Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Here’s a Suggestion

I have so much to get done and no time to blog but today's piece by Thomas E. Ricks in the Washington Post was particularly galling and I feel I have to address it.

I have a suggestion to all the editors out there: when one of your reporters puts together a very slanted story—especially when it involves a reporter who has authored a polemical book on the same topic—then shouldn’t the newspaper qualify this reporter’s ideological bent by alluding to his or her book in lieu of a disclaimer for all us unsuspecting readers?

For example, it would be useful if it were noted, along with today’s front page story ‘Iraqis Wasting An Opportunity, U.S. Officers Say’, that Thomas Ricks is the author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (2006).

I mean, it should be clear that Ricks has chosen sides in the debate, and consequently he will not allow his argument (and his career) to go quietly into the night; his story today is a thinly-veiled Op-Ed constructed through the medium of selective interviewing.

As Victor Davis Hanson put it today:

Many anti-war critics are so invested in the notion of the Iraq war as the "worst" something or other in U.S. history that they cannot accept the radical turnaround after over four years of war.
Thus, Ricks keeps beating this dead horse, or rather it’s a dead unicorn since his whole construct was mythical to begin with.

Thomas Ricks has made a career out being the bullhorn of mutiny: he is the go-to journalist for the military brass as they communicate their whisper-campaigns against the civilian leadership of the Pentagon. To this end, he was the preferred propaganda outlet for the officers’ putsch against Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith. Whatever gripe the officers are barred by law from divulging directly to Congress gets conveniently channeled onto the pages of the Washington Post through Ricks. Gotta love DC!

And when you have a crop of cry-baby officers running the show, then there’s plenty to whine, and write, about.

Check out this insolence by the 1st Cavalry’s Lt. Col. Mark Fetter:

As for the Sunni fighters who for years bombed and shot U.S. soldiers and now want to join the police, Fetter shrugged. “They have got to eat,” he said over lunch in the 1st Cavalry Division’s mess hall here. “There are so many we’ve detained and interrogated, they did what they did for money.”

Talk about projection, maybe Fetter is doing what he’s doing because of the money too. Forget principles, forget beheadings, forget leaving bombs amid grocery stalls—an insurgent’s gotta do what an insurgent’s gotta do!

I’ve met some American officers serving in Iraq who are wonderful and who have really tried to learn and compromise yet kept themselves morally grounded and more importantly, loyal to the Commander in Chief. But then again there are officers like Col. David W. Sutherland who are total jackasses; unfortunately, it is the Sutherlands and the Fetters of the world that reporters like Ricks are likely to interview.

Among other things, the officers in Ricks’ piece are offering-up pushback against federalism, a form of government for the New Iraq that is enshrined in its spanking-new constitution. Federalism is a very new concept for the Middle East even though the Iraqi opposition has been discussing it since 1992. That’s why self-described Middle Eastern experts are spooked by federalism and cannot understand it beyond the paradigm of ‘warlord-ism’; their brains short-circuit when the word is mentioned since they are, like the autocratic regimes of the region, afraid of change. “If the sultan in not in charge, then nobody’s in charge” they sing in chorus; to them, representational and local government is a pipe-dream.

And who has set himself up as the ‘available-for-media-comment’ fount of all wisdom when it comes to the follies of federalism? That would be Marc Lynch, of the Abu Aardvark blog, who is quoted in the Ricks piece.

Prof. Lynch seems like a genuinely nice guy who puts plenty of energy into his blog and keeps it lively. But I can discern two eras that color his blog in very different hues: pre-Washington and post-Washington. About six months ago, Lynch moved from his New England idyll and took a job at the George Washington University in DC, but it seems that the changed and charged atmosphere of his new locale has infected him with an ideological exuberance whereby his rhetoric got ahead of his knowledge—a transformation that's being egged-on by fellow travelers like Ricks through the flattery of attention.

The heady vapors of ‘Famous-for-DC’ eminence have gone to Lynch’s head, exposing him to the mistake of unintentional intellectual mendacity. Case in point, Lynch misread the research done by Daniel Kimmage back in July and barnstormed through the media proselytizing for his misinterpretation. When I challenged him on this point, he promised to look into it but never did, and I believe that he allowed the record to remain skewed lest his stardom dims a bit.

Lynch’s expertise is on Jordan and Aljazeera (…he’s a card carrying member of the ‘Friends of Aljazeera’ network!) but not on Iraq. He’s far more qualified to comment on Iraq than the other bozos out there, but still I get queasy when he markets himself as an Iraq expert.

Lynch often links to my work from time to time through his ‘del.icio.us’ margin and adds little quips such as referring to me as “totally nuts”—not that I’m disputing that! But there’s one thing that he did that still bothers me: when linking to my column ‘Jihadist Meltdown’ on March 12, 2007, he had this little line to add “The reason the press isn't reporting it is that it isn't right” but then, a few weeks later, he adopts my points and passes them off as his own. That too makes me queasy.

So to sum up, Thomas E. Ricks speaks for disgruntled officers who shirk responsibility and resist change, and Marc Lynch doesn’t understand federalism.

So, let’s see, who have I pissed-off recently? Marc Lynch-check; ideologues posing as reporters-check; Col. David Sutherland-check; the FSEC-check; MESA-check; the New York Times-check; the House of Saud-check; the Wahhabis-check; Ayad Allawi-check; the CIA-check; Jalal Talabani (…which really pissed off his cousin, my mom)-check; George Packer-check. I think my job here is done.

No more blogging!

PS: Ooooh, yet another milestone: this is my 300th post!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

300 hundreds Spartans defeated 2 million Persian invaders. 300 posts on Talisman Gate will defeat the 2 million negative articles that have been written about this war.

5:12 PM, November 15, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I notice you put no disclaimer about Victor Davis Hanson being a Bush supporter and rabid islamophobe.
That would explain his superpowers in seeing "progress."

I’ve met some American officers serving in Iraq who are wonderful

Sure. I would like to share something I heard from an American 1 year ago about Iraq and its death toll.

He said he was glad that "the same people who celebrated on 9/11"
were now "mourning the deaths of their loved ones"

and he added: "It's better than a Thanksgiving dinner."

So, those are the animals that Old Lady BG wants us to believe are only there to help.

7:18 PM, November 15, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is good and relevant:


The Insanity of Bush Hatred


9:52 PM, November 15, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks like that jew voted for Bush and has now been made to feel stupid for it.
Does that sound familiar

10:21 PM, November 15, 2007

Blogger Eric Martin said...

So, let’s see, who have I pissed-off recently? Marc Lynch-check; ideologues posing as reporters-check; Col. David Sutherland-check; the FSEC-check; MESA-check; the New York Times-check; the House of Saud-check; the Wahhabis-check; Ayad Allawi-check; the CIA-check; Jalal Talabani (…which really pissed off his cousin, my mom)-check; George Packer-check.

Don't leave me off the list...


7:28 AM, November 16, 2007

Blogger bg said...


Anon @ 9:52 PM qyuick link:

The Insanity of Bush Hatred

here's another one..

Understanding Your Friends with BDS

what can one say, i mean it's more than obvious that the
Jaguar b(ush) p(aranoia) mufsidun & liberals are in sync..


9:45 AM, November 16, 2007

Blogger bg said...


Baghdad Bob lives via Jaguar b. p.!! :D


9:48 AM, November 16, 2007

Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Dear Eric,

I wouldn’t disrespect you by lumping you with all those colorless characters and insipid entities.

You have a special place in my heart as a worthy adversary.

But I do have a correction to make.

I was wrong about Marc Lynch: it turns out that his intellectual mendacity was intentional, after all. Lynch reacted to my post about him by accusing me of “Shia triumphalism”, and he wasn’t original about that either having stolen it from the George Packer playbook:


It’s a form of racism, and it’s a defense of last resort for intellectual lightweights.

Lynch also attempts to twist my words by claiming that I describe Sunnis as “beasts”, but he makes the mistake of linking to that column of mine where I clearly specify the “beasts” as al-Qaeda and the Islamic Army. Maybe he can’t see the Sunnis of Iraq beyond those two entities, having had so little contact with Iraq and Iraqis. Or maybe he has a soft spot for the Islamic Army having spent so much time at their website; maybe their propaganda got to him. (BTW, just how proficient is Lynch in Arabic, since he keeps mistranslating stuff?)

Then he quotes a comment I made without linking to it: “We won, you lost. One would assume that we should be magnanimous in victory, but I think not. You are the lowest of the low, and you deserve no respect or mercy." I wrote this as part of this thread:


It was a response to ‘jaguar p.g.’, a regular at Talisman Gate that doesn’t hide her support for al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. Had I chosen to use Lynch’s deceitful habit of quoting out of context, then I have would have concluded that Lynch thinks we should be respectful and merciful towards al-Qaeda supporters.

I always find it odd when I’m accused of being a Shia partisan when I’m half Sunni, and almost all of my relatives and friends are intermarried. Politically speaking, I’ve voted twice (…there have been only two elections) for a secular Iraqi politician who happens to be Sunni, and a close friend of mine.

But then again, Lynch cannot understand Iraq beyond the Sunnis, who probably constitute only 13 percent of the population. The Shia and the Kurds are superfluous in his world-view, which reflects the MESA prism of seeing the Middle East through Sunni, Saudi-funded lenses.

The problem is compounded when we realize that Lynch has never been to Iraq, so he’s not to blame for being so blinkered.

Lynch is thus instinctively incapable of understanding Iraq and the changes that have occurred there since April 2003. And he’d denounce anyone mentioning the Shias and the Kurds as a Shia or Kurdish nationalist.

Lynch needs to wake up to the fact that there’s more to the Middle East than the Sunnis: to start with, three significant countries called Iraq, Iran and Azerbeijan. A Shia-related minority is also holding Syria hostage, and a small Shia terrorist group like Hezbollah has played havoc with regional stability. The Shias form a majority of the population of the Persian Gulf coastline, where all the oil is.

Sure, Jordan is Sunni and so is Qatar’s Aljazeera channel, but Lynch should not allow his limited knowledge of the region to blind him to all that’s out there.

It’s also odd that Lynch chose not to address the point I made about Daniel Kimmage. Hmmm, what’s going on there?

11:05 AM, November 16, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nibras you cannot accuse Marc Lynch of being a racist. He had very nice things to say about you he said that you are a clean and articulate Shia!

11:32 AM, November 16, 2007

Blogger Iraqi Mojo said...

"Maybe he can’t see the Sunnis of Iraq beyond those two entities, having had so little contact with Iraq and Iraqis. Or maybe he has a soft spot for the Islamic Army having spent so much time at their website; maybe their propaganda got to him."

I love it! Nibras you are AWESOME!

2:10 PM, November 16, 2007

Blogger bg said...


really hate to interject with this
most inspirational good news.. :)

Come Home


[Today, Muslims mostly filled the front pews of St John’s. Muslims who want their Christian friends and neighbors to come home. The Christians who might see these photos likely will recognize their friends here. The Muslims in this neighborhood worry that other people will take the homes of their Christian neighbors, and that the Christians will never come back. And so they came to St John’s today in force, and they showed their faces, and they said, “Come back to Iraq. Come home.” They wanted the cameras to catch it. They wanted to spread the word: Come home. Muslims keep telling me to get it on the news. “Tell the Christians to come home to their country Iraq.”]

[A truce in the battle of pigtails had been declared, or a cease fire enforced. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any fighting. I can’t remember my last shootout: it’s been months. The nightmare is ending. Al Qaeda is being crushed. The Sunni tribes are awakening all across Iraq and foreswearing violence for negotiation. Many of the Shia are ready to stop the fighting that undermines their ability to forge and manage a new government. This is a complex and still delicate denouement, and the war may not be over yet. But the Muslims are saying it’s time to come home. And the Christians are saying it’s time to come home. They are weary, and there is much work to be done.]

great pix too!!

God Bless Iraq/is!!


3:16 PM, November 16, 2007

Blogger bg said...


ditto Iraqi Mojo..

TG, you're AWESOME!!


3:18 PM, November 16, 2007

Blogger Robert said...

Kevin Drum quotes Ricks, Lynch and John Lee Anderson then announces that "nearly everyone seems to have given up completely on the idea of national reconciliation, which was the nominal goal of the surge in the first place. Instead, we're said to be making "bottoms up" progress."

Yeah, Kev. Here's to you. Bottoms up. Keep drinking that crap.


9:58 PM, November 16, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I knew that column predicting the Iraq army would throw the sunnis out of the Saudi oil fields would get you into trouble Nibras.

Your mom, the cousin of Jalal Talabani, must be in despair.

I hope this latest shrine tour isn't anywhere near the Wahabbis.


10:28 AM, November 17, 2007

Blogger bg said...


fyi: here is a significant story that has
been circulating for a few days now..

Sunni clerics turn on Association of Muslim Scholars


[Wednesday's closure of the headquarters of the Association of Muslim Scholars at the Umm al Quraa mosque marks a dramatic shift in the Sunni religious establishment. Prominent Sunni clerics, who once supported, justified, or remained silent about al Qaeda's terror tactics, have now turned on the leading Sunni religious establishment that supports al Qaeda in Iraq.]

[The Council of Iraqi Scholars serves as the ideological backbone for the Sunni tribes and insurgent groups that have thrown in their lot with the Iraqi government and are encouraging their members to join the security forces or the Concerned Citizens neighborhood security programs. This is crucial, as in the past, the Association of Muslim Scholars has issued fatwas ordering Sunnis to boycott the elections and remain out of the security forces. Other fatwas issued by the Association legitimized al Qaeda in Iraq's suicide tactics and provided cover for the murdering of fellow Muslims.]

[Al Dari has been classified as a criminal by the Iraqi government, and the Sunni religious establishment seeks to dismantle his religious organization. This has the approval of the Shia-dominated Iraqi government as Iraqi Army troops were used to close the Association's headquarters. The Iraqi government and the Council of Iraqi Scholars calculated the rewards of moving against the Association far outweigh any risk that may be incurred.]


10:43 AM, November 17, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've also talked to Ricks on the phone a few times and yes he's oblvious to facts that don't fit his "Iraq is and always will be a disaster -DNC" template. He's not going to change his mind and undermine his own book, no matter what.

Anything that conflicted with his whole premise (like specific examples of Saddam's links to terrorism that he was made aware of) needs to be ignored, lampooned and stricken from record because it doesn't advance the "Fiasco" template. He's not a journalist, he's an activist and I am pretty sure he is aware of it.

6:19 PM, November 18, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

can i get on the lynch marc lynch bandwagon and say his book on jordan bored the shit out of me.

4:19 AM, November 28, 2007

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