Tuesday, June 20, 2006

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So what's it like outside of the Green Zone?

The leaked memo from the Baghdad embassy to Condoleezza Rice on the situation for Iraqis in Baghdad makes for very sobering reading.

Read it and comment away. The first thought that came to mind for me: please, please tell me that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has sources of intel on the situation there beyond the locals working at the embassy.

I hope Dick Cheney is right when he says that 10 years from now people will look back at 2005 and say, "That's when we began to get a handle on the long-term future of Iraq." Memos like the one linked above, however, make Cheney's assertion look pretty out-of-touch.


posted by Dan on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM




Comments:

Clearly the people referred to in the message from the Embassy are administrative staff and program managers, not "intel" sources; but they do live and work in Baghdad and know the city better than the Americans with whom they work.

Staff is staff; intel is something quite different.


posted by: Manuel Belgrano on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Call me suspicious, but I don't believe the memo.

Not that I don't believe what it says, I just don't believe that

a: The ambassador would write this down: this is an administration where the truth will get you fired, so just NEVER tell the truth, and especially never write it down.

b: That someone in the administration would leak this, in an administration that has been brutally focused on message discipline and loyalty.

posted by: Nicholas weaver on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Who is surprised? I'm just amazed by the number of people that still fall for the "the press just does not report the good news" talking point!!!

posted by: centrist on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Nicholas Weaver,

So do you think the memo is a forgery? I understand your points, but that's a dramatic allegation. And the details in the memo are plausible and many. Somebody would need an very good imagination and a lot of discipline to concoct it.

Is anyone familiar with State Dept. practices? I imagine that this kind of cable is or was routine, that the Near East Desk back in DC would expect to be informed on conditions at each of its embassies. Has Bush Admin. slavishness abolished a practice like this?

As for leaking -- assuming the memo is genuine -- as long as the leaker thinks he can go undetected or is half ready to quit anyway, why not?

posted by: Hal Grossman on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Its just this is too suspiciously right. I don't doubt a single event described in the memo. But what makes me suspicious...

If I was the ambassador, and wanted to KEEP MY JOB or a job in the administration, I'd do this report as a phonecall to the secretary of state, NOT something written down. The administration has a pathological disregard for the truth, no matter how obvious, if it disregards their worldview. I'd not be the one who'd want to tell Bush that "No, 2 + 2 does NOT equal 34719", should the Administration believe and publically state that 2 + 2 = 34719.

This does bring up the possibility that Ambassador Khalilzad wants out of Iraq, and wants out with his head on and held high, and figures that telling the brutal truth (?and hoping/encouraging that it gets leaked?) is the best way to get out of the job with an intact reputation, before having to hang off a helicopter skid on the last chopper out.


(Yes, I'm a cynical, paranoid bastard.)

posted by: Nicholas Weaver on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



In any US Embassy, all telegrams go out over the ambassador's signature, even if the ambassador didn't write the message it still bears his name.

Even if a lower-level type approves sending it out, it still bears his name because he is the guy in charge of the diplomatic mission. It is very possible he never saw the message.

posted by: Manuel Belgrano on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



The Ambassador almost certainly did not write the memo. Most such cables are sent in the name of the ambassador. My guess is that it probably came from someone on the personnel side, not the intel side. The ambassador may have seen it and approved it, but more likely one of his senior aides saw it and approved it and the Ambassador just initialed it or glanced at it.

Also, the accompanying note was written by Al Kamen, who normally deals with government agencies and the like. I'm actually surprised that the Washington Post didn't give the memo a more prominent role -- I suspect that a sort of caste system in the newsroom where the Iraq Staff or the elite reporters (Pincus, Dana Priest) get front page treatment when they have an Iraq story, whereas someone who deals with the regular unsexy government departments does not. If I had been editor of the post, I would have tried to get a reporter in Iraq to provide covering material from the staff there, make a big story of it.

Its not surprising that this would leak. The people involved are very likely career officers in the State Department in Washington.

As far as the memo goes, I think it puts the final nail in the wingnut "Everything is going fine in Iraq, the press is not reporting it" refrain from the likes of Instahack and Victor Hanson. Every honest supporter/former supporter of the war (which includes people like Michael Yon and Professor Drezner) acknowledges that things are indeed grim (even with Z's death). Dishonest supporters like Instahack will continue to blame the press.

The flip side is that the pull-out-now left crowd needs to acknowledge the consequences of such an action. What happens to people like the Iraqi embassy staffers (or the Iraqi translator or teacher) if the US were to leave ? I'm not concerned about the high and mighty, the Allawis and the Jaafaris, who have their own militias and Swiss bank accounts to protect them. I'm concerned about these people who would be slaughtered by Shia militias or Sunni insurgents.

posted by: erg on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Yes, "why would anyone in the current situation write this down?" seems like a very good question. (I remember it as a screaming problem with the Rather memos.)

On the other hand, though, how practical is it to forge such a leak from a modest-sized organization (the embassy, in this case) in such a way that the organization isn't able to come back with a slam-dunk debunking? If it were easy to do it, I'd expect such forgeries would be relatively common, because the world is full of people who'd be delighted to do them. Instead, I'm having trouble thinking of other examples. (And the distant weirdness of the alleged provenance of the Rather memos doesn't do much to suggest that a forgery of a normal memo from 2006 would be easy.)

posted by: Bill Newman on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



"The flip side is that the pull-out-now left crowd needs to acknowledge the consequences of such an action. What happens to people like the Iraqi embassy staffers (or the Iraqi translator or teacher) if the US were to leave ? I'm not concerned about the high and mighty, the Allawis and the Jaafaris, who have their own militias and Swiss bank accounts to protect them. I'm concerned about these people who would be slaughtered by Shia militias or Sunni insurgents. "

Posted by erg

Uh, erg, the right is the group calling the shots and making the decisions. Don't blame the left for anything.

posted by: Barry on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]




Uh, erg, the right is the group calling the shots and making the decisions. Don't blame the left for anything.

I'm simply saying that the left needs to acknowledge the consequences of withdrawal. I can understand and share the frustrations of the left over the lies, mendacity and exaggerations of the Administration. But Iraq is not just a political toy between right and left. Its a place full of living human beings, and we have obligations to some.

On another note -- no way this cable is fake. If it had been, the State Department would have promptly denounced it. Also, it doesn't have the doubtful provenance of the Rather memos.

Besides, its in Courier !!!

posted by: erg on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



They left needs to responsible for this failure/ pullout? They pullout can happen now or later...after increased cost and carnage.

http://www.slate.com/id/2143629 Or we can stick it out long enough to creat another strong muslim ally like Turkey!!!! A place that Bush adminstration took for a 50%+ pro american ratiing in 2000 and drove it down to a eye jaw droping 9% according to a recent pew survey.

posted by: centrist on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Of course, I am trying to figure the point of the memorandum. It reads like: "We've got real personnel problems here at the embassy, and hiring and retention and morale is going to continue to be real problem because..."

Of course, the point may have been to be leaked. The memo describes the situation on the ground colorfully without reveaing sources and methods of intelligence. That to me sounds like a leaker trying to get a message across.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Fake memo.

It has nothing more than anecdotal evidence (which I don't doubt is true). But is this the kind of information an ambassador would send to a Secretary of State? I don't think Sec. Rice is such a micro-manager that she'd want to have to read something like this. It's the kind of info you share during a working lunch, not put into a six page memo.

And if it's for real, then we have a bigger problem than we thought. It's like the VP Administration telling the CEO of a Fortune 100 company all about the problems with the copiers in the building.

posted by: St. James the Lesser on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Huh? First of all, unless I'm missing something I can't see why the State Department wouldn't immediately cry foul if this thing was actually a fake. Its pretty damaging stuff, wouldn't they just say, "no one here wrote that?"

Maybe someone with better knowledge of embassies or the State Department could help here, but it sounds like the memo may have just been written because Rice or someone on her staff asked for it.

posted by: Gabe on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]




But is this the kind of information an ambassador would send to a Secretary of State

No, but its exactly the kind of information that a senior aide to the ambassador might send to the state department. It doesn't mean that COndi Rice reads it personally, it means that some group of her aides go through and read it, and present her with an executive summary of this and other memos later if deemed worthwhile. In this case, although the story presented is grim, its hardly the kind of story that the SecState would need to know personally.

posted by: erg on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Authenticity: I have no information
Plausability in the face of Bush Good News'ism: If you want Bush to succeed, you don't become Potemkin.
Pull-out: Iraq needs us to protect her from any neighbors who might take advantage of the chaos to assuage old grudges. Past that, get our f*cking troops off their streets, out of their lives.
You'll notice: There have been people who have been right all along on Iraq. The dipshits in the Bush administration haven't asked them for advice once. Not even once.

posted by: Josh "Maury" Narins on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Why would anyone at an embassy write this down as a memo and send it to state? My father, a retired government employee, knew the answer immediately.

CYA. When something goes horribly wrong at the embassy, officials there can point to the memo and say "We told you so, but you wouldn't listen. Don't blame this on us."

posted by: Angus on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Josh: Which people are these who were right "all along", at every point? Can you provide their names and references to their statements at every point, from before the invasion to now, and compare them with "what was actually going on"?

Or do you mean merely that there have been people who have complained that Bush Was Doing Everything Wrong No Matter What He Did from day one, and you agree with them?

The former is the only interesting claim of the two, but strangely much harder to actually support (that the latter set of people exist will be granted as self-evident).

erg: Instapundit (namecalling is cheap, yes?) does not, in my experience, claim that everything in Iraq is doing fine. He claims, and justifiably, that the reporting is biased towards the negative. Here, for instance, he provides copious counterexamples of big media providing a non-gloom-and-doom perspective... but he never says anything to discount the actual problems.

And here he even says it directly: "Does this mean that everything's hunky-dory in Iraq? Nope..."

Perhaps you could provide a link to some post where he makes the claim you disdain? Or, alternatively, admit that it's not even vaguely true, at least of Reynolds? (I see no middle ground between the two alternatives, short of a meaningless assertion that despite a lack of evidence and the presence of counter-evidence, it's true because you say so.)

Come on, people.

posted by: Sigivald on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Sigvald,
One person who was correct on the problems we would face....off the top of my head was Cordesman at CSIS he has a number of pre invasion papers out in the public domain. John Mershiemer for another....well documented record of predicting problems we would cause by invading. The "nobody could have known" defense for the failures is just wrong.

If things are really so much better Iraq than we realize here in the US...how come according to a survey in last months Foreign Policy the Iraqi have such a god awful view of the US. So much creating a "pro-american democracy" in Iraq....the Prime Minister is worried that by having his photo taken with dear "heroic wartime leader" he would undermine his own popularity in Iraq.
We may get stability, democracy or a pro-american leadership....but we wont get two of the three. The whole endeavoris a poor return on invested crediblity, treasure and blood.

posted by: centrist on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]




erg: Instapundit (namecalling is cheap, yes?) does not, in my experience, claim that everything in Iraq is doing fine. He claims, and justifiably, that the reporting is biased towards the negative. Here, for instance, he provides copious counterexamples of big media providing a non-gloom-and-doom perspective... but he never says anything to discount the actual problems.

Actually, he links to a bunch of opinions, not news reporting. But lets see what he says in October 2003


Yes. I'd say that the case that media reporting from Iraq was too negative through the summer is now pretty solid.

What the Instawanker has been saying for 3 years is that the situation is better than the media says, that the media is accentuating the bad, that good news is not being reported at all. What he has spent his time doing is linking to an occasional piece of good news and making some terribly pithy comment like "Indeed".

And yet after 3 years of such devastating and unrelenting commentary, we end up with a situation in Iraq that is (as even the great Glenn would understand) considerably worse than October 2003. So who was right and who was wrong ?

And when you look at memos like this, the point is that the reporting is NOT biased towards the negative. If anything, the media's coverage probably understates the trauma of living in Baghdad and some of the problems such as criminals gangs, kidnappings and the like that Iraqis face. Even wingnuts can't dismiss a memo like this easily (although I'm sure there are wingnuts who will claim it comes from Clinton moles in the embassy).

Instawanker at one point said "The press had better hope we win this war, because if we don't, a lot of people will blame the media." (march o5 2006). Naturally, its part of the agressive passive way in which he writes that he doesn't come out and say that he will blame the press (Kind of like the mafia thug warning you that you need insurance against dangers in your neighborhood). One also notes how Glenn used to link to Iraqi blogs like Healing Iraq, but he practically stopped doing that after even those blogs turned negative.

I will say this much for Instapundit -- he's not as deluded as the Victor Hansen's and the Mark Steyn's of the world. Happy now ?

posted by: erg on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



http://www.csis.org/index.php?option=com_csis_pubs&task=view&id=1756

posted by: centrist on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



A link to someone who anticipated most mistakes the administration made. Not an obscure source for the non-faith based community. http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/iraq_wound.pdf

posted by: centrist on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



> Fake memo.

It is amazing how the American political sphere has just be /plagued/ with forged documents since the Bush Administration took office. Simply amazing. More forged documents than the last 4 administrations as far as I can remember. Heck, maybe even more forged documents than were encountered during the Nixon Administration.

Just can't figure it out. Must be those angry liberals in the fever swamps, just churning out high-quality faked document after high-quality faked document.

Cranky

posted by: Cranky Observer on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Must be those angry liberals in the fever swamps, just churning out high-quality faked document after high-quality faked document.

Further evidence that the TANG memos were *Republican* forgeries ... Dems would have done them on a typewriter, not MS Word.

---And wtf? Cheney is *proud* that "2005" is the year we supposedly "began to get a handle on the future of Iraq"? After two years of *what*, exactly? Remind me who was president then?

posted by: Anderson on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Very likely authentic because it is routine, routine, routine. DoS, DoD overseas missions generate this kind of message traffic ad nauseum. No one would bother faking a routine, SBU cablegram.

Ever wonder why archival research is so butt-numbing
boring? Sifting through redwells stuffed to the gunwales with precisely this kind of message traffic. "Staff dissatisfied with toilet paper, prefers Charmin;" "local vendors inflating tchotchke prices." All part of your diplomatic service at work.

posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



The memo labels (SBU) which stands for sensitive but unclassified. The fact that the memo was leaked is very worrisome.

posted by: Minh-Duc on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



When Dr. Hemlock had to order toilet paper for the latrines on the FOB, the message was SBU. If it isn't minimally hush-hush, it's SBU.

posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Anyone who cares to see the truth of the situation realizes we are loosing this war. After more than three years of fighting, it's not even safe to go from the airport to the green zone. Very important Iraqi officials and their families are not safe. And civilian collateral deaths are around 50,000. We are producing enemies by the thousands through error and the generous application of awesome fire power. Staying the course is leading us over the cliff. A new strategy is needed, but unfortunately this administration is bereft of new ideas. It appears that the Bush plan is to muddle on through for the next two years and then play the blame game. I am old, so it seems to me that we fight wars with children...19, 20, 21 year old kids. I pray each night for this madness to end for the sake our our kids and theirs.

posted by: em on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



I've seen a few DoS cables in my time and this seems pretty authentic.

Can those that think the 'drive-by-media' is too negative on Iraq please provide some first-hand accounts that are more balanced on Iraq? I ask because, although I have not been to Iraq, I have spoken with a lot of soldiers, generals, diplomats, AID staff as well as a handful of Iraqis - and I am not hearing good news from them either. Even the former head of the International Republican Institute (political party NGO affiliated with GOP) in Iraq is very pretty negative. If anything, many of those I spoke to think the media is too positive b/c it does not really cover the suffering of ordinary Iraqis who are being killed/kidnapped in extraordinary numbers. Admittedly, this is hardly a scientific sample.

I am willing to consider the argument that things in Iraq are rosier than they appear, but want some objective first-hand sources. If the drive-by-media are getting it wrong, is there anyone on the ground in Iraq getting the story right? Parachute drops by pundits into the Green Zone do not count. I am talking about sources who have spent some time in the country, who are not terribly political.

Beyond first hand accounts, are there also any statistical indicators that demonstrate a positive trend?



posted by: SteveinVT on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Dan's sense of understatement with respect to the Vice President deserves mention.

He might have added that until the spring of 2003 no American official of any administration would have rated "the long-term future of Iraq" as the most significant issue in the foreign policy of the United States or anything close to it. Since then, of course, the resources in men and money devoted to Iraq have been much larger than those applied to any other problem we face overseas. So even if the architect of the imperial Vice Presidency were right he would still be begging the question of whether this game were worth the candle.

posted by: Zathras on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Seems authentic to me. Routine personnel memo. Pictures a pre-evacuation environment, a staff in panic that they may be abandoned. Chilling.

posted by: jaimito on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



The US media is by far providing the most rosy coverage of the debacle in Iraq! I dont know it is possible to do a better job of putting "lipstick on the pig" of Iraq than FOX does.

posted by: centrist on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



If one were to spend $15,000 per Iraqi, should one have acheived more? Maybe if our libertarian friends used that metric they would become more critical of the enterprise!

posted by: ayn rand on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



I find the commentary questioning the legitimacy of the Embassy Baghdad message a little surreal. It is real; the State Department does not deny is real; it is not a missive from the ambassador to Condi Rice; it is a message from one diplomat working in one office of the ambassadorís fairly large and complex mission to the State Department, a larger and more complex organization.

At heart, it is some public affairs official sending a message back to the people who manage pubic affairs issues in Washington, letting them know that the Iraqis who do public affairs work for embassy are finding it tougher to do their jobs, and that the mission is consequently risks getting lower quality work out of them. It also highlights the missionís implicit responsibilities to these people. What is so hard to understand about that?

The author sent it out as sensitive but unclassified. I suspect they now regard that as a mistake. It may be sensitive, but unclassified means unclassified, and so it should surprise none of us that it got a wider distribution than the author probably wanted it to have. That is not an indication of some great plot to embarrass the administration, it is probably more an indication that public affairs types donít usually prepare classified reports back to Washington and that the author didnít foresee that anything they might write would prove interesting to a wider audience.

Donít complicate the matter Ė lots of life is just like Sherlock Holmes said, ďEliminate all other factors,Ē in this case the needlessly complex claims of higher-order plots and machinations, ďand the one which remains must be the truth.Ē

posted by: Manuel Belgrano on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Impressive reasoning and deductive powers for a dead South American general, Manuel.

posted by: Racer X, Speed Racer's (unbeknownst to him) brother on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Shhh - I'm a dead general, but I'm still busy watching Argentina vs Holland

posted by: Manuel Belgrano on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Anybody else think the only think we did stupider than moving into Saddams luxurious palaces was to cordone off a tiny area of the city and make sure it had 24 hour electricity and water while everywhere around it had a fraction?

posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



No doubt it's real. Likely somebody at State asked the Embassy "so, what are your personnel problems there?" So the embassy came up with a memo that listed some snapshots of the personnel problems.

As with any list of problems, it is only going to list... the problems! Duh.

Why anybody thinks this is intended to be a fair reading of the situation in Baghdad is beyond me. There is nothing in the memo to indicate that. But of course, the cut-and-run, pro-insurgent left-wing here at home will seize on any bit of evidence to support their fantasies. Lucky for them, the MSM are willing dupes of the insurgency.

posted by: Joe on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



A link to someone who anticipated most mistakes the administration made. Not an obscure source for the non-faith based community. ">http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/iraq_wound.pdf

Let's see, this is supposed to be "someone who anticipated most mistakes the administration made", and yet in the linked document, the word "insurgency" is used... NEVER!

THIS is supposed to be an exemplar of someone the pro-insurgent crowd believes was PRECIENT??? Someone who DIDN'T EVEN PREDICT THE INSURGENCY???

Geez, what a pathetic example.

posted by: Joe on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



> Anybody else think the only think we
> did stupider than moving into Saddams
> luxurious palaces was to cordone off
> a tiny area of the city and make sure
> it had 24 hour electricity and water
> while everywhere around it had a fraction?

Well, I have long thought that that was a stupid move, but I have to say the stupidest move was a 3-parter: (1) not realizing in advance that a nation of 30 million would have a certain percentage of real criminals (2) upon realizing this, re-opening Saddam's most notorious prisons/dungeons (3) then, to top it off, /putting POWs and other political prisoners in those Saddam-era prisons with the criminals/.

I think that as much as anything turned the population against us in the D+120 time period.

Cranky

posted by: Cranky Observer on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]




No doubt it's real. Likely somebody at State asked the Embassy "so, what are your personnel problems there?" So the embassy came up with a memo that listed some snapshots of the personnel problems.
As with any list of problems, it is only going to list... the problems! Duh.

No doubt. And no doubt, everything is just fine in Baghdad, the place is actually Eden on Earth. But some of us actually prefer not to rely on faith and do indeed (treasonous as it may be) doubt.


Why anybody thinks this is intended to be a fair reading of the situation in Baghdad is beyond me.

Why someone apparently can have a functioning brain and yet think that the following pieces of information
-- power cuts and high fuel prices in Baghdad (several neighborhoods having little to no power)
-- Harassment by militia groups over clothes
-- rampant kidnappings
-- mistrust of security forces
-- sectarian divides and tensions
-- Balkanization of areas, with different groups controlling different areas (Mansur District had become a ghost town).
-- Ethnic cleansing

are not matters for great concern is beyond me. Especially when it impacts Iraq staff members who are generally likely to be well educated and upper middle class.


here is nothing in the memo to indicate that. But of course, the cut-and-run, pro-insurgent left-wing here at home will seize on any bit of evidence to support their fantasies. Lucky for them, the MSM are willing dupes of the insurgency.

No doubt, the MSM is all wrong. Baghdad is actually a perfect paradise. In fact, I would suggest that you immediatedly book a vacation there. Outside the Green Zone, without a security team or a disguise.

posted by: erg on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]




THIS is supposed to be an exemplar of someone the pro-insurgent crowd believes was PRECIENT??? Someone who DIDN'T EVEN PREDICT THE INSURGENCY???

Lets see, heres what the document says:

"We may or may not be perceived as liberators. We are dealing with a very sophisticated and long-established tyranny, and we really don't know how an intensely nationalistic people with deep internal divisions will react, and how the impact of the fighting will affect the people. We don't know how long any support will last by a given group or faction the moment we become involved in trade-offs between them."

"We may well face a much more hostile population than in Afghanistan."

Cordesmann has also written about the Lebanon syndrome elsewhere, where the US was greated warmly initially, and then attacked later.

And of course, he was a hundred times more prescient than Bush and Cheney

posted by: erg on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Joe,
You got me....because your KEYWORD search for the specific term "insurgent" in a document I came up with as prophetic "off the top of my head" yielded nothing...you have change my mind. Nobody could has a better understanding of the middle east the George Bush Jr.

If I was against the war because I though we would create an insurgency...that makes me part of "pro-insurgency left"? Really...you and your ilk backed(and still back I guess) a policy that created the insurgency,wouldnt that make you the real pro-insurgency type?

posted by: centrist on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



Cranky -
Saddam opened the prisons. I agree that like many of Saddam's decisions, this has caused us problems.

Erg - to call what you're arguing against a strawman would be an insult to scarecrows. The points mentioned in the memo are very troubling. We should work to fix them. None of them will get better if we left. None of them prove we are losing the war. Every large-scale human undertaking will encounter severe obstacles. That includes every war ever fought. We just have to cause more severe problems for the enemy than he causes for us. I think we're doing that.

posted by: bgates on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]




Erg - to call what you're arguing against a strawman would be an insult to scarecrows.

DOn't argue with me. Take it up with JOe, who made the stunning assertion that


Why anybody thinks this is intended to be a fair reading of the situation in Baghdad is beyond me.

So you're saying that Joe is an insult to scarecrows ?


None of them will get better if we left.

I have never advocated leaving Iraq now.


We just have to cause more severe problems for the enemy than he causes for us. I think we're doing that.

Just who is the enemy here ? Is it the Shiite militas ? The Sunni insurgents ? The QA terrorists ? All of the above ? Criminal Shiite gangs ?

What if we're fighting a society that is fracturing up because of ethnic divisions ala Lebanon ? Who is the enemy then ?

Again, I do not advocate immediate or unlateral withdrawal, but statements such as yours are meaningless without a clear definition of the enemy and the eventual goal. One has to ask whether spending $7 billion plus a month is indeed accomplishing something useful. For now, I think we have to stay (although I continue to remain skeptical).

posted by: erg on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



bgates,
"none prove we are losing" What does winning look like? Surely not this...after 4years spending $15000 per Iraqi and not have it be safe to drive from the short distance from the green zone to the airport.
Iraq will have a worse civil war(former pm calls it as much), the theocrats will have even more power and be a very anti-american(see FP iraq poll) place WHEN we leave. We have been losing ground on all of these fronts for years. If we can only postpone the inevitable until we have someone else to blame seems to be the stategy now. We cant quit now or spend even more cred, treasure and blood and leave eventually with the same result...well minus a scapegoat.

posted by: centrist on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



> I agree that like many of Saddam's decisions,
> this has caused us problems.

Did someone mention strawmen? Saddam was out of power and hiding in a hole at the time the United States decided to re-use his most notorious prisons.

Cranky

posted by: Cranky Observer on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



That is correct, Saddam didnt make us decide to recycle his dungeons. Somebody could right a book strictly on the majorly f'd up policy decision vis-a-vis prisoners. Living it up in Saddams palaces was bad, locking people back up in his prisons was worse, but locking them up and then arbitrarilly releasing insurgents often caught red-handed goes well beyond garden variety stupidity. The catch and release program we've been engaged in in Anbar is breathtakingly screwed up. There is a story that needs to be told.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]




but locking them up and then arbitrarilly releasing insurgents often caught red-handed goes well beyond garden variety stupidity. The catch and release program we've been engaged in in Anbar is breathtakingly screwed up. There is a story that needs to be told.

From what I understand, many of the releases (excluding those who were really innocent) took place only recently after the prisoners had been transferred to Maliki's government.

There are probably political deals being struck in return for the releases so I would not say they're necessarily a bad idea.

posted by: erg on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



I think we took on a frightful moral obligation when we shuffled after Bush and company, and launched this misbegotten war (an event that lit up the necrotic state of our "democracy", but that's another topic). I've always been in the "you broke it, you bought it" camp myself, but I simply cannot believe that we are ever going to invest the kinds of resources that Iraq's rehabilitation will require. This is what happens when you launch a war with happy talk about cost-free victories. Anyway, for me, the very last straw was the Congress' vote to essentially gut all reconstruction funding -- the latest in a long series of heinous, shameful betrayals.

So I can't come to any other conclusion than this: It's time to start making preparations to leave. Nicholas Weaver, above, makes good points about those poor Iraqis who've worked for us. The only moral option we have is to relocate them, and their families, back to the States -- though I fully expect we'll shaft them, skimp on the necessary resources, and leave them twisting in the wind. After that, we'd better hope that whatever God might exist is merciful rather than just. Trying and jailing the arrogant criminals who launched this war -- and often profited from it -- would be a step toward redemption, though admittedly a small and remote one.

All that said, there's something I've yet to get a convincing answer to, but which I'd really like to know: Just what does the "stay the course" crowd define as "victory", or "winning", or whatever we're calling it this week? Just how likely do they think that outcome is? It's not at all clear to me that we have even a vague sense of what we're trying to accomplish in Iraq....

posted by: sglover on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]



As an answer to the title (So what's it like outside of the Green Zone?) - It depends on *how* far.

Things in the north are just fine.
Kurdish Iraq had their "civil war" a decade ago, and they've got a functioning society and gov't.

Things in the south are not quite as peachy, but aren't in the "OMG, we're all gonna die!" class that everyone seems to be reading into this memo.

The crap is hiting the fan in the central, Sunni provinces, but that doesn't translate into a need to get all panicky, folks.

email is human readable - aloud

posted by: bud on 06.20.06 at 08:43 AM [permalink]






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