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January 29, 2005

The Double Standard On Iraq

The other day, we had a bit of a flap here about media bias, and how the war is going in Iraq, partly due to this John Burns article via Gregory Djerejian (with whose analysis, actually, I couldn't quibble):

Just because John Burns says it's so bad doesn't make it so etc etc. But it means a hell of a lot more than, say, if Maureen Dowd did. As regular readers know, I firmly believe Burns is the best reporter the New York Times has in its employ. Indeed, I have the much faith in his abilities as a reporter to capture the realities of his environs with judiciousness and considerable intelligence. Still, I remain more optimistic of electoral turnout, even in non-Sadr City parts of Baghdad (turnout is likely to be highest there), than the article seems to allow. Well, we'll know soon enough, won't we?

At any rate, it's been on my mind a lot since then, but I've been busy with projects at work lately and haven't been able to write much.

I've been accused on occasion of being a cheerleader for the war, or being unwilling to entertain opposing viewpoints. Believe it or not, I think about that every morning when I'm trying to decide what I'll write about. Left to myself, I'd probably discuss the WOT a lot more than I do. But back in California, I decided to limit the amount of time I spent on the issue. This was mostly the result of discussions with my husband. He pointed out (rightly) that I was letting it consume me. And I was - between some things that happened last Spring and reading about the war all day, every day, I was just getting too upset. And so I backed off.

And most days I feel really lousy about that, because I still care deeply, passionately about what is going on over there. My heart still leaps every time I catch a story out of the corner of my eye, and sometimes I have to force myself to keep moving and write about Social Security, or movies, or Maureen Dowd instead.

But caring isn't the same as not having any doubts, or being unwilling to listen to the other side, or not seeing any of the problems. It's just that I don't see the point in carping about it.

We over there now- what's the point of bitching about withdrawal dates and why we went and whether we should have gone? What's needed is to put our heads down and finish the job.

We don't have 40,000 more troops right now to throw into the fight.

It's not going to do any good to fire Rummy right before the elections - in fact, such a move would embolden the enemy and would be utterly disastrous.

But I'll be surprised if he doesn't go shortly thereafter.

In a time of war, I just don't see the point of endlessly re-hashing every minor mistake, every miscalculation, crowing over every misstep. What possible end does it serve? Is it the dubious pleasure of saying "I told you so" that so appeals? No thanks. Are we somehow better off for wallowing in a Munschian paroxism of self-doubt and loathing?

If we went to war again tomorrow, we'd make the same mistakes again. Or different ones - that's the lesson of history. As history has shown over and over again, things are looking up and I, for one, am still hopeful. As election day draws near, voting fever is gripping a people stifled for over thirty years:

FOR decades, voting in Iraq meant taking part in a national exercise of state-enforced adulation, as 99 per cent of the electorate would dutifully turn out to tick the box beside the name Saddam Hussein. Yesterday the contrast could not have been starker, as the campaign for Sunday’s elections picked up pace and voters were presented with a dizzying selection of dozens of candidates and parties.

Notwithstanding insurgent terror aimed at wrecking the polls, there is finally a palpable sense in Baghdad, and other Iraqi cities, that the country is entering a new era.

At the Babylon Hotel tribal sheikhs in long gowns and Arab headdress gathered to hear politicians extol the virtues of Iyad Allawi, the interim Prime Minister, who was being touted as the only man with the strength and will to solve Iraq’s numerous problems.

Across town Kurdish voters were treated to large slices of chocolate cake, folk dancing and poetry readings praising democracy and reminding them of their duty to their nation.

Elsewhere street urchins were discovering that democracy can pay. They have been hired en masse to put up posters and billboards on every wall space available and probably paid a little extra to tear down the slogans of rival politicians.

In Iraq, as in Afghanistan, the carpers, the critics, and the professional naysayers are likely to be proved wrong once again. Not that there will be any accountability or admission of error, mind you. It's not their fault: blame it all on changing circumstances. Andrew Sullivan, accused by Mickey Kaus of pulling yet another volte-face on Iraq, is quick to explain:

The accusation this time is that I haven't been steady in my judgment of what's going on in Iraq. Well, let me plead guilty. My judgment of a fast-moving, volatile and opaque situation that is largely off-limits to many journalists has indeed varied with events. My principles remain the same: I supported the overthrow of Saddam and hope we can achieve a more democratic polity in his wake. I still do.

Strange how this "fast-moving, volatile and opaque situation", in which events apparently move at such blinding speed that Mr. Sullivan and his ilk are unable to opine fast enough to keep pace with them are (paradoxically) assumed to be "slow-moving, stable, and transparent" enough that the administration and the Department of Defense should have formed both long- and short-range plans that perfectly anticipated each twist and turn of events. Anything less is simply a miserable failure in planning: the type of debacle upon which pundits go picnicking.

Forget that moving tons of equipment and hundreds of thousands of troops halfway around the world would be a logistical nightmare once (not to mention doing it several times so you can rotate the troops home). These considerations do not enter into the minds of Those Who Opine - they're too busy excoriating the military for not turning Humvees into Sherman tanks.

And we wouldn't want to bring history into the analysis- perish the thought. Why would anyone, for instance, mention that it took two years to stabilize Austria after the elections there:

Consider Austria right after World War II, when it was occupied by American, British, French and Russian forces. Within six months, free elections were held. A year later, in 1946, Russia and the West were at each other's throats. Murder, rape and theft were commonplace, and the lack of food, fuel and housing endemic. The freely elected officials of the Austrian government met in secret, wondering whether their nation could survive.

Today, it's hard to imagine that Austria ever saw such fearful days. Yet, elections didn't save Vienna from the barbarians. Sound strategy did. American efforts in postwar Europe practiced what military planners called the "disease and unrest formula." They outlined three tasks to keep a defeated nation from chaos: (1) avoiding a humanitarian crisis; (2) setting up a legitimate government; (3) establishing domestic security forces.

Security took the longest, but by 1948, the government could stand by itself.

We are doing these things in Iraq. So mightn't we, perhaps, quit the carping, and the doomsaying, and the negativity, and let time work its magic?

The night before last at dinner, I listened to General Mattis speak of another helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Desperate for a replacement, he contacted Washington and obtained one from the command back home. Later he learned that, that evening, the young widow of one of the men who died in the crash, seven-months pregnant, showed up with fresh-baked brownies to bid farewell to the outgoing crew as it headed out to Afghanistan.

That is why I continue to believe in the United States Marine Corps. I wish every American could have heard some of the stories he told. As long as our Marines and their families have spirit like that, there is no army on this earth that can beat us. They haven't given up yet. And stories like this are not unique to the Marine Corps - we are a team, working side by side to make this happen.

This is why I get so incredibly, mind-rippingly angry when I read the way the press distorts what we are doing over there.

This war is not perfect, in plan, execution, nor in outcome. Name one that has been.

But we are working miracles over there. And the men and women of the coalition are doing great things, and their stories are not being told. And if I have to believe someone, when it comes time to judge how things are going over there, I choose to believe them.

That is my bias. I freely confess it. If you have to pick a side, I choose to side with the people who are trying to fix the situation, not the ones who are carping. And I choose to believe the ones who are actually there, not the ones who file their reports from hotel bars.

And it's not that I don't ever disagree with administration, or that I don't see any problems. I just don't see what is gained by complaining. We have a job to do. In the short term the resources are fairly fixed and the plans have already been made. It's more important, in my opinion, to demonstrate resolve and carry out our plans than to indulge in endless second-guessing, staff purges, and wallow in self-doubt.

What can I say: I'm a cheerleader and I'll brook no dissent (yes, that was a joke, for the humor-impaired).

Posted by Cassandra at January 29, 2005 06:31 AM

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Tracked on January 29, 2005 06:57 PM

Comments

While I wish Iraq had fallen without bloodshed, and that every square inch of Iraq had miraculously assumed the tenor of a school board meeting in rural Nebraska, I realize that we are trying something totally new here. I am content to give it time.

Not long ago I was listening to a discussion on the Battle of the Bulge. The battle lasted from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945 (forty days), with casualties of 81,000 Americans, including 23,554 captured and 19,000 killed. American miscalculation caused the line to be thin in the Ardennes, and this was the cost. (FDR LIED!!! PEOPLE DIED!!!)

While I wish that the 1500 or so American deaths so far had not happened, I always refer to history to judge whether this war is going better or worse than might be expected. I think the outcome is nearly miraculous!

Posted by: MathMom at January 29, 2005 09:26 AM

I have to go along with that, as well as the fact that for the first time, the people are united in
a dislike of Saddam and approval of his removal.
(it rhymes but what the helk)

They have freedom, a dream long cherished and a gift
finally realized. You can bet they will make some mistakes, but they will KNOW that they can fix them
and that they will make progress.

I have been especially specific in my prayers for the safety of the people delivering and safeguarding the election material, as well as the
future of the Iraqi people.

I have prayed for the insurgents to have a stupor of thought and that their bombs and plans would
fail.

Posted by: Cricket at January 29, 2005 10:23 AM

It is in my humble opinion that many elements of the Left actually want us to lose in Iraq.

All many of them remember is the only defeat they caused in Vietnam, a easily winnable war.

Note they are still carping and vetching about Ronald Reagan.

Every time at work, when someone says something negative about the war, I ask them if they want Saddam back in power.

It shuts them up for a while.

Posted by: purple raider at January 29, 2005 11:28 AM

Look -- I had to sign up for this Blogger thing, and when I did I was asked for a Blog name. So I made one - No Government Cheese.

http://nogovernmentcheese.blogspot.com/

Last night I gave it a body. My general interest Blogging will be at E&FI. I only learned to do this b/c Pile On asked me to help. I will put some stuff over there that are not "general interest" and if Pile On decides to fire me, I will just occassionally do stuff over there. I haven't even figured out how to put links on the side and stuff, but I will eventually.

I have much more fun (and it takes less time) commenting and enjoying vicariously the labor of Cassandra, Pile On, spd rdr, Rodney, Lib Larry, Scott Ott and others, and all those that comment there.

But if everyone else jumped off a cliff, I would to, because if I leaned nothing else from Homer Simpson, it is that being popular is the most important thing and you should do whatever it takes to belong. So I did. Well, actually, I think Pile On pushed me.

Posted by: KJ at January 29, 2005 11:32 AM

Now for the substantive. Absolutely great post Cass. It is writing like this that should be part of the real media, but so often is not. The point is well made -- monday morning quarterbacks can sit in their lazy boy, drink their beer and pontificate (like I do, except it is a leather couch recliner, and sometimes the beer is a scotch or a bourbon), but they aren't proving any better making decisions before the fact, rather than after, and their butts aren't on the line. Yet.

Posted by: KJ at January 29, 2005 11:48 AM

Well, I think the MSM reacted in typically human fashion these past 5 years.The editorial boards saw the Clinton presidency as tangible proof that they were correct--that liberal views carried the day, that America was in tune with their belief system.Then came Gov. Bush, and stole their rice bowl.They want it back and will stop (or stoop) just short of insolvency to return to their comfort zone.Accepting that, they have sent reporters into the field armed with the "Tet Mentality"......that victories are actually defeats, and if repeated often enough will be accepted as gospel.When that fails, they then pull an "Afghanistan"......and conveniently white-out the entire picture.

For cynics like me, there is the internet, and bloggers who refuse to "go quickly into that good night, but rage, rage against the dying of the light".

Of course, I could be wrong.


Greg

Posted by: Greg at January 29, 2005 12:38 PM

Of course, Clinton never received more than 45% of the vote either, did he?

Posted by: KJ at January 29, 2005 02:14 PM

Good point.


Greg

Posted by: Greg at January 29, 2005 02:34 PM

Yet never was heard "Selected,not elected" either.Proves a point.

Greg

Posted by: Greg at January 29, 2005 02:59 PM

How do you know Pile On pushed you? KJ, this is one of the few blogs I read with great interest and that
challenges me.

Okay, so it is a BIG stretch for me sometimes, as I re read some of the stories and points to get the reasoning down.

NOT because I am lame, or misunderstand, but I feel things (that word makes me think of liberals, and that is oogie) in my gut about right or wrong and here I can either agree or disagree or inquire.

I can't imagine the MSM even getting to this level of logic and coherence unless you have a Professional Curmudgeon on staff.

Love free speech.

Thanks for the gift of your insight, Cass.

Posted by: Cricket at January 29, 2005 06:13 PM

Greg--
I don't think they'll stop short of insolvency because they're playing with other people's money, not their own.

Posted by: MrsPurpleRaider at January 29, 2005 07:32 PM

Which reminds me...in privatizing SS, won't that just give Wall Street more cash to become insolvent with?

Posted by: Cricket at January 29, 2005 07:34 PM

In WWII, in preparation for the invasion of the Philipines, Marine 1st Div. was assigned the task of taking Peleliu. As the days leading up to the invasion passed, Admiral Nimitz was advised by Adm. Halsey (and others) that Peleliu may not be a necessary objective in the larger strategic plan to take the Philipines. Nimitz was insistent that the assualt take place, and did not expect heavy resisitance.... (jump ahead several months)...

The battle for Peleliu was one of the bloodiest of the Pacific War, costing the U.S. Marines and Navy some 6,526 casualties, including 1,252 killed in action. Meanwhile, the Japanese suffered the near total destruction of their garrison, with over 10,900 killed and 202 prisoners of war captured, most all of whom were conscripted laborers. With such high American casualties, the Japanese command affirmed the success of their strategy of attrition, which now set the tone for the even bloodier assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa the following year.

So what does this recitation have to do with Iraq?

To fulfill the larger strategic need, the tactical requirement was to take Peleliu. Maybe it was avoidable, with 20/20 hindsight.
To fulfill the larger strategic need to reform the Arab (and the larger Muslim world) in finding forms of legitimate representative governments, which are seen as the long term objective to reducing terrorism as a tool of 'asymetric warfare', we are in Iraq. Simulaneiously trying to suppress an insurgency that has support in both Baathist-Sunni Syria and the Islamic Republic of Iran (Shia), for differing reasons, and give the Iraqis a chance to form a representative government, as a model for the larger Middle East and Muslim world, and escape the steel trap of tyranny that has held them for decades.

Was this trip necessary?
and
Will it work?

At the end of the so-called Gulf War in 1991 (Operation Desert Storm), and armistice was negotiated, with specific terms which the government of Saddam Hussein was to fulfill in compliance with that armistice.
He did not.
Not only in violation of the resolutions of the United Nations, but also the terms of that armistice between representatives of the US Government and Iraq, Saddam Hussein flouted those agreements.
What were we to do?

War is politics by other means, and when the political tools failed, one by one, and two of our so-called 'allies' openly worked to undermine our position in the UN Sec. Council (probably on the verge of introducing a resolution expressley FORBIDDING the US to act prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom), the US invaded Iraq, finishing the job that should have been done a dozen years before, displacing the Saddam Hussein government.
It is now up to us to finish the task set before us, to help establish a just and lasting government, based on the consent of free men and women, in Iraq.
To do less, is to not only betray the 25 million Iraqis that are depending on us to deliver them from the grip of either Baathist or Islamic fascism, but to betray our own ideals as a nation.

It is not enough to be the 'Shining City on a Hill.' Millions of human beings in this world live in various tyrannies, sometimes so vast and cruel as to beggar discription.
Who will speak for them? Who will act for them? Who can help deliver them from the fate of anyone living in tyranny, "a boot, stomping on a human face, forever" ("1984")?
So yes, this trip was necessary, as will be other difficult and perhaps bloody encounters in the years to come. To surrender to that "boot stomping on a human face" now, and in the future, dooms us all to live in a much darker and sinister world that most of us could scarcely imagine.
Will it work? Only time will tell.

"He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat...."

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at January 29, 2005 07:36 PM

Thank you Don :)

And thanks to everyone else. I always end up feeling sort of foolish after I write something like this for some reason. I enjoyed reading your comments.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 29, 2005 08:34 PM

.........late to the party as usual.......

As a former PD once said in response to something I once quipped on my aircheck tape: "That dawg can HUNT!!".[albeit, the quip wasn't even within the same solar system as a Cassandra-ism, [ie.: todays righteous rant]

Since you tend to be reluctant to do anything like it yourself [see: "I always end up feeling sort of foolish after I write something like this for some reason."]--I hope someone does take or has taken this SPOT ON righteous rant of yours [Purple, can ya hear me now?] and sent it to the fine (fiends) at NYT, Boston Glob (misspell deliberate), or---to places where it might have a better shot at not causing staff members to implode like the WSJ, NYPost, Townhall. SOMEPLACE. It's just TOO good and right to not go beyond the hallowed halls of VC. Although trackbacks give it SOME hope of getting out there.

At the risk of sounding TOO dramatic: Imagine having the cure for, or at least effective relief from migraines, but just keeping it among friends!?!?! Your piece, Cass, could bring some calm to the MSM (propoganda ho) perpetrated storm re: Iraq!

Dang woman! How many times do I have to remind you that YOU"RE A VOICE, not an echo?!?! People could have the LSM infused stupid slapped right out of them with this thing, and never even realize how it happened that their brains were unscrambled, but they'd certainly have cleared perspective & vision!

[WARNING: the latter portion of this post contains what some may perceive as a wee bit o' bible thumping]

******************************************
Cricket said:"I have been especially specific in my prayers".......

Ditto, Cricket. I have prayed that God would do like with one of those enemy armies in the OT, where He sent confusion into their camp and they just turned on one another! (it's QUITE fathomable given the maniacal mindset of terrorists). First I thought that might be agreeable also for liberals, but then I recanted: They haven't got it straight on who in fact IS the enemy, nor do they want God to interfere with their supremacy.

We had an amazing 1 hr. prayer time Wed night, expressly for the voting in Iraq. Because I was tied up at the studio in the woods (close by fortunately), I was about 15 min. late, but the second I walked in I was overcome (getting choked up came easy). 2 big screens overhead with basically a slide show of photos from Iraq: Iraqi people, troops, a shot of a TV screen of FOX news announcing the capture of Saddam, et al.

Meanwhile the band is playing, praise songs interwoven with different individuals taking the mic and praying or reading scriptures, etc. [I'd venture to say the 95% of the crowd was 20 somethings!(~;)]

One of the songs that just seemed so apropos, we sang often and eventually as a prayer over/for the Iraqi people, changing the "I AM" in the chorus to "THEY ARE":
I Am Free"...:

Through You the blind will see
Through You the mute will sing
Through You the dead will rise
Through You all hearts will praise
Through You the darkness flees
Through You my heart screams I am free
Chorus:

I am free to run
I am free to dance
I am free to live for You
I am free

( Music and lyrics by Jon Egan-- © 2004 Vertical Worship Songs

Tonite, coinciding with the time of the Iraq Elections, at the world prayer center, a come and go as you please all night prayer time from 7 pm to 9 am Sunday (MST).

Oh, and an Iraqi man, who lives in Denver, drove all the way to Nashvegas...err...Nashville to vote. He also was at the polls (fairground) an hour early so he could be FIRST! (he must visit TOB! HA) His CUUUTE little boy, probably 3 or 4, was with him all dressed up and carrying & waving small Iraqi & American flags together on a stick.

Posted by: CKC at January 29, 2005 09:52 PM

Cass,
Thank YOU for having this blog (and on 'Jet Noise' before that!), and writing about this very subject.
I have to keep my lip zipped far too often in social gatherings and endure such intellectual flatulence (and I've got a lot of that, too) regarding Iraq, that I appreciate a place to sound off on what I think, and not be immediately attacked for being a "warmonger", "hatemonger","idiot" (maybe right about that one), etc.
As to CKC (you big-hearted mountain gal), don't ever doubt the power of prayer, but the Almighty moves for His own purposes, not ours. But I believe in this case, we are doing His purpose, whether consciously or not.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at January 29, 2005 10:38 PM

OK, I give up! I've written three looooong comments on this thread and every friggin' time this ice strom has knocked the power out before I could post it! GROWL!

I SUPPORT WHAT YOU SAID CASS! :-)

Now let's see if I can get that posted! :-(

Posted by: JarheadDad at January 29, 2005 10:50 PM

Cat, as always you are far kinder than I deserve.

I've given joatmoaf a lot of credit (or maybe blame is a better word) for getting me to start blogging, but in truth it was also a lot of the things you have said to me last year that gave me the courage to do this.

So you are also to blame :)

Seriously, I don't put nearly enough time or effort into my posts to submit them formally anywhere. I think there's a whole other level of professionalism I would have to work to. For instance, I didn't take any notes during Mattis' speech, and so I'm relying on my memory.

And I was really sort of out of it - I'd had a migraine for several days and was short on sleep. If I were writing for publication, I'd have to get a transcript and check my recollection against the record - one reason I didn't use more stories from his talk. This one was fairly simple and straightforward, so hopefully I got it right :) That's what I hated about blogging when I started - the instant nature of posts makes a more deliberate and reflective style (which is probably more natural for me) difficult.

But it's been freeing in another way - I have a tendency to obsess over details, and so it's been nice to realize that sometimes it's the big picture that counts. And for me, the picture of a pregnant, recently-bereaved widow putting aside her grief to bake brownies for departing Marines was just so compelling -- what amazing families we have. It reminded me of something from Gates of Fire - the age-old tales of women sending their men off to war.

Incredible.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 30, 2005 08:04 AM

Cricket--
as opposed to giving the government more cash to be insolvent with?

Investors don't invest in "Wall Street". They invest in specific companies. SS as it is now set up invests in nothing.

Posted by: MrsPurpleRaider at January 30, 2005 09:28 AM

But can't individual investors use a broker to invest in the market? I had this idea that if SS
were privatized, that WE the people would get it back, and put it in an account and invest it on our own, instead of the government doing it for us.

Posted by: Cricket at January 30, 2005 06:35 PM

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