Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Monday, November 27, 2006

  Find some good news and report it!

Consistently some of the best reporting from Iraq has been done by Patrick Cockburn for the Independent. Tomorrow he has a stunner. As always, Cockburn sheds light on the true situation through details you won't find in most journalism (apart from the blogs that still occasionally post in Iraq).

Iraq may be getting close to what Americans call "the Saigon moment", the time when it becomes evident to all that the government is expiring....

The Iraqi army and police are not loyal to the state. If the US army decides to confront the Shia militias it could well find Shia military units from the Iraqi army cutting the main American supply route between Kuwait and Baghdad. One convoy was recently stopped at a supposedly fake police checkpoint near the Kuwait border and four American security men and an Austrian taken away.

The US and British position in Iraq is far more of a house built on sand than is realised in Washington or London, despite the disasters of the past three-and-a-half years. George Bush and Tony Blair show a unique inability to learn from their mistakes, largely because they do not want to admit having committed any errors in the first place....

Iraqi friends used to reassure me that there would be no civil war because so many Shia and Sunni were married to each other. These mixed couples are now being compelled to divorce by their families. "I love my husband but my family has forced me to divorce him because we are Shia and he is Sunni," said Hiba Sami, a mother, to a UN official. "My family say they [the husband's family] are insurgents ... and that living with him is an offence to God." Members of mixed marriages had set up an association to protect each other called the Union for Peace in Iraq but they were soon compelled to dissolve it when several founding members were murdered....

A few hours before somebody tried to assassinate him, Governor Kashmula claimed to me that "security in Mosul is the best in Iraq outside the Kurdish provinces". It is a measure of the violence in Iraq that it is an arguable point....

In much of Iraq, we long ago slipped down the rapids leading from crisis to catastrophe though it is only in the past six months that these dire facts have begun to be accepted abroad. For the first three years of the war, Republicans in the US regularly claimed the liberal media was ignoring signs of peace and progress. Some right-wingers even set up websites devoted to spreading the news of American achievements in this ruined land.

I remember a team from a US network news channel staying in my hotel in Baghdad complaining to me, as they buckled on their body armour and helmets, that they had been once again told by their bosses in New York, themselves under pressure from the White House, to "go and find some good news and report it."


That game was getting so tiresome that I seriously considered creating a fake news site, The Good News from Iraq, to promote obvious nonsense of the sort that apologists for Bush & Co. would have liked to have believed. Yet I couldn't bring myself to do it. The occupation of Iraq is an ongoing catastrophe and I could not see my way clear to write satire about it day in and day out.

Cockburn is particularly good in dismantling the quackery of Tony Blair--who, remarkably enough, is viewed on this side of the Atlantic as the wise statesman in the coalition.

These days, it is in Britain alone, or more specifically in Downing Street, that policies bloodily discredited in Iraq in the years since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein still get a hearing. I returned from Mosul to London just in time to hear Tony Blair speaking at the Lord Mayor's banquet. It was a far more extraordinary performance tha[n] his audience appreciated.

As the Prime Minister spoke with his usual Hugh Grant charm, it became clear he had learned nothing and forgotten nothing in three-and-a-half years of war. Misconception after misconception poured from his lips.

Contrary to views of his own generals and every opinion poll assessing Iraqi opinion, he discounted the idea that armed resistance in Iraq is fueled by hostility to foreign occupation. Instead he sees dark forces rising in the east, dedicated, like Sauron in Lord of the Rings, to principles of pure evil. The enemy, in this case, is "based on a thoroughly warped misinterpretation of Islam, which is fanatical and deadly."

Even by the standard of Middle Eastern conspiracy theories, it was puerile stuff....

The picture Mr Blair paints of Iraq seldom touches reality at any point. For instance, he says Iraqis "voted for an explicitly non-sectarian government," but every Iraqi knows the vote in two parliamentary elections in 2005 went wholly along sectarian and ethnic lines. The polls were the starting pistol for the start of the civil war.


And many of us said exactly that in our blog posts at the time. But the cheerleading pundits for war/occupation (we remember who you are, no matter how much you try to efface your own role in this debacle) assured us that the elections were the penultimate step toward a new dawn for Iraq.

The pundit-cheerleaders mistook the color of blood in the streets for rosy-fingered Dawn.

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