What Fallujah?

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What's the reaction in the Arab world to the U.S.-led assault on Fallujah? The NYT's Neil MacFarquhar calls it one of "deep ambivalence." The U.S. occupation may be abhorred, he writes, but most Arabs appear to be content to see the city's murderous jihadis wiped out.

According to MacFarquhar, "The bloodshed fomented by the resistance in the past months—including car bombings that killed children and the slaughter of young Iraqi policemen—has diluted support for the insurgents…"

There are numerous other factors at play, of course, among them the role of Iraqi government forces in the battle, a lack of images of injured civilians, the approach of a major Muslim holiday, and the relative prominence of the long-running Arafat story. Even so, the response is notably muted. The Arab League could muster only enough outrage to call the violence "regrettable."

In short, the Arab reaction to the battle of Fallujah provides yet more support for Gilles Kepel's thesis of a Jihad Backfire. In this context, that "the followers of Osama bin Laden have created chaos and destruction in the house of Islam" by, among other things, murdering many fellow Muslims, causing Islamist regimes to weaken or fall, and appalling and alienating millions of moderate Muslims.

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  1. Deep ambivalence. Well here it’s Veteran’s Day, of all days.

    How many battles have been fought and forgotten?

    any way most “Arabs” are less affected by it all than Americans and Iraqis.

  2. Just as important, actually: What’s the reaction in America to the U.S.-led assault on Fallujah?

    I’d venture it’s something along the lines of “deep ambivalence.” I don’t know if it’s post-election weariness with the daily news cycle, or if it’s Americans’ general apathy regarding the details of Iraq, but the Fallujah stuff isn’t even close to becoming the stuff of watercooler chatter.

    While the Fallujah assault is certainly an important campaign in the Battle of Iraq, and thus a vital moment in the War on Terrorism, I think most of our fellow citizens give it little more than passing attention.

    I suspect that’s because deep down, we all know our military can pretty much whup ass whenever it really has to. No matter how “badly” things have gone in Iraq during the past year, everybody inherently knows that when it comes down to it, we can always, easily take care of bidness.

  3. I am in Iraq, and the only channel I get when I get to watch tv, is the ghastly AFN network.

    And I like to watch the news to see what is on the news back home about what is going on over here. I see half an hour of Scott Peterson crap, and a few images of Falluja.

    How can Scott Peterson’s crap be more interesting or more entertaining than Falluja?

    Forget that, how can there not me more interesting shit in the US to talk about? I can’t even fathom the Peterson stuff getting more than a passing mention.

  4. I, perhaps like a lot of people, just don’t give a fuck about Iraq. There are two reasons for this apathy I think:

    * I can’t do anything about what is happening there (besides whatever donations I give to aid organizations).

    * Its not like the Bush administration cares about my opinions now that they are re-elected.

  5. Jason,

    Well, that’s pretty much true if you disagree with President Bush and his goals. He’s spelled them out clearly and I expect he’ll be successful in implementing them. That’s the way it goes when you prevail over EVIL. Truth to tell, he probably didn’t care about your opinions before he was re-elected.
    Regards,
    Sam Boogliodemus

  6. Sam Boogliodemus,

    My point is of course that you get involved in things that you can do something about.

  7. Kwais,

    I see half an hour of Scott Peterson crap, and a few images of Falluja. How can Scott Peterson’s crap be more interesting or more entertaining than Falluja?

    The reason is because Peterson footage is easy to get, whereas to get a story from Fallujah, journalists risk having their heads shot off. They’re too scared to leave their hotel these days, remember? Rule No. 1 of journalism: Journalists are pussies.

  8. While never one to give up an oppurtunity to beat up on the press, I think it’s overly simplistic to call them pussies.

    A news organization, good or bad, is a business and run as such. If more people tune into that crap, they put it on more often. It’s a fairly easy scenario.

    Just like an election, the people vote by what they watch. And just like an election, most people are woefully uninformed and lacking in even a glimmer of motivation to seek knowledge for it’s own sake.

  9. It is telling that what apparently alienates the mass of moderate Moslems is not that the Jihadis are brutal and horrible, killing many people, but most importantly, that many of the people killed are Moslems. Not just people, as if that weren’t enough. But Moslems. Maybe if the one of the World Trade Centers fell on a mosque, the Moslem world would have felt different about 9/11 than it does.

  10. Seymour, did you give a shit about the Taliban before 9/11?

  11. I’ve read a lot of articles about OBL using war weariness in the US to force the troops out of the Middle East. The thinking is if there are enough american deaths in Iraq and related fronts of the terror war, the weak American public will demand that the troops be brought home.

    Perhaps OBL did not consider the war weariness of the trans national arab people. Since it seems that he wants to institute a pan arabic empire, he needs to take the feeleings of the average arab into account, but he might have miscalculated that all arabs hate western culture as much as he does?

  12. Six,

    I will admit that there are certainly technological, logistical difficulties in obtaining and transmitting video, photos, etc. out of Fallujah, more so than out of the Peterson courtroom, and that this partly accounts for any imbalance. But you can’t blame a dearth of Fallujah stories on a lack of interest by the audience. You’re really going to argue that ratings or polls show that folks would rather watch Scotty P. than explosions and insurgents receiving the smackdown? News organizations ARE businesses, I agree. But it would be a mistake to say that market response trumps all other concerns or priorities. In cases like this, it has less to do with markets than with asset acquirement: it’s easier, cheaper, and safer to get Peterson stuff than Fallujah stuff.

    Oh, and Kwais? God speed. Come home safe.

  13. “Seymour, did you give a shit about the Taliban before 9/11?”

    joe-

    It’s interesting you bring this up as I have been giving it some thought lately. I remember back in the mid 90’s there were mass emails making the rounds about the taliban. As I recall they were all from a couple of feminist groups and they primarily focused on the oppression of women; forced out of jobs, forced to stay home, forced into a burqua… Later there was the business with the giant Buddhas. However, I don’t recall any reports of harboring terrorist and their training camps.

  14. The BBC has “embedded” journalists with the American troops.

    imo, Europe gets more news about more stuff than the US does. Plus, we get to watch the 15-minute flagship CBS Evening News. (15 minutes after subtracting all the commercials and station breaks.)

    (perhaps I exaggerate. a tad.)

  15. Another reason for the muted Arab response is that we’re clearly winning in Falujah. If we were getting our nose bloodied, it would be non-stop coverage on Al Jazeera.

  16. The only problem with that theory is that it assumes that no pictures or videos will ever come out of Fallujah.

    Deep ambivalance can become rage with 5 minutes of videotape, I expect that photos and video from Fallujah (and not the embed-restricted stuff either) will start appearing not long after we declare “Mission Accomplished”.

  17. Talk about convenient omissions… MacFarquhar treats the Bahrain parlimentary debate as evidence of broader Arab sentiment, while completely omitting the fact that: a) the US has a giant military base in the country; and b) the Bahraini royal family’s hold on power is maintained in large part by the omnipresent threat of US military action if the Shi’a population of the island were to actually rise up.

  18. imo, Europe gets more news about more stuff than the US does.

    Since Euros and Americans both have access to the internet, I think we all have access to exactly the same amount of information.

    The Euros may get more prepped and spun information than the Americans via various state-owned or sanctioned outlets, but I don’t know that we should count that as a plus.

  19. This may come as a surprise to you RC, but a significant majority of Americans (like 70%+, as I recall) report that their primary news source is still something other than the Internet.

  20. Todd:
    “If we were getting our nose bloodied, it would be non-stop coverage on Al Jazeera.”

    If you bothered to read the linked article, you will find this paragraph:

    “Another factor is that because the American marines have seized the hospital in Falluja, television and newspapers have not been able to show pictures of bleeding women and children being taken into emergency wards. Al Jazeera, the Arab-language satellite news station, also says during almost every report that its Iraq bureau was closed by the interim government. “

  21. “Europe gets more news about more stuff than the US does”

    The world is a lot smaller than you think. It is trivial to read such disperate sources as Fox news and the Islamic Republic Wire. If you chose to limit yourself to the local brand of government sponsored news access is the least of your worries. By the way, looks like the BBC is going to cut half it’s staff. Funny, the BBC isn’t carrying that story.

  22. In the Atlantic Monthly, in August of 2001 for christsakes, there was a very prescient article about the wild areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan and the hatred of America being fomented.

    Of course it was written by a “pussy” journalist who was brave enough to travel there.

  23. Trainwreck,

    Sebastian Junger met with Masood, the head of the Northern Alliance, just days before he was assassinated by AQ and 9/11 took place, and wrote about it in a great piece for Nat Geo Adventure. So nyahh.

    There are the brave few, but in the aggregate, yes, they’re mainly a bunch of poofters.

  24. Kerry is no different than Bush, you are a fool if you think as much.

    The world is a lot smaller than you think.

    As a fool who thinks the world is rather more complex (ie, “big”) than some here, let me first take this opportunity to thank you for your ongoing efforts to teach me humility. It is always a great honour to read the writing of someone so obviously superior and yet so generous towards his intellectual inferiors.

    That said… If you chose to limit yourself to the local brand of government sponsored news access is the least of your worries.

    Yes. We idiots have so much to worry about.

    I presume you are not talking about BBC programmes such as “Have I Got News for You?” or “Dead Ringers” which, in their delightfully pro-government way, take great pleasure in ridiculing Bush, Blair, bin Laden, Blunkett…

    I am fortunate in having been taught to push the buttons on the remote control. As a result, I have at my fingertips 16 different news channels, not including al-Jazeera (which I watch only rarely, my Arabic being limited to things such as “I’ll have coffee, thanks” and “I hope you’re having a nice day, God willing”), a channel out of Abu Dhabi, and a couple of Indian news channels.

    By the way, looks like the BBC is going to cut half it’s staff. Funny, the BBC isn’t carrying that story.

    Yes. The speculation is a huge secret. No one in Britain knows, since they’re all obliged to watch only BBC News.

    By the way, “it’s” with an apostrophe is “it is”. I believe you meant to write “its”. Or perhaps I was too foolish to pay attention in first grade.

  25. Since we announced this battle about 6 months ago — all the bad ass jihadists (aka the smart ones) got the fuck out of Fallujah. Basically we are fighting local residents standing up for their town — this is Iraqi ‘Red Dawn’ — this is why a few hundred insurgents have put up as much resistance as they have — they know every alley in the city like the back of their hand and have military training. Personally I’m rooting for Muhamed Swayze.

    All the insurgents in Fallujah, if you hadn’t noticed, have moved elsewhere — Mosul being taken over, Ramadi being taken over — the greater Baghdad area in more chaos than usual — Fallujah is simply one town we have to retake — several more brutal campaigns await us. Do we have the political will to withstand 5-10 KIA and 100 wounded a day?

    I certainly hope not.

  26. ‘efforts to teach me humility. It is always a great honour to read the writing of someone so obviously superior and yet so generous towards his intellectual inferiors.”…”Yes. We idiots have so much to worry about.’

    You’re a little sensitive, aren’t you? Lighten up a bit, it’s just a blog.

    ‘I presume you are not talking about BBC programmes such as “Have I Got News for You?” or “Dead Ringers” which, in their delightfully pro-government way, take great pleasure in ridiculing Bush, Blair, bin Laden, Blunkett…’

    You don’t have to convince me of the notorious left lean of the BBC. The BBC World is the ONLY place I have heard depleted uranium shells referred to as nuclear weapons. This is the problem with government sponsored news, they inevitably reflect the political leanings of the government. News is best left to the private sector.

    ‘By the way, “it’s” with an apostrophe is “it is”. I believe you meant to write “its”. Or perhaps I was too foolish to pay attention in first grade.’

    What can I say? I’ve never been good with grammar or spelling, thank god for spell checkers. I’m certain it is an undiagnosed learning disability. It cheers me to see the true colors of those who see themselves as tolerant and inclusive. I expected more from the man who has posted so much on dignity. Well, not really. đŸ˜‰

  27. Slag –

    Agreed, but logistical concerns are buiness decisions as well. It’s simply cost/benefit, so you might be correct that more people would watch war coverage, but just not enough so that it outweighs the lower number of people watching a less expensive broadcast.

    We just truly don’t know unless we could see all the numbes, or somehow find good coverage of the war that actually rates higher than Scotty.

    Good point though.

  28. oh you of little faith, spur!

    don’t you know that iraq is a huge coup de grace, brilliant stroke of realpolitik by the bush administration! as someone wrote here when the war was debated from fixed positions, “smart people know the real reason for war”, implying that it was some grand plan to surround saudi arabia and then choke them off. you know, “the more you tighten your grip, the more starsystems…”.

    they knew this would happen. it’s all part of the plan i tell you! they are fully aware of where the badguys are.

    they are masters of realpolitik. they know! THEY KNOW!!!

  29. R.C. Dean,

    I dunno, the last time I watched LCI or read Le Figaro it wasn’t state-owned. Then again, its not like we don’t have a state-owned press in the U.S. – PBS and NPR that is. You need a reality check.

  30. “we don’t have a state-owned press in the U.S. – PBS and NPR that is”

    A significant portion of their state funding was cut several years ago. This is what happens to state media that offends the bureaucrats.

  31. spur: “Basically we are fighting local residents standing up for their town”

    This news account would tend to support that:

    http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=246764

    It describes all males ages 15 to 55 being turned back at checkpoints and returned to the city. That’s got to be worth at least a couple hundred extra “anti-Iraqi” insurgents right there. Not to mention this gem:

    “Once the battle ends, military officials say all surviving military-age men can expect to be tested for explosive residue, catalogued, checked against insurgent databases and interrogated about ties with the guerrillas. U.S. and Iraqi troops are in the midst of searching homes, and plan to check every house in the city for weapons.”

    Oh, yeah, that will prove the United States’ good intentions toward the Iraqi people…

  32. ‘It describes all males ages 15 to 55 being turned back at checkpoints and returned to the city. That’s got to be worth at least a couple hundred extra “anti-Iraqi” insurgents right there.’

    That caught my attention also. I tried to picture what it must be like for some average family guy who has endured months of occupation by the islamo fascist only to be turned back into the city to face them AND the marines. Fucking nuts, find a hole and hide.

  33. I don’t think even the Bush administration really believes this battle will achieve anything. We’ve got to win, because if we don’t win, we lose. And it looks bad when we lose. Sound familiar? Oh Mr. President, we can’t afford to look like a Paper Tiger. I can’t be the only one who remembers “Paper Tiger.”

    There’s no there there. Does anyone believe the government we installed is any closer to being able to adminster the country and achieve security than it was a year ago? There are more Iraqi troops available to desert, change sites, or stand down. Whoopie.

    Iraq was supposed to be like Afghanistan, with the Chalabites standing in for the Northern Alliance. The whole plan was to replace the hostile regime with a friendlier opposition. But there is no opposition in Iraq, so we’re scrambling around trying to invent one. But the Iraqis don’t seem to be buying it.

    Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time.

  34. sunken cost fallacy, joe. sunken cost fallacy.

    still it looks like we’re winning the hearts and minds. maybe some torture could help…

    “Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time” since maybe korea (maybe – pre invasion going north) when would be the right time?

  35. joe-
    “Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time.”
    A bit more credible comming from someone who DIDN’T vote for the use of force.

  36. drf, Afghanistan 2002 was the right war, in the right place, at the right time. Iraq 1991 – right war, right place, maybe slightly wrong time.

    Use of force AUTHORIZATION, pig man. Are you being deliberately misleading, or are you really this clueless?

    Granting someone the right to do something is not the same thing as approving every action he takes to use that authority. Does the fact that the LAPD had the right to arrest people make the actions of Stacey Koon right? Do LA citizens have no credibility to denounce the Rodney King beating, because they supported allowing the police to arrest people when necessary?

    Bush said he would let the inspectors do their job; he didn’t. He said it was still possible to avoid war; it wasn’t. He said he would not rush to war; he did. He said he would build a strong coaltion; he didn’t. He said he would only go in with a clear plan to win the peace; he didn’t. So yes, someone who supported allowing him to make these decisions has plenty of room to legitimately bitch about how poorly they were carried out.

  37. joe-

    ‘Does the fact that the LAPD had the right to arrest people make the actions of Stacey Koon right? Do LA citizens have no credibility to denounce the Rodney King beating, because they supported allowing the police to arrest people when necessary?’

    Are you suggesting a law was broken, are you suggesting that Bush didn’t comply with the UFA? Lets get an independent council an indict.

    ‘Granting someone the right to do something is not the same thing as approving every action he takes to use that authority.’

    It seems to me the point of legislative checks on the executive branch are to avoid abuse of power, not abdicate responsability. This is the nature of power, it begs for abuse. I am unsurprised to see the executive branch try to consolidate power, I am disgusted when I see the legislature and judiciary let it.

    ‘So yes, someone who supported allowing him to make these decisions has plenty of room to legitimately bitch about how poorly they were carried out.’

    I’m clueless? Of all things a lawyer should have known exactly what limitations were placed by the UFA. Kerry deserves and equal share of responsability in this mess.

  38. “Are you suggesting a law was broken, are you suggesting that Bush didn’t comply with the UFA?”

    Not at all. I’m suggesting that Shrub utilized his legally-acquired authority in an incompetant, dishonest, destructive, counterproductive manner. You know, sort of like 51% of American voters.

    “Kerry deserves and equal share of responsability in this mess.” I don’t know about “equal.” Bush made all of the bad decisions in the rush to war and the poor planning. Kerry made none of them – he even warned the president not to make them.

    But yes, it was a mistake to believe to take George Bush’s word. It was a mistake to believe he would be able to act like a responsible leader. It was a mistake to trust his judgement, and to believe he was being honest about the threat. But contra Animan House, the guy who trashes your car when you lend it to him does not get the pass you the buck because he talked you into giving him the keys.

  39. hey joe!

    i have to give another whoops – you’re totally right – afghanistan. and my apologies about that. talk about mega good idea.

    okay – that’s two beers i owe you. đŸ™‚

    cheers,
    drf

  40. ‘the guy who trashes your car when you lend it to him does not get the pass you the buck because he talked you into giving him the keys.’

    I have the good judgment not to lend people my expensive stuff. It seems we agree that we are talking about a matter of judgment, or rather poor judgment.

    ‘it was a mistake to believe to take George Bush’s word’

    No shit? Since when does a Democrat take a self confessed Republican Hawk at their word about war? Better to place restrictive stipulations in the UFA. Someone more cynical than you or I might think that senator Kerry intentionally voted for a draft with vague restrictions. This would give him leverage if the war proved to be unpopular.

  41. Afghanistan 2002 was the right war, in the right place, at the right time.

    I disagree with that judgment. imo, Afghanistan was the easy option.

    (The following is from memory from a post on another thread.)

    None of the 911 terrorists was an Afghan. Almost all of them were Yemeni or Saudi nationals.

    During the first few weeks of the war, it was estimated that up to 5000 Afghan civilians were killed by US and British war planes. Since then, who knows how many Afghans were killed?

    Disrupting al Qaeda in Afghanistan didn’t disrupt al Qaeda cells in other countries. Spain, for example. Nor can we claim the lack of terrorist attacks in the US is “a safer America”. For 7 and a half years after the first Twin Towers bombing, there was no al Qaeda attack with the US.

    From an article in The Economist by Richard Haass, “the man in charge of policy and planning at the State Department in 2001-03”:

    In Afghanistan, the task of creating a modern state still suffers from the initial decision to limit America’s role in nation-building. The central government is weak, warlords are strong and poppy production is at record levels. It is unlikely that this effort, any more than those against terrorism or in Iraq, will be completed before Mr Bush leaves office.

  42. Wouldn’t the Afghans be better off if the poppies were legalized? Those poor farmers are just supplying a demand. We’ll see if the war on jihad turns out better than the war on dope.

  43. corrections:

    Nor can we claim the lack of terrorist attacks in the US has resulted in “a safer America”.

    there was no al Qaeda attack within the US.

  44. pigwiggle,

    If you think back, there were two resolutions, one which would have required Bush to report back to Congress on the inspection efforts before launching the war (Biden-Lugar), and one that gave him a blank check (Gephardt). Kerry supported the former, but the latter got pushed through instead. Kerry believed it was important to take some action against Iraq, and had the choice of voting for or against the available bill to authorize him to do just that. When he did so, he gave a floor statement warning Bush about the dangers, and advising him about what not to every. Every single mistake Kerry warned him away from, Bush went on to make.

  45. I remember the speech. It?s kind of like giving a five year old a pocketknife, ?Don?t cut yourself son?. Ten minutes later you?re on your way to the emergency room for stitches. It turns out the speech wasn?t the important part.

  46. Once again, a more cynical person than you or I might conclude that the vote and speech allowed him to simultaneously provide support for the invasion and denounce it if it went bad. It is consistent, after the vote he gives a speech detailing what he thinks the president might do with the new authority. He knew exactly what he was voting for.

  47. George Bush repeatedly assured the country, and Congress, that he would pursue a completely different course of action than he ended up following.

    We’ve only got one president. If there’s a job that needs to be done, you either authorize the president to do it, or it doesn’t get done.

    It is not John Kerry’s fault that the president we had to work with was a dishonest, incompetant fool, who isn’t good for his word.

  48. Right War. Right Place. Right Time.

    …after all, Kerry said it COULD be won (re: claiming he could win it, and would, if elected) so, how could it be wrong?

    joe, it is Kerry who promoted the “sunken cost” theory, that he would have to pursue the war to a successful conclusion.

    But if the war could be concluded successfully with only a marginally better execution – on the highly implausible assumption that Kerry had anything special to contribute apart from hindsight claims that he wouldn’t have made any of the mistakes already made) then how could the war be a bad idea?

  49. if the war could be concluded successfully… then how could the war be a bad idea?

    Are you saying that any “war” America wants to get herself involved in is a good idea because she must win (militarily)?

    If this specific war, why?

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