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Archive for October, 2008

Everyone rushing to declare victory in Iraq — and that means both presidential candidates, too — should read the sad story of Najim al-Jabouri, the heroic mayor of Tal Afar, who last month took his family and moved to the U.S. because, he told McClatchy’s Jonathan S. Landay, “there was no other choice”:

‘I had been serving my homeland, the Iraqi people and Iraqi soil my whole life. I decided I had to do something for my own family. I saw that their lives were in great danger.’

Does this mean Iraq will be screwed up for good? Jabouri doesn’t think so:

‘The future of Iraq will be good, but it needs time. [...] We need more education, more election education, and we need to make the right choices.’

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We Interrupt This Program…

I don’t really know who reads this blog, but I’m assuming some of you might be fellow journalists. If so, maybe you can help me:

I’m planning yet another trip to Baghdad and am having unexpected trouble finding a reputable fixer. If you know of someone, and feel comfortable enough recommending him (and me to him), please email me at my private address: jarzuli@gmail.com. Cheers.

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I respect Bing West’s expertise on COIN but I think when it comes to tolerating dissenting views he has become a bully. I wrote about it a while back, and now I’m happy to see my hero Abu Muqawama agrees:

West returned from Vietnam a young Marine Corps captain and dedicted his life to bettering America’s national security. In that way, he set a template for like-minded veterans — myself included — to follow. But this piece in SWJ — like the one in Forbes — is ugly and arrogant and intolerant of a new generation of soldiers, journalists and analysts trying to wrap their heads around contemporary conflicts in the same way West once did.

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In an interview Saturday with Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden, a Florida news anchor attacked Senator Barack Obama for being “socialist”:

“What do you say to the people who are concerned that Barack Obama will want to turn America into a socialist country much like Sweden?”

I don’t know what Sweden she’s talking about. Surely not our peaceful and prosperous neighbour, which incidentally has been run by a conservative government since 2006?

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Seven months after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s much-vaunted offensive to clear Mosul of insurgents, the killing continues. An excellent piece by Sam Dagher in today’s New York Times predicts things will get even worse, as the Kurds and Arabs vie for power in the devastated city (see this blog’s header). Interestingly, the U.S. military has all but decided to sit this one out:

Worry is so high that the American military has already settled on a policy that may set a precedent, as the United States slowly withdraws to allow Iraqis to settle their own problems. If the Kurds and Iraqi government forces fight, the American military will ‘step aside,’ General Thomas said, rather than ‘have United States servicemen get killed trying to play peacemaker.’

I find this approach problematic. It’s exactly this kind of “stepping aside” while playing kingmaker that lead to chaos in 2003. The U.S. can hardly claim to be a disinterested party in the dispute after propping up Maliki politically and having his back in every military operation his poorly performing army has undertaken in Mosul. You need to clean up your own mess, guys — even if it means taking casualties while keeping the Iraqis from ripping each other’s throats open.

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Well — obviously I don’t. But I would if I could, and here’s why:

I like his steadiness, I like his ease with issues, I like most of his proposed policies, and most importantly, I don’t like his opponent.

More precisely: I don’t like the way John McCain has let his campaign be run.

I don’t like the fact that he has surrounded himself with neocon ideologues. I don’t like the fact that he has taken to pampering his party’s extreme right. I don’t like the fact that instead of explaining his policies he has chosen to attack his opponent. And I’m livid that in a fit of populist lunacy he allowed his advisers to pick a vice-presidential candidate who not only is clearly not up to the task but who is also a nepotist, a stretcher-of-the-truth and someone who in my neck of the woods would be called a religious nutjob.

In fact, it’s not only McCain’s campaign I dislike, it’s the man himself. I don’t like his obvious volatility. I don’t like his gambles. And I don’t like the narrative he peddles. Yes, he was shot down and endured torture, and deserves to be called a hero. But try as I might, I can’t find any evidence from his long career of him actually being in charge of anything. As a former magazine editor, I’ve probably made more executive decisions than John McCain. Yet, he keeps presenting himself as experienced, as if flying a warplane would give you the people skills and capacity for lateral thinking necessary to run a superpower.

I wish Americans would’ve been presented with more choice. And I don’t mean a third party. I mean a serious conservative candidate with ideas, charisma and fortitude to stay afloat in the Sargasso Sea of neocon garbage. But that was not to be, and judging by the calls for Palin 2012, it won’t happen in the near future. So, my friends, you know what to do. Don’t let us down.

Pledge to my nonpartisan readers: After Nov. 4, this blog will revert back to being nasty and cynical towards the U.S. administration regardless of its colour.

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About the New Header

The new header photo was shot by Petri Kaipiainen during our trip to Mosul, Iraq in April 2008. My thanks to Petri for kindly giving me permission to use it.

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