Bad News

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Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the WaPo's Baghdad bureau chief, tells PBS's NewsHour that any messages being sent by the Allawi regime about better security is so much bluster, "a lot of tough talk." Among other things, "The bulk of Iraq's policemen still have not gone through any academy training." He assures us that this "tough talk" is just "a symbolic move." That very night, the cops round up 500 criminal suspects.

IraqPundit notes that the hapless LA Times, explaining what it thinks is a continuing radicalization of the Sunni triangle, offers this: "The conservative Salafi, Wahhabi and Sufi teachings that have proliferated in Sunni Iraq since the fall of the regime last year provide a moral basis for the armed opposition." Sighs Iraqpundit: "Salafi and Wahhabi sure. But Sufi? Sufis are among the most peaceful, tolerant folks around."

John Leo at U.S. News (link via Instapundit) flips back through the LAT a couple of pages. "A June 29 report depicted the new prime minister, Ayad Allawi, as obscure and unpopular: 'little-known to most Iraqis after spending more than three decades in exile . . . . Many Iraqis have questioned the interim government's legitimacy.' But four days earlier, the Washington Post reported that a large majority of Iraqis knew very well who Allawi was and backed him with confidence. Citing a survey commissioned by U.S. officials in Iraq and conducted by an independent pollster, the Post said 70 percent of Iraqis were familiar with their new leaders and 73 percent approved of Allawi to head the new government."

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  1. Hey Charles, I’d watch out were I you: These stories may have the indirect effect of showing that the facts-be-damned “Iraq will forever be a bloody mess” crusade is flawed. That could indirectly help Bush.

    Your boys Walker and Gillespie will never forgive you.

  2. There’s a well known phenomenon in psychology that ignorant/incompetent people routinely overestimate their own knowledge–often severely, in an inverse relationship, such that the staggeringly incompetent actually rate themseleves more proficient than objectively competent/knowledgeable experts rate themselves. Perhaps that phenomenon occurs in organizations as well.

    That’s the nice interpretation anyway. The not nice interpretation is that the media place their political agenda even above their profit margins, and are a bunch of lying, hypocritical social parasites.

  3. you are all a bunch of looneys

  4. Check out the blogs written by Iraqis themselves. All is not as bad as portrayed

    http://healingirag.blogspot.com
    http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com

    Links are given for other Iraqi bloggers. Interesting insights into their culture and what is really going on over there. Details of the 500 criminal roundup given on iraqthemodel.

  5. I’ve come to the conclusion that the media is not so much biased as it is totally and completely incompetent. “Those who can’t, teach” has become “Those who can’t, report.”

  6. What does this show ? That the situation in Iraq on the ground is complicated and that people’s perceptions can vary greatly. There are some grounds for hope though — a number of articles have indicated that Iraqis have some faith in the new government.

    I would not dismiss Rajiv’s article that easily too. There are other reports indicating that the Iraqi police (or at least some of them) are still reluctant to confront armed terrorists (as opposed to street thug criminals).

    As far as Iraqi bloggers go, yes, there are whole lot of them, mostly positive about the changes, not all positive about the US. Iraq the model si probably the most positive about the US, and it gives us a valuable part of the picture.

    ‘These stories may have the indirect effect of showing that the facts-be-damned “Iraq will forever be a bloody mess” crusade is flawed’

    As opposed to the “Iraqis will great us with flowers and sweets” story ? They did for about a week, then it was back to RPGs. Right wingers blasted the press for claiming that the situation in post-war Iraq was worse than it was all through last year and early this year. But the press had got it right in most cases — there was little to no love for Saddam, but there was also a vicious resistance developing, there was an extremist Shia streak growing, and Americans were growing increasingly unpopular. Polls this year confirmed that. Blaming the press is all fine and good, but it seems like they were right on the ball wrt that.

    Now that Iraq is indeed making some hopeful steps, are they still being too pessismtic, colored by a year on the ground ? maybe, but the answer is probabyl a heck of a lot more complicated than ‘the press are a bunch of commies whose sole purpose in life is to get Bush out’.

  7. I see the wingnuts are still clinging to the “it’s all the press’s fault” that things aren’t hunky dory in Iraq theme. The press has been guilty of mistakes and occasional incompetency, as shown in the examples above. But Iraq didn’t become as messy as it is because of the press. Shoot the messenger. Anyone who blames the LA times for not realizing that Sufis are peaceful in general (although Kashmir, which is Sufi, has a vicious insurgency) should wonder about a CinC who couldn’t pronounce ‘Iraq’ at first.

    As far as the Iraq cops go, I have to give them credit, they’re doing a fine job. Nonetheless the round up of 500 criminals — is this just rounding up the usual suspects ? I hope not.

  8. — is this just rounding up the usual suspects ?

    or twice the number of usual suspects ? 🙂

  9. “As opposed to the “Iraqis will great us with flowers and sweets” story ? They did for about a week, then it was back to RPGs.”

    Come to think of it, a good portion of the world be better off if people just sat around playing Final Fantasy all day.

  10. ‘Come to think of it, a good portion of the world be better off if people just sat around playing Final Fantasy all day.’

    Or the Sims.

  11. erg,

    Who told you Kashmir is Sufi?

    (hope it is not Rajiv Chandrasekaran)

  12. Rajiv Chandrasekaran is a disgrace to WaPo – incompetent AND biased in one neat package!

    There have been multiple posts by various sources (including Iraqi bloggers, US military guys, and other media even) contradicting what this idiot is saying about Iraq.

  13. ‘Who told you Kashmir is Sufi? ‘

    I’ve been through there several years ago when it was still safe to travel there. [ I was going through to Leh ]. This is Indian Kashmir, it was full of Sufi shrines and the like.

    Are you disputing it ?

    As far as Ragiv goes, I don’t know. I don’t remember most of his articles have. But There have been other articles, even from official sources, pointing out that the Iraqi cops need better training and weapons. We know for a fact that most Iraqi army units did not perform well in Fallujah and in the Sadr uprising, so the skepticism that WaPo correspondents or others expressed about the quality of the army and the police earlier was absoulotely correct, no matter what Iraqi bloggers or official army folks say.

    So is the newly reorganized army and police better ? Probably, but some caution is still in order till these folks have their bapticism by fire.

  14. Anyone who blames the LA times for not realizing that Sufis are peaceful in general […] should wonder about a CinC who couldn’t pronounce ‘Iraq’ at first.

    I don’t wonder about it, I just assume he didn’t know the official way to pronounce “Iraq”. Now, if he had referred to it as peaceful and happy (as, for example, Michael Moore did) then I’d have wondered.

    The LA Times didn’t make a minor error in the way it accented the word “Sufi”; it significantly bungled its description of the very nature of Sufi philosophy. Imagine if I listed ethnic groups that love pork products, and mentioned “Germans, Americans, and Moslems”. Would pointing out that some Moslems, in violation of their faith, do like pork products, or that George Bush pronounces the word “hog” in a funny way, make that any less of a fuckup on my part?

    We know for a fact that most Iraqi army units did not perform well in Fallujah and in the Sadr uprising, so the skepticism that WaPo correspondents or others expressed about the quality of the army and the police earlier was absoulotely correct, no matter what Iraqi bloggers or official army folks say.

    Past police/army failures are a good reason to view claims of police/army performance skeptically. They are NOT a good reason to say “fuck it, I’ll just write a cynical report and kick back in the bar; fact-checking is too hard”. This is particularly true given that the circumstances the Iraqi forces are operating under have changed radically since Fallujah.

  15. erg,

    there are many Sufi shrines in India (may be even in Pakistan) from the times when Sufi “religion” was kind of popular. Sufi is a mild (a mix of Hindu & Muslim), peaceful religion which has no place in the current Kashmir (or most anywhere else for that matter).

    Sure the new Iraqi army/police is nowhere near the US military; and there is a lot of strife in Iraq. But it is not ALL BAD ALL THE TIME like Rajiv C. claims.

  16. I don’t know, man. News of a 500 person roundup makes me more likely to think they’re untrained, thuggish hacks, not less.

  17. Zorel

    Sorry — I disagree. Everything I’ve read or heard indicates that Sufism exerts a huge influence on Kashmiri culture and religion. Salaman Rushdie (Kashmiri Indian) said that in an interview that I remember too. Of course, you can probably make a good case that the terrorists in Kashmir are not following Sufi practices.

    Incidentally, I just did a search of Sufi and Kashmir and it seemed to confirm that I’ve said — dozens of articles claiming exactly what I’ve said. [ A number seem to be from Hindu groups though so that is the only caveat I have].

    Not that I particularly want to defend Rajiv, but I also did a search on WaPo for his recent articles (only ones you can get free). They seem to be fairly standard news reporting, mostly on Allawi. Nothing particularly imaginative or involing on the ground reporting, but nothing that seemed biased either.

  18. ‘News of a 500 person roundup makes me more likely to think they’re untrained, thuggish hacks, not less.’

    Police in third world countries (even in democratic ones) tend to be corrupt, brutal AND inefficient. So one has to judge the new Iraqi police by those “relaxed” standards. So far I would say we really don’t know enough to say. The roundup looks like a good sign, as long as its not a standard third world shakeup.

  19. Is there any real reason to believe it is not “a standard third world shakeup?”

    And isn’t (this week’s) reason for the Iraqi invasion to raise their level of governance above ‘those “relaxed” standards?’

  20. ‘I don’t wonder about it, I just assume he didn’t know the official way to pronounce “Iraq”. ‘

    It is important because frankly, a lot of people have trouble believing that a US president can make credible statements about the future of Iraq or the possibility of building a democracy when he can’t spell Iraq (or according to another report, doesn’t know the difference between Sunni and Shia).

    It reminds me a little of the Apprentice episode where one of the cast members couldn’t pronounce the name of a celebrity properly when asking him to support a charity. Its purely symbolic, but it does strike a very major blow to your credibility or your ability to win hearts and minds, whether those of a celebrity whom you want to influence or others.

    ‘This is particularly true given that the circumstances the Iraqi forces are operating under have changed radically since Fallujah.’

    Agreed, but its only been 2.5 months or so since Fallujah. Remember last October or so we weere being told that there were 100K plus trained Iraqi police, and that was only on paper. There has been a major change with the coming of the interim government, but it remains to be seen how effective all this is. I remember at least one detailed article (I don’t remember it was from the WaPo or not) describing Petraeus’s training (and praising him) and saying that it was working well.

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