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Tilting at Windmills

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July 16, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

DOUBLETALK IN IRAQ?....Speaking of weird, this is sort of peculiar too. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it.

Kevin Drum 1:37 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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I think I know what to make of it, and it's exactly what the BBC makes of it -- al-Maliki is in an obviously impossible situation, and is therefore trying to solve it by the impossible technique of playing Schrodinger's Cat and being two obviously contradictory things simultaneously while praying that somehow nobody will notice. It won't work -- but if you were in his shoes, what else could YOU do?

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on July 16, 2008 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK

Yep. Playing both sides against the middle.

Posted by: southpaw on July 16, 2008 at 2:28 AM | PERMALINK

Last I heard it's ONLY 12 billion a month, and really, the more WE pay for gas the better off the environment will be as fewer cars will be on the road. Plus all those killings cuts down on world overpopulation. YOU won't fight for IMPEACHMENT, so WE will be there for a generation or 2 as there is no reason for OUR Presidents to leave. "Lets stay"---the phrase that PAYS.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 16, 2008 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

My only suspision about the Iraqi leadership is that they might be more subservient to Washington than they appear. I started to suspect a while ago that the persons within the United States who originally motivated the Iraq war have changed their minds about the occupation's chances for ultimate success over the past few months to a year, althought they've been able to keep it quiet (and perhaps haven't done it too decisively, either, preferring to wait a little while to hopefully be proved wrong). Based on these two suspicions, I also started to wonder whether stronger talk from the Iraqi leaders about us leaving might basically mean they are being used as a proxy for the persons who motivated the Iraq war and occupation in making these statements-- they save face for the originators of the war by making the ostensible reason we leave "because the Iraqis told us to."

If both the first two suspicions above are correct, then the change of wording might just be to give a little more texture to the cover- to make the image that it's the Iraqis who want us out to look more realistic, because it looks like Al-Maliki decided the word he used wasn't strong enough, and he wanted to edit the speech to make it say a stronger word.

I'm not very suspicious that the change of wording indicates something that significant. I'm just providing a theory for what it might be if it is actually significant.

I guess the most basic criticism of my theory would be that the Iraqis and American conservatives in their public statements about American withdrawl have both appeared to waffle. My response to that if I were defending the theory would be that it could just represent waffling on the part of the American masters, who one month decide to start paving the way for motion and the next month decide to put the brakes on a little bit and to think about it some more.

In any event, to the extent we have influence over the Iraqi leadership, I think it's a given that it's the conservative politicians and powers in America (no the liberal ones) who have influence over them, and therefore at the least we will be trying to stay in until after the election, because no matter how people tried to spin it, leaving Iraq would make the Republicans look more in the eyes of the American public like they had put us on a stupid adventure-- John McCain has often publicly supported continuing the Iraq occupation.

Posted by: Swan on July 16, 2008 at 2:59 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not very suspicious that the change of wording indicates something that significant. I'm just providing a theory for what it might be if it is actually significant.

A much more prosaic interpretation would be that there is no order from America to Al-Maliki to "kick us out," and that Al-Maliki just chose a stronger word because he developed more guts once he was sitting in the privacy of an air-conditioned office instead of standing up on a podium.

I just provide the more involved explanation because usually occurences in this high-stakes, high-powered level of politics (like the installation of political leaders for the newly democratic Iraq) have a lot more orchestration and involvement behind them than the most naive participants in the discussion about politics tend to imagine.

Let me put myself on the record acknowledging that it could certainly be that the word-change is insignificant, yet that Al-Maliki still has the same kind of master-slave relationship with the powerful conservatives in our nation as I described, and also perhaps still be that there is a conservative, American-originating plan for withdrawl (or isn't).

Posted by: Swan on July 16, 2008 at 3:10 AM | PERMALINK

Hell, why is Maliki actually worried? I suppose crony politics, distribution of American redevelopment dollars, Iraq security forces intimidating voters, I'm sorry, I mean securing the polls, etc., will guarantee a win in the next parliamentary elections anyway.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 16, 2008 at 3:32 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently the people of Iraq want us out but the politicians are tip-toeing around the subject because of the upcoming elections. Hmmmm. How to stay in power while screwing your own people? Finally, something the Bush Administration could actually help them with...send them Karl Rove.

It doesn't appear that the current Iraqi government has been able to do much of anything for the people of Iraq except take the summer off. No electricity. No water. No infrastructure.

Why SHOULD Iraqis want the U.S. to stay and continue to prop up this government?

If Iraqis really cared about their government the way it is, they wouldn't be having such a hard time finding Iraqi forces to defend it. (Something the Republicans in OUR country might give some thought to.)

Posted by: Everyman on July 16, 2008 at 4:05 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin linked:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/07/16/politics/animal/main4264335.shtml

Posted by: majarosh on July 16, 2008 at 4:15 AM | PERMALINK

If Iraqis really cared about their government the way it is, they wouldn't be having such a hard time finding Iraqi forces to defend it.

Posted by: Everyman on July 16, 2008 at 4:05 AM


It's my understanding that, as it is in the US, citizens "care about" their country more than their government.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080716/wl_mideast_afp/iraqunrestusdiwaniyahsecurity_080716075311

Posted by: majarosh on July 16, 2008 at 4:23 AM | PERMALINK

It's my understanding that, as it is in the US, citizens "care about" their country more than their government.

Posted by: majarosh on July 16, 2008 at 4:23 AM

Unfortunately, in a democracy at least, if you don't care about the government enough, it is free to do what it wishes to with the country you care so much about. So if you really and truly care about your country, you'll care enough to make sure the government cares too.

Otherwise, hello George Bush & Co. Motto: "Love means never having to say you're sorry."
(Flag pin not included.)

Posted by: Everyman on July 16, 2008 at 4:58 AM | PERMALINK

At least the BBC mentions a fact the American media never talks about - most Iraqis DO NOT WANT US THERE! The last poll I saw put the number at 70%.

So, all this blather from the presidential candidates on both sides talking about "residual forces" and "long-term basing" should be understood by the American people to mean our soldiers will be stationed in hostile territory and will be facing death and dismemberment.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 16, 2008 at 6:24 AM | PERMALINK

Obama outlines policy of endless war

"Double-Talk" is his middle name!

Any misconception that Barack Obama is running in the 2008 election as an “antiwar” candidate should have been cleared up Tuesday in what was billed by the Democratic presidential campaign as a “major speech” on national security and the US war in Iraq.

Speaking before a backdrop of massed American flags at the Reagan Building in Washington, Obama made it clear that he opposes the present US policy in Iraq not on the basis of any principled opposition to neo-colonialism or aggressive war, but rather on the grounds that the Iraq war is a mistaken deployment of power that fails to advance the global strategic interests of American imperialism.

What emerges from the speech by the junior senator from Illinois is that the November election will not provide the American people with the opportunity to vote for or against war, but merely to choose which of the two colonial-style wars that US forces are presently fighting should be escalated.

Posted by: on July 16, 2008 at 6:33 AM | PERMALINK

Well I think what Ayatollah Ali Sistani says matters doesn't it - so that if he says go than a majority of Iraq may say go.

Posted by: Me_again on July 16, 2008 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

al-Maliki is in an obviously impossible situation, and is therefore trying to solve it by the impossible technique of playing Schrodinger's Cat and being two obviously contradictory things simultaneously while praying that somehow nobody will notice. It won't work -- but if you were in his shoes, what else could YOU do?

Maybe he's taking a cue from John McCain, who says obviously contradictory things all the time ("We don't need more US troops in Afghanistan! Wait -- yes, we do!"), confident in the fact that his "base" -- the so-called "liberal media" -- won't notice, or if they do, will give him their usual free pass.

The media, as Bob Somersby and others have painstakingly documented, has done a truly awful job over the last near-decade or more, in the process enabling, will-they or nil-they, all manner of Republican failures. This election cycle, the malfeasance of the national media is too obvious to deny or ignore.

Two reforms spring to mind: a return of the Fairness Doctrine, and radical changes to onwership rules. News media companies shouldn't be owned by any other corproate entity, let alone massive media and/or defense conglomerates. We can see where the so-called "reforms" of the Reagan Administration have brought us, and it isn't healthy for the country -- only the Republican Party. QED.

Posted by: Gregory on July 16, 2008 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the single word substitution was a case of AlMalike successfully testing the waters. Start of the ambiguous sounding "presense" version, then if Petreous doesn't show up and demand a retraction, he decides that perhaps his autonomy is now great enough to change the wording.

He must be considering several things:
(1) His people (Iraqi Shia) really want the US to leave. He has to be seen to reflect this wish or he will ultimately lose everything.

(2) His freedom of maneuver is limited by his imperial masters. But, this is weakening.

(3) He has to get a withdrawal at the right time, which maximizes his odds of staying on top afterwards. He needs time to build up his power base in the Iraqi army.

(4) Leaving wiggle room is always a good thing, especially as things rarely go as planned, and he may need to tweak the schedule in order to fulfill consideration three.

Posted by: bigTom on July 16, 2008 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Obama and McCain have been great flip-floppers. Why should we be surprised that a leader of one of the most corrupt nations on earth isn't a "my word is my bond" type?

Posted by: Luther on July 16, 2008 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

From the article:

Contacted by the BBC, the prime minister's office had no explanation for the apparent contradiction. An official suggested the written version remained the authoritative one, although it is not what Mr Maliki said.

This happens in the US all the time. Bush garbles his speech, but the official transcripts show what he should have said.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on July 16, 2008 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Version 1:

The direction is towards either a memorandum of understanding on their evacuation, or a memorandum of understanding on programming their presence.
Version 2:
The direction is towards either a memorandum of understanding on their evacuation, or a memorandum of understanding on programming their withdrawal.
Version 2 is redundant, so let's go with version 1. So did Obama jump the gun? Very possibly. But "programming their presence" is pretty mealy-mouthed and sounds a lot like "our way or the highway".

Posted by: has407 on July 16, 2008 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK
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