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Tilting at Windmills

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April 17, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

VISITING IRAQ....Lawrence Korb just got back from a trip to Iraq. "Unreal" seemed to be his overall reaction to the PowerPoint-laden presentations he heard from various American and Iraqi officials, most of which were entirely divorced from the ground-level reality of day-to-day life in Iraq. In a different sense it also applies to his conclusions about the surge:

Getting through Iraqi customs was a chore....The long wait did allow me to speak to some of the contractors about the situation on the ground. When I assured them I was not a member of the press, they were unanimous that the surge was not working....The most optimistic projection was "maybe temporarily." But most people speaking off the record believe that the insurgents will shift to other areas and lay low for a while in Baghdad.

....No one in or out of the American or Iraqi government seemed to have a good answer to my question: "how does it end?" On the back of this visit, I am more and more convinced that we must take control of our own destiny by setting a specific timetable for withdrawal. Currently, our fate is in the hands of an Iraqi government that does not have any real incentive to get its act together and does not even seem to understand the gravity of the situation or the declining level of support in the United States.

Italics mine. Other tidbits: George Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki don't actually talk much on their conference calls. Mostly they just trade scripted presentations. General George Casey didn't think much of Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. Foreign governments like dealing with Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh better than dealing with Maliki, apparently because Saleh speaks really good English. But Saleh is a weasel who just tells you what you want to hear.

Yet more: American consultants in Iraq are very good at convincing people who come for short visits that the situation in Iraq is improving — but if you push them you learn that "the place is a mess" and it's not improving. Iraqis call the Green Zone PX the "Christian pharmacy" because that's where you get liquor. The Interior Ministry can't get enough officers to come to Baghdad, and there aren't very many American patrolling the streets of Baghdad either. (Korb didn't see a single one during his stay.)

Also this: "Do not believe anyone who tells you that the situation is getting better." Seems like sound advice.

Kevin Drum 3:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (68)

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Comments

[handle Hijack]

Posted by: Al on April 17, 2007 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq -- where every day is like Blacksburg, VA yesterday.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on April 17, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

He said he wasn't a member of the Press.I don,t see a lie there buddy.

Posted by: ALan Hawk on April 17, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

The War on Terror: The war on terror was lost the day GW gave Osama Binladen and Mullah Omar a 24 cease fire in Tora Bora.The United States Lost the War on Terror,had we got Osama out of Afganistan and put him on trial, terrorists would have stopped there killing knowing there was nowhere to hide.GW lost the War with Iraq the day the statue of Saddam was torn down,Had we started packing up that day we would have won.GW in 4 years has lost two wars.The United States has Two black eyes.

Posted by: ALan Hawk on April 17, 2007 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Al, I assume it is this Korb:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Korb

Formerly of the Reagan administration... and not exactly a journalist. Now if you had said 'lying Republican' maybe we could understand a bit better.

Posted by: Nat on April 17, 2007 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's a a big mistake if we use this as an example of how stupid or craven or incompetent the administration is. Just about everybody who reads the blog regularly -- and who comes here to comment -- already knows this, and Jesus himself couldn't convince those who don't otherwise. The fact is, according to recent polls anyway, most of the country supports

a) Democrats deciding Iraq policy, and;
b) establishing timetables for withdrawal.

Articles like Korb's don't so much argue that Bush needs to change his policy. He never will. The point is that Democrats need to do it for him, and they now have public opinion behind them. So when will they stop talking about it & actually do it?

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on April 17, 2007 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Al: "If he's willing to lie to Iraqis, why wouldn't he be willing to lie to us? How can we trust anything this article says?"

You mean you don't like it when people lie? Wow, did you ever pick the wrong team.

By the way, have you signed up yet? Apparently they need non-existent trolls over there to bolster the ranks of their phantom armies. C'mon, buddy: be more than you can be!

Posted by: Kenji on April 17, 2007 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Who are you going to believe, me, or your lying eyes?

(Can't remember where I heard or read that phrase, but I've always loved it.)

Posted by: thersites on April 17, 2007 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

When I assured them I was not a member of the press, they were unanimous that the surge was not working

Damn those liberal media, refusing to cheerlead the war in Iraq!

Posted by: craigie on April 17, 2007 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

Other than all these observations and pesky realities, how did you enjoy the play Mrs. Lincoln?

Posted by: ckelly on April 17, 2007 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Nat,

FYI Korb is a long-time critic of the Iraq war.

Anyway, Kevin manages to make a selective reading of Korb's selective report which only serves to exacerbate its problems.

"there aren't very many American patrolling the streets of Baghdad either. (Korb didn't see a single one during his stay."

Korb was in Iraq for 5 days, most of which he spent either in the Green Zone or on the short drive just outside the Green Zone to his contractor's compount in the Mansour District (a relatively calm neighborhood). In fact, in his account we learn he spent one morning actually away from the Green Zone, in a meeting on the East bank of the Tigris. So Kevin's alarmist rendition of Korb's exaggerated observation needs to be reeled back a little.

"Iraqis call the Green Zone PX the "Christian pharmacy" because that's where you get liquor."

Actually Korb says he visited the PX AND the 'pharmacy', they are not the same place and, last I knew, the PX did not sell liquor since alcohol is against the General Orders the military operates under.

Also this: "Do not believe anyone who tells you that the situation is getting better." Seems like sound advice.

This isn't some broadly researched conclusion but rather the opinion of one Iraqi official Korb met with.

Lastly, I'm not sure what the point of the excerpt Kevin used was. Korb is a war critic who has felt for some time we should leave Iraq. He went to Iraq for a few days and didn't change his mind. In other words, the headline here is "war critic remains critic of war."

Riveting.

Posted by: Hacksaw on April 17, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you and your liberal partisan friends have once again failed to report any of the good news coming out of Iraq, focusing only on the bad and the naysayers.

General Petraeus has assured the president and the American people that the surge will work and that should be enough for you.

You should be giving the general a chance to make his plan work and stop calling him a liar. As an heroic military figure, he deserves more from you than your dismissal and disrespect.

Things are getting better in Baghdad and improvement there will spread throughout the country if you just give it a chance.

The insurgency is ripe for the picking, just barely holding on, and simply hoping the Democratic Congress will save them from the brink of destruction on which they teeter.

Will you and the Democrats help push them over the edge or rescue them from their desperation?

Posted by: "ex-liberal" on April 17, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Nah, sorry, but the real "ex-liberal" parodies him/her/itself better than that. ;)

Posted by: Gregory on April 17, 2007 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Hack[saw]: In fact, in his account we learn he spent one morning actually away from the Green Zone, in a meeting on the East bank of the Tigris. So Kevin's alarmist rendition of Korb's exaggerated observation needs to be reeled back a little.

So, how much time did McCain spend in or away from the Green Zone - it was less than a day, wasn't it?

And he's been a long-time war supporter, right?

And yet conservatives insist that McCain's opinions on the war in Iraq are gold.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

More like a Jacksaw.

Posted by: anonymous on April 17, 2007 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

In other words, the headline here is "war critic remains critic of war."

The headline is actually "Assistant Secretary of Defense Under Ronald Reagan and former Naval Captain Remains Critic of a War that Continues to Spiral into Disaster."

You. stupid. fuck.

Posted by: anonymous on April 17, 2007 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Wow you have to admire the rightwing spin machine, This post was up for forty mintues and already the trolls no exactly where this guy was in Iraq.And they still can't figure out where GW was during his TANG tour.

Posted by: ALan Hawk on April 17, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Al and Hacksaw, you know, there are many ways to contribute to the US mission in Iraq other than enlisting in the military.

Contractors by the dozens are looking for experienced personnel to work on construction, development, capacity building and social projects, for example. Good pay; the chance to see real impact at ground level.


Posted by: JM on April 17, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw: "Korb was in Iraq for 5 days, most of which he spent either in the Green Zone or on the short drive just outside the Green Zone to his contractor's compount in the Mansour District (a relatively calm neighborhood). In fact, in his account we learn he spent one morning actually away from the Green Zone, in a meeting on the East bank of the Tigris."

Thanks for doing us the service of placing a Lojack on Korb while he was there.

Now, refresh our memory, would you? Since you have a much clearer understanding of how things are in Baghdad, how long were you there? And how much of that time did you spend in the Green Zone? And what's the area of expertise that provides you a perspective better than Korb's?

Have to love the armchair patriots.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on April 17, 2007 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Why a timetable? How about Pack and Leave?

How hard is that?

Posted by: cld on April 17, 2007 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Anonymous - many folks, including many on this site, rejected McCain's observations because he spent most of his time in the Green Zone. I guess I'm only trying to apply the same standard to these folks' assessments of the value of Korb's observations.

As for you citation of Korb's resume, it does nothing to alter the fact that he is a long-time critic of the war, a fact which should be as relevant to assessing his observations as McCain's long-time support of the war is relevant to your assessing his opinions.

ALan Hawk - If you read Korb's piece you would know he discusses where he went each day. Not that hard then to assess how much time he actually spent outside the Green Zone.

Posted by: Hacksaw on April 17, 2007 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq presents very difficult issues (thanks to Republican mishandling of the situation from the get-go), and it is not clear to me whether a continued American presence or a withdrawal is the worse option.

But one thing I'd like to see change about the discussion is the transition to a more accurate killunit of measure with regard to our continued presence -- i.e., measuring in our soldiers' lives, not just time.

Surge supporters contend that we have to give the surge six months, or nine months, or eighteen months to see if it will work. Bush clearly wants to let it go on indefinitely.

But time isn't really the issue. The real issue is the lives of American troops. Because American troops are dying at the rate of approximately 80 per month, "six months" is really 480 American soldiers.

Supporters of the surge should call things by their right names. If they want six months, they should say "We need to let another 480 American soldiers die before we know whether the surge is working."

Or, if they want until the end of the Bush administration, they should state that such a 21-month experiment will cost 1680 American soldiers. So if Bush wants to draw this out until Jan 2009, he should state, "We need to let another 1680 American soldiers die so I can hand this problem off to my successor."

Posted by: McCord on April 17, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Glad you brought that up Hacksaw - I did read the report.

Greetings from the Red Zone. I was originally supposed to reside in the Green Zone at the Al Rashid Hotel. But the Green Zone is now referred to as the International Zone because of the repeated shellings (called indirect fire), and despite $36 million in repairs, the Al Rashid is a dump. The air conditioning doesn’t work at all, the elevators only sporadically, and the furniture looks like it was purchased at a yard sale (the reconstruction of the Al Rashid is a metaphor for most of the reconstruction projects in Iraq).


Therefore, after one sleepless night at the Al Rashid and on the advice of a State Department official I made the decision to move to a compound in the Al Mansour neighborhood outside the Green Zone, which is home to two private contractors, including the company that provides protection for me. (Given the events that transpired during my visit it was a smart move. Also, living in the compound got me out of the Green Zone and into the real Iraq.)

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 17, 2007 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Amnesty International reports 3 million Iraqis displaced - 2 million refugees in places like Jordan and the other 'internally displaced.

Heck of job.


All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting. -George Orwell

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 17, 2007 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Yea what she said.

Posted by: ALan Hawk on April 17, 2007 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

cld: "Why a timetable? How about Pack & Leave?"

Perfect. I'm with you. But even if it's decided to bring everybody home tomorrow, it won't be done everybody-at-once.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on April 17, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

As for you citation of Korb's resume, it does nothing to alter the fact that he is a long-time critic of the war, a fact which should be as relevant to assessing his observations as McCain's long-time support of the war is relevant to your assessing his opinions.

Except that whereas McCain's support of the war is continuously contradicted by actual facts on the ground, Korb's anti-war position is validated as the situation in Iraq deteriorates.

See the difference?

And as to your attempt to deflect from the ACTUAL situation in Iraq by mocking the story as "riveting," all that shows is that you've got nothing. You have nothing to point to that shows progress in Iraq or that contradicts Korb's analysis.

Fac it, intelligent people on the left warned against going into Iraq and predicted a disaster and were proven correct.

Meanwhile, you've got nothing to add but criticisms of Kevin for posting on Larry Korb. At least he went to Iraq.

Posted by: anonymous on April 17, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

In Saleh's defense what would you do if you were in his place? Most Iraqis had any backbone beaten out of them by Saddam, either directly or by seeing their friends and family disappeared. These people have trained for decades to be obsequious.

His people's hold on their independence, hell on their existence, is tenuous at best. They're all going to tell Americans what we want to hear. All the while squirelling away cash in secret accounts somewhere for the day it all goes to hell and they bug out for Tehren or London or somewhere.

Posted by: markg8 on April 17, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

The British got 300,000 out of Dunkirk in a week and the logistics were tremendously harder than our situation in Iraq.

If we wanted to we could get all of our mobile stuff out of there in six to eight weeks, and dynamite the rest.

That's what I'd do, and our situation would be improved one million percent.

Posted by: cld on April 17, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

And I mean the embassy and everything. Just drop the place until they sort it out.

Posted by: cld on April 17, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Anonymous,

Kevin presented Korb's remarks as something noteworthy. I was only pointing out that they really weren't.

Korb went to Iraq. McCain went to Iraq. The only reason you believe one more than the other is that Korb's opinions match your own.

You want a broader picture - read McCaffrey's report on Iraq from a few weeks ago. An unsparing look at the challenges we face in Iraq but also a fair assessment of the surge. He went to Iraq too, and thus matches you preposterous criterion for speaking authoritatively on the subject (and naturally raises questions about whether or not you yourself have been).

Blue Girl, Red State:

I noted in my original post that Korb stayed at a contractor compound in Mansour. I also pointed out that Mansour is a relatively safe area and thus less likely to have heavy U.S. patrols. Moreover, as is clear from Korb's piece, he wasn't hanging out in Mansour but rather driving from the contractor compound to the Green Zone, which as it turns out is right next to the Mansour district. In fact, much of Korb's drive to the embassy would have been inside the Green Zone, which is much larger than the embassy grounds themselves.

In other words, the sum of Korb's outside the Green Zone experience, on which he based his observation of a lack of U.S. patrols was (1) nights secure in a contractor compound as opposed to driving around town (2) the short drive to and from the Green Zone and (3) a morning on the east side of the Tigris meeting with the NCCMD.

I'll stand by my observation that Kevin's interpretation of Korb's remarks should be rolled back some.

Posted by: Hacksaw on April 17, 2007 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Dear Cld,

That interview with Bolton it remarkable! I urge the readers of this thread to watch. It is pleasing to see Bolton made such a fool.

See a few posts above for the link.

Posted by: troglodyte on April 17, 2007 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw >"...I'll stand by my observation..."

Be sure & write us a report when you come back from Iraq. We`ll be waiting right here (our breaths, of course, we will NOT be holding).

You are such a lame flunky.

"It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it." — Upton Sinclair

Posted by: daCascadian on April 17, 2007 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

HACKSAW sez;

Kevin's reading of Korb's report "...only serves to exacerbate [did you mean EXAGGERATE?] its [Iraq's] problems."

And our old friend AL sez:

"How can we trust anything this article says?"

SHORTER HACKSAW AND AL:

We can't trust former Reagan/Bush Ass't Defense Sec'y Korb, because he foolishly extrapolated from too small a sample. If only he'd gone beyond the Godforsaken hellhole that is the Green Zone and the Mansour neighborhood, and gotten out into the Real Iraq (like Diyala and Anbar Provinces, guys?)
he would have seen all the GOOD things that are happening in-country. THEN he would know what he's talking about.

Uhhhh, guys...
It looks like we're four years into this. That's more time than it took the U.S. to conclude its involvement against European fascism in World War II. Also much longer than our involvement in World War I or (for that matter) the Civil War.
AFTER FOUR YEARS OF BEING TOLD THE INSURGENCY IS ON THE ROPES, U.S. officials still need protection equivalent to an infantry company, armed to the teeth and with air cover, to walk around the capital city.

Yeah. Iraq is a really success story, guys. Just keep pounding that Bush "IN IRAQ FOR EVER AND EVER" message for the next eighteen months, okay?
Let's see how much that continues to resonate with the U.S. electorate.

Posted by: shystr on April 17, 2007 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

Get this,

Andrew Sullivan on John Bolton's encounter with a British interviewer,


The BBC's interviewers are not as deferent as some in America. Paxman is among the most aggressive. What staggers me about this clip is Bolton's point-blank view that the US had no responsibility to impose order after the invasion, and no responsibility for security within the country. Bolton actually says that the only error Bush really made was not giving the Iraqis "a copy of the Federalist papers and saying, 'Good luck.'" Yes, he says he's exaggerating for effect, but he is conveying the gist of the policy. The casual recklessness and arrogance of these people never cease to amaze. The world is theirs' to play with - and the victims of predictable and predicted violence are left to help themselves. . .

Posted by: cld on April 17, 2007 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

The only reason you believe one more than the other is that Korb's opinions match your own.

No, the only reason I believe one more than the other is because one's observations are verified by the vast majority of other observers on the ground and by all the measurable statistics, while the other was forced to roll back his assertions in the face of reality when he returned and admit that his "mouth sometimes gets him in trouble."

As for McCaffrey, by your own standard he doesn't count because he's been an avid supporter of this thing all along. But his report his very damning. Exceptioinally damming. To the extent that he asserts progress his observations fly in the face of the number of attacks and the body count. He makes an emotional appeal to stay in Iraq based on...nothing.

I can understand why'd you focus so much on trying to win rhetorical battles as the battle in Iraq has already been lost, the political battle for Republicans is about to be lost, and the only losers are Iraqis and American servicemen.

Posted by: anonymous on April 17, 2007 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw,

So, you've been there?

Posted by: cld on April 17, 2007 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

Anonymous - many folks, including many on this site, rejected McCain's observations because he spent most of his time in the Green Zone. I guess I'm only trying to apply the same standard to these folks' assessments of the value of Korb's observations.

McCain was trying to make the point that it was safe to travel outside of the Green Zone, but wasn't able to do so himself wihout a company of soldiers surrounding him and a three helicopters circling overhead -- therefore, reality did not match up with his observations.

Korb, on the other hand, is making the point that it's not safe to travel outside of the Green Zone, and the fact that he isn't able to travel feeely outside of the Green Zone only backs up this claim.

See the difference?

Posted by: Stefan on April 17, 2007 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw >"...I'll stand by my observation that Kevin's interpretation of Korb's remarks should be rolled back some."

Be sure & write us a report when you come back from Iraq. We`ll be waiting right here (our breaths, of course, we will NOT be holding).

You are such a lame flunky.

"It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it." — Upton Sinclair

Posted by: daCascadian on April 17, 2007 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

The most optimistic projection was "maybe temporarily."

That sounds about right.

However, the claim that Iraqi politicians do not take the situation seriously is absurd. Equally absurd is the idea that they can work more effectively if the Americans promise to leave by a date certain in the near future.

there aren't very many American patrolling the streets of Baghdad either.

That's ambiguous: 14 of the 18 provinces are peaceful and have no Americans "patrolling" them at all.

The first third of Petreaus' first "Friedman unit" have passed, and he has perhaps achieved temporary progress. Since the Senate approved his appointment unanimously, they are probably reluctant, for four more months, to deny him the forces he requests to do his work.

Posted by: spider on April 17, 2007 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

"many folks, including many on this site, rejected McCain's observations because he spent most of his time in the Green Zone"

No. We rejected his observations because they were directly contradicted by all of the available data about his trip. By lying about his shopping expedition, he invited the ridicule and the rejection that he got. It had nothing to do with the length of his stay or whether or not he stayed in the Green Zone. It had everything to do with his pretense that his little stroll was unexceptional, ignoring the helicopters, the troops, the bulletproof vest, and the security sweep a couple of hours before the stroll. This is what got McCain criticized -- the disconnection between his fantasies and reality.

Posted by: PaulB on April 17, 2007 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Korb shouldn't be so gloomy. Apparently, Baghdad is just like most places in Indiana.

Posted by: asdf on April 17, 2007 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Has it been sorted out whether the massacre of the merchants the next day was connected?

Posted by: cld on April 17, 2007 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

The President has no knowledge that he made the decisions that brought us into this quagmire called Iraq.

Posted by: gregor on April 17, 2007 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Korb is using evidence on the ground in Iraq to bolster his assertion that we should leave Iraq. Bush and McCain make statements that directly contradict what is occuring in Iraq and believe that we should stay. Who is right? I guess we'll never know. Both sides are biased.

Posted by: Constantine on April 17, 2007 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK
... nights secure in a contractor compound as opposed to driving around town.. jackdaw at 6:20 PM
He did drive through the city on more than one occasion, so his observation is valid, but not the most significant point of his article, which was the lack of confidence in the 'surge,' the utter lack of an exit strategy and the poor morale of the troops. Posted by: Mike on April 17, 2007 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Thersites: It was Groucho Marx who said, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"

Posted by: Bob G on April 17, 2007 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

Next time you hear someone say they are going to Iraq...

Say very loudly: You mean THE GREEN ZONE?

Which is all to say:

Iraq : Green Zone :: Reality : Wingnuts

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on April 17, 2007 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

General Petraeus has assured the president and the American people that the surge will work and that should be enough for you.

Ex-liberal indeed. do you ever ask yourself when you became an authoritarian, or is that kind of introspection no longer possible for you?

Posted by: DrBB on April 17, 2007 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Ok, now this is just pathetic:

"Also this: "Do not believe anyone who tells you that the situation is getting better." Seems like sound advice."

Talk about pushing the dogma.

This sounds like more spew from another tin horn MSM journalist. Basically, he fishes for the answers he wants by asking leading questions. I mean, come on, tell me how contractors are good at making visitors "convinced" that Iraq is improving.

It's like that question: who are you going to believe, Krob or your lying eyes.

Posted by: egbert on April 17, 2007 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

That's ambiguous: 14 of the 18 provinces are peaceful and have no Americans "patrolling" them at all.

More uninformed bullcrap from Marler.

WASHINGTON, (UPI) -- Eight of Iraq's 18 provinces are dangerously unstable and violent, not just the four usually cited.

A Government Accountability Office report, based on recent State Department and U.S. military assessments in Iraq, suggests the country is on a downward slope. Insurgent attacks increased 23 percent between 2004 and 2005, and oil, electricity and water services are all below pre-invasion levels.

The assertion by the U.S. military and the Bush administration that Iraq's problems are limited to four provinces can be traced back to then-Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who put forth that argument in a press conference with President Bush in September 2004. [UPI]

You have got to be the least precise statistician out there. For the sake of the profession, let's hope you're an anomaly.

That's ambiguous: 14 of the 18 provinces are peaceful and have no Americans "patrolling" them at all.

And while we're at it genius, why don't you take a look at this chart of American casualties by province. If no Americans are patrolling 14 of the provinces, why do they keep dying there?

Posted by: trex on April 17, 2007 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

Al, American Hawk, ex-liberal, Hacksaw and anyone else from that side who's working this shift:

If you have some coherent argument to make regarding our oil requirements, and our strategic needs to control global oil flows, I'm happy to listen. Otherwise, STFU. You're cheerleading a sham.

That being said, the problem with "liberals" is that they won't even admit that that's what's going on.

The problem with liberals and conservatives both is that they assume we're idiots. The crap we see here is evidence: Listen Kevin, I know you're not interested in Venezuela, so you didn't want to talk about the coup and all, but did it, just maybe, have to do with oil? (It wasn't that anyone who talks about oil is branded a "conspiracy theorist" was it? That would be too sad.) Wasn't that important? Wasn't it easy to see?

Posted by: Mr. G on April 17, 2007 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

We should all shut up and trust George Bush that the surge is working. He has no reason to lie to us. He has never lied to us in the past. Every decision he has made so far has been spot on.

The American generals that managed the war from the beginning are seeing great signs of success. The Iraqi army is taking the lead in military operations. The Iraqi security forces are taking the lead in policing the cities. There are good things happening in Iraq every day. Many schools have been built. The oil is nearly paying for the reconstruction. The death squads have turned in their weapons. The Sunnis are joining the government. The Shia have agreed to share power with the Kurds and Sunnis. The WMD are almost totally destroyed. The death toll is that of any small burg in the US. All we have to do is give the administration some space.

Come on now...give George Bush some time, he has earned your trust.

Posted by: ben on April 17, 2007 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw wrote: Kevin presented Korb's remarks as something noteworthy. I was only pointing out that they really weren't.

I'll concede Hacksaw's expertise in non-noteworthy opinions.

Korb went to Iraq. McCain went to Iraq. The only reason you believe one more than the other is that Korb's opinions match your own.

Bullshit. McCain is not believable because he made unbelievable claims and then proceeded to acknowledge their unbelievability with both the heavy security during his visit and the attacks afterward. These aren't two opinions in a vacuum -- there's evidence McCain was blowing smoke that only a partisan tool would fail to acknowledge.

Oh, hello, Hacksaw.

Posted by: Gregory on April 17, 2007 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Now BEN (post at 8:47) is THE MAN. Finally, a poster here who understands. As Ben says, we should trust in the extraordinarily skilled and knowledgeable leaders we're fortunate to have looking out for us. I can only add my thoughts to Ben's:

In a matter of weeks, Donald Rumsfeld will be openly acclaimed to be the greatest military strategist of all time. That's right, far superior to Napoleon, Winston Churchill, Genghis Khan or Saladin (for example).

By Labor Day, 2007, Iraq will become THE vacation destination for trendy upscale Americans and Europeans. Look for condos along the Tigris to especially become untouchable at anything approaching affordability.

By summer and fall, 2008, George W. Bush will be so overwhelmingly recognized as the greatest U.S. president since Abraham Lincoln or George Washington, that 90% of the American electorate will take to the streets, openly demanding a waiver to the constitutional impediment preventing him from running for a third term.

Posted by: egbert on April 17, 2007 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

Ex-liberal indeed. do you ever ask yourself when you became an authoritarian, or is that kind of introspection no longer possible for you?
Posted by: DrBB

The whole ex-liberal former democrat I voted for Mcgovern way back when is just a CONservative tactic. It's designed to make the person using it look like a person who is capable of introspection and the ability to change his or her mind. Like just about everything else that comes from the cons it is a lie.

Posted by: klyde on April 17, 2007 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin...

Larry Korb is in town..... speaking, along with John Podesta, at Los Angeles City Hall at 11:30am on Wednesday. Info at www.zocalola.org

Posted by: Randy Gold on April 17, 2007 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

This is silly, and it's allowing the trolls to frame the problem.
One person cannot survey the Iraq Occupation And Civil War--annd a motor tour through an area does not convet much of anything, unless it wildly contradicts the expected. (If Lawrence Korb had found a carnival with a Ferris wheel and cotton candy and clowns on stilts, that might be significant and require adjustment.)
No, what is important is that he interviewed forces on the ground involved in actual operations. That's how you get a broad and diachronic picture.
And Lawrence Korb should be discounted because he's been a critic of the war? Because the war's been going wonderfully up until now, and Korb refuses to see it? Because we've been turning corners for four years? If it's been going so well for so long, why are we still there? Because that's the only grounds for disallowing his expertise--that his previous analysis was faulty.

The only way any credibility is going to be given to the surge is having a critic of the war go there and say things are turning around. NOT Bush Loyalists who've twisted and turned through WMD's, through the Mobile Bioweapons Labs, through The Schools!, through Democracy Is On The March, through Stay The Course, through We Never Said Stay The Course--NOT military officers who are forbidden under pain of court martial for differing with their commander in chief.

Sure, we'd like Victor Davis Hanson to come back from Iraq, trembling and with reddedned eyes stammer out "I--I was wrong. It's--It's a disaster.." but we don't need that.

The burden of proof is on the supporters of the occupation.

And it's not enough to say that the Surge is having 'some effect.' The reason a heavy and growing majority of Americans hate bush and want us out of Iraq is that W won't say what effects the surge is supposed to have, any more than he will say what 'victory' is supposed to mean.

This is like a startup company, where the CEO, not having turned a profit in four years, is refusing to state any schedule for earnings, any timetable for product roll out, or any sctual criterion for the venture, and keeps talking potential and strategy and the long view. Like any other set of investors (and of lives, fortunes and sacred honor as well as planeloads of cash), they look at this shuck-and-jive artist and are coming to the conclusion that they've been conned.

It would be nice to be proved wrong. It really would.

But until the Bush Administration names a target and keeps it, or until a skeptical observer says things are getting better, the investors are going to think that they've been conned into pouring their money (and their blood) down a rat-hole of a war.

Posted by: pbg on April 17, 2007 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

pgb:

they've been conned into pouring their money (and their blood) down a rat-hole of a war.

One man's rat-hole is another's National Defense Contractor's equity holder's pocket.

Posted by: Mr. G on April 17, 2007 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

trex: And while we're at it genius, why don't you take a look at this chart of American casualties by province. If no Americans are patrolling 14 of the provinces, why do they keep dying there?

that is a pretty interesting table and map.

Posted by: spider on April 17, 2007 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

WASHINGTON, (UPI) -- Eight of Iraq's 18 provinces are dangerously unstable and violent, not just the four usually cited.

Moreover, those 8 provinces contain the overwhelming majority of Iraq's population. The "quiet" provinces are quiet because they're empty desert with no people in them.

Posted by: Stefan on April 17, 2007 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Just who is Lawrence Korb? He doesn't seem stupid, so he must just be willfully naive, right?

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on April 18, 2007 at 4:55 AM | PERMALINK

These short visits are enough to get the flavor of life in a very small section of the occupation zone; I do not know why so much importance attaches to these observations. Would you be an expert on Britain if you went to London for 5 days?

If we want to know what it is really like, we have a pool of hundreds of thousands of people, mostly soldiers, who have lived there for extended time periods. Ask them.

Since I was there for a lot longer than Mr. Korb, I would offer this: the violence is continuous, and there are so many sources of violence, often unidentified, that the country seems to be in a Hobbesian state of nature. Good luck dealing with that, I sure wouldn't know what to do.

It will take a long, long time for this to play out. Our role can only be to act as moderator, to encourage something useful to arise from the primordial soup. That won't happen on our schedule, nor will it happen because we surge, pull out, etc.

I believe the public understands this, and doesn't support the war for the obvious reason that the achievable war aims don't justify the sacrifice. All of our sacrifice... to moderate a chaotic struggle for power in Iraq?

Posted by: searp on April 18, 2007 at 5:47 AM | PERMALINK

WASHINGTON, (UPI) -- Eight of Iraq's 18 provinces are dangerously unstable and violent, not just the four usually cited.

Here's Prof. Juan Cole on the "only four provinces myth" back in 2005:

This canard is trotted out by everyone from think tank flacks to US generals, and it is shameful. Iraq has 18 provinces, but some of them are lightly populated. The most populous province is Baghdad, which has some 6 million residents, or nearly one-fourth of the entire population of the country. It also contains the capital. It is one of the four being mentioned!. Another of the four, Ninevah province, has a population of some 1.8 million and contains Mosul, a city of over a million and the country's third largest! It is not clear what other two provinces are being referred to, but they are probably Salahuddin and Anbar provinces, other big centers of guerrilla activity, bringing the total for the "only four provinces" to something like 10 million of Iraq's 26 million people.

But the "four provinces" allegation is misleading on another level. It is simply false. Guerrilla attacks occur routinely beyond the confines of Anbar, Salahuddin, Ninevah and Baghdad. Diyala province is a big center of the guerrilla movement and has witnessed thousands of deaths in the ongoing unconventional war. Babil province just south of Baghdad is a major center of back alley warfare between Sunnis and Shiites and attacks on Coalition troops. Attacks, assassinations and bombings are routine in Kirkuk province in the north, a volatile mixture of Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs engaged in a subterranean battle for dominance of the area's oil fields. So that is 7 provinces, and certainly half the population of the country lives in these 7, which are daily affected by the ongoing violence. It is true that violence is rare in the 3 northern provinces of the Kurdistan confederacy. And the Shiite south is much less violent than the 7 provinces of the center-north, on a good day. But some of this calm in the south is an illusion deriving from poor on the ground reporting. It appears to be the case that British troops are engaged in an ongoing struggle with guerrilla forces of the Marsh Arabs in Maysan Province. Even calm is not always a good sign. The southern port city of Basra appears to come by its via a reign of terror by Shiite religious militias.

www.juancole.com/2005/12/top-ten-myths-about-iraq-in-2005-iraq.html

Posted by: Stefan on April 18, 2007 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

157 die in 4 Baghdad bomb blasts...

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 18, 2007 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Oh sure, MsN, bring that old canard of the 157 killed.

But, you fail to mention the good news of the 50,000 gallons of paint sent to Baghdad, 10,000 paint brushes to Kabul, 4,000 gallons of paint thinner to Kuwait, or the 5,000 painters air dropped, er airbrushed, into Dubai. Trashauler must have handled shipping.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 18, 2007 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

and to punctuate the post, 157 dead from 4 bombs in Iraq today.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 18, 2007 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

and to punctuate the post, 157 dead from 4 bombs in Iraq today.

Indeed. The so-called "Surge*", doomed from the start, is failing spectacularly.

* Surge now comes with 11% fewer troops than were in country in February '05, when overall attacks and casualties were hundreds of percent lower! Get Surge now or risk a poor accounting in the history books!
Posted by: trex on April 18, 2007 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

If a liberal visits Iraq, his word is gold. If a conservative visits Iraq, he just says what he's told to say. Right?

Posted by: Brian on April 19, 2007 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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