Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 10, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE PRESS ON IRAQ....Because we don't do this very often in the blogosphere, I'd like to mention that the press has done a pretty outstanding job of reporting on Iraq and the surge over the past week or so. The reporting has mostly been detailed, ground level, extensive, and properly skeptical without denying the modest progress that appears to be genuine. I've linked to a bunch of it already, but here's a quick sample of some of the pieces that ran over the weekend:

  • The LA Times on Anbar: "Military and political leaders warn against resting hopes for all of Iraq on this province, where U.S. forces are empowering, and even arming, the people who once fought them."

  • McClatchy on the surge: "Interviews with Iraqis, statistics on violence gathered independently by McClatchy Newspapers and a review of developments in the country since the U.S. began increasing troop strength here last February provide little reason for optimism."

  • AP on tricky statistics: "In vertical bars of blue, green, gray and red, a briefing chart prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency says what Gen. David Petraeus won't. Insurgent attacks against Iraqi civilians, their security forces and U.S. troops remain high, according to the document obtained by The Associated Press."

  • The New York Times on security in Baghdad: "More than 160,000 American troops are now in Iraq to help secure 25 million people. Across Baghdad — which undoubtedly remains a crucial barometer — American and Iraqi forces have moved closer to the population, out of giant bases and into 29 joint security stations. But even as some neighborhoods have improved, others have worsened as fighters moved to areas with fewer American troops.....Sunnis and Shiites still fear each other. At the top levels of the government and in the sweltering neighborhoods of Baghdad, hatreds are festering, not healing."

  • The New York Times on the Dora market: "American Stryker battalions fought their way into the town in May and June....and one third of the 900 shops in the main market reopened....In mid-August [American commanders] conceded that many insurgents simply fled to south Dora on the fringes of the area covered by the new military strategy where they did not have the manpower to expand."

    More neighborhood coverage here.

Good stuff, and the bits and pieces I've seen on CNN this morning have been pretty good too. Kudos to the media this week.

Kevin Drum 12:23 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

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Given that we have basically incontrovertible evidence that Petraeus' "report" will be false, when do we see the blowdried teevee bobblehead brigade start treating it with skepticism rather than acting as if it will come down from Mt. Sinai engraved on stone tablets?

Posted by: jimBOB on September 10, 2007 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

The Chicago Tribune did a nice job yesterday as well. They have a series going on this week.

When Iraq freezes over. The people on teevee get paid good money to represent the Conservative point of view.

Posted by: reino on September 10, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

The MSM reporting accurately and impartially is to be applauded. The chances a discerning electorate will understand the gravity of it all is nearly zero. We get up, work, slog home and shower, eat, watch TV and a lucky few end the day by getting laid. None of that has much to do with Iraq. Oh, I left out getting drunk, getting high and getting fat. Lots of all that goes on too. Again, none of it too much affected by Iraq. Until there's a draft (of both sexes) and your kid runs the risk of getting plucked out of school or off the street Bush and his successors can fight this war until hell freezes over and get away with it.

Posted by: steve duncan on September 10, 2007 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, here are my suggestions for your readers on Iraq.

1. Brookings Institute Iraq Expert Michale O' Hanlon on General Petraeus at http://tinyurl.com/2m9733.
"For those reading this after watching General David Petraeuss Monday testimony, I strongly suspect that my main argument will have become apparent to many: General Petraeus is a straight shooter who does not and will not cook the books."

2. Frederick Kagan demolishing the lie that the Joint Chiefs of Staff do not support the Surge at http://tinyurl.com/2akcfj.
"The media has been quick to describe this apparent dispute as a battle of the generals: The chief of staffs position on the surge reflects a divide in opinion on the Iraq war among the top leadership in the American military, one article noted. In reality, it is nothing of the sort."

3. General Petraeus and Ambassador's Crocker one hour interview on Fox News. This is better than watching the hearings because you can hear the words of the General straight from his mouth without being interrupted by partisan Democrats.

Posted by: Al on September 10, 2007 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

With the long-awaited surge progress report from General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker due beginning today, Perrspectives has updated its Iraq Document Center. The repository includes the latest news, statistics, key reports and other essential materials surrounding the Iraq war and its run-up.

For the overview, see:
"Required Reading for Petraeus, Crocker Testimony."

Posted by: AngryOne on September 10, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

So Al's recommendations consist of:

-Coming up with one guy outside of the admin, Repubs in Congress, and Liberman, who will vouch for Petraeus;

-pointing out that we should listen to a partisan person talk about what he's trying to sell at lenght to get a better view of whether he's right or not that listening to him answer questions from the other side. In the anstract, the best thing to do would be to watch both.

Posted by: Swan on September 10, 2007 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Now see, Michael O'Hanlon has negative credibility. That he is so slaveringly devoted, that right there is enough to give me doubt. Think about it. the numbskull has been absolutely wrong about absolutely everything. So if he says one thing, the safe bet is to believe the opposite.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 10, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like another case of the choir enjoying the preacher.

Posted by: John Hansen on September 10, 2007 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like another case of the choir enjoying the preacher.

Looks like another case of John Hansen trying to pretend there's such a thing as a "liberal media."

Keep sharpening the Dolchstosslegende, Hansen. It's a nice admission you recognize the brewing failure in Iraq, if you won't admit it yet, and since the American people recognize that idiots like you have had your way in Iraq lo these four years, that dog won't hunt.


Posted by: Gregory on September 10, 2007 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

McClatchy's Baghdad bureau does a superb job of reporting on Iraq. The blogs of the bureau chief and the Iraqi stringers are also good reading.

Leila Fadel's account of getting into a meeting of the neighboring states, to which she had been invited, gives a clear reason why security has improved in certain areas of Baghdad. The other blog has a description of getting to work in the city and also helps explain why security has improved.

Posted by: TJM on September 10, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

While I likewise think it's true that the press has done a pretty good job reporting on the underlying numbers and analyses of the surge, I have wondered how much of that is due to the early salience of this very issue in the blogosphere.

At that salience is in no small part due to Kevin's own reporting on the question.

Posted by: frankly0 on September 10, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

The Petraeus testimony doesn't matter nor does his appearance on Fox News, later on, matter, because we've already seen the numbers and we already know that when Petraeus claims progress has been made, he's lying.

Posted by: Swan on September 10, 2007 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

There were three articles posted yesterday about life in Iraq and its possible future which I found impressive. George Packer's piece in the New Yorker, Ricks, deYoung et al. in WaPo, and Damien Cave's piece in the NYT. Put these together with Jamie Tarabay's and Anne Garrels' reports on NPR and Petraeus and Crocker become bubble boys spouting nonsense. Which, of course, they are. Honestly, listening to the hearings today, I don't know who sounded more out of touch with reality, the bubble boys or most of the members of the House questioning them. But the thing I saw today which will stick with me longest is that Pentagon body count which rules out certain deads according to whether they were shot in the front or in the back of the head. Gabo Garcia Marquez must have invented these people.

Posted by: PW on September 10, 2007 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Our best bet in Iraq is to arm the Sunnis. They represent a chance at secular control. Talk about your irony. Our best bet for success is to put another Saddam-like person into power? Wow, and all that for 3750 in dead Americans and a trillion dollars. Couldn't we just have bribed Saddam with a couple hundred million and put in a Saddam-lite character? It would have been a hell of a lot chaper.

Posted by: William Jensen on September 11, 2007 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

If you want to know the answer to the question of security/political/social trends (is it getting better/safer?), then there's really no need to sort out Petraeus' statistics, or polls, or news reports about electricity etc.

All you need to know is that 4 million are displaced, over 2M of those have left Iraq as refugees, and thousands more are leaving every day.

That's the definitive word on conditions in Iraq. The definitive word is that conditions are terrible, and are worsening, that a substantial portion of the population is desperate to the point of leaving as refugees.

You can sort out causes, but the problem is undeniable.

Posted by: tubino on September 12, 2007 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK



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