As the haze clears...
James Glanz has a dream. A dream that he qualifies as a nightmare only in the third paragraph of the Op-Ed he wrote for the New York Times today. This dream involves a Middle Eastern army invading the United States and Glanz ends up working as a ‘collaborator’ for the invaders.
Glanz is the Baghdad bureau chief of the NYTimes and his byline has appeared above all the shoddy reporting in this paper regarding the fighting in Basra. He tries to establish his bona fides early on in the Op-Ed by mentioning that he’s been traveling to Iraq in the last four years—which could mean that he’s spent a couple of hours there out of every year for all we know. This is supposed to leave the reader with the impression that Glanz—an astrophysicist by training according to his Wikipedia entry—knows Iraq well and is thus qualified to frame the news story with sufficient background.
But then Glanz casually drops a cultural aside that is painfully ignorant of Iraq; he devotes half a paragraph to marvel at the fact that one Iraqi politician he’s familiar with drinks Johnny Walker Red Label. The only shocker in this anecdote is that this politician is not living it up with Blue Label, which is what I’ve seen poured out in prodigious quantities in Baghdad, in many a political den.
Marveling that an Iraqi male is a bit of a boozer is like discovering that rednecks go gaga over NASCAR. Iraqis are the Irish, or the Russians, of the Middle East; they’re the stereotypical alcoholics of the region. Alcohol consumption is not a vice imported by Westernized Iraqi politicians returning from exile. Only a novice would make such a silly and mistaken cultural observation.
But let’s gloss over Glanz’s ignorance and get back to his fantasies of seeing America humiliated because that little narcissistic parapraxis of an opening lead goes to the heart of Glanz’s reporting on what’s going on Basra (…which he does hundreds of miles away in Baghdad to start with): I think he may be rooting for the Mahdi Army on one subconscious level.
Too bad the Mahdi Army is losing very badly. There were a rash of violent outbreaks here and there in Hillah Province and in al-Hamza in the last few days, but today the situation there is one where the Iraqi Army and police—the Scorpion Brigade in particular—are hunting down the Sadrists with a vengeance with the active help of the local population, according to a well-placed and influential source from Hillah.
Across Baghdad, the situation turned against the Mahdi Army prior to Muqtada al-Sadr’s muddled calls not to disarm on the one hand and to clear the streets on the other. Sadrists were breaking down in terms of logistics and coordination even before government troops had the wherewithal to rally and respond to the security challenges posed by these outlaws.
I’m not the only one to pick up on the clearer picture emerging out of Iraq: most of these charlatans posing as pundits and experts are not total imbeciles, just intellectual fakes, so they have enough sense to realize that the “meltdown” they were praying has not materialized despite the best propaganda efforts of ‘Agent’ Glanz and the Associated Press. Now these talking heads are feverishly administering the necessary spin to fig-leaf why they seemingly got it so utterly wrong. They are either going with “Muqtada saved the day” or “The Americans and the British, i.e. the grown-ups, stepped in and changed Maliki’s diaper after he’d made a boo-boo”.
“In no way must anyone form an impression that Operation Cavalry Charge is a victory for the Iraqi state”, these imposters opine, “As with everything else, this outcome has to be spun as a victory for America’s enemies. Take your pick: the Hakim dynasty, Iran, or Sadr himself. The operative terms to associate with this whole episode are ‘stalled’, ‘bogged-down’, and everyone’s favorite ‘floundering’.”
Moreover, it turns out that the NYTimes correspondent in Basra, Qais Mizher, was a captain in Saddam’s armed forces. Hmmm, forgive me if I hold this point against his overall objectivity.
But all is not lost: the News Analysis piece by Sabrina Tavernise and Solomon Moore in today’s NYTimes is sophisticated and nuanced and it’s the best that's appeared in print so far(…from what I’ve seen) about the events in Basra. It certainly doesn’t make up for all of Glanz’s distortions but it’s a good start in the right direction, even though the authors give too much credence to the thoughts of a snotty Green Zone-based “Western official”.