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Sunday, October 19, 2003

Progress and Problems in Iraqi Reconstruction Continued, Part II. Not the Final Version

This is the second in a three-part series that deals with the problems and progress being made by the US and UK in reconstructing Iraq, after 40 years of Baathist Party totalitarianism and mass-murdering brutality . . . during which time there was a complete collapse of civil society, never mind anything approaching ordinary political life, Baathist rule marked by a pervasive secret police, abundant recourse to the torture-chamber, the use of poison gas and biological warfare against Iraqi citizens, and an unbridled cult of leadership-worship. You should read the initial article, published on Friday and now completed, before plunging into this one. The arguments in the three articles form a coherent whole. The final article should be available tomorrow or the day after.

The Unprecedented Challenge of Iraqi Nation-Building

The challenge the US has faced in Iraq since the end of the war six months ago is unprecedented in our long history in the 20th century of nation-building: the effort --- starting in the Philippines at the beginning of the last century, then in parts of Central America with no success during the interwar period, later at the end of WWII in Germany and Japan, and more recently in the Balkans --- of occupying defeated or hostile or bankrupt countries and seeking to foster a more democratic government and a much more effective economy. Even in the case of Central and Latin America, where the US has pushed for democratic government starting with John Kennedy's Alliance for Progress --- with some veering during the cold war competition, especially in the Nixon era --- all the countries south of the US, beginning with Mexico and down throughout Central America all the way across the Continent to the Straits of Magellan, are now democratic in an electoral sense, with several making good headway in institutionalizing their democratic gains. Even Argentina, suffering its umpteenth economic crisis of the last 100 years, has remained solidly democratic throughout; and in fact its government is now trying former politicians, including an ex-President, for corruption.

Have these democratic developments banished marked inequalities in Latin America, between classes and ethnic groups? Or overcome traditions of corruption and nepotism in public life? Obviously not. They are rooted in nearly 600 years of Spanish rule and heritage, including the lack of a genuine grass-roots revolutionary movement anywhere in Latin America during the 1820s when Spanish rule simply collapsed and macho warlords --- caudillos, along with the support of small and powerful economic cliques --- took control everywhere.

A sidebar clarification: These recent democratic developments since the 1980s are impressive all the same. Almost everywhere south of the Rio Grande, they've spawned a far more vigorous and independent media and vocal human rights groups operating at the grass-roots level. Elections too are relatively honest for the first time in Latin American history (Chile something of an exception before 1969). Something else too. In scarcely any country will you now find the sort of polarizing political extremism --- left and right --- that flourished in the 1960s and 1970s and led to urban guerrilla warfare and brutal military coups in much of the Continent or, in Central America, more rural-based terrorism and homicidal guerrilla warfare and civil war that pitted right-wing violence against left-wing violence. Today, all of Central America is democratic and pacific. It looks like staying that way for a long time too.



The exception is Communist Cuba. Less idolized by the radical left these days, it still seems to beguile certain minds in the US and even more the EU. Consider this. At the same moment a judge in Spain sought to have the former Chilean dictator Pinochet extradited from Britain to Spain four years ago, a Spanish university was awarding the dictator Fidel Castro --- responsible for killing far more of his population than Pinochet, while driving ten to twenty times the number of his citizens into exile and filling his jails with dissidents --- an honorary doctorate. Apparently, to make sense of this, you have to assume that a dictator who can stay in power for almost 45 years, crush all opposition, ruin his economy, jail and torture all dissidents, and turn his island country into a huge secret-police controlled prison --- the inmates told what to study, what to read, when or how they might pray, or how they should show their constant support for the hero-leader, with no parole and hence any freedom ever possible --- will be celebrated in large parts of West Europe as long as he serves up a heady lather of radical mumbo-jumbo.




For the US, Iraq is the greatest challenge of all.

In that country, after 40 years of malignant, mass-murdering Baathist Party rule abruptly ended last April, there was nothing resembling the indispensable basis of any effective democratic development --- or even a moderately authoritarian plural society: no free trade unions, no free newspapers, TV, or radio, no free professional associations, no business associations, no political parties besides the fascist Baathists --- modeled, as the previous article showed, on Mussolini's Fascism and Hitlerian Nazism. Nothing. Nada. No independent local government or independent Parliament either. For four decades, the judiciary and all the police and security forces had been similarly under the tyrannical thumb of Saddam Hussein, his Baathist-Party tribal-clan, and the other members of the party.
It was no different in the economy. There were no independent business corporations or banks or brokerage firms or insurance companies, and no free stock and bond markets. The infrastructure was neglected and in derelict condition --- all this after hundreds of billions of dollars worth of oil sales over those decades in a country of just 25 million. What happened to the oil revenue? The UN's economic sanctions after 1991 had only a small role here. By 1996, after resisting UN efforts for five years, Saddam agreed to easing the sanctions; oil could now be sold, 2.5 million barrels a day after a while, if the revenue were used strictly for medical and food supplies. Not likely. All the while, whether for decades before the sanctions and during the decade after, the Baathist system enriched Saddam Hussein and his family and the family-clans of thousands of other officials and party leaders. Otherwise, it wasted hundreds of billions of dollars on pursuing weapons of mass destruction, started a war with Iran that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, invaded Kuwait and lost another war, and used poison gas and biological warfare against the Kurds in the north and helicopter gun ships and mass-murder in the Shiite south.

 

The Rest of the Middle East



All 22 of the Arab countries, it's true, are despotic and corrupt, ruled ultimately by the secret police. There are no exceptions. They did and do vary, though, in their repressive savagery and crushing of civil society.

Of these 22 countries, Saddam Hussein's Iraq --- which had defied 16 UN Security Council Resolutions and was an outlaw regime --- was the worst. Only two others came close to it in vicious use of violence, mass-murder, torture, and destruction. One is neighboring Syria, another corrupt and brutal Baathist party dictatorship --- the al-Asad family tribal-clan of Alawites dominating it for decades while bankrupting the country's economy and invading and occupying Lebanon for nearly two decades now. Who can forget the way in which the Syrian army --- beaten in three wars with the Israelis, despite several Arab allies --- saved its honor by attacking and killing off 25,000 - 40, 000 of the inhabitants of Hama in 1982, a city where a few Baathist party officials had been assassinated by Islamist extremists a few days earlier? No women and children were spared. Cyanide gas was extensively used against the civilians. The other viciously murderous state: the Sudan, where a ruthless, predatory clique of Arab military men have ruled for two decades while savagely killing and enslaving millions of black African Christians and animists in the south. Even the fruitcake Libyan regime of Colonel Khadaffi --- which now chairs the UN Human Rights Commission, while Syria chairs the UN Security Council and (who can forget?) Saddamite Iraq was scheduled last spring to chair its Disarmament Commission --- can't quite match the degree of ferocious violence and repression that prevail in Syria and the Sudan. (The more you study the UN institutions or agencies just mentioned and their chairs, the more it looks like a case of the inmates running the asylum.)

Now one of the 22 Arab despotic regimes --- there are no other Arab countries to rule --- is in the hands of the US and UK occupiers, its ruthlessly malevolent Baathist party dictatorship shattered in the recent war, leaving a huge vacuum at its core. The multi-facted challenge of reconstructing and transforming its economy, society, and polity --- while dealing with the initial collapse of law-and-order and the ongoing terrorist attacks carried out by die-hard Saddamites and Arab fanatics from abroad --- is the most daunting of the nation-building exercises the US government has ever undertaken.

 

Contrasts with Germany and Japan

After years of total warfare, Germany and Japan in 1945 were wholly beaten and destroyed. Small wonder that there was little organized violence against the US-UK occupiers in Germany, and none against the US in Japan. Similarly, these were ethnically homogeneous countries whose people --- for all their political failures --- were technologically and economically advanced and had unusual abilities to cooperate spontaneously for nation-wide tasks. They were also among the best educated populations in the world. Iraq, by contrast, was and remains economically and technologically backward --- its small technocratic class and vibrant intellectual life of the pre- and early Baathist periods crushed and bureaucratized and thoroughly controlled and censored. As for literacy --- despite claims to the contrary that it was one of the better educated Arab countries --- it is actually one of the worse: the CIA finds it was around 40% of the population at the start of this year. Egypt, for instance, boasts a literacy rate of around 57%; and its female literacy rate is about double that of the Iraqis. (For the Arab world as a whole, the literacy levels are the worse on the globe: worse even than in Tropical Africa, far poorer in per capita income.) The challenges the US face in Iraq shoot up and multiply in other directions too. Its 25 million people are divided into three traditionally hostile ethnic populations --- Shiites in the south (about 60%), Kurds in the north (about 15-20%), Sunni in the center (15%), plus tiny numbers of Assyrian Christians and Turkmen. The country itself was artificially created by the British Colonial Office in 1922 out of the collapsed remnants of the Ottoman empire, with the boundaries and the rule of a Sunni royal family (a Saudi tribal-clan) similarly decided by the British for their own convenience.

And yet, to return to the post WWII era, it took 4 years to create an effective, independent and democratic West Germany and Japan. Four years! Compare that with Iraq today, the war over only six months ago. Do the media reporters on Iraq care about these comparisons? Who knows? Even in the US and UK, the reports were and have been until recently single-mindedly fixated on the problems and setbacks of the US occupying forces, as though a total calamity had overtaken American and British policies and the whole enterprise quickly judged a failure . . . with the usual and fatuous quagmire metaphor and analogy with the Vietnam war repeatedly dredged up and splashed prominently across the front-page.

Sidebar clarification: why the Vietnam analogy is badly misleading:

1) The number of US combat troops killed in Vietnam averaged around 200 a week: so far, in three weeks of war and six months of occupation, the total US killed in action or in related accidents are less than two weeks of that earlier war.

2) Almost all the battles fought between US and Communist forces after 1968 --- the war escalating in 1965, when US troops swelled in number from 30,000 advisers to 500,000 --- involved regular North Vietnamese regiments and divisions, not Viet Cong guerrillas. As a good film like Platoon showed clearly --- Oliver Stone, its director, a former combat soldier there --- these were disciplined, crack troops, heavily armed. There are no equivalents anywhere in Iraq today.

3) The North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces in the south had a huge supplier in North Vietnam, itself heavily armed and restocked by the Soviets and Chinese --- the latter then stopping around 1971-1972 when the Nixon-Kissinger foreign policy worked out a tacit alliance with Beijing aimed at the Soviet Union. There is nothing equivalent in the Middle East to supply the remnants of Saddamite forces and terrorists, save for limited leakage through the Syria-Iraqi border.

4) The jungle-mountain terrain in Vietnam was ideal for guerrilla warfare and the sorts of regiment-level North Vietnamese fighting. Urban guerrilla tactics, especially suicide bombing, are a big challenge, but the comparison is still misleading. In more than three years of suicide bombing in Israel that has targeted Israeli citizens deliberately, the Israelis have suffered about 650 dead.

5) The North Vietnamese government and its Viet Cong allies in the south had captured effectively the nationalist sentiments of the North Vietnamese people and the active Viet Cong recruits in the south, producing unusually well-motivated fighting forces. Their officers were recruited for merit, not family-clan contacts like those in Saddam's army and Revolutionary Guards. The result? Despite inflicting enormous casualties on the Communist forces --- far higher than those on the German and Japanese militaries in WWII --- the US military couldn't prevail; the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong continued to fight with high morale right until our withdrawal in 1973 and then in their conquest of the South in 1975. Whether the US military could have prevailed here whatever our fighting strategy is doubtful; the only way to have won in South Vietnam was to help foster an effective South Vietnamese government and military that could tap with skill the anti-Communist sentiments of most South Vietnamese.

--- So any analogy with Iraq is doubly misguided here. Saddam's army and the Republican Guards who melted away into the area between Baghdad and Tikrit at the end of the war were led by tribal-clan cronies of his, and even then there had been repeated purges of the army and Republican Guard officer corps for political reasons. Similarly, aside from family-clan members in the Sunni belt between Baghdad and Tikrit, there's no evidence that the die-hard Saddamites are effectively motivated the way the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces were. Essentially, they seem to be animated mainly by a desire for revenge. If anything, the nationalist cause now belongs to the anti-Saddam population in Iraq . . . something brought out in both the Zogby and Gallup polls published last month, the first scientifically valid surveys of Iraqi opinion in four decades. They showed that around 70% of the Iraqis are delighted that Saddam is gone, toppled by the US and UK, and believe that their lives will be better in the future..








 

Part One Continued: The Media's Impact

And now back to the overall argument left hanging fire at the end of the first article in this mini-series on Iraq.

The Organization of the Argument: Why Part One Is Continued Here

Remember, there are three articles in the series, the overall argument across those articles divided into four major parts: Part One, Part Two etc. The first article started unpacking Part One; it deals with the role of the media in reporting on Iraqi developments since the war's end last April, and because of its length, that first article ended without Part One itself being completed. Not that the end point of that article was arbitrary --- far from it. Owing to its complexity, the analysis of the media's coverage of Iraq divided into four sub-sections; and article one --- which did manage to finish the first of these sub-sections --- set out the sorts of legitimate and informed criticisms found in either the media or in political quarters of how the Bush administration's has handled post-war Iraq.

The next three sub-sections follow here. One way or another, they all deal with the dominant form of reporting in the US or foreign media, most of which hasn't been informed, balanced, or even at times remotely accurate --- such as recurring journalistic claims, which we'll document in a moment, about what the Iraqis think about the American occupying forces and administration that fly in the face of totally different findings in professional public opinion surveys. If anything, most of the coverage has not just been unbalanced and unreliable, but carpingly negative and partisan, or --- in the case of the French and German media which we'll be looking at too --- full of nationalist resentments and sour-grapes stuff. Day-in, day-out; an orgy of bilious, ideological animosity; little else on display.

Fortunately, as the first article stressed, US reporting has begun lately to reflect more balance and to recognize that there is impressive progress, not just big ostacles, in what has been unfolding in Iraq since April: politically, economically, and even in security matter. One such laudable instance --- a New York Times article of October 19th, 2003 that dealt with intra-agency conflicts between the State Department and the Pentagon --- ended the first article's analysis, plus some comments about who around the globe is hoping, often desperately, that the US efforts at reconstructing and transforming Iraq fail. The New York Times article was American professional journalism at its best, this article: fair, balanced, and based on extensive interviews with no effort at editorializing: just rigorously accurate reporting and analysis. For that matter, a more balanced, thoughtful report on the progress being made in Iraq also appeared on the same day, October 19th, in the Los Angeles Times.

Too bad their professional spirit doesn't dominate most of the media coverage in this country, let alone abroad. For that matter, too bad that spirit didn't prevail in the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times thenselves until the last couple of weeks or so.

And now to the foreign media, especially in Britain, Germany, and France.

 

Part One Continued: (ii) Foreign Coverage of Iraq

Better Abroad? The BBC and British Coverage

As for the media, most of the attacks on the administration here or Blair's government in Britain don't reflect intelligent or reasonable criticisms: rather, mainly partisan sniping and ideological biases and resentments or just plain incompetence. Take the BBC, once justiably renown for its objectivity and accurate coverage of British and global politics, and now justifiably suspected of politically correct incompetence and biases, including a vendetta at the very top against the Labour government.

Even its Director General recently admitted that its reporter, Andrew Gilligan, had wrongly reported on the Blair government's statements on Iraqi WMD and on what the scientific advisor, Dr. Kelly, who later committed suicide, had told Gilligan. For that matter, even Gilligan later admitted to the Hutton Parliamentary Inquiry that he had misrepresented Kelly's views. (On the Gilligan affair and what it suggests more widely about the recent shortcomings and biased sermonizing of the BBC--- similar in some respects to what happened to the New York Times over the Jayson Blair affair last spring, with the difference that the New York Times journalists rebelled against its chief editor and forced him out and the paper into some soul-searching whereas the BBC has raised the drawbridge and retreated into its inner citadel --- see this article by the editor of the high-quality Financial Times Magazine, John Lloyd. Just a few days ago, Lloyd has written more searingly on the BBC's decline into aggressive opinionated journalism and faddish entertainment, along with much of the rest of the once quality media in Britain, in a far-flung appraisal of the editor of the Financial Times Magazine of London on the BBC and its decline, along with )

Specifically, to return to BBC coverage of Iraq and to cite just one recent instance that leaps to mind, the network ran a ponitificating article in which a claim is made in the first paragraph about what Iraqis think of the US occupation. There was no recognition --- not even a nod --- that the first scientifically conducted opinion poll by Zogby International Pollsters and a more recent one by the Gallup Poll organization had found only two or three weeks earlier that close to 70% supported the occupation or believed their future would be better than before the war, findings we'll set out in a few moments. It's not clear whether the pontificating Baghdad-stationed journalist even was aware of the poll, or would care he wasn't aware. And that's common intellectual botching in the BBC and most of the British media reportage on Iraq, daily incompetence or bias --- to single out just what's served out there as quotidian journalism and analysis.

 

German Coverage

Something related. Since we've just mentioned the BBC reporter's substituting entirely his own subjective views for Gallup's and Zogby's findings --- the former collidng with the latter --- visitors here might note the even more blatant subjectivity and moralizing hokum that pass for journalism even in a respected weekly like Die Zeit. Recall that an article in this week's online edition was mentioned earlier. Written by someone called Ulrich Ladurner, it starts out this way with a summary of its findings about Iraqi opinion regarding the occupation and the current conditions:

Im befreiten Land haben die Irakerinnen vor allem Angst. Der Staat liegt darnieder. Vergewaltiger, Mörder und Räuber laufen frei herum. Es gibt keine Sicherheit – und doch einen Funken Hoffnung

In their liberated counry, the Iraqis are gripped above all by fearful anxiety. There is no state authority present. Rapists, murderers, and robbers tear around freely. There's no security --- and hence not even a spark of hope.


No spark of hope? As we'll see, Zogby's pollsters found that 70% of Iraqis were hopeful about their future. Baghdad's population of some 6 million, it turns out in the Gallup Poll that surveyed various neighborhoods, have similar views about the future. Specifically, whereas 47% thought that conditions in the city were worse than before the war (vs. 33% who believed they had improved), 62% thought that ousting Saddam was still a good thing. More to the point 67% of the city's inhabitants think their living conditions will be better than ever in five years time; only 8.0% thought they would be worse. But then, academically trained pollsters don't have the insight into the predominant Zeitgeist and mentality of the Volk that presumably BBC and Die Zeit reporters have when they roam about Baghdad.

 

And The French Media?

Predictably, worse still --- nationalist envy and resentment comminging with explicit wishful thinking for American failure.

Rather than trying to document this, here instead --- more graphic, detailed, and convincing in its first-hand knowledge of the French media and political and administrative elites --- is an inteview with a gifted French novelist, widely celebrated for his fiction in that country: Maurice G. Dantec.

Widely acclaimed author of 'La Sirène Rouge', 'Les Racines du Mal', and 'Babylon Babies', Maurice G. Dantec shook up the French literary establishment with the publication of his diaries in 2 volumes: 'Le Théâtre des opérations: Manuel de survie en Territoire Zéro' ('Theatre of Operations: Survival Guide for Ground Zero') and 'Laboratoire de catastrophe générale' ('Laboratory of Generalized Catastrophe') where he elaborates on his opinions, regarding politics and metaphysics, which are the antithesis of what is politically correct for the Paris Intelligentsia. The literary critics were out in force for the publication earlier this year of his fourth novel 'Villa Vortex'. Dantec is now judged more for his political views than for his talent as a writer. Maurice Dantec has been living in Montreal for the last 5 years. Maurice Dantec was kind enough to take time out for a short interview with 'Merde in France' for which we are extremely appreciative. (Thanks to Subversiv.com for enabling the contact; English translation of interview by 'Merde in France').

Do you think we have just witnessed the start of a definitive break between Europe and the US?

Yes, it's obvious, but it must be understood that what has happened - as a result - is also, and foremost, the definitive BREAK within Europe itself. Between the newcomers to NATO, the ex-popular democracies of Eastern Europe having learned much from their experience with communism, and the neo-kollaboration Franco-Kraut which has learned absolutely nothing from the past, no 'historical compromise' is possible. There are those who will fight totalitarian Islamism on the side of the free world, and those who have already slipped under the control of the oil kingdoms and Islamic killers, represented by a 'French Council of Islam' whose direction is composed of leaders belonging to radical organisations favorable to charia law. Let me quickly remind you of a few figures: in 2002 11% of the French population is Muslim. The middle term projections are: more than double the figure in 15 years, triple in less than 25. The combined effect of demographics and migratory flows (the competent French abandon ship, third world populations flow in, it's pure social Darwinism. The situation is Herzegovinian and Chiraq King of the Frenchies is riding the wave with 82% of the vote!

Do you believe that the French population is properly informed as to the differences that now separate the US and France?

The French population is brainwashed since at least 1981, the year that Mitterrand rose to the throne of Francois-La-Francisque [Ed. Mitterrand received the 'francisque' which was the Vichy regime's highest award], along with his 1968 style cultural revolution. A program of generalized delibilation, thanks to Propaganda Staffel of the leftists in control of the Press and the Television, stepped up to a decisive level with the second Intifada and 9-11 followed by the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Saddamites in Iraq. From now on, for a Frenchy prick (a fucking frogman), the USA is more dangerous than the verminous Al-Qaeda (I refer you to this past Spring's polls). As you know, the response was immediate, and it was pronounced by Condoleeza Rice: we'll forgive the Russians, we'll forget the Germans, but the Frenchies will pay. Thomas Friedman's editorial in the New York Times, 'Our War with France' is the last nail in the coffin.

The French population is about as well informed as in 1940: at the time it was said that we didn't need to fight wars in order to win them. You know how that turned out.

The American public is not really aware of the hatred directed against the United States by the political and cultural casts in France. What advice would you give to American decision makers with regards to future relations with France?

On the political level: total isolation 'by all means necessary' of the Chiraq-Schroeder consortium. On the cultural level: let the national Titanic navigate among its icebergs: serial gang rapes, Islamic gangstahs, pedophile literature, bullshit rap music, anti-establishment culture. On the economic level: boycott EVERYTHING that can be BOYCOTTED, in both directions (imports and exports). Choking the life out of today's French economy with its all sacred 35 hour work week, sub-Sahara standard hospitals, and its civil servant-artist youths, would be as simple as pushing the pillow down on an dehydrated elderly person. Just choose the right color for the pillowcase.

Do you read the French press since the fall of Baghdad and if so, what do you think of its way of presenting events in Iraq?

See above. From Edwy Plenel to J.M. Colombani to Serge July to Moulod Aounit, from Paris-Match to Libération, from the Green Party to the National Front, everyone says the same thing without fail. This is when we see that FREEDOM of PRESS is of no use to a POPULATION of SLAVES.

Religion has always played a very important role within all Presidential administrations in the United States (especially in the adminstrations of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton). Why does the Paris Intelligentsia criticize Bush for his religious beliefs?

Human Rights endorsed Republican Atheism is a secular religion even more intolerant than Islam or Communism, and this didn't start just yesterday in this Jacobin Republic built on the equality of one and all before the guillotine. Everything that evokes our civilisation's multimillenial judeochristian values provokes a rash for our ever willing 'dhimmis'. I might add that, very soon now, the seal of approval from the head of the Paris Mosque will be required before publishing a novel or a mere biography . . . .

How do you feel about the new French literary season and they way it has taken inspiration from 9-11?

I have no opinion about the new French literary season. Every September, French writers rehash the same old question: how to talk about nothingness? Obviously it's the same problem, only worse, in Quebec . . . .


 

(iii) A Far Different View of Iraqi Progress By An Economist Who Speaks Arabic

Dr. Nimrold Raphaeli has a Ph.D. in developmental economics from the University of Michigan and spent most of his professional life working for the World Bank. In 2001, he joined the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), where he is a senior analyst.

It's Getting Better All the Time . . .

By Nimrod Raphael: MEMRI.org | October 9, 2003

"Violence and terrorism in post-war Iraq, while a legitimate subject for the press, often overshadows the progress made in the region. Statements by Iraqi officials as well as a number of editorials published in Iraqi and Arab newspapers would indicate that the situation in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, has been steadily improving. Last week's decision by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to reduce the number of night time curfew hours to four is an indication of growing confidence in Iraq's security. Certainly there is a sense of optimism about the future, confirmed by a number of polls taken in Iraq in recent months . . . "

Raphaeli's entire article is worth reading. We'll return to the problems of media coverage later on here. Right now, let's plunge right into the core of the substantive topic: what seems to be going on in Iraq since last April?

 

...........................................................



We mentioned earlier, when the 4th task of this article was initially laid out, that there have been signs lately of improved reporting by the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times among others. The latter's very informative discussion of intra-agency problems in administering the State Department planning for post-war Iraq has already been set out and analyzed at length here. More to the point, just as things were changing for the better in some of the US media, a thoughtful, well-informed critique of the US media's failures by a seasoned journalist, Jonathan Rauch, appeared at the start of this month in The Atlantic Monthly. He noted the following:

" . . . The alleged rush to war was nothing compared to the rush to judgment after the war. Why the pre-emptive pessimism? For reasons good, bad, and invisible—the invisible being the most important.

The good reason for gloom is that there is much to be gloomy about: incessant attacks, porous borders, Sunni hostility, spotty electricity, high Iraqi unemployment, high U.S. costs, diplomatic isolation, a strained U.S. military, a skeddadling United Nations.

Consistently, however, observers—including some I know personally and trust—return from Iraq reporting that the picture up close is better than the images in the media. Michael O'Hanlon, a Brookings Institution military analyst who is no pushover for the Bush administration, recently came back saying that the quality of the work being done in Iraq by American forces is "stunning."

If the future in Iraq looks dismal, someone forgot to tell the Iraqis. A poll by the Gallup Organization found Iraqis saying, by a 2-to-1 ratio, that Saddam Hussein's ouster was worth the subsequent hardships. A plurality told Gallup (a month ago, when the poll was taken) that Iraq was worse off than before the invasion, but two-thirds expected Iraq to be better off in five years than before the invasion, and only 8 percent expected it to be worse off.

The Bush administration reports that "virtually all" major Iraqi hospitals and universities have been reopened, and hundreds of schools have been rebuilt. As of late September, American fatalities (just over 300), although too numerous, were still only slightly higher than the 293 lost in the 1991 Persian Gulf War . . ."


We'll return to the topic of media coverage at the end here. When we do, we'll also return to Jonathan Rauch's perceptive analysis of the problems and biases that have marked that coverage and, despite some improvements, still do: a bad news bias, a hindsight bias, a bias of the hated George Bush, and the like.

 

Part Two: Problems and Progress in the Administration of Iraq Since the War

As the buggy article on October 5th noted, three tracks of developments --- political, economic, and security-laden --- have to be monitored in juding how Iraqi reconstruction and nation-building:

(1) Political Developments

Clear progress is being made on this track, the most important of all. It includes the creation for the first time in Iraqi or Arab history --- over 1300 years now --- of local democratic government and a constitution for a democratic and secular central government. The task is especially difficult, given the tri-partite division of Iraq --- whose boundaries, national independence, and political system were originally shaped by the British colonial office for its own convenience in 1921-22 out of the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire, which had ruled there for four centuries --- into historically hostile ethnic groups: Sunni Muslims (about 15% of the 25 million Iraqis today), Shiite Muslims (about 60%), and Muslim Kurds, around 15-20%. Another 3.0 – 4.0% of the population are diverse groups like Turkmen and Assyrian Christians. Clearly, it would be far easier --- as in most of the breakaway states from Yugoslavia after 1991 or in the 15 independent countries that constituted the Soviet Communist system until that year --- if the country would just divide into three fully independent countries, with their own political systems, military, defensible boundaries, and (where possible) cross-border economic cooperation.

The trouble is, none of Iraq's neighbors want this, and the US is committed to trying to maintain national unity. A second problem also intrudes: the huge oil resources of the country are concentrated in the Kurdish areas of the north and the Shiite areas of the South, and no easy equitable way of dividing these exists that would guarantee an independent Sunni state to have 15-20% of those resources. A third difficulty is worth mentioning here too: the fascist Baathist party --- inspired like its Syrian counterpart in its origins by Mussolini's fascism and Hitlerian Nazism --- was based mainly on Sunni support, as was the monarchy set up by the British in 1922; and Saddam Hussein's totalitarian regime that emerged in the 1970s after the Baathists overthrew the monarchy and installed their dictatorship was overwhelmingly filled at the top and middle-ranks with Sunnis and especially members of his tribal-clan in Tikrit, the center of terrorist activity in Iraq today. Huge grievances obviously exist among the Kurds and Shiites, and reconciling these groups with the Sunni in some form of loose confederation --- modeled after successful nation-building in Bosnia --- is a daunting venture. So far, it has succeeded in Bosnia. That's all we can be certain of, encouraging as that outcome has been (with peacekeepers still on Bosnian soil).

Sidebar observation: Besides the perceptive, well-researched article by David Brooks on the fascist sources of the Iraqi and Syrian Baathist Parties in the interwar period, see a briefer commentary by the gifted Arab-American scholar, Fouad Ajami, on the impact of Nazism in particular on them, plus some buggy comments here: Ajami, gordon-newspost. On the nature of European fascism and the similarities between it and contemporary extremist Islam, see the buggy article published in the winter of 2003.

 

For the most part, though, noticeable progress has been made in the Shiite areas of the south --- where the original flurry of Shiite religious fervor calling for an Islamist Republic has died out --- and especially in the Kurdish areas of the north, where the Kurds enjoyed 12 years of independence from Saddamite repression and massacres that afflicted them throughout the 1970s and 1980s . . . thanks to the protection of American and British airpower in a no-fly zone carved out after the first Gulf War in the spring of 1991. The Governing Council, some 25 leaders of Iraqi ethnic groups chosen by the US in July --- in an effort to create a representative and balanced group of elders --- has been generally successful in working together and committing the three major ethnic populations to some form of loosely unified state in the future. Under the new UN Security Council resolution passed yesterday after a compromise between the US and its main critics there --- France, Russia, and Germany --- will call for a constituent assembly and constitution by the end of the year.

In the meantime, purges of the Baathist party leaders and scrutiny of the mid-level administrators go on . . . like the similar investigations, including trials, that marked postwar reconstruction of Germany and Japan after WWII. Many of the mid-level administrators will no doubt be condemned; others will pass muster and will be able to help in the post-war governing of the country. Keep in mind that the Nazi Party ruled Germany for only 12 years. The Baathist Party and its members were in power in Iraq for almost exactly 40 years, during which time a totalitarian mentality spread throughout the population, even as millions were tortured, imprisoned, killed, or driven into exile.

Sidebar Clarification: For those unfamiliar with the breakdown of Islam's major branches, Shiites are around 10-15% of the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world (Christians are about 2.0 billion, and contrary to what you will frequently see in the media, are expanding faster with new converts than Islam). Sunni Islam --- the main branch that encompasses about 85-90% of Muslims world-wide --- itself can be broken down further in various sub-branches, like Wahhibism in Saudi Arabia, Sufism (a mystical form of Islam), and so on. Shiism prevails essentially only in Iran, though the majority of Iraqis are Shiite - -- around 60% --- and large numbers can be found over the Saudi peninsula. In Syria, with 17 million people, most of the population is Suni, but the Baathist leaders that constitute its bankrupt, blood-splotched dictatorship are from a tiny Shiite offshoot called Alawite. There are also non-Arabic Muslim Druze in Syria, Lebanon, and Israel --- the latter serving in the Israeli armed forces --- and fairly large Christian populations in the former two countries.

(2) Economic Developments

(3) Security Developments

THIS PART, dealing with economic and security trends, NEEDS TO BE FLESHED OUT AND REVISED: S.B. Times, 1:30 PM, Friday, October 17th

 



Part Two Continued: More Criticisms of the Bush Team's Handling of Iraqi Reconstruction

Where the Bush administration has strayed --- hurting its image --- has been in its over-optimism about the post-war domestic scene in Iraq: economically and in security matters. None of that is irreparable, and after some false starts, there have been improvements in the economy, infrastructure, and even in restoring some law and order. US casualties too have been down, though the public is clearly sensitive to any casualties, and we can only hope that the recruitment and training of new Iraqi military, security, and police forces will begin to pay off by the winter. Ultimately, without a heavy Iraqi role in both intelligence about terrorist groups in that country and hunting them down with local help wherever they are, the low-level fighting and suicide bombing will likely continue to flare.

Then too there's been open criticism, even from Republican ranks, of some management disarray in the administration . . . particularly the president's apparent hands-off role. Last weekend, two major Senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee --- Joe Biden, a Democrat, and Richard Lugar, a Republican who chairs it --- agreed in a public interview that the President has lost control of overall management of our diverse policies in that country. See CBS. Both were unhappy with Vice President Cheney's "strident" tone (Lugar) in defending the administration's policies.

The administration, it has to be stressed, has also handicapped itself by allowing Haliburton, Vice President Cheney's old oil firm, to get a huge billion dollar contract last spring without clear, transparent open bidding. Mind you, I've no reason to question Cheney's reply on Meet the Press two weeks or so ago that he has cut all ties with the firm; and for that matter, I recognize too that Haliburton --- when the first contract was awarded last March during the Iraqi war --- has unusual expertise in dealing with huge fires to oil fields, something the Bush administration and US military expected might happen. Even so, it gives the appearance of impropriety. We learned back in the Clinton era, when President Clinton was under fire from right-wing zealots and even moderate conservatives --- unfairly, it turned out, except for the stupid way he handled his affair with Lewinsky when he lied about it in a judicial hearing --- just how important that appearance of impropriety can be. It's fodder for partisan sniping and backstabbing.

 

Part Three: Encouraging Developments of the Last Few Days or Weeks

As against this, Colin Powell has managed today to get UN Security Council approval for the task of rebuilding Iraq. Whether much in the way of military or financial aid will follow isn't clear. Japan's Prime Minister, Koizumi, said that Japan would commit itself to both sorts of aid, and he mentioned an initial $1.5 billion, to be followed by more. Interestingly, the new democratic government of Yugoslavia --- ruled by the demagogic Milosevik during the civil wars in the Balkans until the Kosovo war in 1999 and the toppling of the war criminal by the Yugoslavs themselves soon afterwards --- pledged to send 1000 troops to help out. That pledge was fairly recent. Just a few days ago, several of the new states that broke away from Yugoslavia in the 1990s joined with the democratic government in Belgrade to cooperate in order to participate energetically in peacekeeping in East Timor and quite likely in Iraq! See this.

What is important --- and now more likely after the recent UN Security Council vote, a compromise between the US-UK and France, Germany, and Russia --- is that it should be a major inducement to India and Bangladesh to send troops. Bangladesh, with its 140 million people, is one of the largest Muslim countries in the world; and of India's 1 billion population, about 12% are Muslim. India particularly has a good well-trained army, and no doubt will send mainly Muslim units.

In addition, we have the Zogby International Poll carried out in late summer of Iraqi opinion, the first and only scientifically sound survey to date. It found an overwhelming majority of Iraqis, close to 70%, who strongly support the destruction of the bloody Saddamite system and are generally hopeful and optimistic about their country. See the summary here. More recently, a Gallup opinion survey found almost identical results in Baghdad alone --- which is largely a Sunni city. Sunni Muslims, who make up about 15% of Iraq's 25 million people, are those who benefited most under the brutal Saddamite regime, to the extent that benefits can be used here above and beyond those who were, thanks to Baathist party recruitment and membership, given favorable positions in the political, administrative, economic, and security systems in the country. All this is clearly encouraging. More recently, even the New York Times published a front-page article that noted, for the first time, that the Iraq is a complex country and that there are clear signs of improvement, not just a terrorist war against US troops or local protests by one irate group or another against the occupational authority.

And here is a well-researched report on the WMD programs of the Iraqi regime in the Saddamite era, based on US and UN sources . . . including the recent views of former President Bill Clinton.

 

Part Four: Ayatollah Khomeini's Grandson: US Toppling of Saddam "an act of goodness"

From the Wall Street Journal

Sayyid Hussein Khomeini is the grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. Earlier this year, the liberal 46-year-old cleric left Iran for the Shiite spiritual centers of Karbala and Najaf, where he has been exploiting Iraq's newfound freedom of speech and thought to advocate democratic change at home. Mr. Khomeini visited our offices last week as he wrapped up a U.S. tour that included stops on Capitol Hill. He painted a far different picture of Middle East developments than President Bush's critics in Congress and the media.

"We consider [the U.S. invasion] as the arrival of goodness, and I hope the American people understand this," Mr. Khomeini emphasized from the start. It is important for Americans to keep their eyes on the big picture, and "to make the [democratizing] mission possible" by not getting discouraged by the day-to-day difficulties.

Mr. Khomeini offered no assurances that the path ahead would be easy. "All of our neighbors are dictatorships. . . . They do not like a democracy in the heart of the Mideast." He said Iran and Saudi Arabia, in particular, were working to undermine the U.S. mission. Nor does he consider the Europeans helpful: "Europe is now calling for democracy, but it is helping 100% the dictatorships in the area." But Mr. Khomeini, who advocates separation of mosque and state, said Americans shouldn't worry that Iraqis themselves want to trade dictatorship for Islamic theocracy. As long as security and basic services can be provided, he said, "Iraqis want the Americans to stay."

What's more, Mr. Khomeini says an aggressive U.S. posture is the best chance of bringing change to Iran, where the hopes of freedom that animated the 1979 revolution were "diverted," in part because of the "personality of Khomeini," his grandfather. "Iranians -- and I know this culture -- want American military intervention in Iran," he says. Absent that, it is important for America to support Iranian dissidents: "The Iranian government must be under pressure at all times."

It was in part to free the voices of Islamic reformers that the President deposed Saddam Hussein. If America can foster a space in the Middle East where such things can continue to be thought and said, that fact alone will have been worth the fight.


 



The Media Again

Back now to Sam Ward's comment and the initial buggy reply that was set out earlier here on the media coverage of Iraq, and its slanted and negative tendencies.

As the previous article on Iraq noted, one of the big problems for long-distance observers of the Iraqi scene is finding useful information about what's happening there along three developmental tracks: political, economic, and security-laden. Almost all the news, whether written or on TV and radio, seems to deal with sensational events: a bombing here, an uncovering of a weapons' cache there, a march by irate 5000 Shi-ite demonstrations unhappy with their leader's incarceration, and progress or not in uncovering WMD. What stands in the way of more effective and illuminating journalism, including both progress on these three tracks and problems and setbacks?

One problem is that the western journalists are mainly in Baghdad, hanging out at international hotels and gossiping with one another. Another is that hardly any seem to speak Arabic and hence have to interview either English-speaking Iraqis or rely on dubious translators. In the Kurdish areas too, how many trained western journalists know that language? A third problem? An unwillingness, it seems, to get out into the Kurdish areas, the Shia areas in the south --- 15-20% of the 25 million live in the former areas, about 60-65% in the south --- and, maybe understandably given the security problems, in the Sunni belt around Tikrit to Baghdad that seems to be the hiding place of Saddam's die-hard terrorist supporters and the Arab Islamo-extremist terrorists who have come in from outside the country. A fourth problem derives, apparently, from a lack of proper training in economics and survey data and wider institutional matters --- all discussed at length in developmental economics and comparative politics --- on the part of the journalists, who otherwise are no doubt intelligent men and women. Topping it is a built-in bias, or so it appears, against the Bush administration or the US in general on the part of foreign journalists, with partisan and ideological platitudes and backbiting way too common. How otherwise even to explain the misinterpretation in the US media --- only recently being corrected --- of David Kay's recent report to the Congressional Intelligence Committees and the Bush administration, with even the 10 page unclassified summary left at the CIA web site misused too?

What we need is solid up-to-date information on each of these developmental tracks --- with some useful perspectives and interpretation that highlight both successes, failures, over-optimism in the Bush administration (and subsequent efforts, successful or not, to remedy these on the ground), and the remaining problems that have to be tackled effectively. Even getting useful information back home in the US about the willingness of the public to tolerate the level of casualties isn't easy. We do know that the number of Americans who think destroying Saddamite Iraq and occupying it for nation-building purposes has risen noticeably in the last couple of months, not least owing, probably, to the bad news that is hammered home again and again in the media; and yet we don't have any good survey data that directly deals with the casualty rate of US soldiers . . . one of the crucial concerns for estimating public support at home for the next several months or even ---- as a new Iraqi police force and military comes into existence and takes over much of the responsibilities of dealing with law-and-order and counter-terrorism and hence allows for US forces in a year or so to be reduced in number --- over the next year and a half, the likely period in which such Iraqi security forces and police are in place and fully functioning. In the meantime, the entire justice-system in the country has to be overhauled; the infra-structure repaired; oil production brought back to pre-war levels (now 1.9 million barrels a day as compared with 2.5 million before the war) and then, if possible, increased rapidly for national revenue; law and order in the streets has to be prevail, within the framework of a rule of law, something the Iraqis haven't known since the early 1960s . . . and even then, it's worth recalling, not any more effectively than has been the case anywhere in the Arab world since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 and the emergence of modern Iraq, Syria, the Gulf States, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and --- wider afield in North Africa --- the emergence of Egypt, Libya, Algeria and so on as the Italian, French, and Spanish empires there collapsed too after WWII.

Something else to remember as well. More than four decades of brutal Baathist-party totalitarian dictatorship --- three of them dominated by Saddam Hussein and his tribal-family clan ---- had destroyed not just any rule-of-law to the extent it ever existed, but all semblance of a normal civil society . . . including any sense of intellectual and personal rights, with systematic propaganda, a cult-of-lead glorification, and ruthless torture and killing of all dissenters further reinforcing the totalitarian system with its Baathist party faithful equivalent in its tentacles and controls over Iraqi life to the fascist party of Mussolini's Italy and the Nazi party of Hitler's Germany . . . the intellectual inspirations, not surprisingly, of the Baathist party founders in Iraq and Syria in the interwar period. Baathist party zealots and murderers have to be identified and tried in a new system of justice, like Nazis after WWII in Germany. Those who joined the party for more careerist reasons and were not brutal torturers or murderers have to be investigated and either charged or cleared and hence made available for carrying out their professional tasks.

All this takes time. West Germany did not gain independence and sovereignty for four years after Nazi Germany's total defeat in May 1945 and the quick breakup of the country into Soviet-ruled East Germany and the three western zones ruled by Britain, the US, and France . . . the latter given a presence in Germany at the Yalta conference, mainly because the British were fearful the US would remove all its troops from Europe after the Germans were defeated and withdraw into isolation again once Japan was crushed. (The British and the Americans decided early in 1946 as anti-Nazis were found to restore the earlier vigorous traditions of local German government to merge their two occupied zones mainly for economic purposes, then as de-Nazification proceeded to start the process of creating a new democratic West Germany. The French, worried about a new unified Germany again, didn't let their occupied zone in the southwest join the British and US bi-zonia until mid-1947, at which point Paris was rightly far more concerned with the growing cold war division in Europe and the presence of the Red Army along the East-West German frontiers.) Still, four years went by in a country that was far more developed and had a working tradition, however insecure, of democratic government in the 1920s Weimar Era, centuries of good local urban government, and a tradition of an effective rule-of-law (within limits) since Germany emerged as a united country in 1871.

A similar story unfolded in Japan, with its far more developed economy and educational levels compared to the Iraqis today, never mind unique ethnic unity and a brief but tragic history of democratizing parliamentary politics in the 1920s too. An equivalent of de-Nazification was never really tried in the country, save for putting on trial and executing a few top-level military and political war criminals; but General Macarthur ruled by an Emperor with the American occupational forces for four years too as we carried out systematic reforms in the economy, in education, in legalizing trade unions, and in a few other areas.





Replies: 4 comments

Lieber Mr. Gordan, Ich bin in Ihrer Pol Sci 121 classes (Sissi). In der letzten Ausgabe der Zeit Newspaper ist ein article von Michael Moore, das Sie vielleicht interessieren wuerde. www.zeit./AbdruckMoore viele gruesse, Sissi

Posted by Cecile Binmoeller @ 11/12/2003 04:08 AM PST

Lieber Mr. Gordan, Ich bin in Ihrer Pol Sci 121 classes (Sissi). In der letzten Ausgabe der Zeit Newspaper ist ein article von Michael Moore, das Sie vielleicht interessieren wuerde. www.zeit./AbdruckMoore viele gruesse, Sissi

Posted by Cecile Binmoeller @ 11/12/2003 04:08 AM PST

Lieber Mr. Gordan, Ich bin in Ihrer Pol Sci 121 classes (Sissi). In der letzten Ausgabe der Zeit Newspaper ist ein article von Michael Moore, das Sie vielleicht interessieren wuerde. www.zeit./AbdruckMoore viele gruesse, Sissi

Posted by Cecile Binmoeller @ 11/12/2003 04:08 AM PST

Lieber Mr. Gordan, Ich bin in Ihrer Pol Sci 121 classes (Sissi). In der letzten Ausgabe der Zeit Newspaper ist ein article von Michael Moore, das Sie vielleicht interessieren wuerde. www.zeit./AbdruckMoore viele gruesse, Sissi

Posted by Cecile Binmoeller @ 11/12/2003 04:08 AM PST