Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A few days before the election, Dean Esmay made the remarkable claim that the Iraq war was not only going well, but

by any rational measure, the Iraq war has gone better than any operation of its type and scale has ever gone in history.

In that particular post, there wasn't a whole lot backing up the claim. But more recently, for details, he has referred people to this round-up, by one Art Chrenkoff. Sez Dean:

Note something interesting about Chrenkoff's news roundup: It's huge, as usual. And by that I mean it's really long. Know why? Because there's so damned much good news. So, seriously, don't miss it.

Well, I'll take my good news anywhere I can get it, these days. Let's have a look.

The first piece of good news is that in those districts of Baghdad where American soldiers can still walk without a platoon of their buddies for backup, the traffic is really, really bad.

The second piece of good news is a blockquote which begins as follows:

Car bombs explode almost daily and insurgents still control parts of the Sunni Triangle, where they regularly attack U.S. troops.

Really, it does.

It goes on to explain that elsewhere in Iraq, politicians are forming coalitions for the elections. It does not explain that the largest and most prominent of these coalitions is made up of Shiite theocrats, some with ties to their fellow Shiite theocrats across the border in Iran. Nor does it mention that our "success" in Falluja, such as it has been, has failed to have the effect of improving the prospects for Sunni participation in the vote. Instead, it backfired, with influential Sunni groups like the Association of Muslim Scholars now calling for a boycott of the elections in part as a protest against the Falluja attack.

But let's cut our buddy Art a little slack here. He's trying to give us the good news. Accordingly, he quotes an official from Allawi's government who claims that "All the Iraqi people want the elections". Well, with some minor exceptions like the Sunni clergy. But hey.

Want more good news? Well, remember those billions of dollars for reconstruction that Dubya's crew had allocated but not spent? They're spending $871 million of it.

And so on, and so on, and so on. An amazing amount of this post, which is quite long, is stuffed with press releases from one group or another saying that they've set up meetings to discuss future business arrangements which, if all goes as planned, may start improving the lives of dozens of Iraqis each by, oh, 2006. And, oh yes, the inevitable parade of anecdotes about U.S. troops running Iraqi schools. (Like we can't find Iraqis who are better qualified to do that? They do speak the kids' language; we don't).

There are a few pieces of genuine news in there. We've finally made arrangments for debt forgiveness. (Gee, think that could have gone faster if half our government wasn't calling the creditor governments traitors and poltroons at every opportunity?) But the second "newsiest" item after that is:

In Baghdad, reconstruction has been largely completed on a vital piece of infrastructure:

"The Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) (formerly Saddam International Airport) has been refurbished and repaired as part of a contract from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to Bechtel and SkyLink to rebuild Iraqi airports in Baghdad, Basrah and Mosul.

Now, our buddy Art neglects to mention the $5,000 armed escort you still need to get safely from the newly refurbished airport to Baghdad itself -- but remember, he's trying to report the good news.

I could run on for a while longer placing more of Chrenkoff's nuggets of "good news" (like the excited enumerations of Iraqis we've recruited to the desertion-riddled Iraqi police and guards, however temporarily) in their proper context like this -- but that would be boring. So here's some context on the basic claim that this war is going "better than any operation of its type and scale in history." It's a story of a Knight-Rider reporter who had a very pleasant birthday party in Baghdad:

Stars glittered over the Baghdad hotel where I blew out the candles on a cake decorated by my four closest Iraqi friends. We stayed up until the dawn call to prayer rang from a nearby mosque, telling stories and debating the future of a country I'd grown to cherish.

A year later, only one of those friends is still alive. The poolside patio where they sang "Happy Birthday" in Arabic is empty most days, because foreign guests are afraid of snipers and mortars. The hotel has become a prison, and every foray outside its fortified gates is tinged with anxiety about returning in one piece.

And all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.


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