Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

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”.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have yet to see the GoI accept Sadr's demands in return for his unilateral ceasefire.

This may not be over or even close...

11:02 PM, March 30, 2008

Blogger bg said...


nice post TG..

also agree with what djelliott said.. this will not
be over until the fat man has sung "i am done!!"

btw: i can only presume those notices of Sadr's coma &
imminent death via poisoning were greatly exaggerated,
go figure..

thanks & keep the updates coming.. :)


11:25 PM, March 30, 2008

Blogger Harrywr2 said...


Here's another NY Times reporter -


"Calling on my experience as a captain in the Iraqi Army before the 2003..."

Maybe the editors of the NY Times could hold a Séance and have Saddam write all their Iraq news stories for them.

9:25 AM, March 31, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...


What do you think of this? I'm trying to reconcile the sites I trust and y'all seem far apart.

11:00 AM, March 31, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Having spent most of 2006 and part of 2007 with the british outside of Basra, I agree that the UK was not very helpful. Heck, we thought they weren't doing much, and we were just a handful of Americans.

Based on my experiences there your commentary rings very true - I'm glad to have found you on the web!

1:35 PM, March 31, 2008

Blogger bg said...


HT : TLWJ (Roggio)

Maliki: "Security operations in Basra will continue"


[One day after Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army, called for his fighters to abandon combat, the fighting in Basrah has come to a near-halt and the Iraqi security forces are patrolling the streets. While Sadr spokesman said the Iraqi government agreed to Sadr's terms for the ceasefire, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has said the security forces will continue operations in Basrah in the south. Meanwhile, the Mahdi Army took heavy casualties in Basrah, Nasiriyah, Babil, and Baghdad over the weekend, despite Sadr's call for the end of fighting.

Maliki was clear that operations would continue in the South. "The armed groups who refuse al Sadr's announcement and the pardon we offered will be targets, especially those in possession of heavy weapons," Maliki said, referring to the 10 day amnesty period for militias to turn in heavy and medium weapons. "Security operations in Basra will continue to stop all the terrorist and criminal activities along with the organized gangs targeting people."

The Iraqi military said it was moving in more forces into the south after admitting it was surprised by the level of resistance encountered in Basrah. "Fresh military reinforcements were sent to Basra to start clearing a number of Basra districts of wanted criminals and gunmen taking up arms," said Brigadier General Abdel Aziz al Ubaidi, the operations chief for the Ministry of Defense. "Preparations for fresh operations have been made to conduct raids and clearance operations in Basra... the military operations would continue to restore security in Basra."

The reasons behind Sadr's call for a cessation in fighting remain unknown, but reports indicate the Mahdi Army was having a difficult time sustaining its operations and has taken heavy casualties. "Whatever gains [the Mahdi Army] has made in the field [in Basrah], they were running short of ammunition, food, and water," an anonymous US military officer serving in South told The Long War Journal. "In short [the Mahdi Army] had no ability to sustain the effort.]

[There have been few reports of clashes in the Shia districts of New Baghdad, Sadr City, and elsewhere on Monday. US and Iraqi security forces killed 48 Mahdi Army fighters during a series of clashes throughout Baghdad on Sunday. US and Iraqi security forces captured at least 22 Mahdi Army fighters in Baghdad. Twenty of those were captured in Sadr City. An unknown number of Mahdi Army fighters in the Iskan and Washash neighborhoods have gone against Sadr's demands to keep their weapons and have surrendered them to the military in accordance with the amnesty offer issued by Maliki.]

oh yeah, make that fat man sing!! :+:


4:22 PM, March 31, 2008

Blogger Neo andertal said...

‘stalled’, ‘bogged-down’, ‘floundering’

Oh, I don’t know. Those operative terms describe the New York Times quite well actually. I saw Glanz’s piece in the Times but I must admit I quite reading it when Arabs invaded his hometown neighborhood. I remember thinking, this is the sort of fantasy college freshmen write about. Maybe if Glanz would actually embed he could resist such fantasies.

I’m not quite as fixated on the newspaper of record. I do see well-written articles often enough to make the trip worth it, which is more than I can say for many other papers. Not that I would actually pay for the rag though, lets not be unreasonable.

I must admit getting fairly nervous about how things were playing out. I have gotten used to seeing the methodical reduction of the enemy by Gen. Petraeus. I also have to remember that Sadr’s people don’t share in Al Qaeda’s cult of death and won’t always fight on the bitter end. So when I saw that Maliki send the IA into Basra to bitch slap the Mahdi Militia, I had visions of the effort being engulfed in never ending chaos. I was wrong, Sadr’s people eventually tucked their little tails between their legs and ran for cover. I think Bill Roggio hit closest to the truth. Sadr’s militia couldn’t sustain that level of casualties for more than a few days without collapsing.

I’ve seen too many things go wrong to too soon declare a winner, but this definitely leaves the Iraqi army in a position to consolidate it’s position. Basra definitely needs a great deal of work before things get truly better. Can we stop saying that JAM has 40,000 to 60,000 fighters. They don’t have anywhere near that amount. Besides fifteen year old fighters aren’t so valued when you’re up against trained army rather than unarmed civilians. The Iraqi Army is only going to get better at this too.

Sadr’s a wiener all right!

10:36 PM, March 31, 2008

Blogger Coach Mark said...

Now TIME is basically celebrating this and declaring it a victory for al Sadr.

How Moqtada al-Sadr Won in Basra

The media has clearly chosen a side in all this and it certainly isn't the USA's.

6:32 PM, April 01, 2008

Blogger bg said...


Ikez @ 6:32 PM..

[The media has clearly chosen a side in
all this and it certainly isn't the USA's.]

that is an unadulterated understatement.. the Dhimmi Dems & MSM et al turned outright anti-Bush/Maliki (et al) America/Iraq Liberation soon after (if not before) the Joint Iraq Resolution was passed..


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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.

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