Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

August 25, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE O'HANLON/POLLACK REPORT....I mentioned yesterday that I had been reading the report prepared by Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack after their recent trip to Iraq. What I was looking for was concrete data related to improved security, as opposed to subjective impressions about morale and improved COIN efficiency.

This is not because concrete metrics are the only way to measure progress. Far from it. But it's easy to kid yourself about this stuff, especially on a trip in which you travel in a cocoon of official Pentagon representatives. O&P, for example, found a "significant improvement in the morale of American forces." But Tina Susman of the LA Times reports today that "signs of frustration and of flagging morale are unmistakable." Who's right? To be honest, I found Susman's piece fairly weak. But at least she presented some evidence for her case, whereas O&P merely made an assertion that our troops were happier and then moved on. In the end, though, it hardly matters. Even with the best of intentions this kind of reporting is both inherently unreliable and notoriously susceptible to both conscious and unconscious confirmation bias.

The value of metrics, then, is to keep yourself honest. It's easy to get carried away with subjective judgments, and what's more, even if morale really is improving and U.S. troops really are embracing a smarter approach to counterinsurgency, that doesn't matter unless it's making an actual, tangible difference. At some point this stuff has to translate into fewer deaths, fewer car bombs, an insurgency on the run, etc. So what measurable improvements do O&P offer up? I could find only two:

  • "Car and truck bombs are...often less powerful than before."

  • "Roughly a one-third decline in the monthly rate [of civilian casualties] since just before the surge began."

The first point is almost certainly wrong. The data is here, and bombings don't appear to be getting less lethal at all. Quite the opposite, in fact.

As for the one-third reduction in civilian casualties, who knows? There's no footnote to explain how they've come to this conclusion. The Brookings Iraq Index (author: Michael O'Hanlon) reports a drop in civilian casualties but unhelpfully explains the data only as "estimates provided by the authors." In his Washington Post op-ed today, O'Hanlon says merely that "the Pentagon showed us data" indicating a drop in casualties. Conversely, Leila Fadel reported last week that "statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don't support the claim." The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this month that Iraqi government death tolls are unreliable and AP reported that July fatalities were 23% higher than in June. What's more, even if casualties have dropped, without regional breakdowns there's no way of knowing how much of the decrease is due to places like Anbar and Ninawah — where everyone agrees violence has declined — and how much is due to actual surge-related progress in Baghdad and elsewhere.

Bottom line: O'Hanlon and Pollack cite only two concrete security metrics, and of those, one appears to be flatly wrong and the other is unsubstantiated and highly doubtful. Instead we get lots of phrases like "signs of progress," "appear to be reducing," and "our observations suggest." To say the least, this is an unpromising track record.

It's possible that the Iraqi Army really is getting better (though see here and here for contrary evidence from the ground); that U.S. troops really have embraced proper counterinsurgency techniques at lightning speed; and that provincial reconstruction teams are doing some good work. But it's also true that Iraq's infrastructure continues to decline; the police are "still a disaster"; Iraq's economy "remains largely moribund"; unemployment is "sky high"; and among the political leadership the situation is "awful," "worse than stalemate," and "paranoia and backstabbing predominate." And this is without even mentioning the upcoming election in Kirkuk or the brewing intra-Shiite smackdown in southern Iraq.

Given all that, O'Hanlon's entreaty in the Post today that we should believe him even in the face of spotty and unreliable evidence because "Our assessments are based on our observations as well as on years of study" — well, that's pretty weak tea, isn't it? Considering how disastrous the political situation is, how poorly the infrastructure and the economy are doing, how often we've been assured of progress in the past, and the fact that most security metrics indicate that Iraq is doing worse this summer than last, I think it's fair to ask O'Hanlon and Pollack for more evidence of progress than just regurgitation of talking points from the military brass they traveled with. Whining about how unfairly they're being treated is a poor substitute for the healthy skepticism they should have displayed in the first place.

Kevin Drum 3:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (65)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Well get set to hear more about these two shills from AEI's 'All or Nothing' campaign.

Posted by: Mutt WrongKnee on August 25, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

O'Hanlon continues to plunge into new depths of dishonesty. He seems digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself, instead of doing the honorable thing and admit he got George Romney-ed.

Posted by: AJ on August 25, 2007 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

But they are "war critics!" They supported the invasion and the surge, but they once said Bush didn't send enough troops. My Republican grandfather said that once, too. And he hates Bush for allowing the Mexican invasion. I guess he is "an administration war critic," too. He said the surge is working because the military said so, too. Someone get him an op-ed.

Posted by: Orson on August 25, 2007 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

O'Hanlon and Pollack are more honest than Drum or the nutroot commenters. Lies, damned lies, and statistics are the fecal manure for much of Drum's attitudinizing. Face it, you're against the war and really don't want the US to succeed, for your own political reasons.

Patriotism or national interest has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: daveinboca on August 25, 2007 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/?p=57
Heres a link to Lobes article on AEIs 'All or Nothing' 'No Middle Way Campaign' Set to launch on Sep 6 08

YAY! More Non-Partisan Crappola! YAY!

Posted by: Mutt WrongKnee on August 25, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

O'Hanlon and Pollack are more honest than Drum or the nutroot [ooo a 3rd grader] commenters. [Atcually they have recanted publicly] Lies, damned lies, and statistics are the fecal manure [3rd grader] for much of Drum's attitudinizing Face it, you're against the war [Its a freedom operation] and really don't want the US to succeed [The Iraqis must stand up remember what Bush said] for your own political reasons [GOP is doing a Nixon] Patriotism or national interest has nothing to do with it. [The fact is the GOP is making it about politics, just as you are]

Posted by: Mutt WrongKnee on August 25, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

daveinboca: "O'Hanlon and Pollack are more honest than Drum or the nutroot commenters."

Tantrums aside, maybe you can provide the evidence that O'Hanlon & Pollack didn't. Short of that, you'd be doing yourself a favor by shutting your pie hole.

Posted by: junebug on August 25, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

"Lies, damned lies, and statistics are the fecal manure for much of Drum's attitudinizing."

Well, at least he's got statistics, which is more than can be said for the warnuts and their brainless sycophants like daveinboca.

Posted by: Cal Gal on August 25, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Dear DaveinBoca, tell me about GOP Ari Fleischer making pro-war Ads if the Republicans aren't making this political? What about those Zelikow Lobbyists [used by the Bush Admin] and Allawi

Nice Try Dave, your spouting baseless opinions, not truth. You cant prove any of what you posted. I, on the other hand, have.

Posted by: Mutt WrongKnee on August 25, 2007 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I see that daveinbocaburger has been left outside the freezer too long, once again. Either that, or he has become terribly overcooked.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on August 25, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, it seems that O'Hanlon and Pollack are doing exactly what ol' Dave is accusing Drum of. They write about impressions and suggestions without offering any evidence. Now why would they do that?

Posted by: tomeck on August 25, 2007 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Weak tea, indeed, Kevin.

Fact is, O'Hanlon & Polock have been to Iraq, talked to the military brass, seen the action. With their own eyes they have witnessed the American troops (Our Boys!) take to CION like a fish out of water and seen how the morale has boosted.

You have not been to Iraq, Kevin. Haven't seen all the great things we are accomplishing there. First democratic form of government in that part of the world, ever. How can anyone but the most mendacious partisans be opposed to that? But you are. You are bitter and feel inadequate because you have not seen war or been to Iraq. You've just been cooped up in your stuffy, dark bedroom. So to compensate, you play with numbers and twist them into ways that boost up your case. Then you try to belittle Polock and Hanlon.

What a bitter little man you are.

Posted by: egbert on August 25, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

When will you people learn? Supporting the Bush administration's war policies is by definition a non-partisan, apolitical act. In fact, supporting the GOP in general is non-partisan and apolitical: they "just want what's good for the country." Opposing their policies or supporting Democrats is by definition "partisan" and "political."

Also, statistics and facts tend to be partisan and not patriotic. So I'm again' 'em.

Posted by: Orson on August 25, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

An important thing to remember about the actual statistics is just how powerfully they refute the notion that things might really be improving in Iraq.

The statistics demonstrate that, overall, things have gotten worse in Iraq. This entails that the regions in Iraq that apparently are improving, such as the Anbar province, are more than compensated for by the deterioration elsewhere in Iraq. It's just a matter of numbers. If overall they're worse, then the must be much worse in certain regions in Iraq to make up for the shortfall in numbers in Anbar.

How do you make a good story out of this? Without intent to deceive, you don't; it's just bad.

Posted by: frankly0 on August 25, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

I for one and done with argument from authority. You know, "they've been there so they know better." Authorities that were wrong and duplicitous are exactly what got us into this mess. The Bush administration has this modus operandi where they continually look for figures with credibility, and find some way to co-opt them into supporting their policies, or appearing to.

I'm done with that.

Show me the data. Where's the beef? Data talks, losers walk. I'm really not interested in some "expert's" subjective judgement of how things are going.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on August 25, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin -- in that whole O'Hanlon piece today the phrase I found the most disturbing was:

"... with several big ideas for transforming Iraq's politics still untested, this would be a sad time to conclude we have been defeated."


Wow, glad those boys don't mind dying while y'all try out a few new ideas. Sounds like the disaster that happened with the neo-cons trying out "free markets" in Bagdad or trying to build an Iraqi stockmarket before bothering to turn on the electricity.

Wankers.

Posted by: Teresa on August 25, 2007 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

And in Anbar Province, as the three remaining of the Seven Samurai sit together, the happy farmers, with their newly acquired weaponry, sing.

Samurai - Do not turn your backs to them.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on August 25, 2007 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

The Brookings group was considered a reliable source for a long time. Their findings were quoted constantly. Apparently, this was only until they stopped telling you what you wanted to hear.

Like others who have stepped off the Leftist Reservation, now they're going to suffer for it.

The anti-war factions have, to their complete surprise, suddenly found themselves on the defensive. Trying to wreck the Brookings Institution, or Baird, or any of the others not stepping up smartly to the "War Is Lost" line, isn't going to help. Or, for that matter, trying to paint someone with Michael O'Hanlon's credentials as a gullible idiot.

These are far from the only sources on the progress of the Petraeus strategies, including mainstream media reporters on the scene.

The Democratic Party (along with its media supporters) has now bet its success on the defeat of the United States. Maybe this wasn't the brightest move.

Posted by: elmendorf on August 25, 2007 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Nice post by Yglesias looking over O'Hanlon's latest "response" to critics which, curiously, doesn't look at all responsive to anything the critics have said. Instead, O'Hanlon simply reiterates the points he's already made in exactly the same way he made them the first time, and fails to even acknowledge the counterarguments, must less deal with them honestly. Kind of like what Bush does.

Posted by: jimBOB on August 25, 2007 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Maher and Damien Cave

Hint: Only one of these two has picked a side to back.

Posted by: elmendorf on August 25, 2007 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the shot of reality, emlendorf. It's never easy fighting against the loonie liberals in the echo chamber.

I've been saying for a month now that Bush has already won this thing. You know, how in a football game, when you can feel the momentum shift? Same dynamic here.

Posted by: egbert on August 25, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

There is only going to be one way to end Bush's adventurism into Iraq and the Middle East, and it's not by arguing over what progress means. Americans aren't feeling the devastation of Bush's policies yet, here at home. The war in Iraq is still an abstract exercise, and it's been solely waged in Bush's terms: "If you don't do what I tell you has to be done, expect terrorist acts here on the homeland." Other people's children are dying and losing their limbs, brains and sanity.

It's going to be by exposing the real reasons behind the war (Conservatives' privatization schemes and the liquidation of all U.S. resources, and the Holy Grail-Iraq's oil) to get Americans to realize that it's all been a horrible con and (our) money ill spent.

Rolling Stone has done a masterful job of telling the story, which can only anger American taxpayers in all brackets when they see precisely how their money and their (and their children's and grandchildren's) future has been squandered. Had a fraction of this money been spent addressing real threats at home, we'd have security at our ports, rail and highway systems, airports, dams, power plants, chemical plants, an skilled workforce at home generating a thriving economy for all classes.

In the next few weeks, as the Pentagon churns out propaganda from its "24-hour Iraq info desk" to hard sell the Bush/Petraeus military progress report, post and email this article, 'The Great Iraq Swindle' to MSM sites, websites which are allowing themselves to be a tool for the Bush administration, and anywhere else that you think it might do some good:

How is it done? How do you screw the taxpayer for millions, get away with it and then ride off into the sunset with one middle finger extended, the other wrapped around a chilled martini? Ask Earnest O. Robbins -- he knows all about being a successful contractor in Iraq.
[Read the rest of the article at The Rolling Stone.]

Posted by: Maeven on August 25, 2007 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

elmerdork is back trying to spin us with the notion that the pro-war Brookings Institute is somehow "on the left."

Look moron, demonstrate that Iraq was a threat to our national security in 2002 or shut the fuck up. Demonstrate that the only course of action that could have been used was the terrorist attack on the city of Baghdad and then the ensuing slaughter of Iraqis or shut the fuck up.

The war on Iraq is over. We won. The occupation of Iraq is on going. We have failed to provide security for the people of Iraq and are therefore in breach of international law. Of course, the very first assault on the Iraqi people was a war crime, but you don't care about any of that - so long as you can lead cheers for war it doesn't matter how many Iraqis are displaced, maimed, or killed. Shut the fuck up you bloodsucking toad.

Posted by: heavy on August 25, 2007 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

I've been saying for a month now that Bush has already won this thing. You know, how in a football game, when you can feel the momentum shift? Same dynamic here.

That's not momentum you feel shifting, but I'm glad to hear you've started taking your fiber.

Posted by: textivore on August 25, 2007 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

The Brookings group was considered a reliable source for a long time. Their findings were quoted constantly. Apparently, this was only until they stopped telling you what you wanted to hear.

The Brookings Iraq Index has been considered reliable to the extent that it provided sources and/or data for its reporting that could be examined and verified.

To the extent that it has discontinued offering sources or data for its conclusions and begun providing estimates based on apparently nothing but a political filter, then it only makes sense that those baseless conclusions would be dismissed.

Why would anyone trust assertions without evidence unless it simply agreed with something they were desperate to believe for their own reasons? Right?

Posted by: trex on August 25, 2007 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Eggie, hang in there with "emlendorf AFB" - by the way, tell us more about the Paul Whiteman Air Force Base and Band.

In a football game, each side wears different uniforms - So, one knows who their opponent, or enemy, if you will, is - In Bush's War, who is the enemy? A "friend" today, who will shoot you tomorrow? The small rag tag group of al-Quada wannabes? The various factions of the Shiites or the Sunnis? They turn on each in a heart beat - There is no line of scrimmage and no definable enemy - An enemy is of the moment, when he or she fires at our troops - And probably, because we have killed or maimed love ones of theirs to begin with.

And, for what? A non-goverment? Such a waste of purple ink - And, we might stop a civil war from happening? Hell, it has been growing in strength for a long time.

And, if we leave, there will be chaos and unstability? You mean that the whirlpool will simply increase in size from it's present form?

Yeah, Linda Smith Baird should really feel for those American troops he is helping send to their deaths. The real Brian Baird, we hardly knew ya.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on August 25, 2007 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

No, I don't think the tide has turned in Bush's favor at all. In fact, it is a dangerous stretch.
Wishful thinking.
Yes, it is wishful thinking, with urban warfare, to say Iraqi casualties are lessened.
By whose count? The coffin makers?
Ask them.
And what of renewed activism?

Prior experience tells us it's media representation of pro-war, pro-surge perspectives--
they passively give us the official views.
We saw that in the run up to the war, didn't we?

Posted by: consider wisely always on August 25, 2007 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

We need to be more forward-looking here. Ask them something like "if it turns out that things get worse and future data shows that it was in fact worse in July 07 than you claimed, will you publicly apologize for having been so wrong?"

It's like the 6-more-months thing: sure, it's frustrating that people keep saying that over and over, but we can use it to our advantage if we have patience. Just ask the six-monthers now "if it in fact isn't better in 6 months, will be you be ashamed and resign from punditry? If not, why not?" Get them on the record, so there will be consequences to these "predictions".

Posted by: JD on August 25, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

elmendorf, indeed. Yet another proud member of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists. Straighten your codpiece, son, the inspector's on his way. And feel free to pony up that evidence that O'Hanlon & Pollack neglected to include. We'll be here when you find it.

Posted by: junebug on August 25, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

Honestly, you have done great work on this subject but you also ignore the most damning point -

Michael O'Hanlon is a bald faced liar about having been a war critic and a Surge critic.

HE was a war supporter and a Surge supporter.

He lies on this most basic point. Why even consider whether he is telling the truth about anything else?

Why treat with respect the "observations" of a proven and recidivist liar on this most basic point?

Posted by: Armando on August 25, 2007 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Let's tie this war around the idiots' necks.

Posted by: absent observer on August 25, 2007 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding the decline in civilian casualties: This article in the NY Times says that the surge has triggered a civilian exodus:

BAGHDAD, Aug. 23 — The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes has soared since the American troop increase began in February, according to data from two humanitarian groups, accelerating the partition of the country into sectarian enclaves.

At some point we will be told that somehow, Iraq has partitioned itself and now it can be split up politically as well. Maybe that's what the surge is really trying to accomplish.


Posted by: JS on August 25, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

egbert: "You know, how in a football game, when you can feel the momentum shift?"

Ah, egbert. Once again, you comment on things you know nothing about.

"Momentum" in physics can be easily quantified, and can be positive and negative. But in sports and other games, it's an intangible quality that simply cannot be quantified, and should never be relied upon as the sole rationale for taking an action.

Football games are not won by "momentum", but with skill, brawn, intelligence and discipline -- the very qualities you lack.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on August 25, 2007 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

The argument against letting Bush continue his military adventures in Iraq and the Middle East is never going to be won by letting Bush dictate the terms and boundaries of the debate. But that's what we do every time - we react to what the PR team working for the White House rolls out. Instead of anticipating and designing our own campaign to overwhelm this pro-war crowd, we always let them go first and they shape it like a game of Tic Tac Toe.

The O'Hanlon and Pollack trip to Iraq (and subsequent op-ed) was just part of the carefully designed *SHOCK & AWE* assault that will come with the release of the September White House authored Petraeus-Crocker report. O'Hanlon and Pollack were dangled out there to be sucker punched.

Step back and look at the big picture.

All of the reasons stated by Conservatives for preemptive war in Iraq have been disproven or solved.

Iraq was never about WMD, but if it had been, after two massive inspections, none were found. No more reason to be there.

Iraq has never been about freeing the people from Saddam Hussein, but if it had been, he's gone, he's dead, no more reason to be there. Iraq was never about Al Qaeda (Bush admitted Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11), the few Al Qaeda that are there are 2nd generation and motivated by the Iraq invasion and Iraqis would get rid of them once we left Iraq. No more reason to be there.

It was never about bringing democracy to the Iraqis, but if it had been, they've had elections, they voted (twice, purple fingers), and have a Constitution (written by U.S.) - no more reason to be there. (Carl Levin should be eviscerated publicly for collaborating with Bush on the "Maliki has to go" campaign. We have a rare opportunity to expose the conservative brain trusts, in both political parties, that have controlled our foreign policy of the last 50 years and gotten us into this quagmire. It's been very hard educating Americans about the terrible things that have been done to other people around the world in our names by our leaders. With the movement to undermine Maliki and put in a more dependable puppet, Allawi, more Americans can see the hypocrisy in real time.)

What's left to stay for in Iraq? Iraq's oil and Americans' dwindling resources that haven't shifted yet to the pockets of privatizers.

From the day Bush and Cheney got into office, they've been about shifting America's wealth to the wealthiest few. Since Conservatives haven't been able to sell the people on voluntarily getting rid of programs like social security and medicare, their philosophy has been to break them by bankrupting the system - These programs can't continue once there is no more money to fund them. [For those people who say that private industry can provide health care more cheaply and efficiently than medicare can, the HMOs are already requiring a 12% surcharge on the standard medicare rate or they claim they can't make a profit. So we're paying HMOs and insurance companies a minimum of 12% more than any other medicare providers receive. It's a scandal.]

That's been Conservatives' modus operandi. It's not unique or original to them - it's loan-sharking, only with the 'gangsters' (Conservatives) in government, they've managed to eliminate the legal protections for consumers/Americans.

By reacting in Bush's *SHOCK & AWE* Selling-The-War PR campaigns, we let Bush and the neocons define and confine the terms ("surge", "military vs. political progress"). To take the advantage away, we must expand the terms and debate to a wide-ranging discussion about America's future and what kind of people we are.

"Throwing good money after bad" is a term that has to be repeated frequently because it confronts the Democratic Presidential candidates, too. "Throwing good money after bad" is what Hillary wants to do, hence her comments about "the improvements we're seeing" from 'Bush's surge.' As soon as Hillary started talking in terms of "Tis a pity, tis what Bush should have done in the beginning," it was a set up for re-doing the war. If she and the other Democratic Presidential candidates think that "we have to be very careful in how we leave Iraq," it's code for a long, protracted re-war.

"Quality of life/Standard of living," in America (and everywhere else) should also be among our talking points. If we remain in Iraq, it is guaranteed that our standard of living is going to decline dramatically. If we remain in Iraq, we increase the risk of our security here at home - there is no surer way to guarantee an expansion of hostilities throughout the Middle East and increased recruitment to Al Qaeda. And the longer we put off leaving Iraq (until Bush is out of the White House), the risk to us of catastrophic failures increases.

This can't get postponed, pushed ahead, give Bush and his surge "another six months."

Posted by: Maeven on August 25, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Molly Ivins said that American journalism was a "souffle of mediocrity."

We have been bushwhacked.

And saying the same thing louder doesn't make it true

Posted by: consider wisely always on August 25, 2007 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

egbert, you are the stupidest mother fucker on the face of the earth, and with daveinboca in contention, that is quite a feat.

Fact is, O'Hanlon & Polock have been to Iraq, talked to the military brass, seen the action.

They saw a dog-and-pony show that was more tightly scripted than a big-budget movie.

With their own eyes they have witnessed the American troops (Our Boys!) take to CION like a fish out of water and seen how the morale has boosted.

Hmmm. That's why suicides are at a 23 year high, I guess. As to what they witnessed, they saw what they were shown and nothing more. They can be counted on to be good little agenda whores and not ask probing questions or look for answers off the script.

You have not been to Iraq, Kevin. Haven't seen all the great things we are accomplishing there.

What would those be, dipshit? You haven't been there either, so by your own metric you should shut the fuck up and stop blathering about shit you know nothing of.

First democratic form of government in that part of the world, ever.

Again, nimrod, google the Lycean League.

How can anyone but the most mendacious partisans be opposed to that? But you are. You are bitter and feel inadequate because you have not seen war or been to Iraq.

Because it's horseshit? Marines.mil, asshole. You haven't done a god-damned thing yourself, you miserable piece of shit.

You've just been cooped up in your stuffy, dark bedroom. So to compensate, you play with numbers and twist them into ways that boost up your case. Then you try to belittle Polock and Hanlon.

Belittling those idiots is almost as easy as trashing you.

What a bitter little man you are.

What a craven coward you are.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on August 25, 2007 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

First democratic form of government in that part of the world, ever.

And what is Israel? Chopped liver?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on August 25, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

At some point we will be told that somehow, Iraq has partitioned itself and now it can be split up politically as well. Maybe that's what the surge is really trying to accomplish.

I saw one version of that story last night that included, "the only people left in Iraq are the really bad players, only insurgents, terrorists."

What else could that mean but massive aerial bombings and assaults intended to wipe out as many Iraqis as possible?

It certainly fits with the Bush-Cheney style, spitting contests, which is what they do when backed into a corner. And I can think of nothing more likely to increase the risk to Americans, here and abroad, from acts of terror.

Congress's method of dealing with this out-of-control administration has been to step back, give them a wide berth. "Maybe, if you don't disturb this nest of wasps, they'll quiet down for the remainder of their term of office."

Congress is then shocked when things don't turn out as they expected. Shocked into paralysis.

How could Congress (particularly Hillary) have been shocked that Bush would use the power it gave him in AUMF when Bush rejected an earlier piece of legislation that was identical to AUMF except that it limited Bush's ability to attack Iraq?

Posted by: Maeven on August 25, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

George Bush, who majored in History, failed to recognize or understand the ethnic, tribal and religious turmoil that would follow his ill-advised, ethics-corrupt invasion and occupation.
Bushwhacked.
Why does that man look so happy?
Contemplating the end times and the rapture?
Or so very content with Halliburton et al.?
Meanwhile, the level of mistrust between US and Iraq forces is beyond grim and unspeakable.

Posted by: consider wisely always on August 25, 2007 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, just out from the AP:

"The findings include:

- Iraq is suffering about double the number of war-related deaths throughout the country compared with last year - an average daily toll of 33 in 2006, and 62 so far this year.

- Nearly 1,000 more people have been killed in violence across Iraq in the first eight months of this year than in all of 2006. So far this year, about 14,800 people have died in war-related attacks and sectarian murders. AP reporting accounted for 13,811 deaths in 2006. The United Nations and other sources placed the 2006 toll far higher.

- Baghdad has gone from representing 76 percent of all civilian and police war-related deaths in Iraq in January to 52 percent in July, bringing it back to the same spot it was roughly a year ago.

-According to the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, the number of displaced Iraqis has more than doubled since the start of the year, from 447,337 on Jan. 1 to 1.14 million on July 31."

http://tinyurl.com/2p6b46

Soon we'll hear some Rumsfeldese like "increased causalities means we are winning" or maybe the classic "absence of evidence is evidence."

But, hey, O'Hanlon has seen the super secret patriotic data that the Pentagon will only show to him.


Posted by: Orson on August 25, 2007 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Donald from Hawaii: egbert: "You know, how in a football game, when you can feel the momentum shift?"

Ah, egbert. Once again, you comment on things you know nothing about.

"Momentum" in physics can be easily quantified, and can be positive and negative. But in sports and other games, it's an intangible quality that simply cannot be quantified, and should never be relied upon as the sole rationale for taking an action.

Football games are not won by "momentum", but with skill, brawn, intelligence and discipline -- the very qualities you lack.

I just wanted to repeat that. Heh, I almost feel sorry for poor little Egbert. Almost.

Posted by: AJ on August 25, 2007 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

Egbert's argument that, because "Polock and Hanlon" have been to Iraq, their position is correct, seems to me to miss the point. Kevin pointed out that they don't present any evidence supporting their position, and that almost all the concrete evidence available to those of us who are not in Iraq contradicts their position. He asked, is there some evidence that we'd be allowed to look at that might help convince those of us who are understandably skeptical? Remember, even the most credible of the Iraq war boosters have shown us lots of "evidence" in the past that turned out to be overblown at best, and out-and-out lies at worst. (Think Colin Powell at the U.N.) So it's nice that O&P have been to Iraq, but please, can somebody make an honest attempt to show us why the surge is working? This matters, guys. People are dying. And we Americans have a responsibility to be skeptical.

Similarly, elmendorf's argument -- the idea being that because "the left" has quoted Brookings' findings in the past, the O&P report should be accepted without question -- misses the point. We're talking about a specific report here -- the O&P one. Kevin has very concrete criticisms of it, and he's never said anything that contradicts those criticisms of this report. Let's not change the subject. Let's see if those criticisms can be met. Like I say, this stuff matters. A lot. We should care.

I really shouldn't spend any time on daveinboca's comment, but the idea that the very mention of statistics makes one dishonest is... Never mind. I'm not going to spend any more time on it.

Posted by: johnson on August 25, 2007 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

And what is Israel? Chopped liver?

No, that's the other nation the American Left has been spewing on for years.

Loved your brilliant takedown of the phony "egbert." Assuming he isn't you in the first place, of course.

[There is no sock-puppetry afoot. I have a low tolerance for that nonsense. --Mod]

Posted by: monkeybone on August 25, 2007 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Presumably O'Hanlon's support of the invasion itself was also based on "years of study." Maybe his premise is that he did even more studying in the four years since, so now we can really, really trust him.

Posted by: Martin Gale on August 25, 2007 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

...I'm an idiot. Of course "egbert" is a satire. Ignore my last post as it pertains to him. Elmendorf is probably a fake too, right?

Posted by: johnson on August 25, 2007 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK
The anti-war factions have, to their complete surprise, suddenly found themselves on the defensive....elmendorf at 4:16 PM
In what universe have the facts on the ground changed, or do you assume that Republican tactics of dissemble, demagogue and demonize are so powerful that people tremble when you bring on your tired old talking points? Posted by: Mike on August 25, 2007 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

Whether egbert or any of the trolls are real or fake isn't the issue. Countering the idiocy is for the lurkers. egbert is an especially tasty morsel to pummel the piss out of.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on August 25, 2007 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Elmendorf is probably a fake too, right?

What do you think? Maybe I should throw in a few "fony" spelling errors. My e-mail is fake, for obvious reasons.

Mike:

In what universe have the facts on the ground changed, or do you assume that Republican tactics of dissemble, demagogue and demonize are so powerful that people tremble when you bring on your tired old talking points?

There are a lot of reporters on the ground over there, from various places, and some of them have been there a long time. Michael Yon for one. I pointed out some comments by NYT reporter Damien Cave, and Congressman Baird (who still thinks we should never have gone in the first place). Do you think O'Hanlon and crew are the first ones to say that there's been some real progress? The only reason it's a shock to some liberals is because they've been ignoring all the other news sources. Not everyone is behind the curve. You might have noticed Democratic Party leaders desperately trying to straddle the growing gap between their "base" and the average voter.

What some of the other posters might want to ask themselves:

Why does the simple idea of possible progress in Iraq make you nearly hysterical with fury?

Posted by: elmendorf on August 25, 2007 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

The idea of progress doesn't make me hysterical with fury. Ignorance and spin do, tho.

And having a sense of history and some cultural awareness of the area in question, I can smell the bullshit from a mile away.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on August 25, 2007 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Pentagon showed us data" indicating a drop in casualties"

While it is true that I can't remember what I had for breakfast today, I vaguely recall at the beginning of this war that the Pentagon or somebody said, "they didn't do body counts" of civilians.

O'Hanlon deserves to lose his reputation as a quality newsman because of all these lies and distortions. I hope it is the beginning of a whole bunch of people (e.g., Kristol) losing their standing as people with any good sense or knowledge.

Posted by: Mazurka on August 25, 2007 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

O'Hanlon is no longer Of The Body, and should be immediately destroyed.

Posted by: Landru on August 25, 2007 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting to see the hysteria stimulated by the possibility that Iraq might not be the disaster hoped for by the left.

Posted by: Mike K on August 25, 2007 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

"The only reason it's a shock to some liberals is because they've been ignoring all the other news sources."

No, dear, we haven't; we've just been waiting for some genuine, verifiable data. Alas, we're still waiting. Damn near all of the data available show that "the Surge" has been an utter failure.

"Why does the simple idea of possible progress in Iraq make you nearly hysterical with fury?"

ROFL.... Dear heart, who here is "hysterical with fury?" We're mostly hysterical with laughter at the stupidity you and the rest of the trolls are exhibiting.

Posted by: PaulB on August 25, 2007 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Interesting to see the hysteria stimulated by the possibility that Iraq might not be the disaster hoped for by the left."

ROFL... And yet more partisan drivel wholly devoid of data and containing nothing but a mindless ad hominem attack. Do let us know when you find some real "hysteria," won't you? We'd be even more interested in actual data, assuming that any of you have any. You guys really do have trouble with reality, don't you?

Posted by: PaulB on August 25, 2007 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

Do you think O'Hanlon and crew are the first ones to say that there's been some real progress?

Frankly yes, if we're talking people who've been on the ground for any length of time and who don't represent some nakely partisan organization. Michael Yon is a self-admitted partisan on the war.

There is no credible observer citing real progress, and especially not the Iraqis themselves.

Posted by: trex on August 25, 2007 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

There are a lot of reporters on the ground over there, from various places, and some of them have been there a long time.... I pointed out some comments by NYT reporter Damien Cave, and Congressman Baird.

Elmendorf, I appreciate your trying to inject outside sources into the dialog here, I agree that it's probably needed. But I read the link you provided w/ Damien Cave's comments, and frankly there's literally nothing there that's relevant to Kevin's question. Cave talks about troop morale, and says that the troops don't connect the job they're doing with the political debate at home. Check. But the question here is about whether, by any concrete measure, the surge is working. The bolded part of another quote says that Iraqis don't want dictatorship (the non-bolded part says "there's a lot of people who do believe that their lives were better under Saddam Hussein," and "in this situation [i.e. under the American occupation], walking down the street could get you killed for reasons that have nothing to do with anything but your name.") Okay, but again, is there any concrete evidence that the surge is working? And, in another bolded quote, he says "most Iraqis are victims of violence, not perpetrators," and that Americans need to think about whether we have a moral obligation to innocent Iraqi civilians. Something many of us on the left thought should have entered into the debate before the war, but again that's beside the point -- the question was, is the surge working?

And that's the sum total of Cave's comments.

I don't see the comments from Congressman Baird that you pointed out.

Posted by: johnson on August 25, 2007 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

...Okay, further to my post above, I've read Baird's oped in the Seattle Times. I assume this is the piece elmendorf is referring to. Unlike Damien Cave's comments, it is at least relevant to Kevin's question (namely, whether there's any concrete evidence that the surge is working). Here's the entirety of Baird's argument that "progress is being made" in Iraq:

Our soldiers are reclaiming ground and capturing or killing high-priority targets on a daily basis. Sheiks and tribal groups are uniting to fight against the extremists and have virtually eliminated al-Qaida from certain areas. The Iraqi military and police are making progress in their training, taking more responsibility for bringing the fight to the insurgents and realizing important victories. Businesses and factories that were once closed are being reopened and people are working again. The infrastructure is gradually being repaired and markets are returning to life.

That's it. No examples, no stats, nothing that speaks to those of us who aren't willing to just take a politician's word for it. Certainly nothing to connect the hopeful news he cites with the surge. It all sounds great, and it gives me some reason for hope, but what are those "important victories" that the Iraqi military and police are realizing? From what areas has al Qaeda been "virtually" eliminated? Are they areas that were affected by the surge, or areas where Iraqis are ? Etc.

Our position isn't absurd or irrational or whatever you think it is. We're skeptical. We believe it's our duty to be skeptical, especially given the history of this war. We just want some data we can sink our teeth into. Are there any?

Posted by: johnson on August 25, 2007 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

"Do you think O'Hanlon and crew are the first ones to say that there's been some real progress?"

O'Hanlon's and Pollack's op-ed significantly changed the tone of the debate, based largely on a completely false premise: that they were former critics of the Iraq War ("Even the war opponents are acknowledging progess!").

Of course they aren't the first ones to claim progress, but they are the first ones to get such widespread coverage and to be given real credibility by the mainstream media.

What most of us find annoying is that a) O'Hanlon and Pollack have been war supporters and surge supporters from the very beginning, a fact that seems to have escaped most of the media players, and b) they provided almost zero data to back up their assertions. As Kevin notes, O'Hanlon still cannot provide any data to back up his assertions. Neither, of course, can any of the other war supporters, which is why their remarks on this thread are so funny.

Posted by: PaulB on August 25, 2007 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

At least the media, our media, can longer lie to us. The media elitist can put forth those that would lie for Bush even as they try to do just that now. Damn the fourth estate and it daily crap. This is why a sheild law is joke. Why not just let them lie - the media certainly see no problem with it.

Posted by: Me_again on August 25, 2007 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

Just look at the doubling in the number of exiles. Iraqis are voting with their feet. Egbert can spew all the shit he wants, but Iraqis are fleeing for their lives.

Fleeing for their lives, Egbert. Over 1 MILLION. Are they leaving because they are too stupid to know how safe their situation is, or is it idiotic to think that news source here is a better indicator of progress?

The undeniable indicators -- the ones that can't be whitewashed or brainwashed -- all indicate the situation is deteriorating, from bad to worse. And that doesn't make ANYONE happy. But it makes some of us furious to keep being lied to.

Posted by: tubino on August 25, 2007 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory, over at Belgravia Dispatch, really rips into the Pollack/O'Hanlon report. It's even worse than this post of Kevin suggests.

Posted by: PaulB on August 25, 2007 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

the Wall Street Journal finds that except for a one month decline, the number of insurgent attacks are up since the surge began:

Link

Posted by: Steve J. on August 26, 2007 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

You know what's really annoying? That all these news organizations are reporting these statistics long after O'Hanlon's and Pollack's dishonest op-ed, instead of hammering them with them at the time it was published. This is all too reminiscent of the events leading up to the Iraq War, where pro-war propaganda was hyped on the front page and corrections and debunking were published days later on page 22.

Posted by: PaulB on August 26, 2007 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Donald from Hawaii,

Eggie thought it was a football game, because he heard someone say that the insurgents were using the run and shoot, or was that the shoot and run?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on August 26, 2007 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Don't you get it, Kevin? Scholars can't reveal their statistics to townies like you.

Posted by: Plotinus on August 26, 2007 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly