Negotiating the Terms of Iraq’s Realities


I’m still in Saudi Arabia and haven’t had the time to absorb everything that has been churning this last week with the Petraeus/Crocker hearings and other Senator Foreign Relations Committee meetings focused on Iraq that Senators Joe Biden and Richard Lugar have called.
I have seen two pieces though that rip a hole into the official “take” on America’s position in Iraq. These are from National Interest senior editor Jacob Heilbrunn and my colleague and friend Nir Rosen who gave testimony in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
First Jacob Heilbrunn, a clip from “Tell Me How This Ends“:

What Petraeus could not acknowledge, however, is that there is no such thing as an Iraqi government. Instead, there is a cabal that would like to consolidate power. But in essence, the United States has created a fictional regime complete with a military force that is unwilling to fight, apart from when it defects to the enemy (one thousand in Basra alone). Even the contention that the surge provided a breathing space for more political reconciliation turns out to be a sham. Ultimately, Petraeus, shorn of the claim that the surge is working by the current fusillade of missiles raining on the Green Zone, which has itself become a symbol of American impotence rather than might, could only retreat to various doomsday scenarios of an Iraq engulfed by civil war or becoming a client state of Iran’s.
The civil-war scenario is losing its hold. Part of the problem is that Iraq is already experiencing fratricidal warfare. Another part is that America itself is no foreign-policy innocent in Iraq. Though a number of conservatives have repeatedly tried to invoke the specter of the chaos that ensued in Vietnam upon America’s departure–helicopters taking off from the embassy, national humiliation, the boat people washing up on American shores–Iraq is somewhat different. For one thing, the refugee crisis already exists. It was created by the American invasion. Iraq, then, isn’t simply a military calamity. It is also a moral one.
According to Deborah Campbell in the April issue of Harper’s, who has spent several months living in Syria among Iraqi refugees, America has created “the largest exodus in the Middle East since the Palestinian refugee crisis of 1948.” One-fifth of Iraqis have fled their homes–2.5 million are displaced within Iraq, while another 2.5 million have gone into exile. America resettled some 1.4 million refugees after Vietnam, but less than 4,000 Iraqis have been accepted between 2003 to 2008. There’s another point that may bear upon Iraq.
Americans would have supported exiting Vietnam even if they had been aware of the terrible destruction that lay ahead. It wasn’t a choice between boat people or staying the course. The American public had already decided it didn’t want to stay the course. Something similar may well happen in Iraq, which is why the Bush administration would be wiser to try and work out a deal on Iraq before the desire to exit Iraq shifts from a longing to a stampede.

And from Nir Rosen’s April 2nd testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (pdf):

Most embedded journalists, just like embedded politicians and embedded members of think tanks on Washington’s K Street or Massachusetts Avenue, lack language skills and time on the ground in Iraq–and since they are white, they cannot travel around Baghdad without attracting attention and getting kidnapped or killed.
They know nothing about Iraq except what they gain through second- or third-hand knowledge, too often provided by equally disconnected members of the US military. Recently we have seen positive articles about events in Iraq published by so called experts such as Anthony Cordesman, Michael O’Hanlon, Kenneth Pollack, Fred Kagan and even former members of the Coalition Provisional Council such as Dan Senor. These men speak no Arabic and cannot get around without their babysitters from the American military. But it seems that the more they get wrong, these and other propagandists for the war, such as Thomas Friedman, manage to maintain their credibility.
They should ask Iraqis, or those journalists who courageously risk their lives to spend enough time with Iraqis to serve as their interlocutors–such as Leila Fadel of McClatchy, Ghaith Abdel Ahad of the Guardian or Patrick Cockburn of the London Independent — what is actually happening in Iraq, rather than continue to deceive the American people with the fantasy of “victory.”
It is true that fewer American soldiers are dying today, but that is not the proper metric for success. Of course less Americans are dying. In 2006 the conflict in Iraq stopped being a war of national liberation against the American occupation and became chiefly a war between Iraqis for control of Iraq. They proper standard for judging Iraq is the quality of life for Iraqis, and sadly, for most Iraqis, life was better under Saddam.

There is no reality in Iraq we all collectively and empirically see. We are negotiating the terms of that reality over and over again.
— Steve Clemons


24 comments on “Negotiating the Terms of Iraq’s Realities

  1. questions says:

    Patrick Cockburn publishes regularly on — really worth reading daily. Rosen mentions him above. He’s on the ground in Iraq.


  2. Kathleen says:

    David..Kerry’s testimony was courageous as was him combat duty..I wish his response to the unjustified Swiftboating had been” I volunteered to go to Vietnam. Where did you go, Bush and Cheney?” Bottom line, medals or no medals, Kerry went to Vietnam, Bush and Cheney went to the bank.
    POA thanxx for instruxx, but I’m a technodunce, ergo, I’m tuning out for while…cleaning my closets feels more productive than grappling with Captcha…
    Talk amongst your selves, guys, I know youll keep it lively.


  3. David says:

    since I wrote Kerry’s line” W stands for wrong, wrong war, wrong time, wrong olace, wrong direction”, I’m glad to see I can still hit a SwiftBoaters nerves.
    God love you, Kathleen. It feels good to know that I am commenting in such good company. We are improved by the good company we keep. I was just beginning my teaching career when John Kerry came back from Viet Nam and delivered that absolutely dead on powerhouse of a speech to the Senate committee. I have followed him, and admired him, since that day. I am, of course, still frustrated that he did not follow the lead of my then-senator from Florida, Bob Graham, who was chair of the Senate intelligence committee and voted against the authorization for war. But he has most certainly redeemed himself, and I think it is important to remember that it was the president who criminally misused the authority which was extended to him.


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Here is the ritual I go through to post…
    1) Compose my post, enter monicker and email, then captcha.
    2) Submit.
    3) Get message telling me I copied the captcha incorrectly.
    4) Copy the post onto my mouse.
    5) Refresh to TWN homepage using the link in my favorites.
    6) Find thread I was commenting on, and bring up the comments.
    7) Paste the post, enter monicker, email, and captcha.
    8) Submit.
    Its a pain in the ass, but its the only thing that seems to work.


  5. Kathleen says:

    POA.. read Escobar… but keep losing my posts…. urgh


  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “The Gulf War in the 1990s lasted five days on the ground. I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.”
    Rumsfeld, 2002.


  7. Alohabunny says:

    I find it very amusing that the Zio-Cons that control our government and their tools like Moseley never cease the constant lying, that is the one thing we can all count on. The nest of them over at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) control that nitwit in the WH and when he steps in it as he regularly does, they disavow their part in it and let nitwit take the blame. Nitwit of course hasn’t the sense to realize that his name will be stuck on all of their failed policies and their genocidial activities for time and eternity…….along with their other tools.
    You would think that Poppy would pull him aside and clue him in.


  8. Kathleen says:

    POA.. I keep losing posts again,, will read Excobar…


  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well, Kathleen, thanks for steering me to Holland’s article. In return, may I suggest you read Pepe Excobar’s latest piece, posted at Asia Times Online?
    After you read it, I am sure you will share my wonder at why this Lieberman traitor isn’t deported to Israel, post haste.


  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Kathleen, I suspect that Moseley’s focused attack on you was not an accident. You have my congratulations that your very real activism has deemed you worthy of attack by these epic examples of human garbage.


  11. Kathleen says:

    POA… thanxx for the info on Jonathan Moseley…I’m flattered to be in Senator John Kerry’s company….since I wrote Kerry’s line” W stands for wrong, wrong war, wrong time, wrong olace, wrong direction”, I’m glad to see I can still hit a SwiftBoaters nerves.
    Read Joshua Holland’s recent article War on Iraq, for really sensible discussion fo the reality in Iraq.


  12. David says:

    I am once again reminded that unrestrained intellectual honesty is one of the things that sets The Washington Note apart.
    Down in my neck of the woods we call it cephalorectal thrustitis, and we too have been unable to discover a cure that will work on the people who suffer from it. Its main symptoms down here are belief over knowledge and a blind devotion to one or another authority. It also produces some of the most absurd utterances imaginable, as opposed to thoughtful alternate interpretations which are still recognizably associated with reality.


  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Amazing, isn’t it? An accomplished and prolific LIAR, this Mosely character goes out of his way to call Kathleen a liar.
    Isn’t it telling that these neo-con scumbags have had to base their entire platform on lies and character assassination?
    Following a radio show debate yesterday in which a 9/11 hit piece article written by Jonathon Moseley for World Net Daily was exposed as containing numerous flaws and baseless allegations, the online news site was later forced to issue a retraction.
    One of the most glaring inaccuracies of the article was Moseley’s claim that Professor Steven Jones of the 9/11 Truth Scholars, during a conference aired on C-Span, called “for the violent overthrow of the government.”
    After painstaking analysis of all the tapes from the conference there was no evidence whatsoever that a statement even close to this nature was ever made by Jones.


  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Luntz, now Mosely. In less than a week.
    I need a shower.
    Who is Jonathon Moseley?


  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Jonathan Mosely….
    I had to read your post a number of times to see if your apparent detachment from reality was facetiousness, abject supidity, or just the venting of shameless and despicable bullshit.
    I have reached the conclusion that it is the latter, coupled with an extremely acute case Cranialrectalinsertinitus.
    I’d like to recommend a cure, but there isn’t one. However, I assure you, we would all be better off if we concentrated less on torturing Muslims, and instead devoted our efforts at inhumanity in the mass lobotomization of a huge segment of the American public and a number of our so called “leaders”. Congratulations; your comment has cemented your place at the head of the line.


  16. jhm says:

    Steve, Since you’re in KSA, what news of goings on in Yemen? is
    this strictly a domestic problem, or could it affect its neighbors
    (count Somalia in this category)?


  17. Jonathon Moseley says:

    Kathleen, where did you get your incredibly distorted information? The US is implementing the plans of the Iraqi government. Only intense anti-American blindness could make you think otherwise. Everything the USA is doing in Iraq is what the elected government of Iraq wants. The elected government of Iraq is even at this moment drafting a treaty asking the USA to remain involved in Iraq.
    It is truly sad to see your mind completely loss to falsehoods and lies.
    The fighting that is going on is because Iran and the terrorists will not accept the decisions of the Iraqi people. Muslim Jihadists view democracy itself as an evil. Seriously. I can send you their emails debating the evils of democracy. As a result, Muslims are slaughtering Muslims. And the US soldier — as usual — is protecting Muslims against their Muslim “brothers” who want to kill everyone they can of all religious beliefs.
    If you want to learn more about the lies you have believed, visit


  18. Linda says:

    Another of those journalists who got it right years ago is Mark Fritz who won a Pulitzer for his beautiful writing about the ugliness of Rwanda for AP in the 1990s and then wrote in 1999 wrote a book about the people he met who were refugees all over the world, “Lost on Earth: Nomads of the New World.” I have no idea why it wasn’t a best seller as it is beautifully written with each chapter a short story of its own. I highly recommend it, but nine years later it is so sad to know that the US has created so many internally displaced Iraqis as well as so many who have had to leave their country.


    • Mark Fritz says:

      Thanks, Linda. After five years, someone pointed this out to me. Cheers!

      mfritz at mark hyphen

  19. Kathleen says:

    To tune into the plight of disdplaced peoples, Goggle is now providing arial maps of the world’s UN Regugee Camps.
    As I watched the recent hearings with Petreaus, Crocker, the Congress, the News, the Pundiartiat and various Talking Heads, I felt like I was trapped in the Tower of Babble, watching the Olympics of Babbling.
    After the elections in Iraq, all factions drafted and adopted their Consititution. There was political unity. They proposed a Peace Plan with an agreement with Sunnis to lay down their arms if we withdrew within two years.
    Why did we reject thast plan? Why do we continue to reject all their Peace Plans?
    To SURGE and INSURGE, that is the question…. complete with strutting upon the stage,. etc.


  20. Cee says:

    This is one of the photos that will forever be in my mind. I can’t begin to imagine what those people are thinking.
    Not only are the liars that you mentioned above being given a platform, Michael Ledeen is making the rounds again in an effort to start the war on Iran.


  21. JohnH says:

    And the one reality that everybody could agree on — America has it’s hand stuck in the Iraqi cookie jar — is something too awful to admit on the record. (Beltway insiders might get fired for saying as much.) So denial reigns supreme. And motorists continue to fill up their tanks with a clear conscience.


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