All Is for the Best, in the Best of All Possible Occupations

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Jim Henley shreds the latest shipment of Good News The MSM Doesn't Want You To Hear about Iraq. Tim Cavanaugh cast a skeptical eye at the Green Zone gospel in our February ish.

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  1. What’s “MSM”? I hate acronyms! Especially clever insider joke acronyms.

  2. I don’t know if what he wrote really constitutes a “shred” –he basically pointed out that Peter’s numbers for prewar electricity availability were perhaps dubious and satellite photos can be faked.
    Also there were reports of violence everyday in a nation of millions, which . . . what? Were supposed to contradict his claims of “calm” and “quiet” where he was? And this makes him an “active agent in a disinformation campaign” ? No wonder so few take lefties seriously these days.

  3. Mike: MSM = MainStream Media

    as opposed to those outsider bastions of truth, justice and the ‘murikun way at Fox Propaganda Generation News

  4. I’m sure Jim will be tickled to be mistaken for a lefty.

  5. So any improvements to the lives of Iraqis is supposed to be unreported?
    I don’t know about the truths about electricity, but there are some places that have benefited from U.S. intervention.
    Not enough to justify this stupid war, but I think our news is clearly one-sided.
    I think the biggest fear to Americans is seeing video of happy kids attending a school in a region of Iraq that they were unable to show their faces at. This would give more power to Bush (supposedly). But using “reason” we can say, yeah so some kids are better off right now, but the means sure aren’t justified.

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2003/07/mil-030711-usmc01.htm

  6. My favorite detail was Peters’ Michael Mooresque summoning of the sight of a child at play in the streets as proof that all is well in Mesopotamia.

  7. I think the biggest fear to Americans is seeing video of happy kids attending a school in a region of Iraq that they were unable to show their faces at.

    Really, is that our biggest fear? Because I thought what we were afraid of is seeing happy kids toddle off to school, and then a few weeks later, seeing the same kids’ shredded body parts strewn all over a pile of rubble because the local Islamofascist f*ckwads disdained the education of girls.

    If I could correct you, I think what we’re really afraid of is that stability is not necessarily a by-product of U.S. intervention.

  8. Hey, we painted some schools. That were later blown up, burnt down, or turned into fundamentalist madrasses.

    (Did we really paint schools or was another thing something some journalist or blogger on the take made up?)

    That Derb link in the Henley link was a good one.

  9. I’m not sure if this was supposed to be a serious argument or not — the fact that it seems to have been posted by a diaper bag suggests it wasn’t — but I’ll reply anyway:

    Also there were reports of violence everyday in a nation of millions, which . . . what? Were supposed to contradict his claims of “calm” and “quiet” where he was?

    You’ve got it backwards: Peters’ claims of calm and quiet where he was were supposed to contradict the reports of increased violence. The fact that violence occured elsewhere (and was more substantial than the usual “reports of violence everyday in a nation of millions”) kinda undermines his argument.

  10. I don’t know why everybody complains about the lack of electricity in Iraq. Lebanon hasn’t had a war for almost twenty years and the electricity goes off every couple hours there.

  11. Sullivan this week linked to two contrasting current energy status quotes — the one Henley is shredding/not shredding and the one below, from Time’s bureau manager, Ali al-Shaheen:

    “My house is in what you might call a middle-class neighborhood in central Baghdad. I should start with the caveat that things there are better than in many other parts of the city – and the country.
    But, we have state-supplied electricity six or seven hours a day. And this is actually an improvement! During the summer, we get three or four hours of electricity a day. Almost every house has a generator, running almost constantly. You can imagine the noise and pollution from thousands of generators – hundreds of thousands, if you count all of Baghdad.
    Another problem is that all the generators run on gasoline, and prices have shot up. One litre of gasoline used to cost 20 Iraqi dinars before the fall of Saddam; now, it’s 250 dinars. Just as demand has soared, supplies have fallen, so you see long queues of people at gas stations. These are a favorite target for suicide bombers.
    Before the war, we had 20 hours of electricity a day in Baghdad. Of course, other parts of the country were not so lucky; in some places, there was only 12 hours of electricity.”

    http://www.time.com/time/question/life_in_baghdad.htm

  12. so you see long queues of people at gas stations. These are a favorite target for suicide bombers.

    If there weren’t quite so many suicide bombers the lines might be a little shorter. It’s hard to produce anything when you’re at risk of getting blown up anywhere and everywhere you go.

    What filters through the news, MSM and otherwise, is that the suicide bombers and the IEDs are a far greater risk to the average Iraqi than American troops are. Saddam was able to control Iraq because he wasn’t afraid to wipe out a few thousand “innocent” civilians at a time. Iraqis obeyed law and order to some degree because they were afraid. Now nobody is slapping them around, so now they aren’t afraid.

    I predict Iraq isn’t going to calm down until somebody makes them feel fear once again. I predict the US will not do it.

    Which is a key reason we should not be trying to “manage” populations whose favorite pass time is suicide bombing and making IEDs.

    The Iraqis, and US handling of Iraq, deserve roughly equal measures of contempt. I don’t know who’s shredding who’s stories here, but nobody is really discussing this angle and I think it’s key.

    The fact that a US failure to install a semi-sane Iraqi government will also mean that Suicide-Bombs-Are-Us will probably take over the second largest oil reserves on the globe is also key.

  13. For le dernier cri on the Iraq electricity situation: http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/feb06/2831

    This is a most excellent article written in a publication devoted to that particular industry by someone who happens to know what questions to ask and who to go to for answers.

    As for Peters, well, what can you say about a tourist who goes to a foreign country and never leaves the tour group? I know people who vacation in the Caribbean and never leave the resort. They could be anywhere for all they know. The fact remains that it is unsafe for any American to walk alone in Iraq. The insurgents will get them and no one will help them if they are attacked. Even US soldiers do not leave their compounds in anything less than platoon strength. Things are not going well.

    Peters was a soldier, which means he should know very well that war zones are not a theater of nonstop violence. In a guerrilla war, at any given time, most of the country is at peace. It’s the fact that violence could happen at any time that leaves the population and the government psychologically exhausted and ready to give in to the guerrillas’ demands. He was only there for a few days. I’ll bet the stress didn’t get to him. He should try living there without US Army escorts for a couple of years.

    As for not taking “lefties” seriously, a majority of Americans think the war is going badly and the President in incompetent. If people were discounting the war critics, Peters would have no reason to write his screed denouncing them, would he?

  14. Claims of civil war. In the wake of the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, a flurry of sectarian attacks inspired wild media claims of a collapse into civil war. It didn’t happen. Driving and walking the streets of Baghdad, I found children playing and, in most neighborhoods, business as usual. Iraq can be deadly, but, more often, it’s just dreary.

    Iraqi disunity. Factional differences are real, but overblown in the reporting. Few Iraqis support calls for religious violence. After the Samarra bombing, only rogue militias and criminals responded to the demagogues’ calls for vengeance. Iraqis refused to play along, staging an unrecognized triumph of passive resistance.

    he didn’t seem to shred this part of article.

    MSM’s exagerated claims of civil war are ongoing and indefencable.

  15. MSM’s exagerated claims of civil war are ongoing and indefencable.

    I laughed a couple weeks back yahoo ran news article saying some huge fraction of the US public “believes” civil war in Iraq is immenent. What do you expect when they tell you on the headlines 100 times a day “it’s a civil war!”.

    It isn’t civil war. It’s a handful of lunatics setting up IEDs and suicide bombers, mostly taking out Iraqi civilians. And we expect these people to be able to govern themselves in a civilized manner? What’s getting shredded here is that very theory.

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s possible for people to actually know what the hell is going on with anything, in spite of all the great things that come with the electronic age.

  16. If IEDs and suicide bombers were in use in the US as they are currently in Iraq, how would our government deal with it?

    With slaughter and imprisonment, as it does with drug dealers (or those mistaken as such). Our militias got worked. Iraq doesn’t have a “modern”, pervasive law enforcement apparatus like we do.

    Although I’ve long thought that we should stay the course, I’m coming to the conclusion that the presence of our troops is only delaying the inevitable.

    Are there simply too many “angry young men” for Iraq to be stable? Did Germany and Japan become peaceful only because the vast majority of their angry young men were annihilated?

    What, if anything, will bring peace to Iraq?

    Why does humanity suck so badly? Is it because we are nothing more than big-headed, mostly hairless apes?

    I’m depressed. : (

  17. “Did Germany and Japan become peaceful only because the vast majority of their angry young men were annihilated?”

    I think the difference is that the Germans and Japanese were not really comprised of angry young men. They just happened to be ruled by them (well, maybe not young, and maybe not angry as much as insane, but …). Their militarism was not fueled by popular belief in violence as much as propaganda was used to create popular support for violent foreign policy. I think they were stable countries with a history of relatively peaceful internal existence, lacking in major sectarian strife.

    Compare and contrast with the ME and Ireland for much of the 20th Century, and you’ll see why Japan and Germany are poor analogies for nation-building in the ME. The problems are (were) angry young men, motivated by sectarian concerns. They’re not so much following their state as they are seeking to lash out against those who they perceive as oppressing them and preventing them from creating their prefferred state.

    To me, the problem is that much of the ME has learned a bad lesson under colonialism and subsequent intervention – they believe that violence and control of the apparatus of the state is the only way to solve problems. They no longer understand the power of voluntary cooperation and peaceful coexistence, or perhaps, more accurately, they don’t understand that violence and the existence of pervasive states are what caused their problems in the first place.

    I’m not sure that any outside influence can instill these values in the ME – they’re going to have to learn it for themselves, and unfortunately, it looks like they’re going to learn it the hard way, like Europe (partially) did. Although, until we started threatening Iran, it looked like the young generation in Iran was figuring it out. Now, however, we’re stirring up nationalist sentiment there, and that usually wipes out any popular movement to reform government, and in fact, causes people to embrace their government. Look how well it worked here!

  18. To me, the problem is that much of the ME has learned a bad lesson under colonialism and subsequent intervention – they believe that violence and control of the apparatus of the state is the only way to solve problems.

    I think that’s pretty much indigenous, going all the way back to the Sumerians and into pre-history.

    Wars are not really a very good method for nation-building, unless one adopts the Roman method of annihilation and population/culture replacement, which I don’t think even the hawkiest of the hawks in the Bush Administration would support. Might provide some relief for high real estate prices in the USA, though.

  19. MSM = any member of the media that is not rabidly pro-Bush and that has the gall to ignore the GOP talking points and tell the American people the truth.

  20. Scott,

    If you think the mainstream media tells the truth, you’re a fool of epic proportions.

  21. My bad, the official truth is only available from Rush O’Hannity and the rest of the GOP propaganda machine. If the GOP and Fox News doesn’t report it as fact, then it must be lies designed to tarnish the reputation of our divine leader and interrupt the completion of his holy mission. I am so sorry to have been duped by my own use of common sense and reason. Next time, I will faithfully listen to only GOP approved news outlets and not let my mind be confused by any dissenting opinions or information.

    Anytime you see the acronym MSM used, you know you are dealing with a mindless GOP tool.

  22. To me, the problem is that much of the ME has learned a bad lesson under colonialism and subsequent intervention – they believe that violence and control of the apparatus of the state is the only way to solve problems.

    ChrisO is right, this problem is a whole lot older than the colonial era.

    They no longer understand the power of voluntary cooperation and peaceful coexistence

    It’s not clear to me that the ME ever did understand this very well. Even under the Ottomans the gov’t stucture was fairly loose.

    I’m not sure that any outside influence can instill these values in the ME – they’re going to have to learn it for themselves

    The historical way people “learn” is by getting their heads knocked together until they finally stop the BS. It’s not unlike disciplining a bunch of spoiled brat kids on an elementary shool playground.

    If you look at the history books the head knocking was the beginning of most nations and empires, not just the Romans. And no, the US public isn’t going to go for doing it.

    The Real Bill,

    I’m depressed. : (

    I can relate. But like it or not disciplining the children is how every great civilization has begun. We wouldn’t have any civilization today if somebody hadn’t imposed their idea of law and order on the masses they conquered.

    The problem is as Machiavelli said: men are afraid to do all the evil that good requires.

  23. If you look at the history books the head knocking was the beginning of most nations and empires, not just the Romans. And no, the US public isn’t going to go for doing it.

    Actually, head-lopping would be more like it if we’re talking about the Romans (or really most pre-18th Century nations). The incessant dynastic wars of medieval and early-modern Europe aren’t in the same category, but the rules established in such “gentleman’s wars” have become the basis for our modern theories of the ‘rules of war’, and have proven inadequate over time in the face of ’empire-building.’

    The Romans were able to occupy large swaths of hostile territory for centuries by the precise method of killing most of the indigenous males, selling the women and children into slavery, and settling Roman soldiers onto the now-vacant land, which had the effect of Romanizing the few remaining cowering indigenous types. Thus the modern existence of French and Spanish culture.

    By contrast, the Mongol method was simply to rush in and kill as many people as necessary, as often as necessary, after which the docile payment of tribute and levies looked like a pretty good alternative for the few remaining cowering indigenous types (c.f., Russia).

    The British method was much cheaper–apply just enough military force to effect initial conquest, followed by a cultural co-optation of the local elites (c.f., India). Worked for a surprisingly long time, given the lack of annihilation and the relatively small number of boots on the ground.

    The American method appears to be one of two alternatives: (1) apply overwhelming military force to effect conquest and short-term occupation, followed by infusion of rebuilding dollars and lots of smoke up the ass about “the American way,” or (2) apply inadequate military force and fight drawn-out war against insurgents (Iraq, Vietnam) and/or hostile, but pathetic neighbor (Korea, Vietnam), working in tandem with infusion of rebuilding dollars and lots of smoke up the ass about “winning hearts and minds.” The first method worked reasonably well in WWII and looked like it might be the way that Operation Iraqi Freedom would go. Alas, we appear to have moved into the second version, which is a problem.

    Americans are too squeamish and soft to be conquerers. Not that I’m saying that’s a bad thing…

  24. Christopher Allbritton, who has been in Iraq a bit longer than Peters and who is not coddled by military escorts, also takes a dim view of Peter’s reporting.

  25. “The historical way people “learn” is by getting their heads knocked together until they finally stop the BS. It’s not unlike disciplining a bunch of spoiled brat kids on an elementary shool playground.”

    This doesn’t actually seem to describe the development of a liberal, democratic republic in the United States.

  26. And we expect these people to be able to govern themselves in a civilized manner?

    What you mean “we,” white man?

  27. This doesn’t actually seem to describe the development of a liberal, democratic republic in the United States.

    The US is, actually, an anamoly. Look at Europe, look at China, look at India, look at Egypt, look at….that’s enough.

  28. Americans are too squeamish and soft to be conquerers. Not that I’m saying that’s a bad thing…

    I’d agree with that.

    I’d say that’s true today of Europe as well. I’ll also note that the UN is a European concept that was floating around almost a century before the League of Nations was first formed. Which is one reason I have little faith in the UN to deal with most real world problems outside Europe.

  29. What you mean “we,” white man?

    Pardone, musheer, it was a figure of speech. It is true, there are those who never thought the US could succeed.

  30. This doesn’t actually seem to describe the development of a liberal, democratic republic in the United States.

    btw, the US came close to fighting the Civil War right after the Revolution. We didn’t miss the strife and violence by all that much.

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