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Blood, Flowers and Concrete

October 9, 2006

One of the most interesting things I’ve come across in a while is a series of postsat  Done With Mirrors from a woman who worked for 2 years for an American contractor in Iraq. She’s not happy with the media coverage of her efforts, to put it mildly. What caught my eye was this passage:

What I don’t appreciate is the coverage that followed the battle (of Falluja).
Because after it started to draw down, all those fighting there were
immediately forgotten. Instead, the decisions about the battle turned
into masses of political BS for the MSM in the U.S., and not a single
Marine from the battle ever gained long-term recognition. After the
battle, the media crawled back in its hole and waited for the next big,
photogenic pool of blood to form on the ground.

I, the women working with me, the engineers on the road and our few
security members kept chugging along doing the boring stuff, and living
a lot like the Iraqis around us, minus the ancient social baggage. We
just kept seeing the real day-to-day blood and flowers and concrete all
mixed together.

The boring stuff. The "real day-to-day blood and flowers and concrete all mixed to gether". That sounds about right to me. And this later:

This last is something that has been impossible for me to ignore, from
Iraq, the U.S., Europe, or Thailand — and, Bob, that’s coming from a
Democrat. Everything in the media seems to circle around Bush and
how he can be negatively portrayed, much as a Republican congress tied
themselves in knots trying to dig up dirt on Clinton. It’s all
wasteful, stupid, worthless politics.

But this time there’s a difference. This time we’re fighting a war, and to some of us that’s more important than politics…

It’s important that we win this war. If I’ve become partisan it’s because I see only one party who at least tepidly thinks we can, should and will win. The other thinks we can’t, shouldn’t and if they take power, will see to it that we won’t. They will continue with their ceaseless attacks on his charaacter, motives and competence all the while decrying the divisiveness of his administration. I just wish I coud detect in the Democrats the will to win.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 10, 2006 11:41 am

    The differences in the two parties makes voting much easier, but the lack of adult sobriety in the Democratic party is not good for America or the world.

  2. Tim C. permalink
    October 10, 2006 11:49 am

    Hi Dave:

    You wrote: “If I’ve become partisan it’s because I see only one party who at least tepidly thinks we can, should and will win.”

    More tepidly by the day, with Republican Warner’s latest comments upon return from Iraq and Fareed Zakaria (a center right supporter of the war) and his recent pronoucement in Newsweek.

    The real question seems to be how do you define “winning” currently.

    Bush has clearly moved this target down ’till I don’t know what it means. I think it now means “no full on civil war” & “at least the appearance of a democracy” & “iran doesn’t just functionally take it over.” Do you have a clearer picture of what “winning” means these days?

    Then you wrote: “The other thinks we can’t, shouldn’t and if they take power, will see to it that we won’t. They will continue with their ceaseless attacks on his charaacter, motives and competence all the while decrying the divisiveness of his administration. I just wish I coud detect in the Democrats the will to win.”

    Well, it seems that James Baker (no flaming liberal there)is about to recommend a variant of the Biden plan. That would seem to me a vindication of a senior Dem proposal as to how to make a last ditch effort at pulling this off rather than signing Iraq off as a lost cause. Doesn’t that show a “will to win?”

    And I agree Dems have been offering criticism, but much of it CONSTRUCTIVE criticism on the handling of the occupation and the brewing civil war. Many of these corrections the Bush team did eventually listen to — about a year or two too late to do any good.

    Also here is this from Bill Clinton last month. While it is not confused with a Don Rumsfeldian “we’re winning in Iraq” speech, it is a clear call from a senior Dem leader for patience and support of the Iraq exeriment to work:

    “I still think it’s important to recognize that if this Iraq experiment could be made to work now, it would be better than if it can’t. No one knows yet whether it can…
    I think most of the really big political and military mistakes made by the American forces in the aftermath of the fall of Saddam have been learned from and corrected…

    And I think that, for us, we have to try to keep our footprint as low as possible so as not to inflame things, but our impact as high as possible.

    …the best piece of news I’ve seen coming out of there lately was that, after we said from our point of view we couldn’t win in Anbar anymore—that’s what at least a Marine intelligence officer said—because we had to send our troops to Baghdad, then 25 of 31 tribal leaders in Anbar got together and said, “We will throw the foreign jihadists out.”

    So I hope it works. I hope the thing can be made to work…

    The good news is we’re not the, you know, we’re not the French, we have no colonial, imperialist, permanent ambitions, but the fact is we’re still guys who are not from there. And therefore, we have to remember that the people are always the prize…

    I am not yet prepared to say it can’t prevail…I just think that we should not yet give up on it. I think there’s still a chance that these political leaders will be able to make a deal.”

  3. October 10, 2006 12:38 pm

    If the Democrats sounded more like this Clinton speech more often, I would have little to criticize. But they don’t and you know it, or should.

    Bush has said winning means getting the Iraqis in a place where they are able to hold elections and take care of their own security. It’s not that complicated. What does winning mean to you and the Democrats? I am equally confused as the language of victory does not come up to often. Mostly it’s “How do we (sob, sniff) get our brave troops home?” It’s all about saving face in the world, nothing about victory. You Dems are the ones who have failed to define victory. Timetables of withdrawl do not count.

    I have never made the case that the war is going perfectly, just that it is in a state of flux whose outcomes is determined in part by our support or lack of it. In this I feel like I am on the same page with Clinton here. All I hear from the America Bug crowd is what a 100% disaster it is and always is and it’s all Bush/Rummy/Cheny/Condi’s fault. I’m sick to death of it. The bigger picture is so much more complex. BRCC is not the enemy. Neither are the Dems.

    I would also ask how the repeated calls for more troops square with Clinton’s call to “try to keep our footprint as low as possible so as not to inflame things, but our impact as high as possible.” I think that’s what we’ve been doing, even though there are many on the Right calling for carpet bombing and total destruction of certain cities over there. To keep that balance is difficult to maintain in the face of all the critics who can always say you are not fighting hard enough, smart enough etc. even though if you did fight harder they would cry about all the casualties that would inevitably result.

    Maybe the Dems do want to win- but only if they get the credit. If that’s what it takes, then so be it. Better than throwing the Iraqi people to the wolves again and f**king up that part of the world even worse than it is. But I have a feeling if they do return to power soon, they will try to impeach Bush for getting is into this war they supposedly now want to win; they will also get out of there as soon as possible and any negative fallout can be blamed on Bush.

  4. October 10, 2006 12:40 pm

    BTW how about commenting on the actual substance of the content the posts over at Done With Mirrors? That’s the interesting stuff.

  5. Tim. C. permalink
    October 10, 2006 9:23 pm

    Happy to go into the substance of the contractor’s blogging too.

    But first can I respond to a couple of your points:

    On winning as getting to the state where Iraqi’s are “able to hold elections and take care of their own security.”

    Can I unpack that a bit? Elections don’t equal a democracy. Look at Egypt. Nor do they equal a state friendly to US interests. See the last Al Sadr pro-Hezbolah protests in Iraq. And as to them being able to “manage their own security,” what does that even mean? Manage it as well as we are now, but without us?

    Pardon me, but that hardly seems like “winning” but handing off a slow loss to someone else. Does it mean they have actively stopped or shown active progress in halting the growing civil war?

    I think a clearer definition of “winning” at this point looks like this:

    Winning would be:Iraq is not left to become a failed state, as it seems to be trending towards today.
    Our military, streched thin via this war, needs to be redeployed as soon as is responsible
    Iraq is left with the best chance possible of moveing towards democracy, but this is entirely their choice and we won’t be able to be training wheels until they get there, if they do.
    our miliary once redeployed, is in a good position to take action in the region if the whole thing collapses into a hell hole.

    To me, I haven’t yet seen a better plan this this one to get there. And it is a radically different one than “stay the course.”

    Perhaps after the election, with the cover of the Jim Baker report to allow it, something like it will be possible. Or maybe something better will be proposed. let’s hope.

    You also wrote:

    “If the Democrats sounded more like this Clinton speech more often, I would have little to criticize. But they don’t and you know it, or should.”

    Well, I’m glad you saw in the Clinton bit that your comments about dems was not ENTIRELY true.

    I really think there is more on the Dems side like this than you believe. Here is a few from senior leaders:

    “Look, the Democrats cannot count on the failure of Bush for the success of the Democratic Party and because–and the American people, including this senator, want Bush to succeed because Bush’s success is America’s success. Bush’s failure is America’s failure.” Joe Biden on — Meet the Press, May 2004


    “Of course, getting out of Iraq without a plan is as bad as going in without a plan…If we leave without a plan, there are literally hundreds of thousands, millions of Iraqis, who are trying to bring some level of stability [to their country] who will be the first to be killed.” — Governor Mark Warner, likely 2008 Presidental candidate


    “But I believe that, having waged a war that has unleashed daily carnage and uncertainty in Iraq, we have to manage our exit in a responsible way – with the hope of leaving a stable foundation for the future, but at the very least taking care not to plunge the country into an even deeper and, perhaps, irreparable crisis…

    In sum, we have to focus, methodically and without partisanship, on those steps that will: one, stabilize Iraq, avoid all out civil war, and give the factions within Iraq the space they need to forge a political settlement; two, contain and ultimately extinquish the insurgency in Iraq; and three, bring our troops safely home…

    Iraq was a major issue in last year’s election. But that election is now over. We need to stop the campaign.
    — Sen. Barak Obama, 2005

    I could have found a ton more.

    As to your question about the blog post, I think you were mostly looking for my reaction to this, no?:

    “After the battle, the media crawled back in its hole and waited for the next big, photogenic pool of blood to form on the ground….Everything in the media seems to circle around Bush and how he can be negatively portrayed…”

    I think while it’s true that the media always covers the dramatic more than the everyday… So in that sense it is obviously tue…but I discount the idea that the entire big business corperate media is all about getting Bush, and if they’d only focus on the positive we’d all see how well things are going.

    Things aren’t going well, in pretty much every metric you can use, including and maybe especially in the reconstruction process.

    I’d suggest reading an equally personal and touching personal account of Iraq these days that was written by a marine and was excerpted in time magazine…and co-incidentally it also covers Falluja. It is eqally a mix of everyday and of gore, and of hope and sadness and bravery….here is the whole thing over here

    He too criticizes the press:

    “Biggest Outrage – Practically anything said by talking heads on TV about the war in Iraq, not that I get to watch much TV. Their thoughts are consistently both grossly simplistic and politically slanted. Biggest offender – Bill O’Reilly…”

  6. Rob A. permalink
    October 11, 2006 10:34 am

    Dave — would love to hear you comment on this:

  7. October 11, 2006 11:12 am

    Thanks for all the info Tim, as always, and I apologize for being a bit grumpy yesterday.

    What caught my eye about this post was the line about “blood, flowers and concrete”. I found it quite poetic. I should have stuck to that instead of going on a media rant, because I was actually more interested in the just day-to-day account of what this cute little woman did while she was working for a contractor in Iraq, especially contrasted with these pampered journalists who pat themselves on the back for hiding out at a hotel while they send stringers out to get the story.

    Some responses:

    How you think you can “redeploy” and yet not “let Iraq become a failed state” is beyond me. One ensures the other.

    I can’t believe your trying to make out the Democrats as a party of constructively criticizing moderates. A more appropriate position for you that I would be more receptive to is “yeah there’s a lot of incredibly destructive rhetoric on the war, especially from that embarassing lout Howard Dean, but there are a few voices for reasonable discourse”. That’s more like the truth IMHO. Even the Obama quote you have refers to the uneccesarily caustic language that continues to this day.

    In my mind or my heart, what I am trying to do here is speak out against these destructive criticisms that really do hurt our chances of winning this war. It’s a new kind of war, one with murky borders and metrics, but it’s extremely important that we are successful. Pulling out and defending the region from say, Okinawa like congressman Murtha has suggested, is a guarantee that things will get much worse, the crazies will take over and all will have been for naught. I agree that elections do not equal democracy, but they’re a start, which is all we can expect at the moment.

    There was a deliberate decision made to tro to co-opt Sadr and his ilk into the political process. I think that’s probably a good decision, but we won’t know for a long time. I think that it’s better to have people who are really in power be the actual government elected by the people. If people want to elect thugs and murderers, then so be it- they will have to live with the consequenses of their actions. Much better than propping up friendly dictators, or encouraging contries like Iran and Iraq to just kill each other so we don’t have to. We tried that and it just didn’t work. Whether this new approach will work is still hard to say, but I think the fact that all of those tens of millions of people came out to vote says a lot about the aspirations of the ordinary people in those countries.

    I think it’s pure fantasy to think that things would be going much bette with Democrats in charge. There is a determined and intelligent enemy in Iraq who has waged asymetrical warfare quite effectively. We have actually adjusted to their various tactics in turn, but is has been difficult to every portray this as victory or progress.

    All I have ever mantaintained is that it’s not a complete, unwinnable disaster; that it is possible to defeat the insurgents and quell the anarchy and civil war to a point where the Irai’s can manage on their own. The end result will not be some US client state, but a democratic state with it’s own interests. Maybe it will end up being more truculent than even Sadaam’s Iraq, but that is far from clear. I believe the appeal of peace, prosperity and freedom are excellent brakes on that kind of attitude.

  8. Rob A. permalink
    October 29, 2006 9:20 pm

    Halloooo ! ! !

    Anyone home? C’mon guys, there are two of you here. Why haven’t one of you been able to find the time to put a thought or two down since Oct. 9?

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