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Tilting at Windmills

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September 21, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

IRAQ....Via FDL, Patrick Graham has an entertaining and provocative cover story about Iraq in the Canadian news magazine Macleans this week. Here he is on the Shiite government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki:

Maliki has been accused of running an "ethno-sectarian" government, but accusing him of running a pro-Shia government is like accusing Bush of running a pro-Republican administration. Like Karl Rove, who hoped to make the Republican party supreme, Maliki seems to want to set up Shia-dominated rule that will control Iraq for generations. And like Rove, he focuses on his base, with little regard for any other point of view unless the U.S. pressures him (even then he pouts and makes vague threats about looking for other allies — by which he obviously means Iran).

....The great irony of Maliki is that under other circumstances a government like his — one that is: a) accused by the U.S. of close relations with an American enemy (Iran); b) running a strategically important country (like Iraq); c) involved in the oppression and murder of one of its minorities (the Sunnis), which is closely linked to an important U.S. ally (the Saudis) — is an administration that many Americans would want to eliminate. There is a good chance that if the U.S. Army wasn't there already, Washington would have invaded to get rid of Maliki.

Graham has spent a lot of time in Iraq and has interesting opinions on a wide variety of subjects, including al-Qaeda in Iraq (American PR helped create it); military progress on the ground (largely illusory); the level of corruption in the various ministries ("astonishing"); Iranian meddling (you don't have to be a neocon to know it's for real); the American diplomatic strategy (we've switched horses in midstream from Shia to Sunni); soft partition (forget it); and bad metaphors (don't think of Iraq as if it were the Balkans).

I don't know if Graham is on target with everything he says, but his piece has lots of nice detail and it's worth reading. Check it out.

UPDATE: Robert Waldmann is unimpressed with Graham's piece: "The article contains few facts and many of those which I can check are wrong." He's right that the piece is opinionated and largely unsourced, but I'm not sure his disagreements with Graham are really all that colossal. Still, it's a worthwhile reality check.

Kevin Drum 1:44 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Comments

Oh. well now. I'm sure Bush will listen now.

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on September 21, 2007 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK

Makes about as much sense as the quote from the Vietnam War "We had to burn the village to save it"

Posted by: natural cynic on September 21, 2007 at 3:07 AM | PERMALINK

Why can't we put a tax on petroleum products to pay for Bush's War in Iraq? It would cut our oil consumption and thereby reduce greenhouse gases and help remind everyone that the low price we've been paying for gasoline has been subsidized by our military presence in the Middle East.

War tax on oil. Tax oil to fund Bush's War. Hey, if politicians can conflate, so can we.

Posted by: slanted tom on September 21, 2007 at 5:09 AM | PERMALINK

Slow news day, Kevin? Reduced to making quotes from a Canadian magazine?

Posted by: Al on September 21, 2007 at 7:10 AM | PERMALINK

An old saying, Al: scholarship is international.

Posted by: Bob M on September 21, 2007 at 7:36 AM | PERMALINK

The Bushie administration is a monolithic screw up.

There is this from NYT:

And while Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has demanded that the State Department drop Blackwater as its protector, security industry experts say that such an outcome is highly unlikely because American officials rely heavily on the company, setting the two sides on a diplomatic collision course.

And yet another sign of FREEDOM in Iraq:

Iraq: oil union leaders threatened with arrest
--Report on Fri, 09/21/2007 - 03:44.

From the Iraq Freedom Congress (IFC), Sept. 20:

The Iraqi minister of oil (Shehristani) has requested the Iraqi Prime Minister Almaliki to arrest the leaders of the Anti-oil Law Front (Subhi Albadri; chairperson. Hassan Juma; president of GUOE and Front member. Falih Abood Imara; secretary of GUOE and Front memberand many more) few days ago. The spokesperson of the ministry of interior stated that they are waiting for the government to decide whether arresting those leaders or let them stage their intended strike on September 22, 2007 that is aimed to topple the draft oil law. The Iraqi parliament member (Mahmood Uthman) said "I am against any protest or civil disobedience before the debating the draft law and declaring any protest before this debate means that there political motivations behind it."

At this point in time we need your solidarity and support more then ever. Please circulate this letter to whoever you know, send solidarity messages to those leaders to strengthen their moral at this critical time. Encourage whoever you know to send condemnation messages to the Iraqi and US embassy everywhere in the world. Send this message to the congress and let them know of the US democracy in Iraq.

The arrest of the leaders is imminent if we stay silent. Do not forget; it is you who can make difference.

Amjad Al-Jawhary

Iraq Freedom Congress

AND In response to this:

An Appeal To The Masses, Forces That Reject The Oil Law

The occupation forces and monopolistic corporations who are in rush to steal our wealth, are running out of patience. And passing the infamous oil Law by the Iraqi parliament has become imminent; however our ranks are still weak and dispersed to this day, which wrongly send the government and parliament a message stating that the majority of Iraqis are accepting this law.

Today we are at a crossroads where we have no choice but to take our anger to the street and tell those who are in the green zone and their masters that we strongly condemn and disapprove this suspicious law, this law that aims to disempowering the people and spread more chaos among the masses.

The Front had conducted several activities against this law, and has decided that it will stage a sit-in in the center of Baghdad on Sept. 22 to be an important step toward the abolishment of the proposed oil law.

We need your support to send a strong message to the occupation and its agents in order to topple the law.

Support our protests in Baghdad

Join the anti-oil law Front

Subhi al-Badri

Chairman of the Anti-Oil Law Front

Posted by: Me_again on September 21, 2007 at 7:38 AM | PERMALINK

"...Iranian meddling ..."

'Scuse me, how many Iranian troops are on the ground in Iraq?

Or did you mean Iranian meddling in the American invasion?

Posted by: sidewinder on September 21, 2007 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

These facts on the ground will certainly change the minds of Republican senators. Now the Democratic leaders in the senate will not have to lean on their knees to the Repubs when begging them to please not fillibuster the next bill to end this fiasco.

Posted by: gregor on September 21, 2007 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Plus the cover of Macleans is priceless, Bush photoshopped to look like Saddam, moustache and all.
http://www.macleans.ca/

Posted by: Northern Observer on September 21, 2007 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Slow day at the junk food trough, Al?

Reduced to writing comments on this blog that no one will give a shit about?

Posted by: Swan on September 21, 2007 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

As a Canadian I find Al's insinuation that Canadian news stories are somehow sub-par insulting. On the other hand, as a Canadian, I have read McLean's and know it to be intensely crappy, middle-brow pap. Right-wing fantasist and national embarrassment Mark Styen writes for McLean's, from where he’s recently been busying himself ruminating on his mentor Conrad Black’s innocence.

Paul Wells is pretty good though.

Posted by: wsam on September 21, 2007 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

"national embarrassment Mark Steyn"

A tear forms somewhere in a three car garage on Drexel Hill

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 21, 2007 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

This is deep stuff only to PC multi-culturalists who view everything through the rose tinted glasses of Anglopomorphism, that is, the fantasy that everybody is exactly like them and craves diversity and experiences like and dining at the latest African Moslem cannibal immigrant restaurant and all that malarkey.

Posted by: Luther on September 21, 2007 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the link !

Posted by: robert Waldmann on September 21, 2007 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks Kevin for that story. It was one of the best ones I have read re: Iraq in a long time. I liked the sense of humor, realism, and attention to detail regarding ordinary Iraqis-kind of like this part:

"...Al-Qaeda was able to take over some of the insurgency—and still controls chunks of Iraq—precisely because it was revolutionary, not conservative, and offered poor people in An­­bar a chance to kick some rich sheik and Baathist ass, as well as kill Americans and Shias. In part, al-Qaeda was part of a class war fuelled by profound anger and so­­cial resentment. When my friend Ahmed, the grandson of an important sheik, invited me to “come kill some al-Qaeda” around Falluja, he didn’t mean hunt down Saudis who had trained in Afghanistan under bin Laden. He meant, “Let’s go shoot the uppity trash who took over my village.”

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 21, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Like Doc, I found it to be a fascinating read. My first quick look I had decided NOT to read it based upon the cheesy picture of Bush. I think it gives a pretty good picture of the multifaceted complexities of the situation. All other sources of such material have been too elitist (only someone like myself can understand this, you a mere reader cannot hope to -sorta stuff). This one does not condescend at all.

The advantage a Canadian has with this subject should be obvious. Not having so much national skin in the game, they have a chance to see things from a different perspective.

Posted by: bigTom on September 21, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Are you kidding? Every picture of Bush is inherently cheesy, and the cover is what makes it work.

And Al wouldn't know anything about Canada if it bit him on his fat, white ass.

Posted by: Kenji on September 21, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

My favorite part of the piece:

But watching Gen. Petraeus, I was struck by how familiar his words sounded. The general talked like every Sunni I’ve ever met in Iraq—hell, he sounded a bit like Saddam. The old tyrant would have had one of his characteristic chest-heaving guffaws watching Petraeus as he intoned the old Baathist mantra about the dangers to Iraq: Iran, Iran, Iran. Bush took up Gen. Petraeus’s views a few days later in a nationally televised speech about Iraq, in which he talked about the threat Tehran posed. It seems that Petraeus and Bush have come to the same conclusion as Saddam: the main enemy is Iran, and you can’t govern Iraq without the Sunni Arab tribes, even as you encourage anti-Iranian nationalism among the Shia. This is what Saddam did during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and what Washington is trying to do now.

Posted by: Bill on September 21, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Somebody take up a collection to buy Robert an "r" and a "y" key for his keyboard.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on September 21, 2007 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, it's cute how he thx Kevin for all the traffic to his site by insulting him.

Posted by: Disputo on September 21, 2007 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin deserves credit for linking to Waldman in order to present two opposing points of view.

I'm in no position to refute Waldman, since he has lived in Iraq and my knowledge is only what various media report. I did find the title ("How George Bush became the new Saddam") silly. It's a lame attempt to sell magazines. How about, "How Ronald Reagan became the new Stalin" or "How FDR became the new Hitler" or "How King George V became the new Kaiser" or "How George Washington became the new King George III."

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 22, 2007 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

I personally thought Robert Waldmann's take as nearly nonsensical- the minimum requirement to being a talking head has to be a through command of the native tongue. He explains the poor grammar is due to malfunctioning r and y keys (how much does a keyboard cost? Like $10?) yet there are numerous grammatical and conceptual problems that muddle his points, if there truly are any valid ones. Here's an example;

"The anti anti anti neo is newer. Graham claims that the reflexive belief that ever thing that neocons say is false leads knee jerk anti neocons to claim that Iran is not meddling in Iraq. I am such a knee jerk neoconophobe and I waste much of m time reading knee jerk neoconophobic blogs and I haven't read an such suggestion. Graham's position on Iranian actions in Iraq is identical to that found on the man liberal to leftist blogs that I read, so wh is he congratulating himself on the non jerkiness of his knee ?"

Can anyone tell me what the hell this guy is talking about? How can one be a "anti anti anti neo," for example? I think perhaps his brain is somehow fundamentally broken.

His objections to Patrick Graham's thoughtful and well written piece were to question his politics, or the obvious "Bush bashing" going on in the article, and take nonsensical swipes at the writer as though he had a personal beef.

My opinion- unless you can truly refute a person's points, using at least rudimentary English that readers can understand, then avoid posting rebuttals.

That goes for referencing badly thought-out and poorly written critiques as well, Mr Drum.

Posted by: Mike Kuykendall on September 22, 2007 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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