mad in pursuit: greed & arrogance

2004 political season

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9.14.04 News of Iraq

The "where were you really" rhetoric around the Vietnam era seems to have paused for a moment. But then again, so has any decent news coverage of the war in Iraq. The news channels are all "truck bomb body count truck bomb body count." Newspapers stuff their details into the back pages because, well, isn't it all getting a little boring? All those grubby little foreign towns and confusing militias. Sunnis, Shiites and now Turkmens -- what's the difference? Unless we can really keep score, with someone in Las Vegas doing the odds, it's way too muddled to keep our interest. Really, who would be interested in baseball if there was no scoring, the teams just played till they were tired, and you had to depend on arguing sports columnists to tell you who seemed like they were ahead? Yawn. We are more interested in the battles between the news commentators than the war itself.

And yet our boredom with it all allows the whole mess to sink deeper into a Vietnam-like nihilism. There are probably adolescents, just becoming aware of the world, who assume that "truck bomb-body count" is simply part of life's dark backdrop.

In today's NYTimes, Dexter Filkins writes:

But as the Americans and their allies raise the pressure on the insurgents, they are rapidly finding themselves in the classic dilemma faced by governments battling guerrilla movements: ease up, and the insurgency may grow; crack down, and risk losing the support of the population. The additional quandary facing the Americans is the need to break the deadlock before January, the self-imposed deadline for elections.


Even now, the get-tough approach is showing signs of backfiring. On Sunday, when a suicide bomber crippled an American personnel carrier, a gun battle broke out, followed by an airstrike by two American helicopters. At least 15 Iraqis died and 50 were wounded, including a 12-year-old-girl and a television journalist. Inside the grim and chaotic wards of Baghdad's hospitals on Sunday, the Americans seemed to have made more enemies than friends.

On Monday, the scene repeated itself in another corner of Baghdad. When three insurgents opened fire on an American sport utility vehicle, American soldiers sprayed the area with gunfire, destroying three cars and killing at least one Iraqi civilian and wounding three others.

"When the Americans fire back, they don't hit the people who are attacking them, only the civilians," said Osama Ali, a 24-year-old Iraqi who witnessed the attack. "This is why Iraqis hate the Americans so much. This is why we love the mujahedeen."

It seems important that we keep paying attention. And we can't get so simplistic to think either Democrats or Republics own the correct strategy for getting Iraq and the U.S. out of this mess.

When you hear field commanders being interviewed, they always assert that we can't possibly lose militarily. They are correct -- because we could flatten the place with our fire-power. We will always be able to win the war. I'm too cynical to actually think that peace will ever reign in the Mideast. However, "hatred management" is a skill our leaders need to aspire to -- and fast.





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