“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Tuesday, October 07, 2003


"Every quantitative measure we have shows that we are winning the war." � McNamara, 1962.

This administration and its propagandists are so depressingly predictable that sometimes it just stops me. Do I really want to say the obvious, I say to myself. Here in LI central. There's a scene, at the end of Brazil, where a man is wrapped in newspapers: stray sheets that are blown by the wind and that adhere to him, first one, then another, until he is covered. That's how I think of the cliches that are employed both to defend and to diss the Bushies.

...So LI was unsurprised to read, in the WP today, a column that echoes McNamara. For weeks, the specifically conservative media - the Instapundits of the world -- has echoed with happy, happy images of Iraq, and scathing denunciations of the scurrilous liberal press � always reporting on things like dead American soldiers, instead of the 5,000 wonderful construction projects blossoming in some section of Northern Iraq, deploying our soldiers. Now, one might regard the latter fact as less a happy image of American benevolence and more an image of how out of whack the American mission in Iraq has become � U.S. soldiers competing with the 60% unemployed in Iraq on make work projects. But there is, at least, some sense to the rightwing complaint. The low intensity war in Iraq has not yet achieved critical mass � that is, it hasn�t passed from the kind of hostility that the French put down in Algeria after 1945 to the kind of hostility the French couldn�t put down in Algeria after 1954.

Yet, when we read, as we did today, in the Washington Post, the establishment estimate of our "progress" in Iraq, the spirit of McNamara starts howling through the halls. A Brookings Institute fellow, Michael O'Hanlen introduces us to some Ur McNamara technical analysis -- especially in terms of the lethality of our responses to hostile forces -- that the old man himself must admire.

"As for Baathist remnants of Saddam's regime, they are diminishing with time as coalition forces attack and arrest them. For example, in the region north of Baghdad now run by Gen. Ray Odierno's 4th Infantry Division, some 600 fighters have been killed and 2,500 arrested in recent months. Not all of these are Baathists, to be sure, but with such attrition rates, a group of fighters that probably numbered 10,000 to 20,000 at peak strength will decline significantly over time -- especially because it has no appealing ideology with which to attract more members (unless we so mishandle the operation as to make anti-Americanism that rallying ideology -- a prospect that remains unlikely at present, given our plans to intensify reconstruction efforts and turn over power to Iraqis quickly.) "

Notice the crock of these stats -- the 10,000 to 20,000, pulled out of a hat -- the number of killed, which is interesting insofar as the military has refused, so far, to give numbers of enemy dead -- and the final clause, with its heavy breathing pre-supposition that the Americans so obviously represent good that there should be no problem. Well, let's see, if I were trying to find a rallying ideology against the Americans, what would I say? Oh, perhaps something about how they are selling off Iraq's national property and supporting Israel against our Moslem brothers. Right off hand. But of course ... we know that story won't work. Hasn't Wolfowitz told us it won't work?

What to say? Except that these people are so amazingly incompetent that one wonders, were they ever really, like ... educated somewhere?

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