Iraq Archives

Not Just Another Press Release

You expect this sort of talk from the Bush administration.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq faces an “extraordinary crisis”. Last year’s mass defection of ordinary Sunnis from al-Qaeda to the US military “created panic, fear and the unwillingness to fight”. The terrorist group’s security structure suffered “total collapse”.

But this is not the script from the latest press briefing in DC.

These are the words not of al-Qaeda’s enemies but of one of its own leaders in Anbar province — once the group’s stronghold. They were set down last summer in a 39-page letter seized during a US raid on an al-Qaeda base near Samarra in November.

The US military released extracts from that letter yesterday along with a second seized in another November raid that is almost as startling.

That second document is a bitter 16-page testament written last October by a local al-Qaeda leader near Balad, north of Baghdad. “I am Abu-Tariq, emir of the al-Layin and al-Mashahdah sector,” the author begins. He goes on to describe how his force of 600 shrank to fewer than 20.

“We were mistreated, cheated and betrayed by some of our brothers,” he says. “Those people were nothing but hypocrites, liars and traitors and were waiting for the right moment to switch sides with whoever pays them most.”

Given that, this pronouncement seems at odds with reality.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said twice Sunday that Iraq “is a failure,” adding that President Bush’s troop surge has “not produced the desired effect.”

“The purpose of the surge was to create a secure time for the government of Iraq to make the political change to bring reconciliation to Iraq,” Pelosi said on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “They have not done that.”

The speaker hastened to add: “The troops have succeeded, God bless them.”

If al Qaeda is having to regroup and has lost all this ground, then the Iraqi government does have “a secure time”, at least far more secure than it has been. If that’s her definition of success, I’d say the Surge has been quite successful.

That the Iraqis have had a tough time coming together and resolving differences is simply human nature in action. As I mentioned earlier, culture and tribalism can work against a shared national identity, both in Afghanistan and Iraq. It will take time, but we are giving them that time, successfully.

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The Long Road to Democracy

Some on the anti-war Left, while they disagree with having gone into Iraq, did agree that entering Afghanistan was justified, since we were attacked by al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden was being harbored there. That’s a fair and debatable point. However, bringing democracy to the country is proving difficult for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the culture.

In an article on “Strategy Page”, some of the reasons are listed.

NATO military officials understand that not enough foreign troops are in Afghanistan to shut down the Taliban, but also realize that unless the Afghan government can deal with its own problems (corruption, mainly, but lack of administrative skills, religious bigotry and incompetence), the country will continue to be a lawless, poor, and violent backwater in a rapidly changing world. The senior people in the Afghan government are trying, but the obstacles are formidable. The drug trade fits in with traditional Afghan, “get all you can, when you can, any way you can” attitudes. Meantime, the establishment of a national government has backfired in some respects. Religious conservatives are trying to impose their own version of Islam in the entire country via the courts. This is causing unrest, just as it did when the Taliban tried the same thing in the 1990s. The national government has a tricky problem here, since religious tolerance is not an Afghan custom. In the past, the different parts of the country simply ignored each other, because there was no national government that actually imposed national laws everywhere. Whenever that has been tried, like in the 1970s by a communist dominated government, the results are disastrous (as in rebellion and much civil disorder).

Note how culture plays much of a role, and the idea of a shared national identity, outside of tribe and religion, is required for democracy to flourish. In addition, the wrong kind of shared values, such as the “get all you can, when you can, any way you can” thought above, keep this from happening. These are many of the problems faced when giving people control of their own government who have never, in their lives, had this responsibility. Democracy in Afghanistan may be a long time coming, but fortunately the slow progress isn’t being beaten up in the press.

I say all that to say this; cut Iraq some slaq … er, slack. Those suggesting we pull out of Iraq because of their slow progress politically should give it a chance. Radical change takes time. Selfishness is so much easier to express than selflessness, and that’s why building a democracy takes so much effort.

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Shire Network News #110

Shire Network News #110 has been released. The feature interview is with Reut Cohen, a previous guest on SNN. She has decided to join the US Army, much to the shock of some of her friends. She speaks to us about the reasons for her decision, and the reactions she’s received – not all of them positive. Click here for the show notes, links, and ways to listen to the show; directly from the web site, by downloading the mp3 file, or by subscribing with your podcatcher of choice.

The segment I submitted for show 108 was finally used this week, so you can click here to read it.

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Wrong Then, Wrong Now

Harry Reid has made his considered pronouncement about the situation in Iraq. Again.

“Every place you go you hear about no progress being made in Iraq,” said Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid.

“The government is stalemated today, as it was six months ago, as it was two years ago,” Reid told reporters, warning US soldiers were caught in the middle of a civil war.

“It is not getting better, it is getting worse,” he said.

This is the same guy who proclaimed that the Surge had failed 7 months ago, before it really got going. The actual facts were quite a bit different from that, and now he’s doing it again. Why should we believe him now?

(Hint: We shouldn’t.)

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What if They Held a War Movie and Nobody Came?

Hollywood is finding out.

The public isn’t going to Hollywood’s antiwar movies – and it’s not just the hicks if you look at the amazingly-consistent comments on beneath the article: “Hollywood is casualty of war as movie-goers shun Iraq films.” It’s everybody and his brother from Tacoma to Tallahassee, not to mention a large number from abroad. As of last Saturday night, the Agence France Presse report had over 500 comments and counting.

The article itself, not surprisingly anonymously written, is filled with the usual shopworn explanations for the audience’s disinterest. For Lew Harris of, it’s the canard that movies are escapism only. Serious films are just too heavy for the great unwashed. For Gitesh Pandya of, it’s that audiences don’t want to pay for what they already see for free on television (Iraq). Veteran television producer Steve Bocho says it’s hard to gain audience interest in a “hugely unpopular war.”

These liberal folks just can’t believe that anyone disagrees with them. You’d almost expect to hear, “But everyone I know thinks like me.” But, as the comments note, there is another explanation.

The audience members themselves – that is the Breitbart commenters – are having none of this nonsense. The third one down, “Extremely Bored,” puts it this way: “Let me correct this point – I am not weary of war news at all. I am shunning these movies – and many others- because I am tired of Hollywood’s anti-American stance on absolutely everything. However we got into the war, and whatever mistakes were made up to this point, we are one country. We need to win and we need to remain tough against terrorism. It doesn’t benefit anyone to do otherwise. I will go see a movie that reflects that point.”

He is echoed almost immediately by commenter “Lee”: “The real answer – the obvious one that liberals can’t bring themselves to accept – is that most Americans are tired of liberal spinmeisters trashing their country, our soldiers, and our way of life. The Redfords of the world sit in their ivory towers and try to tell us how to think and react based on their own prejudices …”

And so it goes down the page… hundreds, soon thousands.

The problem here is that the Left finds whatever fits their narrative and blows it out of proportion, as I have noted before with the movie “Redacted”. Brian De Palma found a horrifying incident, but then he calls it “the reality” of what’s happening in Iraq, and by extension (i.e. by not showing the positive things happening in Iraq) he and all these writers and directors paint a horrendously proportioned and one-sided picture of the war.

Essentially, all this anti-Americanism does not interest the public. Further, it plays into the hands of our enemies. We are producing their propaganda films for them! (But don’t question their patriotism.)

One other thing this exposes is the canard that Hollywood is a strictly money-making machine, and they only produce what the public wants. You hear this excuse trotted out when someone complains about the excessive and gratuitous sex and violence. But these anti-war movies are not making nearly the money others do, yet they keep making them. Flop after flop hits the theaters, even with big stars in them. If this explanation of Hollywood’s subject matter were true, they’d stop hitting their heads on this particular wall, and they’d also make more G and PG movies.

Truth is, they know the influence they have, and will, in many cases, take the loss to get their views out there, dressed up and made up to look respectable. But it’s still just a pig with lipstick, and the American people are not buying the propaganda this time.

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Shire Network News #104

Shire Network News #104 has been released. The feature interview is with graphic novelist, Bosch Fawstin. Click here for the show notes, links, and ways to listen to the show; directly from the web site, by downloading the mp3 file, or by subscribing with your podcatcher of choice.

Below is the text of my commentary segment.

Hi, this is Doug Payton for Shire Network News, asking you to “Consider This!” placed a full-page ad in the New York Times suggesting that General Petraeus might be called “General Betray Us”., who I assume supports the troops, just not their leaders, and who don’t question anyone’s patriotism, except when they do, says that “Iraq is mired in an unwinnable religious civil war.”

Now, by “unwinnable”, I imagine they mean that we can’t win, by stopping the fighting. And that’s certainly true, especially if you look at history. I mean, the British have been trying to stop Protestant and Catholic violence in Ireland for…. Oh, wait. They did manage to stop the violence. OK, well that’s a good thing, right?

The peace in Ireland came after 38 years of, shall we say, “occupation” by British forces. But is shocked — SHOCKED — that “American troops will need to stay in Iraq for as long as ten years”. So perhaps peace after 38 years was not worth it? Talk about your short attention spans. Talk about your instant gratification culture. These guys must not keep their money in anything longer than a 6-month certificate of deposit. “The Cold War going to last how long? Ah, just give the Soviets what they want. A few innocent looking missiles in Cuba aren’t going to hurt anyone. Let’s just move on, and bring the troops home from Germany.”

(Oh, and we’d better not let them know that we still have American troops in Germany. I mean, can you imagine the reaction? I may be a mean-spirited wingnut, but I have my limits.)

And if there was any question — any at all — that and the allegedly objective New York Times were on the same, viciously partisan side, here’s some information that should clarify things. The Times gave a significantly cut rate on their “Betray Us” full page ad. The standard rate for that size an ad is $181,692, but got theirs for a mere $65,000. That’s a about 65% off! That’s either because September is a slow ad month for the Times, or because, as one Republican staffer put it, they must’ve gotten the “family discount”. Actually, this rate is called the “special advocacy” rate, but is this discount available for conservative causes? If you ask the Swift Boat Vets for Truth, or the National Right to Life Committee, you’ll soon realize that this “special advocacy” rate is applied in a rather lopsided fashion. Got to keep it all in the family, as it were.

In conjunction with this, the Times has put out a new, sliding scale rate for political ads. The new schedule is as follows:

All Republicans: 110% of list price
Generic Democrats: 75%
BDS Sufferers: 50%
Daily Kos writers: 40% but the ad must appear in the Entertainment section
Michael Moore: No upfront charge. Instead, 13% of gross profits from the next movie
William Shatner: Name your own price
And an additional 5% off for each clever pun on someone’s name (which must appear in at least 48 point type)

At least we know where the Times stands; side by side with an organization, like, that is willing to smear anyone for political gain. It runs in the family.

Back to you, Brian.

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When the Polls Don’t Match the Narrative

I’m not a big fan of opinion polls, especially when average Americans are polled on a subject that they really don’t know or can’t know much about. One of the recent polls that the media has enjoyed reporting the results of is whether folks think the “surge” in Iraq is working.

Frankly, the average American, myself included, has no way to know definitively whether the surge is “working” or not. It mostly depends on your definition of “working” and what you’re hearing from the news media. A poll of people without all the facts — and if you’re not in the military or the government, you probably don’t have nearly enough facts — is pretty much useless.

Still, the media like to use them to generate news, and back in July, CBS News polled Americans and found that 19% thought the surge was “making things better”. However, when that poll started to go against the liberal media narrative of how bad things are going there, their coverage reflected their displeasure at the outcome.

On the day of the long-anticipated report from General David Petraeus on the “surge,” the CBS Evening News ignored how its latest poll discovered the third straight month of an increase in the percent of Americans who believe the surge has “made things better” in Iraq. As the percentage has gone up, CBS’s interest in the result has gone down. In July, anchor Katie Couric led with how only 19 percent thought the surge was “making things better” and a month later, in August, when that number jumped to 29 percent, CBS and Couric gave it just 12 seconds 20 minutes into the newscast..

While Monday’s CBS Evening News skipped how the share crediting the surge for “making things better” rose to 35 percent in the survey conducted through Saturday, the newscast found time to highlight three other findings that stressed public opposition to the war and distrust of President Bush.

When the poll backs the narrative, it leads. When it doesn’t, find some other way to ask the question to get the “right” response.

Oh, that liberal media.

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Notable Quote

“At the outset I would like to note that this is my testimony. Although I have briefed my assessment and recommendations to my chain of command, I wrote this testimony myself. It has not been cleared by, nor shared with, anyone in the Pentagon, the White House or the Congress until it was just handed out. As a bottom line up-front, the military objectives of the surge are in large measure being met.” —General David Petraeus

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Covering the Genocide…Or Not

If we pull out of Iraq soon, and if there is a massacre there on the scale of the millions in the Killing Fields of Cambodia, will the news media tell us about it? If you look at the history of the media, probably not, since they didn’t say much about those very Killing Fields. The Media Research Center highlights a 1982 study done by George Washington University professor William Adams, in which he documented how much coverage, between 1975 and 1978, the media gave this holocaust. The short answer:

Television coverage averaged “less than thirty seconds per month per network.”

The study also compares the coverage to that of the Jonestown suicides, and debunks the excuse TV gave at the time that there were no pictures and without that there isn’t a story. It also slams the print media for their lethargy.

Oh, that liberal media.

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Al-Qaida Is in Iraq

Christopher Hitchens is no fan of religious folks, and enjoys the infighting he sees among religions. However, there is one argument at least that he finds even lower than those.

Arcane as these disputes may seem, and much as I relish seeing the faithful fight among themselves, the believers are models of lucidity when compared to the hair-splitting secularists who cannot accept that al-Qaida in Mesopotamia is a branch of al-Qaida itself.

Hitchens takes apart the arguments that are used by folks to try to convince themselves that Iraq isn’t really a front in the war on terror. A short but meaty read. He closes by putting it all in context.

We can not only deny the clones of Bin Ladenism a military victory in Iraq, we can also discredit them in the process and in the eyes (and with the help) of a Muslim people who have seen them up close. We can do this, moreover, in a keystone state of the Arab world that guards a chokepoint—the Gulf—in the global economy. As with the case of Afghanistan—where several provinces are currently on a knife-edge between an elected government that at least tries for schools and vaccinations, and the forces of uttermost darkness that seek to negate such things—the struggle will take all our nerve and all our intelligence. But who can argue that it is not the same battle in both cases, and who dares to say that it is not worth fighting?

Isn’t that sort of idea, and indeed reality, worth fighting for?

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