The Kingmaker, Part II

by John Quiggin on February 22, 2006

Peter Beinart runs a TNR piece with a theme implicit in my post on the Sadr interview, the fact that Sadr’s rise to power in Iraq has attracted almost no media attention. Not having access to US TV, I didn’t realise how completely this has been ignored (Technorati suggests the same is pretty much true for the blogosphere). It’s behind their paywall, but I can’t resist quoting the first few paras.

Something important happened this week in Iraq. The United Iraqi Alliance, the Shia Islamist coalition that won a plurality of seats in last December’s elections, chose Ibrahim Al Jaafari as its candidate for prime minister, which means he’ll almost certainly get the job. Jaafari was already Iraq’s interim prime minister, but few thought he’d keep the post in a permanent government. After all, Sunnis accused him of allowing Shia militias to run roughshod in Iraq’s Interior Ministry. Kurds and other secular Iraqis considered him a closet theocrat who had tried to undermine women’s rights to inheritance and divorce. And just about everyone considered him indecisive and ineffectual–not a great quality when your government is fighting for its life. Yet he got the job. Turns out ineffectual and theocratic is just what some members of the United Iraqi Alliance wanted in a prime minister. In particular, Moqtada Al Sadr pushed for Jaafari’s selection in a deal that could give his followers four or five Cabinet posts. It’s quite possible, in fact, that Sadr will emerge as the most powerful figure in Iraq’s new government. You remember Sadr–the guy the United States accused of murdering a moderate Shia cleric just days into the war. The guy who recently visited Iran and Syria to express solidarity with their anti-American dictators. The guy whose militia (which we tried–and failed–to disarm several years ago) periodically attacks British troops in the Iraqi south. Yes, that Sadr. Well, he’s now Iraq’s Dick Cheney.

Jaafari’s selection sparked a lively debate on U.S. talk shows. Hosts asked their guests how it affected their views on troop withdrawal. Regional experts tried to explain the murky political dynamic within the Shia Islamist coalition. Pundits raised alarms about Sadr’s new power. Talking heads speculated about how the Kurds and Sunnis would respond.

Actually, none of this happened. In reality, Jaafari’s selection sparked little discussion in the broadcast media. It made the front page of Monday’s New York Times and Washington Post, but, in the mysterious alchemy that converts print news into network news, the Jaafari story almost disappeared. According to transcripts, it received less than a paragraph of text on ABC’s “World News Tonight Sunday” and “Fox News Sunday.” And those were the responsible outlets. CBS’s and NBC’s Sunday evening broadcasts didn’t mention Jaafari’s selection at all.

Beinart goes on to point out that, since this event can’t easily be fitted into the liberal vs conservative, domestic political pointscoring format of cable TV, it’s just ignored. He then calls, rather forlornly, for a better media. I think the real lesson is that the US is, for good and ill, too self-absorbed to be a successful imperial power. Mind you, the British, who were professionals at imperialism, found Iraq pretty hard to handle when they had the mandate.

Update I couldn’t find much blogospheric reaction to Sadr’s rise, so I thought I’d check at Warblogger Central. I couldn’t see anything recent, but Instapundit has followed Sadr’s career, which apparently follows an uninterrupted trajectory of decline (he notes, in this respect, the incisive analysis of the Belmont Club). Some samples

The murders are the first sign of organised Iraqi opposition to Sadr’s presence a [Apr 29, 04]

those who thought Sadr represented a mass movement among Iraqis were seriously mistaken. [May 5, 04]

ANOTHER BAD DAY for the increasingly irrelevant Sadr. [May 26, 04]

SADR’S DECLINE CONTINUES [Jun 17, 04]

Demonstrators shouted chants denouncing al-Sadr, including one that equated him with deposed dictator Saddam Hussein. [Sep 3, 04]

Bush has successfully mitigated the perils of having to grapple with two insurgencies simultaneously– through a nuanced combination of sophisticated counter-insurgency efforts and attendant political machinations contra Moktada al-Sadr. [Nov 1, 04]

Sadr seems to drop of the Instaradar screen after that, at least as far as my Google skills can detect, and maybe he was quietly rehabilitated in the course of 2005. Oceania has, after all, always been at war with Eastasia.

{ 59 comments }

1

nick s 02.22.06 at 2:53 am

The British press covered it, and the Washington Times carried a Telegraph piece in the run-up to the elections noting al-Sadr’s emergence as kingmaker. And the always-good Knight Ridder Baghdad bureau knew what was happening, too.

But, y’know, TV’s where it’s at, and the narrative for the Iraqi elections was laid out for the broadcasters, rather than Sadr’s purple finger.

2

Ross Smith 02.22.06 at 3:52 am

The guy the United States accused of murdering a moderate Shia cleric just days into the war … Well, he’s now Iraq’s Dick Cheney.

I don’t know what everyone’s complaining about. He sounds adequately qualified for the position to me.

3

Brendan 02.22.06 at 3:59 am

‘ I think the real lesson is that the US is, for good and ill, too self-absorbed to be a successful imperial power. Mind you, the British, who were professionals at imperialism, found Iraq pretty hard to handle when they had the mandate.’

This may be true or it may not. There is an element of truth to the old cliche that the British gained an Empire in a prolonged fit of absent-mindedness. If you actually go back and read the greats of British 19th century literature what is amazing (really stunning if you think about it) is just how little the Empire is mentioned (pace Kipling). It seems to have been a matter that intellectuals and writers in general just really didn’t bother themselves about too much.

Likewise I read an article in (I think it was) ‘History Today’ recently that argued against the (I think) Edward Said view that young people were indoctrinated in Imperialist ideology and that the British were awash in Imperialist propaganda. On the contrary (the author argued): it seems that until really very late in the day (the 1930s) and then mainly because of Gandhi and other anti-imperialist activists, most British just managed to blank out the fact of their Empire and just weren’t really that aware of it.

Likewise: had Iraq gone well (ha ha ha ha…no but just imagine for a second) I’m pretty sure it would have quickly vanished from the media and any further additions to the Empire would also have had a brief burst of publicity and then vanished. Look at Afghanistan (or Kosova). If it wasn’t for the fact that both of these seem to be unravelling (although at a glacial rate, in both cases) they wouldn’t be mentioned in the news at all.

4

Martin Wisse 02.22.06 at 5:21 am

Propaganda for Empire was only needed after enough people were coming round to the view that the Empire was something to proud off, so no wonder most of it will have been published in the later stages of Empire.

But to say that the acquisation of the British Empire was done in a “prolonged fit of absent-mindedness” is just plain wrong, an unconvincing attempt to absolve the British from the consequences of their own imperical ambitions. For each step in the process that led to one fifth of the globe being British, there were solid reasons.

5

Martin Wisse 02.22.06 at 5:22 am

Not something to be proud off, of course

6

John Quiggin 02.22.06 at 5:40 am

Like most ancient British traditions, Imperialism proper dates to the late 19th century. Before that you had a collection of acquisitions with more or less dubious individual rationales, but no coherent ideology – India was a trading venture, Australia a prison, Canada a remnant of the first Empire and so on.

The late 19th was when Victoria became Empress of India, of consciously imperialist expansion in Africa and of imperialism as a major factor in domestic British policy with Chamberlain,

7

Ron F 02.22.06 at 5:47 am

since this event can’t easily be fitted into the liberal vs conservative, domestic political pointscoring format of cable TV, it’s just ignored.

So, nothing to do with the fact that over 2,000 U.S. troops have died replacing a secular dictatorship with a burgeoning theocracy allied to Iran?

8

Brendan 02.22.06 at 6:13 am

‘So, nothing to do with the fact that over 2,000 U.S. troops have died replacing a secular dictatorship with a burgeoning theocracy allied to Iran.’

This is a gross exaggeration, but then hey this aint an academic paper. But I think if you read all the stories about Iraq in the popular press they will mainly fall into three categories.

a: Darkies killing us for absolutely no reason at all.

b: Darkies killing each other, for again, absolutely no reason.

c: Our (ie. the white man’s) progress in bringing secular progress and democracy to the ‘lesser breeds without the law’.

Us bombing or killing them or us bringing anti-secular fundamentalists to power don’t fit the paradigm and tends to be ignored.

This isn’t the whole truth, and obviously Abu Ghraib (*) etc. don’t fit the story either. But I think 80 or 90% of Western news stories about Iraq can be easily slotted into one of these three categories.

(*) Abu Ghraib etc are instead wildly ‘spun’. So definite acts of torture, for which there is filmic evidence becomes ‘alleged’ acts of etc. …..’Torture’ becomes ‘abuse’. ‘Murder’ becomes ‘deaths resulting from abuse’. And so on. Cover ups and whitewashes become serious ‘inquiries’.

Ths basic framework that underpins all this is that ‘we’ are, objectively and unambiguously, more ‘moral’ than ‘them’. Evidence that we are as bad as ‘them’ (or even, talking science fiction here, worse) is literally unthinkable in the Western tradition.

9

abb1 02.22.06 at 6:25 am

They started it – Sept. 11 remember? – and we had to do something about it.

Or, as crazy Thomas Friedman put it:

The “real reason” for this war, which was never stated, was that after 9/11 America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world. Afghanistan wasn’t enough because a terrorism bubble had built up over there — a bubble that posed a real threat to the open societies of the West and needed to be punctured. This terrorism bubble said that plowing airplanes into the World Trade Center was O.K., having Muslim preachers say it was O.K. was O.K., having state-run newspapers call people who did such things “martyrs” was O.K. and allowing Muslim charities to raise money for such “martyrs” was O.K. Not only was all this seen as O.K., there was a feeling among radical Muslims that suicide bombing would level the balance of power between the Arab world and the West, because we had gone soft and their activists were ready to die.

And now when did kill the whole lot of them and showed them who the boss is – what’s there to talk about?

10

Slocum 02.22.06 at 8:21 am

I think the real lesson is that the US is, for good and ill, too self-absorbed to be a successful imperial power.

It’s pretty clear that even if network news shows are ignoring this, the U.S. government is not. This is obviously what Khalilzad’s public statement was about, and there seem to be behind-the-scenes actions to match (with the UIA complaining about them). See, for example:

http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/2006/02/uia-playing-victim.html

Is Sadr trying to be Iraq’s “Dick Cheney”? Sure. Is that result a foregone conclusion? Is he firmly established in that position for years to come? Not at this point.

11

jet 02.22.06 at 9:12 am

I know everyone here is busy spinning this as a failure of the West and framing this as a “look how stupid the right, Bush, and Americans are”, but has anyone explored the idea that Sadr might be good for Iraq? He certainly seems a key person in resolving the Sunni Shiite issue. And if the Sunnis can be made to accept the new government, 90% of the violence will end. And with his anti-US vitrol, his influence will make it much easier for the US to withdrawl troops.

Leaving Iraq a whole country, as democratic as Italy, and dependant on US foreign aid (so the US can continue to apply pressure), is probably a very good solution.

12

theCoach 02.22.06 at 9:14 am

The instapundit stuff is the most devastating undressing I have seen on the internets. What an embarassment Reynolds is to himself.

really enjoyed this line: “which apparently follows an uninterrupted trajectory of decline.”

13

J Thomas 02.22.06 at 9:26 am

Jet, yes, Sadr might be very good for iraq. He’s done more than any other shia to reach out to the sunnis. And if he can get the US troops out, 90% of the violence will end.

The immediate problem is that Bush can’t talk about anything except “staying the course”. If he makes some new proposal it will look like he’s rudderless and then if it fails he’ll look worse. Sadr might be very good for iraq but he isn’t good for attempts to stay the course. Whether there are secret US efforts to do something else I can’t say — they must be secret.

Everything to do with Sadr looks bad for Bush. It might be good for iraq to give the impression that Sadr has driven us out of the country, and that might be fine for the USA, but it would look bad for Bush. If Sadr looks strong but not all-powerful and he causes a lot of bickering and does a lot of sectarian posturing that looks bad for Bush. If we kill him and his people go crazy that looks bad.

So if the issue is the long-run good for the USA and for iraq, things might be going along fine. But if the issue is american voters’ perception of Bush and the legislators responsible for the war, then it all looks bad. Which do you think Bush/Rove cares about more?

14

ed_finnerty 02.22.06 at 10:17 am

Steve Gilliard has been blogging about Sadr as Iraq’s defacto president/prime minister for a couple of years. Credit where credit is due.

15

Brendan 02.22.06 at 10:37 am

Sorry, I just read up some of the Instapundit links, because I needed a good laugh, and got this:

‘The biggest (legitimate) criticism of Bush in Iraq, it seems to me, is that he has moved in too, um, nuanced a fashion where Fallujah is concerned. Bill Quick has certainly been arguing that for a long time, and so has Andrew — though Andrew has attributed that to a shortage of troops, which I believe is wrong. The Marines had Fallujah under control in April but withdrew because the White House and Pentagon didn’t want to inflict the large numbers of civilian casualties that might have been involved. You can argue with that approach, but it’s not at all clear to me that it has been proven wrong at this point. Indeed, growing Iraqi anger at the Sunnis of Fallujah and environs has drastically lowered the political costs within Iraq of such civilian casualties. In addition, there aren’t that many civilians left in Fallujah at this point.’

Hey I know I’m going to be accuse of political correctness here and God knows what else….but to a not particularly friendly or objective reader (i.e. me) Reynolds would seem to be calling here for more civilian casualties. (Iraqis obviously, not real people). Or have I got that wrong?

In only ask becase last night on Newsnight the Pentagon munchkin defended the torture and murder of (at least) 34 detainees by saying that as a percentage of total detained it didn’t really matter. Note: he didn’t say it was regrettable, or a tragedy, or that a an inquiry would have to be launched. He actually said it didn’t matter because there were (at the time of writing) more people in prisons in Iraq who have not (yet) been murdered or tortured.

What an exciting argument! Certainly the trials of Peter Sutcliffe or Fred West would have been far more entertaining if the defence had pointed out that as a percentage of the women in Britain (let alone the world) these hardly registered as percentage points on the scale, and probably shouldn’t even be considered crimes at all. In any case they would all have died eventually anyway.

Reynold’s apparent call for the deaths of more Iraqi civilians would seem to be from the same school of ‘kill ’em all let God sort ’em out’.

16

Ron F 02.22.06 at 10:52 am

John Quiggin’s roundup of the warbloggers ignoral of Sadr’s growing influence confirms, for me, what I said earlier – as things stand it’s a foreign policy catastrophe of their own making to which they respond – “It’s not happening!”.

Re: Khalilzad and Straw’s interference with the selection of the Iraqi government and their attempts to neuter the UIA influence, Steve Bell nails it.

As for Khalilzad’s threats, here’s Jaafari’s response

“When someone asks us whether we want a sectarian government, the answer is no, we do not want a sectarian government – not because the US ambassador says so or issues a warning,” he said. “We do not need anybody to remind us, thank you.”

Rather polite given Khalilzad’s threat to cut off reconstruction funds from a country the U.S./UK have virtually destroyed.

Jet –

has anyone explored the idea that Sadr might be good for Iraq?

Good grief! For a moment there I thought you gave a damn. The following kind of spoiled it –

Leaving Iraq a whole country … and dependant on US foreign aid (so the US can continue to apply pressure), is probably a very good solution.

Trouble is, Sadr is a nationalist and he’s very clear about what he thinks of U.S. “pressure”. Given the power, the CPA Orders, the economic shock therapy, the permanent bases and Halliburton would be torn up or kicked out of the country faster than you can say no-bid-contract.

17

Jack 02.22.06 at 10:56 am

There’s much less talk of useful idiots these days isn’t there?

18

Barry 02.22.06 at 11:07 am

Slocum: “Is Sadr trying to be Iraq’s “Dick Cheney”? Sure. Is that result a foregone conclusion? Is he firmly established in that position for years to come? Not at this point.”

Rhetorical questions are even weaker than unsubstantiated statements, IMHO.

Proposal: A new net rule, called “Rumsfield’s Rule” – ‘when on participant in a debate uses more than one rhetorical question in a post, that participant is assumed to be BS-ing until proven otherwise, and to have conceded the point of the debate’.

19

jet 02.22.06 at 11:51 am

Ron F,
You know what Hamas’s did when they came into power? They made sure everyone knew they still planned on throwing a holocaust party and driving Israel into the ocean. You know what Hamas did soon thereafter? They condemned Israel for cutting aid to Palestine, realized they actually had to run the government and that takes actual money, mumbled something about working with Israel, and apparently worked something out under the table.

Now what does this short trip down just yesterday’s history show us about Sadr? That even if he wants to “drive the US into the ocean”, Iraq is dependant on US aid. And say what he will in public, he’ll have to work something out “under the table”, allowing the US to continue to apply pressure.

You’re grandstanding statements (dripping with BS), that he’s some uber-nationalists that would die a thousand deaths before taking one US dollar is vapid hot air.

20

abb1 02.22.06 at 12:26 pm

I haven’t heard of any “holocaust party”, but I do know that what Israel cut was not “aid to Palestine”, but the funds that belong to the PA and only collected by Israel. Theft – plain and simple.

21

Slocum 02.22.06 at 12:43 pm

Slocum: “Is Sadr trying to be Iraq’s “Dick Cheney”? Sure. Is that result a foregone conclusion? Is he firmly established in that position for years to come? Not at this point.”

Rhetorical questions are even weaker than unsubstantiated statements, IMHO.

That’s a ‘rebuttal’? Would you prefer the same content with no rhetorical questions — “There’s little doubt that Sadr wants to be Iraq’s Cheney (and that he’s wielding considerable influence currently), but he certainly has not yet established himself comfortably in that position for years to come.”

Further–politics in Iraq are highly unstable at present. Nobody even knows exactly what form the new government is going to take (or even when it’s going to be approved). To predict that any one figure (other than Sistani) is firmly established as “kingmaker” and that shifting alliances in the months to come won’t change their status is foolish.

22

roger 02.22.06 at 1:01 pm

A little self advertising here — I wrote about Sadr’s rise in over twenty posts at LimitedInc since 2003, which are listed here: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=
+site:limitedinc.blogspot.com+limited+inc+sadr Limited Inc doesn’t show up a lot at Technorati, for some reason. Well, perhaps because we never registered with them. Or something.

In fact, lately I’ve been contrasting the news we get in the print media – the NYT and the WAPO — with the realities given to us by the Iraqi election at that site. For instance, that right until a couple days after the election, the NYT journalists — who include the almost always wrong James Glanz, hands down the worst reporter on Iraq, and the incorrigible Dexter Filkins, as well as the semi-crazed John Burns.

At the time of the first elections, in January, 2005, I wrote:

“The post election situation is going to show how good a games player Muqtada al- Sadr is. Sadr has staked out a position that is both anti-exile (meaning Iranian exiles, as well as American ones) and anti-occupation. If, as seems likely, the crew that comes into power after the election is distinguished by the amount of real estate they own in Southern France or the United States, and if those politicians continue to follow a compliant line with the Americans, we expect that Sadr will have a great window of opportunity. What he does with it is the question. The appeal to poor Shi’ites would seem to be the right appeal in a country with a forty to sixty percent unemployment rate.”

And, finally, LI has harped and harped on the fact that someone who got less votes in Iraq’s election than Dennis Kucinech got in the Democratic primary, Ahmed Chalabi, has accrued about 24 to 25 times the news space accorded to the head of SCIRI — not to mention Jafari. Imagine that all you knew about the U.S. was reported in papers that habitually featured Kucinech as America’s most important politician.

Huh. Maybe you would get a distorted picture of the U.S. You think?

23

roger 02.22.06 at 1:07 pm

ps — speaking of Sadr and the elections, I wonder if anyone remembers the tres stupid Oxford Research International poll done just before the elections. As I remember, the poll showed Allawi as one of the most popular politicians in Iraq. Oddly enough, now that we have had an election that showed how skewed and stupid that poll was — how it grossly oversampled upper and middle class Iraqis, for instance, and grossly distorted upward the amount of friendly sentiment to America’s friends in Iraq — the poll has been allowed to slip into the oblivion in which all the propaganda polls sleep — although no doubt it will be refered to again by some pro war figure as showing the strong support of Iraqis for the occupation, blah blah blah. Since CT featured several posts about that poll, perhaps they should resurrect it now, and compare its results to what is happening in Iraq at present.

24

Ron F 02.22.06 at 1:22 pm

Jet –

You’re grandstanding statements (dripping with BS), that he’s some uber-nationalists that would die a thousand deaths before taking one US dollar is vapid hot air.

Be a good fellow and point out where I said that.

While you’re at it, do tell what you think Sadr would do if, as I made perfectly clear, he was given the power to do it?

24hr bars? Casinos in the desert? Something else?

25

J Thomas 02.22.06 at 1:40 pm

I do know that what Israel cut was not “aid to Palestine”, but the funds that belong to the PA and only collected by Israel. Theft – plain and simple.

Wait, the israeli government said the money was being held in escrow. It won’t be plain and simple theft if they do deliver it.

It really doesn’t make sense for israel to collect palestinian taxes. But lots of people agreed they didn’t want the PLO collecting those taxes, they had such a reputation for corruption.

And then, if israel chooses to collect taxes on stuff going into or out of palestine and give the money to whoever they want, there isn’t much the palestinians can do about it.

26

Brendan 02.22.06 at 1:48 pm

(an Iraq) ‘dependant on US foreign aid (so the US can continue to apply pressure), is probably a very good solution.’

I think it has to be said: this has actually been tried in the Arab world, in the case of Egypt. It’s not generally agreed to have been a fantastic success.

27

Dan Simon 02.22.06 at 1:58 pm

Funny–I thought it was Ahmed Chalabi who has once again emerged as a kingmaker despite repeatedly being counted out by those wishful-thinking idiots on the other side. And that this proved that Iraq was all set to become a pro-American, non-Islamic state.

Whoops–sorry, that was a different blog.

This politics stuff is funny–things seem to change overnight, over and over again, and still everybody laughs at everybody else for getting it all wrong, only to get it all wrong the next day. Almost makes one long for the Saddam Hussein era, when one could maintain one’s prejudices for more than a week at a time, without having to worry about events making them obsolete…

28

John Quiggin 02.22.06 at 3:41 pm

Jet, I said in my previous post that, in some ways, Sadr is just what the US would look for in an Iraqi leader. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that they tried to kill him and he hasn’t forgotten.

29

abb1 02.22.06 at 4:31 pm

Dan Simon has a point, it’s pretty fluid out there…

30

John Quiggin 02.22.06 at 4:46 pm

Dan Simon, why don’t you check my posts on Sadr, particularly in 2004, and the comments threads. Feel free to report back on who got what wrong.

As regards Chalabi, I and others at CT have been impressed by his survival skills (though his political luck seems to have run out now), but it’s been clear for a long time that he’s neither pro-American nor pro-Islamic, just pro-Chalabi.

31

MQ 02.22.06 at 7:55 pm

“I think the real lesson is that the US is, for good and ill, too self-absorbed to be a successful imperial power.”

Since WWII, it has been very difficult for anyone to be a successful imperial power. Even those sophisticated British people fled from their empire with their tail between their legs. It was all gone by about 1960.

The idea that it would be helpful or a good thing to turn Iraq into a corrupt welfare state dependent on the U.S….has someone not been following the last few decades of middle eastern politics?

32

John Quiggin 02.22.06 at 8:12 pm

Jet, if the Iraqi government is depending on US financial aid, it’s out of luck. As I mentioned a couple of months ago, the $18 billion that was appropriated has mostly been wasted, and there’s no more where that came from.

33

Dan Kervick 02.22.06 at 9:13 pm

It is not just coverage of Jafari and Sadr that has been slighted in the US media, but coverage and discussion of Iraq in general – it seems to me – has fallen off sharply in the past few months.

After employing a variety of media strategems over the past few year to put Iraq in to the Afghanistan-like “briefly noted” category, the administration finally hit on one that worked: get Iraq out of the spotlight by putting Iran into the spotlight. The Iran media push seems to have worked somewhat, and the obsessive spell of Iraq over the public mind has been broken. Barring a sudden reversal of fortunes, with a dramatic uptick in US casualties – the occupation can probably muddle along for a long time now. Iraq is Afghanistan II.

I would add that my side, the Democrats, seem to be playing their typical role – the same role they played during the debate in 2002. The Dems in Washington feel much more at home working domestic policy, and will grasp at any opportunity to turn the discussion back in that direction. Plus, they have no unified position on the war. So when things get a bit confusing, when their own base is not forcing them to talk about Iraq, and when there are no obvious cheap political points to be scored in the war debate, they run away from the issue very quickly.

34

abb1 02.23.06 at 4:11 am

I have to take issue with this idea that somehow the Bush Administration has been hoping for “broad government of national unity, reaching out to Sunni nationalists”. Of course their best case scenario would be a pro-American strong-man like Chalabi; that didn’t happen and without it any national unity would mean their defeat – no military “footprint”, no control of resouces, no nothing. What they’ve been hoping for is exactly the opposite – permanent low level civil war, opportunity for playing one side against the other while weakening all and creating chaos and general mood of hopelessness.

35

joejoejoe 02.23.06 at 10:56 am

Steve Gilliard writes about Sadr regularly on his News Blog. Here’s an excerpt from a December 2004 post:

Keeping permanent US bases in Iraq is impossible with Sadr in power. That’s why his rise has been quiet – that and the dozens of dead US soldiers that died fighting Sadr’s militias in and around Najaf (including Cindy Sheehan’s son). Sadr may have lost every battle but he won the war – his power is rising as the US power recedes in Iraq.

36

joejoejoe 02.23.06 at 10:58 am

The quote above is incorrect – those are my words, not Gilliard’s. Here is the quote from his 12/04 piece:

“It has been incredibly easy to support Bush, it doesn’t cost anyone outside the military anything. The war on terror is a bunch of catch phrases and delays at the airport. I seriously doubt a lot of people who want to be “tough on terror” expect that to involve their kids running around dodging IED’s.

It’s gutcheck time, and Congress isn’t going to pass.

If given a choice of either withdrawing from Iraq or a draft, well, let’s say hello to President Sadr. People, and not just liberals, are going to resist the draft if it comes.”

37

jet 02.23.06 at 11:37 am

Dr. Quiggin,

…the $18 billion that was appropriated has mostly been wasted, and there’s no more where that came from.

I believe the same thing was said about Afghanistan, yet american money has continued to flow after funding wasn’t appropriated in the yearly budget.

You could be right, but I you’re being premature.

38

abb1 02.23.06 at 12:20 pm

Don’t be premature, Dr. Quiggin, don’t be.

39

Barry 02.23.06 at 3:10 pm

Slocum (about my comments on his Rumsfeldian rhetorical questions): “That’s a ‘rebuttal’?

No, it’s pointing out that a series of rhetorical questions doesn’t count for much.

“Would you prefer the same content with no rhetorical questions—“There’s little doubt that Sadr wants to be Iraq’s Cheney (and that he’s wielding considerable influence currently), but he certainly has not yet established himself comfortably in that position for years to come.”

Last I heard, he’s been gaining power for the past couple of years, and everybody that the US has been backing has been losing power. Good enough for government work, so to speak.

40

J Thomas 02.23.06 at 3:51 pm

Jet, that’s interesteing! So, if the money isn’t in the budget but it’s coming in anyway, where is it coming from?

41

Barry 02.23.06 at 3:54 pm

Remember that much of both wars was fought off of the regular budget system, with special appropriations and considerable executive leeway. I imagine that the administration has the odd several billion dollars tucked away, beyond what their cronies have already hoovered up.

Of course, Iraq is bigger, so a billion dollars won’t go as far.

42

jet 02.23.06 at 4:48 pm

abb1,
I use Bayes’ therom to rate the “thoughtfullness” of comments. You are one of the commenters I use to train it for “pure blather”.

43

abb1 02.23.06 at 5:10 pm

I had no idea I was being analyzed by a theorem. I’m impressed. I hereby pledge to increase “thoughtfullness” of my comments by no less than 17% by the end of this quarter.

44

jet 02.23.06 at 8:13 pm

I had the idea you were in IT and would have something a little cleverer like inserting keywords randomly through your comments.

45

TW 02.24.06 at 3:36 am

not that anyone’s still reading, but …

i think the lesson is that it’s unbearably painful to face the fact that 2,000 American kids have given up their lives to bring theocratic oligarchy & civil war to a country that posed no threat to us. it’s UNBEARABLE. literally, my stomach turns in knots & i get a headache when i let myself really think about it for more than a couple of minutes at a time. it says nothing about our ambition or stomach for empire, and everything about the universal tendency toward cognitive dissonance.

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jet 02.24.06 at 9:31 am

tw,
Why would you call it a theocratic oligarchy? Given the diverse number of people sharing power in Iraq, I certainly wouldn’t call it an oligarchy. And barring in grave changes to the Iraqi constitution, it will be one of the most democratic countries in the region. And if the free press remains fairly free, this stands a chance of staying so.

Don’t take this as a defense of the war. Given the lack of WMD’s, I can’t find a convincing argument for the invasion. But those soldiers haven’t died in vain just yet.

47

abb1 02.24.06 at 11:12 am

I had the idea you were in IT and would have something a little cleverer like inserting keywords randomly through your comments.

Are you sore because I don’t share your admiration for Israel’s “aid to Palestine” activities?

48

jet 02.25.06 at 11:02 am

Are you sore I don’t share your love of Hamas?

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jet 02.25.06 at 11:10 am

Abb1,
I dare you to say something bad about Hamas, Fatah, or the PLO. Just for once prove you can actually utter something with a negative connotation about your chosen people. Come on, it really is easy. Fatah being the group that through their terrorist activities in Israel and Jordan instigated the events that led up to Black September, where 10’s of thousands of civilians died, and most Palestinians were expelled from Jordan. You have to especially appreciate how Fatah milita would execute Jordanian soldiers, they had kidnapped on leave, by driving 9 inch nails into their heads. Or Perhaps you could check out the PLO aligned groups in Lebanon which shelled dense urban civilian areas causing thousands of deaths. Or maybe you could just say something about the corrupt government that is run like the mafia terrorizing its own people far worse than Israel ever could.

Be strong abb1, but you can do it.

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jet 02.25.06 at 11:18 am

Abb1,
This should give you something a little more recent to work with. Yes, this is the group that was elected by an overwhelming majority by your “chosen people”.

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hank 02.25.06 at 12:26 pm

Look for the obvious, eh?

Remember, developing alternative sources of energy would be dishonoring our war dead.

Can You Say “Permanent Bases”?
The American Press Can’t
By Tom Engelhardt

“… nothing could be more concrete — though less generally discussed in our media — than the set of enormous bases the Pentagon has long been building in that country. …
“…Representing a staggering investment of resources, effort, and geostrategic dreaming, they are the unlikeliest places for the Bush administration to hand over willingly to even the friendliest of Iraqi governments.
“… For the first time, we have actual descriptions of a couple of the “super-bases” built in Iraq in the last two and a half years and, despite being written by reporters under Pentagon information restrictions, they are sobering. Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post paid a visit to Balad Air Base, the largest American base in the country, 68 kilometers north of Baghdad ….

“…. of the troops at Balad, “only several hundred have jobs that take them off base. Most Americans posted here never interact with an Iraqi.”

“Recently, Oliver Poole, a British reporter, visited another of the American “super-bases,” the still-under-construction al-Asad Airbase (Football and pizza point to US staying for long haul). He observes, of “the biggest Marine camp in western Anbar province,” ….

There are at least four such “super-bases” in Iraq, none of which have anything to do with “withdrawal” from that country. ….Whatever top administration officials and military commanders say — and they always deny that we seek “permanent” bases in Iraq -– facts-on-the-ground speak with another voice entirely. These bases practically scream “permanency.”

“Unfortunately, there’s a problem here. American reporters adhere to a simple rule: The words “permanent,” “bases,” and “Iraq” should never be placed in the same sentence ….such bases, imposing as they are, generally only exist in our papers in the negative.) …”

http://www.google.com/search?q=%22permanent+US+bases+in+Iraq%22&start=0

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abb1 02.25.06 at 12:41 pm

Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to call those Hamas fellas “the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers” as Mr. Reagan did. I, however, have to admit that Hamas has a much better case for “Muslim state” in Palestine than your Likud/Kadima boys for a “Jewish state”.

So, you, Jet, being pretty much their equivalent with much weaker justification and much beter weapons, you don’t really have any reason to complain about Hamas.

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jet 02.25.06 at 5:45 pm

Abb1,

have to admit that Hamas has a much better case for “Muslim state” in Palestine than your Likud/Kadima boys for a “Jewish state”.

Wow, this should be immortalized. You appear to support the Hamas agenda of completey erasing Israel. I’m sure you hear this several times a day, but just in case you haven’t, let me remind you. You are insane.

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jet 02.25.06 at 7:00 pm

Hank, I’m not sure what point you were trying to make, but I have a feeling you should read more closely what I said as you probably misinterpreted it.

But in counter to your post on “ginormous-hugmungo-dectillion-huge-o-bigo-large-o” american bases that, my god, have (try not to faint) football and pizza, try this.

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J Thomas 02.25.06 at 8:30 pm

Jet, at least pretend to be a little reasonable.

How many israelis support the policy of transfer?

Between completely erasing palestine versus completely erasing israel, which has the greater chance to actually happen?

So it’s irresponsible to support which side?

56

jet 02.26.06 at 12:23 am

J Thomas,
One thing I keep in mind is that Israel went through decades of attacks on their civilians before beginning a program of expansion. And when you say How many israelis support the policy of transfer? I would answer, not enough to vote into power a party who’s charter is to destroy Palestine as a state, take all of the Palestinian territory for Israel, and either convert or kill all the Jews. You can pretend their is parity here, but their are huges degrees of differences. Gross generalizations get us no where. Likud and Hamas are not different sides of the same coin. Because if they were, the overwhelming suppiority of the Israely military would be blowing up every pizza joint, school house, and open market in Palestine as we speak.

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abb1 02.26.06 at 8:50 am

Without having to support anything here, Hamas agenda of completey erasing Israel definitely has better justification than Likud/Kadima agenda – and practice – of completey erasing Palestinian state.

If this is not obvious to you – you’re insane. Or, rather, consumed by some medieval tribal stupidity, which is not much better.

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abb1 02.26.06 at 8:59 am

Btw, this has nothing to do with any transfers. Erasing a state is just that – erasing a state. The Soviet Union was recently erased. The third reich was erased. Austro-Hungarian empire was completely erased. Plenty of states got erased, it happens all the time. I don’t see why Israel is so special that it can’t be erased – obviously everyone can see that it doesn’t function very well.

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J Thomas 02.26.06 at 11:25 am

Jet, you don’t see Hamas doing any of those things either. It looks to me like you’re trying to convert a small quantitative difference into a large qualitative difference.

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