matter since you're obsessed with keeping down war costs.

Anyway, I make a hell of a lot less than 200,000 dollars a year. My job has non-financial rewards, as does the job of soldiering. Hanging sheet rock in Iraq doesn't.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 23, 2007 02:17 AM

Jim Harris,

Would you please state your credentials? I have tried to guess but so far I am still baffled; a professor of journalism, perhaps a jihadist, or a politician, a military strategist? I just can't find where you are other than out in left field.

I have to admire Michael for allowing you to continue the ridiculous, unsubstantiated rants. A mere mortal would have already pulled your plug.

Seriously, by what authority are you able to make your critique? It is easy to see by reading the comments that no-one is supporting your position, and that is from a readership that ranges the spectrum from left to right. Put up something credible or get your own "freaking clue" and stop the bashing. Please.

Posted by: Kevin China at October 23, 2007 02:45 AM

Can't we all just get along and respect our different opinions? I know debate is the instigator of change and all, but this one has gotten a bit out of hand, to the level of personal detriment and "I'm right and you're wrong"

But I'm diving in anyway :)

Anything posted on these forums is not going to change the situation in Iraq. It might influence people's opinions though. And Mr. Harris, what you are doing is, when you make another pointless post, you are beckoning another thrashing, which might just make people more sympathetic to Mr. Totten and his views. Surely this is counterproductive to you?

And regarding the issue about the White House and Bush and whatever (American politics elude me), I live in Scotland, Britain. Mr. Totten's articles have no effect whatsoever on my voting power, or attitude to politics, in the US. And yet I am sympathetic to his views, and see them as an honest interpretation of the situation out there. Additionally, I see no possible benefit to Mr. Totten from "pandering" to pro-war views. I'm sure there are other interpretations, but I'm equally sure that those interpretations are products of the daily news-grind attitude that pervades mainstream journalism everywhere.

I'm willing to bargain that many more of the readers on this site are non-American. Since when have America and her politics been the most important things in the world?

lots of love,
James L
Edinburgh

Posted by: James at October 23, 2007 02:58 AM

sorry for the double post:

I'm aware that America and her politics currently CONTROL the situation in Iraq, but they ain't changing anytime soon.

I haven't proved anything. Damn.

xx

Posted by: James at October 23, 2007 03:01 AM

Jim:
"When it was any other American war since Vietnam. Or even all of them put together. All of the wars that the US has fought since, put together, fit into a corner of the cost of the Iraq war. Here are the main ones: Panama, Haiti, Kosovo, Bosnia, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan. All of that put together has been maybe $200 billion on the outside, while no one has a plan to keep the Iraq war by itself under a trillion. Iraq is about as expensive as Vietnam, and for the same reason. In both wars, the US chased after a victory that simply does not exist."

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but it looks to me like most of these were never going to be nearly as troublesome or expensive as Iraq (except Afghanistan, which is in the same class and is still happening). The only war fought against any huge resistance would have been in the Persian Gulf, and defensive wars lasting weeks generally cost less than offensive wars lasting years. And by your logic, WWII was expensive because we "chased after a victory that simply does not exist." Korea was expensive because we "chased after a victory that simply does not exist." Iraq is a major conflict, not a mop-up style operation like the ones you describe. Or were your expectations so high? No wonder you think it's hopeless now, if your definition of success was "settling the squabble in a month and leaving some troops behind to maintain order."

Posted by: Math_Mage at October 23, 2007 06:50 AM

Michael,

The only question I hope you get an answer on is how many Iraqis did we have to kill in Fallujah to finally "quiet" the town.

Posted by: Dan at October 23, 2007 07:53 AM

Since when have America and her politics been the most important things in the world?--James

Since about 1945. Give or take a year or two.

Posted by: dougf at October 23, 2007 08:16 AM

"It's usually quite obvious whether a war is a good idea."
Flies in the historical face of about every single conflict we've ever had. There have been strong pro- and con- arguments every single time. But where our ancestors fought amongst themselves also, they at least weren't stupid enough to try and lose those wars.

As far as costs go, it could be a never ending argument, but we spent (in today's dollars) more than 3 trillion dollars on WWII in a similar time span and with a much, much lower GDP. If you're worried about affording it, we can (Patrick pointed out what a low percentage of GDP our expenditures represent).
And while you may use some self-made system of calculating out what that amount means and if it is worth it, the percentage of GDP is widely accepted as the most accurate when calculating what "x" dollars means to the overall financial picture (for the same reason as you calculating out how much of your overall money you can afford to spend on a car, house, etc.).
If you asked me before the war, "Is removing Hussein from power, and trying to promote an Iraqi brand of democracy in the vacuum that is left worth less than 2% of our overall wealth?" my answer would have been yes. If you ask me now, "Is it worth spending less than 2% of our overall wealth to stay and try to give the Iraqis something better than the government we oustered & prevent their wholesale slaughter?" my answer would also be yes.
If you'd rather argue human costs, morality, etc. then go ahead. But I think Patrick is right, you should stay away from the dollar figures. Of course, doesn't look like you have much going on with the historical context and knowledge side either.

Posted by: Joe at October 23, 2007 08:23 AM

I wouldn't be a foreign correspondent if American politics was my biggest concern.

Of course it's an American war. Covering the Iraq war without American politics is like researching sushi with no mention of Japan.

But sure, one way not to notice contradictory war objectives is to take no interest in politics. It's a war for Iraqi unity and Kurdish secession; a war against Iran and a war to defend a pro-Iranian Iraqi government. But that's all just politics, so if it's not interesting, it's that much easier to look for rays of hope.

To be fair, tuning out contradictions could be a hazard of spending a lot of time in the Middle East.

Guys who hang sheet rock for a living are not going to work in Iraq for 24,000 dollars a year.

You wouldn't want to hire anyone from the region to hang that sheet rock. It's a job that requires American money addicts. But hey, that's just American politics. Why did you waste words on these contractors anyway? Objectively speaking it was good journalism, but by your stated standard, it was extraneous.

Most of these were never going to be nearly as troublesome or expensive as Iraq (except Afghanistan, which is in the same class and is still happening).

That's right, they weren't going to be as troublesome because they made sense. It's not as if the architects of the war prepared for this much trouble. They fired their own treasurer when he warned that Iraq would cost a fifth as much as it will actually cost. They declared the end of major combat when it had actually only just started.

You'd have to squint pretty hard to put Afghanistan "in the same class". It's less than a fifth of the Iraq war. And the Persian Gulf War was not in any germane military sense a "defensive" war. That one really was a war of liberation. It was also accurately planned and budgeted. The Persian Gulf War was what they wanted the Iraq war to be. That comparison has a lot to do with why there is an Iraq war at all.

WWII was expensive because we "chased after a victory that simply does not exist."

Actually, American involvement in World War II was less than four years. It was expensive because it involved 40 times as many people and comparably matched armies.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 23, 2007 08:49 AM

Dan: The only question I hope you get an answer on is how many Iraqis did we have to kill in Fallujah to finally "quiet" the town.

Ok, good idea. But let's determine how many of them wanted to die.

There sure have been quite a few in Fallujah.

Posted by: Edgar at October 23, 2007 08:52 AM

Jim Harris: You wouldn't want to hire anyone from the region to hang that sheet rock. It's a job that requires American money addicts.

Well, people "from the region" might end up costing their bosses more than $200,000 if they come to work one day with a knapsack full of C-4.

American contractors, as greedy as they are, are moderately less likely to do something like that.

Posted by: Edgar at October 23, 2007 08:57 AM

If you ask me now, "Is it worth spending less than 2% of our overall wealth to stay and try to give the Iraqis something better than the government we oustered & prevent their wholesale slaughter?" my answer would also be yes.

If Iraq is worth 2% of our wealth, what about the rest of the world? After all, Iraq has less than half of a percent of the world population. And it's not as if all of our wealth can be used for foreign adventures. In fact, Iraq is more than half of all US foreign policy. That's the problem. The US is treating Iraq as if it's China united with India.

But you're onto something when you define the mission as giving Iraq something better than Saddam Hussein. They have no viable plan for it. The reason that the war is dragging on now is that after they deposed Saddam Hussein, they could not accept what they had achieved. They aren't preventing wholesale slaughter --- on their best days they slow it down.

But granted, if you have no interest in American politics, you could fairly ignore the lack of logic to the Iraq war and seek rays of hope.

Posted by: Jim harris at October 23, 2007 09:03 AM

Well, people "from the region" might end up costing their bosses more than $200,000 if they come to work one day with a knapsack full of C-4.

Are Turks and Indians that dangerous? Besides, if we can't tell friend from foe among the Iraqis, then what's the point of the war?

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 23, 2007 09:06 AM

Jim Harris: Are Turks and Indians that dangerous?

No, and I'm sure there are plenty working in construction all over Iraq. But I have a feelingfor more sensitive jobs they hire Americans, even at great cost, because they can be sure about them.

There is plenty of work at sensitive sites across Iraq, for which they need people with the highest security clearances. That requires Americans, not Turks or Indians.

Posted by: Edgar at October 23, 2007 09:14 AM

Dan,

Fallujah was used by the terrorists as an urban stronghold that they believed could not be broken in house to house fighting by Americans. Their doctrine was certain that we could not dislodge them in a stand up fight. To a very large extent we allowed the terrorists to do this because we were respecting the wishes of the local government that assured us they could establish order in their own city with their own methods.

When the time came to destroy the enemy in Fallujah, we allowed anybody who wanted to come out of the city unarmed. A friend of mine who was at the controls of an unmanned aircraft monitoring the situation watched people get on buses to leave. He showed me declassified video of one bus where the men getting on it were carrying rifles onboard...until the strike he called on it destroyed it.

When we took Fallujah in 2004, everybody in the city was there to die killing Americans. The terrorists used drug cocktails of adrenaline, painkillers, and speed to ensure they they were as hard to kill as possible. They expected to be able to destroy thousands of our troops. We lost less than 200 and beat the terrorists on their choice of ground after six months of preparation. The premise of insurgent superiority in urban terrain was destroyed in that battle.

I am uncertain what you would consider of sufficient value to destroy a persistent and dangerous barbarian belief. One of our own theories was destroyed in Fallujah that you are not taking into account. We allowed Fallujah self-governance at their request to be diplomatic. After Fallujah, we didn't give our diplomats supremacy in negotiations because their doctrine failed so spectacularly. If you want to assign blame for murdering civilians, look first to the people who made the deals that killed the most.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 23, 2007 09:16 AM

Dan: "Are Turks and Indians that dangerous?"

What is wrong with Americans?

"Besides, if we can't tell friend from foe among the Iraqis, then what's the point of the war?"

To make firends and tell foes.

Posted by: leo at October 23, 2007 09:19 AM

leo,

Dan wasn't the one who asked whether Turks and Indians are dangerous.

He's well aware of their ultra-violent tendencies, I'm sure.

Posted by: Edgar at October 23, 2007 09:30 AM

Patrick Lasswell: The terrorists used drug cocktails of adrenaline, painkillers, and speed...

Ron Snyder takes something similar before he posts.

Posted by: Edgar at October 23, 2007 09:33 AM

Jim Harris: Objectively speaking it was good journalism, but by your stated standard, it was extraneous.

Whatever. I don't have to answer to you. You're not my editor, nor are you my writing teacher. Obviously you're more interested in bitching than having a serious conversation.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 23, 2007 09:45 AM

Edgar:

The Indians in Texas are no longer ultra-violent.

They were not into beheading, but scalping was popular.

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at October 23, 2007 09:46 AM

Edgar: Ron Snyder takes something similar before he posts.

Well wasn't that gratuitous.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 23, 2007 09:50 AM

Tom,

I'm not being serious. And I think he was referring to Indians from India, not Native Americans.

Posted by: Edgar at October 23, 2007 09:51 AM

MJT Well wasn't that gratuitous.

Yeah, but if Ron had toned down his steady whine ("I find Edgar's posts shocking and reprehensible," etc.) I never would have bothered with him.

Posted by: Edgar at October 23, 2007 09:55 AM

"leo,

Dan wasn't the one who asked whether Turks and Indians are dangerous."

Edgar,

You are correct. Thank you.

My apologies to Dan and Jim Harris.

Posted by: leo at October 23, 2007 10:24 AM

Edgar: I wasn't being serious either.

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at October 23, 2007 10:25 AM

Why have I donated $100's to Michael Totten over the years? Because he is one of the very few journalists who can look at and report several perspectives of an issue objectively, instead of going off on a dogmatic blah blah blah rant. I'm sure if Michael were asked to give 10 reasons why it was a good idea for the US to invade Iraq he could provide 10 logical reasons and back them up. And if he were asked to give 10 reasons why it was a bad idea to invade Iraq he could provide 10 logical reasons and back them up. Very few posters on this site could do that without having a nervous breakdown. The war is extremely complex with many variables (many unknown), non-linear, and since humans are involved much of the decision making is irrational and unpredictable. Simplifying down to "it's good" or "it's bad" is meaningless. Remember what Shakespeare wrote, "nothing is either good or bad, only thinking makes it so." It's always a good idea to challenge your beliefs.

Posted by: markytom at October 23, 2007 10:53 AM

Tom in Texas: I wasn't being serious either.

Thank God. I thought you were one of them for a moment.

Posted by: Edgar at October 23, 2007 11:14 AM

Remember what Shakespeare wrote, "nothing is either good or bad, only thinking makes it so."

Close, but not quite. "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Hamlet, Scene II

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 23, 2007 11:30 AM

Michael,
I heard that OSL has issued an "apology". Other than the obvious reason for doing so, losing ground in Iraq, what would he have to gain by apologizing? If memory serves, I don't think he ever has.

Also, read that it looks like we had a chance to strike OSL. Apparently he made a trip into Afghanistan and we found out. According to the article I read, more of an op/ed really, we had him cold busted but didn't pull the trigger. Now the author stated it was because the order was given because the leadership was being stupid. Just wondering if anyone has a more reliable source on this.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 23, 2007 11:37 AM

markytom,

"Remember what Shakespeare wrote, "nothing is either good or bad, only thinking makes it so." It's always a good idea to challenge your beliefs."

Not that I diasagree but I find it funny as well.
Applying Shakespearean logic. One, two, three - "Is it good idea to think? Is it bad idea to think? I better think about it."

Posted by: leo at October 23, 2007 11:42 AM

MJT, I'm interested in what the popular culture is like in Fallujah and how it may have changed. What sort of music do people listen to? What do they watch on TV - assuming they have electricity? How do they spend their leisure time? What are their hopes and (more importantly) plans for the future?

Posted by: Solomon2 at October 23, 2007 11:42 AM

I'm sure if Michael were asked to give 10 reasons why it was a good idea for the US to invade Iraq he could provide 10 logical reasons and back them up. And if he were asked to give 10 reasons why it was a bad idea to invade Iraq he could provide 10 logical reasons and back them up. Very few posters on this site could do that without having a nervous breakdown.

Ooo! A challenge!

10 reasons why it was a good idea to invade Iraq.

1. Hussein was a persistent military threat to neighbors, and thereby a destabilizing influence in a region of strategic importance to the US.

2. The presence of the US military in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States were causing political unrest in those allied states, and a liberated and allied Iraq would have been an ideal new location for them.

3. Because of its oil wealth, and because that oil wealth would be likely to increase in value, it is unlikely that even prolonged sanctions would have resulted in regime change in Iraq.

4. The military overthrow of Hussein would demonstrate US willingness to do so to neighboring Middle Eastern states, particularly Iran and Syria. As the US has little in the way of diplomatic influence in those nations other than threat of military action, this would provide a lot of working capital.

5. The US needs to show the world that it will act unilaterally if necessary in order to protect its interests, and Iraq is a decent demonstration of that.

6. The Iraqi military was severely weakened by sanctions, and morale was low, so it was a reasonable time to push it over.

7. Hussein's human rights record was abysmal, and he was widely regarded by the international community as a thug, so there was every reason to believe that there would be much in the way of political opposition to him being overthrown.

8. Iran's growing power and influence in the region needed a military counterbalancing. Saudi Arabia was certainly not up to it, and the traditional opposition from Iraq had been gutted by sanctions and the Gulf War I. The only realistic opposition to it would be nearby US military bases.

9. At some point, the trend toward military humanitarian intervention and democratization needed to be tested. For reasons provided above, Iraq was a good test case for this.

10. Hussein was a total dickhead.

--------

I think I've provided more than ten reasons in the past why invasion was a bad idea, but I can provide them again if anyone wants them.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 23, 2007 11:51 AM

Close, but not quite. "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Hamlet, Scene II

Sorry - I actually googled part of the phrase and took the first full one I saw. Man, I thought everything on the internet was accurate.

leo - Thinking isn't bad, it's forcing judgements using a dogmatic belief structure that can get you into trouble. Things aren't always what they seem.

THE FARMER AND THE HORSE

There was once a farmer who owned a horse. And one day the horse ran away. All the people in town came to console him because of his loss. "Oh, I don't know," said the farmer,"Maybe it's a bad thing, and maybe it's not."

A few days later the horse returned to the farm, accompanied by 20 other horses. All the townspeople came to congratulate him on having a stableful of horses. "Oh, I don't know," said the farmer,"Maybe it's a good thing, and maybe it's not."

A few days later the farmer's son was out riding one of the new horses. The horse got wild and threw him off, breaking his leg. Again the townspeople came to console the farmer because of the accident. "Oh, I don't know," he said ,"Maybe it's a bad thing, and maybe it's not."

A few days later the government declared war and instituted a draft of all able-bodied young men. They carted off hundreds of young men,except for the farmer's son,who had a broken leg. "Now I know," said the farmer, "that it was a good thing my horse ran away."

Posted by: markytom at October 23, 2007 11:53 AM

Michael Yon: "There is a bizarro-world contrast between what most Americans seem to think is happening in Iraq versus what I see in Iraq."

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at October 23, 2007 12:04 PM

DPU-

Should we consider only reason that appear valid in hindsight, or were presented at the time?

How about:

Prevention of Saddam reconstituting his WMD programs (since he did not have an active program)

Attempted assassination of an ex-President

Reverse domino theory-Iraq has a secular and educated population. Iraq could become the democratic, prosperous model for the Middle East.

If I have time, I'll post ten reasons why the war in Iraq was a bad idea tonight. I think it's a good idea to examine viewpoints other than the ones you hold.

Posted by: MartyH at October 23, 2007 12:36 PM

DPU,

Well played.

3. Because of its oil wealth, and because that oil wealth would be likely to increase in value, it is unlikely that even prolonged sanctions would have resulted in regime change in Iraq.

It is important to note the literal and metaphoric liquidity of that mineral wealth makes it very difficult to constrain. The primary achievement of the sanctions was to strip the populace of economic power and aggregate it in the Hussein regime. The limited wealth that was coming in from reduced and covert oil sales was overwhelmingly going exactly where the sanctions were trying to prevent the flow of power.

I agree with your statement, but note that many people view any mention of Iraq oil wealth as a red flag. They then proceed to do their best cartoon bull imitation and go chasing after it bellowing about "blood for oil!" You might have made that point a bit more clear, even at the risk of going on about it forever like I do.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 23, 2007 12:41 PM
How about:

Prevention of Saddam reconstituting his WMD programs (since he did not have an active program)

Covered, I think, by my point 6.

Attempted assassination of an ex-President

Sure, why not.

Reverse domino theory-Iraq has a secular and educated population. Iraq could become the democratic, prosperous model for the Middle East.

Covered by my point 9.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 23, 2007 12:42 PM

markytom,

There is part deux to this story.

Months passed, horse run away again, farmer son's leg heeled, government called for another draft, farmer still cannot decide whether it was good or bad thing with the horse.

"Thinking isn't bad"

I agree, question "To think or not to think" shouldn't even come up. TO THINK!!!

Posted by: leo at October 23, 2007 01:00 PM

Another reason I like Michael Totten's articles is that he doesn't spend too much space trying to speculate on the cause and effect of what's going on - he seems to use more of a system thinking approach rather than a linear thinking approach which seems to be rare in the media. I recommend to everyone to apply systems thinking when looking at complex systems like Iraq. I'm donating another $50 to him today. I think he's one of the best journalists around.

Posted by: markytom at October 23, 2007 02:37 PM

Michael:

In preparation for your trip to Fallujah, you might wish to review the history of the incident that put the city on the map for the average American: the murder of a private security patrol and the desecration of their bodies. That incident and its aftermath have definitely put their mark on American-Iraqi relations.

Was this the action of a small faction or merely an expression of the prevailing deeply anti-American sentiment there?

Have public perceptions there toward Americans and our motives changed markedly since the Anbar Awakening? If so, why? (However bad AQ was, its hard to imagine that the local population could ever come to like us in such short order.)

During the first American offensive against Fallujah insurgents, there was such widespread sympathy for the city among Iraqis, even Shias, that Washington ordered its troops to withdraw. What happened politically in Iraq that allowed a second American offensive to finish the job six months later?

Take care and don't get complacent about your safety. I'll make a contribution to your "tip jar" shortly. If you get a chance to meet NY Times Bagdad reporter, John Burns, on the trip, I would be very interested to know his views on the current state of Iraq as well; I rarely see his reports now.

Posted by: Cordell at October 23, 2007 03:12 PM

What is wrong with Americans?

According to Michael Totten, some of these Americans make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year just to lay sheet rock in Iraq. What's wrong is that profiteering is wrong. Either they can find Americans who can lay sheet rock for a salary closer to what the soldiers make, or it shouldn't be done by Americans.

The argument has been made that sometimes laying sheet rock is a sensitive job that requires Americans. The idea being that yes, Turkey may be in NATO, but some sheet rock jobs are too sensitive for just NATO membership.

Another argument that has been made is that laying sheet rock is a highly skilled job that goes well beyond what soldiers are paid to do. It's not as simple as, say, flying a helicopter.

Frankly, both of these arguments sound like nonsense in defense of war profiteers. If there are reasons to be 70% pessimistic about Iraq, and given that they are spending more than Iraq's entire GDP to somehow help that country, surely war profiteers are part of the problem. Michael Totten deserves real credit for quoting these shameless contractors, but unfortunately there was so no follow-through.

Since the original question of the post was what Michael should be looking for in Fallujah, one great direction would be to find other shameless contractors. Particularly contractors who are doing things that don't make any sense for contractors, like engaging in military-style firefights or interrogating detainees. Or not in Fallujah; there may also be plenty of it in Baghdad.

I know that Michael has dismissed a lot of what I have said as "just bitching" instead of "serious discussion". But the truth is, sometimes bitching is constructive criticism. It's not always about finding creative new ways to succeed. Sometimes people make mistakes, and they would do better to fix those mistakes before trying anything new. Likewise, sometimes governments and contractors do a lot of bad things, and the world would be a better place if they just stopped.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 23, 2007 03:14 PM

Was this the action of a small faction or merely an expression of the prevailing deeply anti-American sentiment there?

That hits both past and present topics, Cordell. Have you considered that maybe some of it is anti-private-security sentiment? Or that private security creates anti-American sentiment? That's certainly something that a foreign correspondent could look into in Fallujah.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 23, 2007 03:18 PM

Jim Harris,

According to Michael Totten, some of these Americans make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year just to lay sheet rock in Iraq. What's wrong is that profiteering is wrong. Either they can find Americans who can lay sheet rock for a salary closer to what the soldiers make, or it shouldn't be done by Americans.

You keep making a fundamental mistake in your analysis; the presumption that people serving in the United States Armed Forces are doing so for primarily economic reasons. In the Army, they serve for "Duty, Honor, Country." In the Department of the Navy (including the Marine Corps) we serve for "Courage, Honor, Commitment." I have served over fifteen years in two services on five continents and never encountered anybody serving for "10% more than the guy hanging sheet rock next door."

If you want the troops to be better paid, I agree! While you're at it, see if you can get medical benefits for retired Reservists starting at age 55, increase the BHA, up the BAS, improve our uniform allotment, invest more in MREs, and build better on-base quarters.

If you just want to reduce the quality of civilian talent performing work in arduous conditions, go to hell. A lot of those civilians are doing jobs that free up troops to fight. A network administrator doesn't need to be in outstanding physical condition, but light infantrymen do.

For your reference, a lot of the people doing kitchen and other non-technical work in-country are lower paid Third Country Nationals (TCN). More than a few people doing work on base are Iraqi's. There is a severe problem with hiring TCN's and Iraqi's in that they usually don't speak English.

Is one American sheet rock hanger worth 10 Nepali's doing the same thing? Often the answer is yes because they are more likely to do it right the first time with much less instruction from military people who are already far too busy.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 23, 2007 05:53 PM

Jim Harris: war profiteers

God forbid somebody makes a decent salary for doing grueling work under stressful, dangerous conditions. Do you have any idea how much it sucks to live and work in Baghdad?

If construction workers were offered less money than soldiers, no one qualified would take the job. Three fourths of their salary is hazard and pain-in-the-ass pay. They make many times more money than I do, but I don't begrudge them for it because my job is much more rewarding than theirs. No way would I trade places with them. Those of us who have "fun" and personally rewarding jobs don't need to be paid as much as those who have dreadful jobs. "Starving" artists exist by choice, but "starving" construction workers in war zones do not.

You're welcome to apply for one of those jobs so you can make a decent salary, too, if you're unhappy with your current level of income. If you don't think the job is worth the money (and you probably don't, or you would be doing it) then perhaps you can understand how much less appealing the job would be if it paid only 25,000 dollars a year.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 23, 2007 06:17 PM

www.alliraqjobs.com/

"If you're looking for the right site to find the latest opportunities and positions within Iraq then this is the place for you. It's totally free to register and apply for jobs on this site, so Candidates Register Here and receive alerts to your mailbox when new suitable jobs are posted on the site."

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at October 23, 2007 07:04 PM

If you want the troops to be better paid, I agree!

You're trying to get me to say that they are running the Iraq war cheap. But that is just not the problem. If they can't fix Iraq for a trillion dollars, they can't fix it at all. A trillion dollars is almost 40 grand for every man, woman, and child who lives there.

It would be an improvement to move around the money to at least bring the pay for soldiers and contractors closer together. Not necessarily even to make them equal: Maybe the contractors can be paid more, but maybe not three times as much for comparably difficult work.

Your argument is that the soldiers aren't in it for the money, they are in it for the flag. But if that is an excuse for the enormous pay differential, why pay the soldiers at all? If it's just fine to exploit their patriotism, why not make them pay a fee to fight? You are defending a patriotism tax, whereby the soldiers may be paid only a third as much as equivalent contractors. I could understand a 10% patriotism tax, but a 65% patriotism tax cannot possibly be reasonable.

Sure, there is the argument that contractors free up soldiers to fight. That is the same as saying that contractors are an end run around escalating the troop numbers. Even if this stealth escalation were reputable (which it isn't), it could not possibly be reasonable to free one soldier at the cost of three soldier salaries.

If construction workers were offered less money than soldiers

I said "closer to", not "less than". I'm going to quote your own words: "They aren’t allowed to tell me how much money they make, but it is many hundreds of thousands of dollars per year." Many hundreds of thousands of dollars? For comparison, a UH-60 helicopter pilot makes $65,000, according to this site. So they are making at least three times as much as a helicopter pilot, maybe five times as much.

Is their work really that much more valuable? These guys, Willie and Larry, were downright smug about how many hours they had to work. "You get more vacation than French people." In fact another thing that they said is absolutely outrageous, no matter how much or little they make. Not only should their employers allow them to say how much money they make, their employers should be required to publicly disclose their salaries. After all, these are government contracts, not hush-hush Wall Street deals.

It would be at least a tolerable rule if contractors were paid no more than 150% of soldier pay for comparable work. They can even be paid more by half. Just not "many hundreds of thousands of dollars".

You're welcome to apply for one of those jobs so you can make a decent salary,

No thank you! I am not addicted to money, I do not need more vacation time than the French, and I would never debase myself by getting paid five times as a much as a soldier. If I didn't think that the Iraq war is a fraud, then it would be honorable to enlist, but that's all.

And just because they invite applications, that does not mean that there is no profiteering. They could still overpay the ones that they do hire. There were Willie and Larry, bragging to strangers that they are far overpaid.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 23, 2007 08:23 PM

Should we really be training soldiers/marines to be carpenders, plumbers, electricians, etc.?
I believe they still do have their own auto mechanics, cooks, clerks, etc.

I believe the law of supply & demand works as to their salaries. They need to pay what the risk takers will accept. The line for the Post Office exam was a mile long - obviously the PO over pays (supply & demand doesn't work in this case), but I suspect that the line at the Iraq Employment Office is not all that long.

People that work on off-shore oil platforms get
top $ and lots of time off (a week there and a week at home?). And there isn't much of a chance that they'll run into an IED, sniper, or car bomb, on the way to and from work.

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at October 23, 2007 08:59 PM

If it can be done safely, and ONLY if it can be done safely, I'd like to know more about the Dulaim tribe. I've heard Iraqis characterize their "country" ethic. What does this mean? Good old boy? Gary Busey style aggressiveness? Traditional conservative? Did the Dulaim tribe supply people for the Muhkabarat? How far do their tentacles go and are they still effective?

What do they use words for? Are words about truth or is their purpose to serve the speaker in human manipulation?

Oh yeah, how observant or religious is the actual radical?

Remember, these are the people that were likely associated with the kidnapping of reporter Jill Carrol. So the best approach would probably be to ask around, but stay clear.

Better yet, just do your regular reporting based on what you see around you.

Good luck.

Posted by: Turner at October 23, 2007 09:00 PM

Jim,

Feel free to whine about other people's salaries to someone who actually cares. In other words, not here.

You complain that helicopter pilots make less than contractors. Well boo hoo for the pilots. They make more money than I do and they don't have to pay taxes. So much for your "patriotism tax" theory. Their work is probably more rewarding than mine, and their profession is certainly more respected than mine. Woe is me. Help help I'm being oppressed. (Not.)

I wish I made 65,000 dollars a year and didn't have to pay taxes. But I don't want to reduce the pay of other people because they make "too much." I'm sure I make "too much" according to Starbucks employees, and my job is much more interesting and rewarding than theirs. So it goes in a non-communist country.

You sound like right-wing assholes who say blue collar labor union workers make too much money and should have their pay cut on principle. Guess how much sympathy I have for that argument?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 23, 2007 09:07 PM

Tom: Should we really be training soldiers/marines to be carpenders, plumbers, electricians, etc.?

Of course not, which is why we do not.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 23, 2007 09:08 PM

Jim Harris: "According to Michael Totten, some of these Americans make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year just to lay sheet rock in Iraq. What's wrong is that profiteering is wrong. Either they can find Americans who can lay sheet rock for a salary closer to what the soldiers make, or it shouldn't be done by Americans."

Frankly, I do not see anything wrong with the fact that people are getting higher pay for risking their lives. How much is too much, really?

About American worker vs. non-American worker.

Let's say non-American would cost 40% less than American, but is it so in reality?

Money that American earns are most likely to get back into US economy. Not 100% but close to it.

While in circulation at home money will get taxed with each transaction. Richer people will spend more and as result will put more back into government coffers.

Money that non-American earns are most likely to be added to total national debt. Not 100% but close to it.

Here is small example.

Let's say American earns $10 and non-American earns $6.

Both had to spend $1 for room, board and other necessities. All services were provided by various US companies each of which will be taxed full scale.

Non-American takes his money and leaves. US government gets back $(minus)5.00

American takes his money home, saves 10% (for example) and spends rest of it. $8.10 goes back into circulation.

Whatever spent was received by other party with modest 10% (for example) overall tax. US government gets back $0.81.

Cycle repeats again (10% savings then tax on remainder). This time US government gets back $0.73

And on, and on, and on until it finally runs down to $0.

American = $+9.00, non-American = $-5.00.

In reality government gets back much more than it spends and much sooner because average savings are less then 10% and average taxes are much greater than 10%.

About worker vs. soldier.

If you believe that soldiers should not earn less than workers why not raise soldier's salary instead of lowering worker's?

Personally, I do not think its an issue because none of them signed contract under duress.

Posted by: leo at October 23, 2007 09:48 PM

I believe the law of supply & demand works as to their salaries.

Then you are as naive as can be on the topic of government contracts. There doesn't have to be any "law of supply and demand" with cost-plus contracts. The contractors name their costs. If the government doesn't check, they can pick any number they want as the cost. Quite typically the company owners really rake it in, but they spread some of the gravy to the employees so that no one asks questions.

So it's exactly the point that this isn't the free market. If it were, there is no way that they would fly guys from Texas and Florida to hang sheet rock, and pay them many hundreds of thousands of dollars. They would use Indians or Jordanians or similar, just like everyone else in the region does.

The government does have a second method to control costs, known as disclosure. But this time, as Michael Totten also documented, there is no disclosure either. Larry and Willie were not allowed to discuss their salaries. That already stinks to high heaven. It does cast suspicion not only on their salaries, but even more on the contract money that doesn't trickle down to them.

Feel free to whine about other people's salaries to someone who actually cares. In other words, not here.

You have made it clear that you don't care. But you would be a much better journalist if you did. After all, your 70% pessimism has to have some explanation, but you're treating that 70% as the most boring question in the world. It may keep you going with a certain readership, but in the long term that attitude will not look good.

I have wonder whether you really believe the public record fact that they have already spent $450 billion on this war, and the fact that they have requested another $150 billion just for the next year. Compare that to 160,000 troops and you can see that only a fraction of the money has anything to do with soldiers. Most of it goes to contractors.

You sound like right-wing assholes who say blue collar labor union workers make too much money and should have their pay cut on principle.

Blue collar labor union workers do not make many hundreds of thousands of dollar per year. Most of them are not paid by the government either, but rather by a real free market. It's maybe less free with the union contracts, but it's still fairly free. And their salaries are disclosed. The lack of disclosure from the war contractors is as outrageous as anything else in this story.

When people get rich from the government without disclosure, the only word for it is profiteering. It is not any kind of deserved success.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 23, 2007 10:03 PM

If you believe that soldiers should not earn less than workers why not raise soldier's salary instead of lowering worker's?

Because there is no reason to treat contract salaries as untouchable, unless you think that there is no such thing as profiteering. As I said, if they can't win the Iraq war with a trillion dollars, which is what it's projected to eventually cost, they can't win it at all. It would be more respectable to hold the total even, and move money from one payroll to the other, so that no contractor is paid more than 150% of equivalent soldier's pay. The contractor can even get an extra 50%, if he wants to argue that he was hired on merit rather than patriotism.

But paying a contractor five times as much as a helicopter pilot just to lay sheet rock is obscene.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 23, 2007 10:14 PM

Jim Harris,

In the real world, people do things for a combination of reasons, but you don't seem acquainted with reality. You are completely unclear on the concept of sacrifice. You have shown on this thread no conception of honor or service. Your vision of economics is unconnected to reality.

Perhaps you are used to winning arguments by getting people tired of tearing down your insultingly over-simplistic statements.

Here is something you need to be more aware of, there is a market for jobs in Iraq. Talented people draw more pay for harder work as determined by the market price. Your high dudgeon regarding the wages is entirely undone by the simple fact that they are getting paid what the market will bear.

You need to spend some quality time un-assing your head. Normally I wouldn't be this rude to somebody on Michael's comments threads, but you just aren't doing your homework or developing the quality of your logic. You are not a troll, but you are embarrassing yourself by fighting far outside your weight class.

If you cannot bear to risk your ears to the abrasion of your sphincter, you should probably go back to DU or wherever you came from and chant into the echo chamber.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 23, 2007 10:21 PM

Feel free to whine about other people's salaries to someone who actually cares. In other words, not here.--MJT

You have made it clear that you don't care. But you would be a much better journalist if you did.--Jim

Patience of Job. --- dougf

Posted by: dougf at October 23, 2007 10:24 PM

Jim Harris: You have made it clear that you don't care. But you would be a much better journalist if you did.

No, I would be more like you if I did, which is not the same thing, especially since you're not a journalist.

I do not go to war zones so I can bitch about how much money construction workers make. I could do that without leaving my house. Now I see why you think I should stay home and not go to Fallujah. You aren't interested in Iraq and would rather have me bang on about your personal hobby horses.

My suggestion, Jim, is that you stop reading my work if it annoys you.

I'm going to give similar advice to myself and stop responding to you because you're wasting my time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 23, 2007 10:29 PM

As an OIF supporter, here is my list of ten credible reasons not to have invaded:

1) Not worth the cost in US lives.

2) Not worth the cost in treasure.

3) Removing Hussein would leave a power vacuum that Iran (our other enemy in the region) would exploit. Turkey fears an independent Kurdistan and so prefers the status quo.

4) Iraq is not a country but a post colonial artifact. There is no natural cohesion between the the major ethnic groups. Thus,nation building is a futile exercise.

5) Converting a tribal society to a democratic one is a virtually impossible task.

6) Iraq had no direct connection to 9-11, so attacking them is like coming home from a bad day at the office and kicking the cat.

7) Of the "axis of evil" North Korea is the greatest threat because of their missile launching capability and their nuclear development.

8) Because there is no overt provocation, America will be seen as an aggressor nation even by our allies, and thus will lose much goodwill and international standing.

9) This is our one chance to intervene in the Middle East for a decade. Failure would mean an inability to go back under virtually any circumstances. This cedes the Middle East to Iran, Russia, and/or China.

10) Muslims will see this as another imperialsitic crusade, creating more anger and ultimately more terrorists.

I left off several argumants that hold less weight with me:

"No WMD" because he fooled everyone's intelligence agencies.

The pacifist "No War Ever" because it is an unrealistic national policy.

The "wrecked and overstretched military" theme because I believe that we have gotten incredibly good at necessary tasks that we had not even conceived of five years ago. Our tactics and capabilities have improved greatly.

Posted by: MartyH at October 23, 2007 11:03 PM

That's a great list, Marty. You almost convinced me. Seriously. If this turns out badly, I'll be convinced retroactively.

Many of the items on your list are true in any case, which is why it is a good list.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 23, 2007 11:08 PM

Anti-war groups should hire you as a consultant, Marty, or at least steal your post. You make much more sense than most activists with their insipid slogans. Your arguments are the ones to beat, not theirs.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 23, 2007 11:10 PM

Edgar, thanks for keeping me in your thoughts. Would be nice though if you were accurate in what my comments to you actually were, and to which posts of yours they referred to. Whatever.

I read reports provided by MJT, Mike Yon, John Burns, Bill Roggio, Victor Davis Hanson and a dozen other quality sites in an attempt to keep reasonably educated on ME conditions.

I agree that I have strong opinions, and that perhaps too often I see life in Black & White.

While fully understanding that there are nuances, I also do believe in the concept of "paralysis by analysis". Contemplating ones navel will not stop a spear from being thrust into ones belly.

Im currently reading Rick Atkinsons book on the Italian campaign in WWII (not as good as his book on North Africa, IMO). How many things could have went better had only we known.....-- but that is the false knowledge that hindsight gives us.

MJT -any thoughts on the Turkish/Kurd issue currently in the news?

VDH had an interesting article in NRO "http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MmE5NTRjYWViOTMxMDI4Mjg4MjM2ZGY3ZTZhYmUzMmE="

Tuesday, October 23, 2007 NRO

Hardly Turkish Delight [Victor Davis Hanson]

I thought (and wrote to that effect) that both the gratuitous and toothless Senate resolutions calling for the de facto trisection of Iraq, and condemnation of Turkey for the century-old Armenian holocaust were unnecessary barbs that would only inflame an already anti-American Turkey.

BUT we should confess that much of Turkish anti-Americanism is ill-founded and derives from their own ongoing fights between Islamists and Attaturk Secularists and has nothing to do with anything the United States has done. Recent polls reveal that Turks are among the most anti-American and anti-Christian peoples in the world, the latter fact not surprising to anyone who reads deeply of the 500-year history of Hellenic-Ottoman relations.

A second point: by and large the United States has treated Turkey well. We support its entry into the EU; we tried to be fair in the Cyprus dispute (despite the Turkish brutal invasion in 1974); we offered a lot of money to use bases to supply the invasion of Iraq; we advise the Greeks patience in the face of constant Turkish overflights in the Aegean. We were a good ally in the Cold War, and kept the Soviets doing to Turkey what it did to Eastern Europe.

Again, nothing really justifies the elemental hatred that the present generation of Turkey seems to exhibit for America, or the perverted manifestations of anti-Semitism or things like the mega-hit, anti-American film and subsequent TV series Valley of the Wolves (replete with murderous American soldiers and an organ-harvesting Jewish doctor).

Where does that leave us? I believe we need to cool the resolutions, continue to talk nicely to Turkey, send out diplomatic peace-feelers, assuage Turkish wounded pride, hope for the best—and start making immediate contingency plans for a possible dramatic break from this erstwhile critical Nato ally.

And that would mean backup plans should it become necessary to abandon facilities inside Turkey, and seek closer relations with Armenia, Kurdistan, Greece, Cyprus, and other regional neighbors. Perhaps both sides have been clumsy, but there are developments going on in Turkey that are far larger than inept diplomacy, and we should quit denying the danger, or despair that without the old Turkey we are adrift in the Eastern Mediterranean. We are not.

We should never promote such divides, but recognize the current course of Turkish politics is not necessary ahistorical, but may in fact be a natural reaction against the historical aberration of Attaturk's secularism, as European Turkey begins to become overwhelmed, demographically and culturally, by anti-Western, anti-globalization Anatolian Islamism, and thus begins to replay the historical role of the Ottomans-whom, contrary to current orthodoxy, I don't find to have very been positive for civilization as a whole. 10/23 07:20 AM"

Posted by: Ron Snyder at October 23, 2007 11:58 PM

I'm attending a multi-state Terrorism Conference next week. Many DHS and other similar Federal Agencies; State and local agencies are also involved.

I know the secred handshake, have paid my money; should be interesting. And, it is close to home so no big deal on travel; what a relief.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at October 24, 2007 12:12 AM

Ron:

Don't forget the decoder ring.:)

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 24, 2007 06:11 AM

As an OIF supporter, here is my list of ten credible reasons not to have invaded:

Not bad at all. I would have added a couple of other things that are a concern to me, but regardless, I'm definitely now convinced that invading Iraq was a bad idea. :-)

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 24, 2007 06:49 AM

Here is a song for our boys and girls in the military:

I Wanna Go Home

If you like it, pass it on.

Posted by: M. Simon at October 24, 2007 08:37 AM

Am I the only who gets the sense that Jim Harris has waded out of waters where the fish actually respect him?

Evolution, it's a bitch.

Posted by: dajida at October 24, 2007 10:37 AM

Personally, I suspect that the Russians are keeping trouble going at their southern borders because stability in Turkey would threaten them.
-Pat Lasswell

I think it's just bloody-mindedness. Putin is old-school KGB, and back during the Soviet era, the thinking seemed to be "If you don't have anything else to do, cause problems for the Americans". I will be happy to see him leave office.

The PKK may or may not be a mafia run along tribal lines, but they're an insurgency that causes problems for an important US ally. That means the Soviets probably would have given them all the AK-47s and semtex they could carry even if the PKK didn't use communist jargon. And Syria- another former Soviet client with a history of antagonism to the US and Turkey- would be happy to do the same. I'm not at all surprised to hear that the PKK has had good relations with all of the governments in the area at one time or another.... causing problems for the neighbors by supporting militants is a very old tradition in that part of the world.

-----

And BTW, my father-in-law was a member of the communist party, and served in the Canadian military for quite a long time. Left-wing does not necessarily equal pacifist.
-DPU

The Canadian government allowed a member of the Communist Party to remain in the military? What did he do? That background would disqualify someone from pretty much every MOS I can think of in the US military, especially back when the Soviet Union was still around.

....anyways....

It is a serious error to assume lefties will not use violence to advance their agenda. The perception that lefties are pacifists is, IMO, largely due to their habit of loudly objecting to American military action. What most people don't know is that violence that advances the left-wing agenda is just fine with most lefties (altho there are a few real pacifists on the left who are basically oblivious to the actual opinions of their comrades re violence).

-----

Why hasnt anyone asked why the pkk formed in the first place? it is because of the absolute poverty that kurds live in turkey and the little cultural rights they can exercise.
-rosh barzinji

I know very little about what the turks have done with regards to kurdish culture, but adopting marxism/lenninism will not accomplish anything other than ensure that people stay impoverished and miserable for as long as they try to make marxist/lennist economics work.

Posted by: rosignol at October 24, 2007 04:55 PM

That background would disqualify someone from pretty much every MOS I can think of in the US military, especially back when the Soviet Union was still around.

In the US military, sure.

What most people don't know is that violence that advances the left-wing agenda is just fine with most lefties...

And, I would assume, righties are fine with violence that advance their agenda as well. Not that this needs saying.

Indeed, there are a number of lefties who have knee-jerk reaction against any and all US military action, just as there are a number of right-wingers who mindlessly support any US military adventure, no matter how ill-considered. Now we can argue about the relative proportions of each ideology.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 24, 2007 09:10 PM

Indeed, there are a number of lefties who have knee-jerk reaction against any and all US military action, just as there are a number of right-wingers who mindlessly support any US military adventure, no matter how ill-considered. Now we can argue about the relative proportions of each ideology.

But it would be beside the point. If you see a train wreck in slow motion, then there may well be a pack of hyenas on one side who say that trains never wreck, and a pack of mynah birds on the other side that say that trains always wreck. But it might still be plain as day that today's train is slamming into a whale, regardless of relative proportions of ideologies. It's a sad outcome, but not a surprising one if the train itself is run by hyenas.

That is where we are with the Iraq war. It's been a train wreck in slow motion all along. They have managed to slow it down more lately, but the metal is still crumpling and the wheels are still off the rails. There are those who imagine that the truth is a big balance scale with hyenas on one arm and mynah birds on the other arm. Or they will wait until nothing is moving before deciding whether the train really wrecked. They themselves are ostriches.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 24, 2007 10:07 PM

But it would be beside the point.

Ya, we heard you the first time: you think Michael should write about your points. Do you have your own blog Jim? Or are you just content to tell other people what they should write about?

Posted by: dajida at October 24, 2007 10:30 PM

Dajida, that wasn't advice about what Michael should write about. That was just a general remark about judging the truth by comparing opposing ideologies in the wings. Namely, it usually has no merit, particularly not in a war.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 24, 2007 10:55 PM

But it would be beside the point.

Nope, it would be right on point. We weren't discussing the Iraq war, we were discussing left an right ideology and pacifism.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 25, 2007 07:51 AM

MJT and DPU-

Thanks for your compliments on my list. Based on Michael's comments, I fear it was too good!

Jim-

Here's the thing about the "train wreck"-Gen Petreaus' strategy has cut off the air to the firebox, and AQI cannot get the fire restarted. Consequently, the train has already slowed down considerably. You want to throw a switch that everyone thinks will send the train over a cliff. If that switch gets thrown and the train goes over the cliff, you, and people like you, will claim no culpability and instead blame OIF supporters like me for the resulting carnage.

Posted by: MartyH at October 25, 2007 07:52 AM

Ostriches, Hyenas, Whales, Mynah birds?

What about Frogs? I like frogs....

Posted by: lindsey at October 25, 2007 10:46 AM

Jim isn't a slick presenter, Mike, but staying agnostic on his overall picture, he's on very strong intellectual ground in certain areas: specifically the contracting. Frankly, completely forgetting about the moral question of how much we should pay for safe Iraqis (if we were arguing that, I wouldn't even accept the framing of that question) - this war has been staggeringly overexpensive purely on its own terms. In other words, you should have even the exact same mission at 50% of the price. In inflation-adjusted dollars, this war is headed for being more expensive than Vietnam at half the length and half the personnel.

There's no reason in the world to contract construction - what the heck is the Army Corps of Engineers? What skill set doesn't the armed forces possess in abundance in-house? Very few. A lot of people in Washington paying attention, not particularly liberal either, think the costs of this war are completely out of whack. And Mike, I don't know if you buy the spin that the economy over here is roses, but it is in fact also completely out of whack, not something that started in the last year, and there is a connection.

I also felt similarly to Jim on the interview you mentioned - now, I personally sort of stared into the peripheral details of the guy's presentation and understood him as a non-standard Iraqi, but frankly, I wasn't sure the ordinary American would get that kind of subtlety. I think, like Jim, that a lot of people would except his, well, tragedy-extremized opinions as, basically, fact. You didn't spin the interview in any way, but the guy you chose the interview set the parameters of the interaction.

I try to give you the benefit of the doubt, but I struggle a lot with some discrepancies that are hard to explain - for example, every anecdore I hear from you about US soldiers is that they care about Iraqis, want to protect them, want the best for them, in the face of persistent contrary data points.

I don't think the contrary data points (for example, the 'hadji girl' video?) are the whole truth. But frankly, I don't think yours are either. I think people present their best side to you, and when those people are Americans, I think you basically take their word for it.

I don't think you slant your work, but I have a lot of trouble buying your presentation as reality. It adds up to discrepancies that I don't try to explain, because I can't. I believe you, but I also believe Scott Beauchamp, and you find examples of people desperately trying to disbelieve for their own ideological comfort in both cases.

Posted by: glasnost at October 25, 2007 08:17 PM

And your picture vs. Scott Beauchamp's never cross each other. It takes training to learn that that does not indicate that one of the two pictures is dishonest, or even inaccurate.

Posted by: glasnost at October 25, 2007 08:19 PM

Glasnost-

Michael never sees Beauchamp's "Shock Troops" for the same reason he never sees Donald Duck-neither one exists.

The military's job is not construction. It's not building sewer systems, or high rises, or schools, or water treatment plants, or anything like that. The military's job is to eliminate the enemy's ability to fight. Traditonally, this means destroying his army and its logistics. To support this mission, the military has to be able to erect bridges, build bases and airfields, etc. But these efforts are only designed to support the primary mission.

As for the Army Corps of Engineers, why, it has a whole 650 military personnel under its command-worldwide. There are over 34,000 civilians, but unlike soldiers, you can't order them to go to Iraq.

I have not followed reconstruction closely. I am sure that a lot of the mney was flat out wasted. I would guess that we started reconstruction too early, and terrorists may have destroyed a lot of the attempted investment. I'm certainly not opposed to an honest accounting of how funds were spent, but I think that grousing that contractors are overpaid rings hollow-over a thousand have died in Iraq, so it is not without risk.

Posted by: MartyH at October 25, 2007 09:37 PM

Glasnost: I believe you, but I also believe Scott Beauchamp

TNR scrubbed his articles from its Web site. They no longer exist. Go look for yourself.

You shouldn't believe him. I did at first, too, but you may have missed the most recent details of that story.

I like The New Republic a lot and have been reading it for more than ten years. I don't buy for a second the right-wing accusation that it's an anti-American (etc) magazine. It isn't. Not even remotely. It isn't even in the same time zone as that kind of garbage. I'm not piling on here. I'm just pointing out that they quietly dropped Beauchamp into oblivion on their own, and they fired his fact-checker wife.

For what it's worth, I agree with you that the war is too expensive and that KBR (etc) is bilking the tax payers. I just don't think that construction workers in war zones should have their pay cut. The costs need to be reduced in a different way. Cutting salaries at the top is a lot fairer in my view than cutting salaries at the bottom.

Of course the military could find soldiers who can hang sheet rock, but they would be wasting soldiers if they put them on that detail. We only have so many to go around. Civilians can hang sheet rock, but civilians can't run counter-insurgency operations.

I don't think the contrary data points (for example, the 'hadji girl' video?) are the whole truth. But frankly, I don't think yours are either.

I know very well that my data points aren't the whole story. That's one reason I'm posting excerpts from David Bellavia's book. He fills in some of the really dramatic stuff that I missed, and will continue to miss.

When I write dispatches I write about what is right in front of me. When what is right in front of me isn't necessarily typical, I try to make that as clear as I can. There isn't much more I can do. If I ever claim that my personal experience in Iraq represents the whole story, call me on it and remind me that I asked you to do so.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 25, 2007 09:43 PM

Glasnost, here's an excerpt from a phone conversation TNR had with Beauchamp, recently made available in a transcript:

Scoblic: What are you going to do after this job? Are you staying in the Army?

Beauchamp: Um, I don't know what I want to do. Um I haven't made up my mind yet what I want to do.

Scoblic: Ah...you're not going to be able to write any more after this...you know that, right?

Beauchamp: I...I mean I really don't care at this point. That's not...that's not...basically what I'm saying is that's not what's important to me.

There's a reason I still get to write and he doesn't. I suggest you don't believe me and him equally.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 25, 2007 10:04 PM

Mike, it doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to see that the guy was coerced. I mean, for Pete's sake, they had his squad leader in the room, monitoring the conversation! Why do you think they did that? Could it be that he had something he'd promised to say?

There was a deal here. The deal was this: Scott promised to stop defending his stories and let the army publish statements that they didn't find anyone who corrobrated the stories without opposition. (Which is nothing whatsoever like "disproving".)

And they let him stay in the Army.

It's what every bureaucracy would do, especially with stories that are all but impossible to prove or disprove.

But to think that any of it demonstrates that Beauchamp wasn't telling the truth seems very naive to me. It's no different from telling bad stories, true or not, about a corporation while you're a member of it. Either you get fired immediately, or - in very delicate situations - you are convinced to recant. Except that most corporations have less of a psychological, moral, and emotional hold on your loyalty than the USArmy.

Meanwhile, the guy hasn't recanted, and no one has disproven anything.

Tell me what about what I've said here is wrong.

Posted by: glasnost at October 25, 2007 11:29 PM

To be clear: the Army said: Your Army career. Or your writing career. Pick one. He picked the Army.

I don't know if the stories are true or not for sure either. What I do nothing is that neither Beauchamp's statements, nor the army's "investigation" (to be fair, I should add that an obvious "investigation" and an honest if limited investigation could look pretty similar, come to the same unsupported conclusion that Beauchamp lied, and both be wrong)
in any way disprove the stories.

Posted by: glasnost at October 25, 2007 11:34 PM

Glasnost, I sympathize a great deal with your argument. It's what I have quietly assumed myself for some time, though I've stayed out of this argument publicly because it isn't my beat and I respect both TNR and the Army. It has been a bit of a tough call for me. But look. Both TNR and the Army are now against Beauchamp on this. (TNR very quietly.) His career as a journalist is over. They erased his work from their Web site so they obviously no longer stand by his story. His wife no longer works at the magazine either.

It's frustrating that TNR isn't more forthcoming about this. But we all know that they know something we don't. Not all information about this is public yet. The fact that they expunged his work and told him his career is over pretty much settles it for me.

The fact that his Staff Sergeant was with him on the call may imply coercion, but it just as easily could be because the Army wants to make sure he doesn't lie again. That by itself could go either way. But TNR apparently thinks he lied, too, so that resolves that conundrum as far as I'm concerned.

If you want to see it differently, fine. I won't hold it against you. We'll just have to agree to disagree. But I do get what you're saying. I'm not out to trash the guy, I just don't think he and I are equally honest. You compared me and him. Otherwise I would never have mentioned this controversy in the first place. It's really quite minor compared to everything else that goes on in Iraq.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 26, 2007 12:18 AM

Glasnost: the Army said: Your Army career. Or your writing career.

Ok, but the Army has no control over a writing career he might have after he leaves the Army. Neither does TNR.

But TNR and Beauchamp seem to understand that his writing career in general is finished no matter what. They know something we don't, and that says a lot.

No editor is going to hire him. If the Army was just meanly picking on him, he wouldn't have that problem, especially not with liberal editors. But I don't think even The Nation would touch him at this point. Beauchamp and TNR seem to agree with me about that. And like I said, that resolves a lot of the ambiguity for me. Your mileage may vary.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 26, 2007 12:25 AM

I'll say it again, Glasnost. I would much rather argue with you than most of the critics who show up around here. I don't know why I waste my time with some of the others.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 26, 2007 12:27 AM

By the way, Michael Yon has a thoughtful piece on his blog about Beauchamp here.

Excerpt:

I was at a reconciliation meeting between Sunni and Shia in the West Rashid district of Baghdad on 24 October, and it happened by complete coincidence that I was with Beauchamp’s battalion. In fact, I was with his old company commander for much of the day, although I had no idea for most of it that I was with Beauchamp’s old company commander.

At the reconciliation meeting, Beauchamp’s battalion commander, LTC George Glaze, politely introduced himself and asked who I wrote for. When I replied that I just have a little blog, the word caught his ears and he mentioned Beauchamp, who I acknowledged having heard something about. LTC Glaze seemed protective of Beauchamp, despite how the young soldier had maligned his fellow soldiers. In fact, the commander said Beauchamp, having learned his lesson, was given the chance to leave or stay.

It can be pretty tough over here. The soldiers in Beauchamp’s unit have seen a lot of combat. Often times soldiers are working in long stretches of urban guerrilla combat dogged by fatigue and sleep deprivation. This is likely one of the most stressful jobs in the world, especially when millions of people are screaming at you for failures that happened three years or more ago, and for decisions to invade Iraq that were made when you were still a teenager. Just as bad is the silence from the untold millions who have already written off your effort as hopeless. Add that to the fact that buddies are getting killed in front of you. (More than 70 killed in Beauchamp’s brigade.) I see what these young men and women go through, and the extraordinary professionalism they nearly always manage to exude awes me on a daily basis.

Lapses of judgment are bound to happen, and accountability is critical, but that’s not the same thing as pulling out the hanging rope every time a soldier makes a mistake.

Beauchamp is young; under pressure he made a dumb mistake. In fact, he has not always been an ideal soldier. But to his credit, the young soldier decided to stay, and he is serving tonight in a dangerous part of Baghdad. He might well be seriously injured or killed here, and he knows it. He could have quit, but he did not. He faced his peers. I can only imagine the cold shoulders, and worse, he must have gotten. He could have left the unit, but LTC Glaze told me that Beauchamp wanted to stay and make it right. Whatever price he has to pay, he is paying it.

The commander said I was welcome to talk with Beauchamp, but clearly he did not want anyone else coming at his soldier. LTC Glaze told me that at least one blog had even called for Beauchamp to be killed, which seems rather extreme even on a very bad day. LTC Glaze wants to keep Beauchamp, and hopes folks will let it rest. I’m with LTC Glaze on this: it’s time to let Beauchamp get back to the war. The young soldier learned his lessons. He paid enough to earn his second chance that he must know he will never get a third.

Though Beauchamp is close, I’m not going to spend half a day tracking him down when just this morning I woke to rockets launching from nearby and landing on an American base. Who has time to skin Beauchamp? We need him on his post and focused.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 26, 2007 12:36 AM

What's sad about the Beauchamp dog-pile is that he wrote about several minor incidents to explain a change in his own personality that he observed in the course of deployment, and has been pilloried for it.

In doing so, he has trodden on some people's fantasies, and presented himself as a dragon to be slain by the right-wing bloggers intent on finding their next RatherGate. The hysteria over this issue are nothing short of breathtaking. The described incidents are minor in nature, and are far less than many incidents that we know have happened elsewhere. Yet it's become an obsession to many bloggers that this individual be proven a liar and a fraud.

Bizarre. I'm glad the Army has provided an out for him, and that he's able to continue to serve.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 26, 2007 07:51 AM

My take on the Beauchamp issue is that he joined the Army to become the next Hemingway and ended up becoming a Soldier. This is based on the report from Yon as well as from Laughing Wolf at Blackfive, who has met Beauchamp. Neither reveals much, but both gave thumbs down to TNR, not Beauchamp.

My guess is that Beauchamp's perspective has shifted a lot since he came to Iraq, maybe because he wrote stories about how serving in Iraq had changed him. It's apparent that he wants to put the episode behind him and get on with his life.

Posted by: MartyH at October 26, 2007 10:16 AM

Breathtaking. Hysteria. Bizarre. Minor incidents. Obsession.

Yeah, thats one way to put your spin on the issue DPU.

I was surprised when M. Yon reported that his colleagues allowed him to stay in the unit.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at October 26, 2007 10:26 AM

I was surprised when M. Yon reported that his colleagues allowed him to stay in the unit.

Then maybe you should re-evaluate your thinking on the issue. Perhaps reality isn't agreeing with your perceptions.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 26, 2007 10:52 AM

Mike, you should see TNR's latest statement before you conclude that they've given up on Beauchamp. It undermines the most convincing part of your argument: the reasonable belief that TNR was convinced the guy's stories were bogus.

http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_plank/archive/2007/10/26/a-scott-beauchamp-update.aspx

We're never going to know for sure either way, frankly. Whether Beauchamp and/or TNR are pressured by political, image, and career/future angles into recanting or not. I don't know either. But people who tell you that the stories were 'disproven' are not on a sound logical or factual footing.

Posted by: glasnost at October 26, 2007 11:09 AM

Having said that, people are free to disbelieve the stories, point out that the army denied them, that the Army's investigation failed to corrobrate the stories, etc, etc.

It's the innaccuracy of "disproved" that is my personal sticking point. What's left is a continued ambiguity that everyone will draw their own conclusions from.

Posted by: glasnost at October 26, 2007 11:12 AM

It'd be great if you could interview Neil Prakash, the Marine tanker who blogged the 2004 battle of Fallujah at the late Armor Geddon blog.

And stay safe!

Posted by: The Sanity Inspector at October 26, 2007 02:30 PM

DPU:

I agree that the incidents of misbehavior reported by Beauchamp were relatively minor in the grand scheme of the war. However, if Beauchamp wanted to illustrate the changes war had wrought in his own personality, he should have stuck to his own "dark" thoughts and his own changed behavior. Instead, he foolishly wrote about the alleged misbehavior of others in his unit. I am quite certain that most members of his unit would consider this a betrayal, even if, all that he wrote about them was absolutely accurate.

Since Beauchamp has declined to stand behind his written account in front of his commanding officer and has chosen to stay in Iraq with his unit when given an oppurtiunity to leave, the most logical conclusion is that he realizes that a significant portion of his published account is either inaccurate or exagerated. Otherwise, why not leave Iraq and publicly assist TNR in an all out fight against the army position? The fact that TNR now believes that Beauchamps lied to them in the montiored conversation, then called back to tell them he had previously been lying (which would mean that he is now attempting to decieve his commanding officer) doesn't really bode well for his overall veracity or character.

On the other hand, I suspect there is some element of truth in what he wrote and that he can't be all that bad of a guy, since his unit has agreed to allow him to stay. Thus, I agree with Michael Yon's ultimate conclusion, let the poor kid serve out his hitch in Iraq without further harrasment or embarassment.

When I read the TNR 10/26 post that Glasnost linked, I was struck by the clueless and indifferent attitude of the TNR editors to this kid's fait. They treat this whole mess as if it were some kind of personal contest with the army or rightwing bloggers. The TNR editors are apparently unconcerned that their efforts to stir this hornet's nest up again could cause this kid serious problems within his unit and with his commdanding officers. As the misconduct alleged by Beauchamp was relatively tame stuff compared to real war crimes, like the rape and cover up murders at Mahmoudiya, it is time for TNR (and everyone else) to drop this whole debate, before this kid gets himself into even more trouble.

Posted by: Mark In Chi-Town at October 26, 2007 03:51 PM

In inflation-adjusted dollars, this war is headed for being more expensive than Vietnam at half the length and half the personnel.

So? The thing I dislike about the Vietnam war is not that it was expensive, or how long it went on, or how many people were deployed.

The important thing about the Vietnam war is that we lost.

Posted by: rosignol at October 26, 2007 04:11 PM

DPU, actually I was thinking of when I was in the service (well, kind of, since it was the USAF) that my buds may have given me a second chance if I had done what SB did. Maybe. If they did, it would be to their honor and credit though.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at October 26, 2007 05:01 PM

Dear Michael,

I saw something over on Michael Yon's blog that truly astounded me. Michael Yon asked two different sources whether the U.S. military or the Iraqi Army had ever caught anyone crossing the border between Iran and Iraq with IED's or other munitions. He got a 'no' in both cases. He could not find out why that was true. His position was that someone should have been able to capture the Iranians in the act.

I suggest that you look into that while you are in Fallujah.

You might also try to ask the locals how it felt to find themselves under the lash of the AQI people. What I mean is that others have pointed out that the shiehks in Anbar turned because the AQI people were too harsh. Were they too harsh by Fallujah standards? If Fallujah was used to hardcore Islam, how did they react to the AQI's version of hardcore Islam?

Posted by: H. Alan Montgomery at October 26, 2007 10:08 PM

Anyone continuing to say that they believe SB, especially with the info out in the public realm now, has the same intellectual honesty of Dan Rather when he said "...well, they could have been true, and that is what matters."

Posted by: Ron Snyder at October 27, 2007 04:51 AM

The important thing about the Vietnam war is that we lost.

The important thing about the Vietnam War are the million Vietnamese that were killed for our heavy-handed stupidity and anti-communist paranoia. They were better off under the N. Vietnamese than they were being ground into hamburger by US vs. N. Vietnamese.

You like American pride more than you dislike the disfigurement of peasants, fine, but I don't share your values and will contest them.

Posted by: glasnost at October 27, 2007 04:33 PM

"They were better off under the N. Vietnamese than they were being ground into hamburger by US vs. N. Vietnamese.

You like American pride more than you dislike the disfigurement of peasants, fine, but I don't share your values and will contest them."

Were the two million slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge who were helped into power by the North Vietmamese better off? You're jim dandy with that, just blame it on the US too. You should have lived under Stalin, one of the subjects of the show trials, proclaiming your undying loyalty to the regime as they convict you ...

I don't share your values either and will contest them.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at October 28, 2007 01:56 AM

For "Don't Tred[sic]": it's actually 700 A.D., not 1700 A.D. Don't understate their primitiveness!
______
Ratatosk; I'm always a bit curious about the, "Oh, well, make the best of a bad choice" crowd. Do you not read/believe the statements by the leaders of the AQ et al that control of Iraq is a huge prize? Or were SH's depredations and plans just comfortably below the radar?
BTW, it's "bated breath", as in restrained, held back. Unless you're using enticing breath mints? Heh.
_______
J Harris: "If Iraq is worth 2% of our wealth, what about the rest of the world?" Behold one of the BS memes exploited by the left. "If you can't do it everywhere (at once), then you shouldn't do it anywhere." Believing that requires much more effort than any "suspension of disbelief"; it requires a suspension of all thought and judgment. A leftist speciality.

As for the "it was obvious whether war was a good idea" meme, that requires an absolutely iron-hard determination to ignore historical fact. Even WWI and II were near things at the time in terms of public and "expert" opinion, not to mention politics. Apparently your hindsight is a lot weaker than 20-20.

"They have no viable plan for it." Uh, "they" do, actually. The "[not] viable" is your dismissive opinion. And, BION, even a stable and reasonably representative government in Iraq, aligned with the U.S., is a means to an end, which is the interruption and reversal of a malign pattern of development and global destabilization projects being pushed hard by ME regimes and sects. And, no, cultural equivalence equivocating doesn't cut it.
_____
DPU;
Continuing to buy even a pennyworth of what Beauchamp had to say after it was revealed he hadn't even been out of Kuwait when he wrote it shows a Will to Believe which is truly awe-inspiring. How did you develop that?

Posted by: Brian H at October 28, 2007 08:44 PM

They were better off under the N. Vietnamese than they were being ground into hamburger by US vs. N. Vietnamese.
-glasnost

I know some people who were there. Locals, not just Americans. I don't really know what would happen I had the incredibly poor taste to tell a man who had relatives sent to the re-education camps- some of whom never came home- that they were better off under the north vietnamese.

You like American pride more than you dislike the disfigurement of peasants, fine, but I don't share your values and will contest them.

Your assumptions about the reasons I hold certain opinions are so inaccurate as to be offensive. Consider the possibility that I have good reasons for holding certain opinions and I will continue to return the favor.

Posted by: rosignol at October 29, 2007 05:45 PM
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