Useful (?) Idiots

I’ve been reading the drivel of a certain Iraqi blogger for a while now and while I can say she gets points for righteous indignation, like most of the left she doesn’t get points for technical accuracy, logic, or thinking beyond the end of her nose. In fact if you read her blog long enough you realize the truth of H.L. Mencken’s dictum:
The believing mind is externally impervious to evidence. The most that can be accomplished with it is to induce it to substitute one delusion for another. It rejects all overt evidence as wicked.
Now the first clue ought to be her blogroll with such easily debunked organizations such as Iraq Body Count (and their always erroneous Marc Herold) listed prominently. If I just once saw an attempt to try and be objective, or maybe even wonder for so much as a second if there is another side of an argument other than her own myopic vision, I probably would not be as cheesed off.
But after yesterday’s rocket attack at the Al-Rasheed hotel it’s becoming more difficult to restrain myself from commenting on her mocking tone and complete lack of objectivity and, indeed, the near total absence of verifiable facts or a consideration of the agenda of the sources to which she links. Please, indulge me as I slowly, methodically and almost lovingly engage in a fisking. Along the way I’ll just stop via hyperlink and highlight every so often why her pieces are all rant and no logic.
So the Madrid Conference is over. Half of the people here weren’t really aware it was going on anyway. No one seems to bother with stuff like that anymore because we have more pressing affairs to attend to. I, personally, spent the last 4 days cleaning out the pantry in preparation for Ramadan. I’d pop into the living room every once in a while to catch a glimpse of the conference and what was going on in it.
Let’s not forget that six months ago Riverbend wouldn’t have been able to “catch a glimpse of the conference” because no satellite dishes were allowed in Iraq. No problem, I just assume what she meant to say was “thank you.”
But then again, it’s too easy; I could just go on and on. In fact, I think I will…


The most embarrassing part of the conference was watching Muwafaq Al-Ruba’i grovel for international funds for the reconstruction effort. He batted his lashes, spoke softly and kept dragging ‘the Iraqi people’ into his speeches- as if the Iraqi people would actually ever see the uncountable billions that somehow enter the country and are spent before you can say ‘reconstruction’.
Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. “Uncountable billions”? Hell, in one minute on the internet I could find out all I wanted to know about where that money is going.
I must be sounding ungrateful, what with the $33 billion dollars being agreed upon, but the idea of being financially indebted to America, the IMF and the World Bank somehow has the appeal of selling ones soul to the devil… but I think that our oil revenues should be able to cover a substantial part of rebuilding Iraq…One good thing is that the money is going to be under UN supervision.
Must be sounding ungrateful? No Riverbend, you are ungrateful. You of course have no problem being indebted to France, Germany and Russia because after all, Saddam incurred those debts. But incur debt to anyone who wants to actually FIX the problem? Oh man, that’s just beyond the pale. Never mind that the U.S. contribution was originally intended to be a grant until the U.S. Congress got involved. But please, don’t be bothered by facts.
If you think the “good thing is that the money is going to be under UN supervision” then either we’re seeing the triumph of hope over experience or you have obviously never worked with the UN – as I did in Haiti. At the UN, not making a decision is raised to a high art form. But hey, don’t listen to me, go here and read it straight from the UN itself, or here, or here, or here, or read this book and focus in on the chapters about Kosovo and watch what happens when you let the UN be in charge of anything.
Geeesh, give someone a little education and they think they know it all. Oh, did I fail to mention the very high illiteracy rate among girls and women over 15 under Saddam? I’m sorry. Let me do that. Using Saddam’s figures, a government not necessarily known for it’s commitment to truth, the figures were 83.3% of females over 15 were illiterate in 1990 and the figure improved to 76.7 in 2000. Think about what that means for a minute.
There are rumors that each new minister makes around $40,000 a month. For $40,000, you can build a large house in an elegant area in Baghdad. For $40,000, you can build, and fully furnish, a school. For $40,000, you can stock up a storage room in a hospital. For $40 K, you can feed 80 Iraqi families for a month *lavishly*. (Or you could buy 400 used Sony Play Stations- as my younger cousin calculated)
I’ll leave aside the gaping logical error here. Wow, when I read this I about had a heart attack. U.S. Congressmen don’t even make this much. The U.S. President doesn’t even make this much. So here is the U.S. Congress paying Iraqi ministers 322% more than even they get. What up wit’ ‘dat? Never mind about that though, Riverbend gives the rumor a credulous hearing. But you know, it only took me 2 minutes on the Internet to find out that the rumor is wrong. Go check for yourself. (Note to Riverbend: try Google.) Just click on “Salary Reform” and you’ll end up with an Excel spread sheet that shows you exactly what all Iraqi government employees, including ministers make. No minister is making $40,000 a month. Let’s assume all ministers are “Super A,” which is the highest pay grade. Let’s further assume that they are all Step 10, which they are NOT. Even at the absolute highest pay grade with the greatest amount of seniority, Ministers would make 36M Iraqi Dinar a year. Wanna know how much that is worth? Answer: a lot less than $40,000 a month. Depending on the exchange rate it is under $2,000 a month (At a 2000:1 exchange rate its $1500.00 per month.)
But actually, since none of the ministers have converted their ministries to this scale yet, they’re making only $400.00 a month! So $400 a month or $40,000 a month, hey, what’s a few zeroes among friends, right? I’m sure Riverbend can tell you first-hand that all those zeros are difficult to manage. (Wait…where have I heard that before?)
A friend of an uncle, who is privy to certain purchases made by the CPA and Governing Council, says that millions each month are spent on… water. Yes. Apparently our Iraqi Council and interim government deems the water we drink not worthy of their thirst. I can understand worries about the quality of the water, but even the troops drink and eat off of vendors in the streets.
Another example of substituting staggering ignorance for knowledge. The money spent on water comes out of the military budget, not the CPA budget. The U.S. Army which is supporting CPA via a contract with Kellogg, Brown and Root is paying for this. So the “friend of an uncle” who until the U.S. showed up on the scene was (maybe?) working somewhere else in Baghdad is now all of a sudden an expert on logistics and military procurement issues. Ummmm, yeah, right, sure.
But Riverbend wants you to think that CPA is taking money out of pockets of Iraqis in order to quench its thirst. Note the condescending note of disapproval in the post. Now, as uncomfortable as it might be for Riverbend to admit, if the Iraqi water system wasn’t at or below Third World standards (courtesy of Saddam) then the CPA and the U.S. military would be happy to use it and instead save valuable truck and airlift space for other needed items. Since I’ve already had the privilege of doing the Baghdad Two-Step since I’ve been here, I can tell you that, just like Mexico, you don’t want to drink the water. There are problems with potable water in Baghdad right now. But we’re working on it.
Do the troops “drink and eat off of vendors in the streets”? They sure do. You know what they buy? BOTTLED WATER and the occasional Coke or Pepsi. I’m on the streets everyday too, honey.
Al-Sadr has been making waves in the south and Baghdad. He is frightening and I don’t think his influence should be underestimated. He easily has over a million followers (some say it’s up to 4 million) and they practically revere him.
Obviously she hasn’t spent any time in Basra (i.e. “the south”) lately where al-Sadr is a laughingstock among the Shi’a. I just got back from there last week where I was walking foot patrols on the street with the Brits trying to get a sense of what’s going on with popular opinion. Also, independent polls also confirm a generally positive opinion of the Coalition – which tends to imply an ambivalent or negative opinion toward al-Sadr since he is anti-Coalition.
Folks, this is just ONE post, and I didn’t even address half of the rumor, innuendo and outright falsehoods in the post. The tone of Riverbend’s entire blog when read over time is that of a primal whine. She wants the country to be handed back to the Iraqis completely intact, and in short order. This is unrealistic, impossible and completely ignores the one previous historical example – post-war Germany and Japan. It’s almost as if she is saying in her own twisted way, “You’re Americans. You can do anything!” In that case, this would demonstrate Bernard Lewis’ contention (seconded by Jonah Goldberg) that the driving force in the Middle East these days is envy.
What would be more effective is to see her get out in the street and actually do something to help. But I won’t hold my breath. For her sake, there are too many good people here who are dying so she can exercise her right, denied under Saddam, to snivel.

64 comments

  1. Basil

    Okay so Saddam had WMDs which he did not use during the war.
    Now where are they?
    Already in the hands of terrorists?
    Why hasn’t Bremer offered $25,000,000 for any information to recover them as soon as possible, before they are actually used against us?
    Instead he offers that for running after Saddam…
    I don’t care about Saddam, but I care about my children and family and those WMDs in the wild are still a threat.
    We don’t want another wide scale terrorist attack because incompetents decision makers are not able to sort priorities, do we?
    Good sense however tells me the decision-makers don’t bother, because they know WMDs do not exist, despite all (dis)information you exposed here.

  2. cBark

    Basil, perhaps because if the WMD are out of the country there isn’t much we can do now (unless you think we should invade another country while we are still so involved in Iraq).
    Perhaps it is because finding out what happened to the WMD takes time. We already have thousands of people investigating just this.
    But you suggest that Bush alone, out of the entire world, KNEW that Saddam was playing the world for fools by pretending to have WMD when he really didn’t. Bush alone KNEW this, and the U.N. and the Democrats didn’t. How did Bush, and Bush alone, know this? Did the barking moonbats fly in his window at night and whisper in his ear?

  3. Basil

    “because if the WMD are out of the country there isn’t much we can do now”
    Nothing prevents us from a strike on a terrorist HQ, Mr cBark, we have done it in sudan and afganistan(i think) under Clinton, don’t need to declare a war for this. Also, even if we don’t act, knowing where they are is a lot better than not.
    “Perhaps it is because finding out what happened to the WMD takes time. We already have thousands of people investigating just this.”
    Mr cBark, it takes time especially if the motivation to look for them is not there indeed. Don’t need to be a genious to think about offering $25M to learn where they are, does it? Not doing this is admitting we know they did not exist.
    “But you suggest that Bush alone, out of the entire world, KNEW that Saddam was playing the world for fools by pretending to have WMD when he really didn’t. Bush alone KNEW this, and the U.N. and the Democrats didn’t. How did Bush, and Bush alone, know this? Did the barking moonbats fly in his window at night and whisper in his ear?”
    I am not suggesting this at all, Mr cBark.
    I think the entire world didn’t know anything, but if the CIA knew something, then maybe there was something. This is why the world asked for solid proofs, and why we did not get support from our allies: proofs were not solid enough, and our allies also have intelligence agencies (I remember Vladimir Putine, asked about the WMDs, replying with a grin “you think you know everything, at the head of the KGB, but it seems not”).
    Did CIA knew something? Bush claimed left and right there was something, wether he lied purposely or only relayed the mistakes of the CIA is still subject to investigation.
    If there are WMDs, I am scared because we are not looking for them the right way and they are still a threat.
    If there are no WMDs, either Bush lied or the CIA was mistaken, and due to this our soldiers’ blood is spilt for nothing.
    But what is the situation now, Mr cBark? The only thing we know is that we don’t know (or won’t tell).

  4. Kalroy

    Basil writes, “WMDs have not been used during the first phase of major combat and everybody with good sense can draw conclusions: there are no WMDs.”
    So by your reasoning neither the Germans nor the Americans had chemical weapons in 1944. Thing is, both sides did, but neither side used them.
    “If we don’t put sufficient energy into this, this is either:
    1/ because we know they don’t exist
    2/ because we are incompetent idiots asking for another sept. 11”
    Or it’s because we simply don’t have the man-power. Remember our active duty military is less than two-thirds what it was in 1985. Also, you seem ignorant about what the actual number of troops means. Having 120,000 troops in theatre does NOT mean that you have 120,000 troops qualified and trained to handle chem agent if they found it. It doesn’t mean you have 120,000 law-enforcement personnell and it doesn’t mean you have 120,000 combat troops. It means you have 120,000 troops with differing MOS’s, many of whom (if not most)are support troops.
    Mechanics, welders and medics are NOT qualified to dig up suspected chem agent dumps, just like EOD troops are not qualified to weld a crack on an FAV frame.
    One last thing, we can not send all of our chem troops out to Iraq no matter how much easier it might make our job there (more feet and eyes hunting for the chem dumps). We need them here doing the job they were trained for.
    Kal

  5. Kalroy

    “Nothing prevents us from a strike on a terrorist HQ, Mr cBark, we have done it in sudan and afganistan(i think) under Clinton, don’t need to declare a war for this.”
    Okay Basil. Where should we strike? Surely you know since no one else seems to. By the way, in case you didn’t notice your suggestion “under Clinton” did nothing to stop further attacks “under Clinton” nor did it head off 9/11.
    “Don’t need to be a genious to think about offering $25M to learn where they are, does it? Not doing this is admitting we know they did not exist.”
    So you’re saying that since we aren’t offering a reward we know they don’t exist. Oddly enough we’re not offering a reward for information on North Korea’s nuclear program so it must not exist either
    “If there are WMDs, I am scared because we are not looking for them the right way and they are still a threat.”
    So what is the right way? Offering a big reward? Have you seen the success rate of that strategy yet? Uday and Qusay. No bin Laden, no Saddam, and thousands of unsolved crimes in the US that have yet to be helped by the offering of a reward.
    But I ask you, how would you do it? What is the “right” way to look for WMDs in Iraq?
    “If there are no WMDs, either Bush lied or the CIA was mistaken, and due to this our soldiers’ blood is spilt for nothing.”
    It’s not actually an “either” argument. If there are no WMDs then it means that the CIA was wrong and both Bush and those members of congress who oversaw the evidence was wrong. It also means that Clinton was wrong (or in your words, Clinton lied about the WMDs), and France was wrong, and Britain was wrong, and the UN was wrong, and Israel was wrong, and Iran was wrong, and every single member of the UN security council was wrong since they ALL believed Iraq had WMDs before 9/11.
    “No thanks, we should already know where they are.”
    Why? What is it that you know that you aren’t telling us? You’ve offered absolutely no viable alternative to the tactics being used right now.
    I’ll ask that you explain to me why we should already know where they are.
    So far no one has been able to explain what happened to Iraq’s WMDs; not Bush, not Chiraq, not Kofi Annan, not Nancy Pelosi and not you.
    Kal

  6. Basil

    Interesting points Mr Kalroy.
    People like me, who backed up this war, want to make sure that the menace is gone. Clinton was weak, Bush did the right thing, now we are looking for evidence that our safety is ensured, but all we keep hearing about is reconstruction and running after Saddam and his lieutenants. Where are the WMDs?
    I am not saying we are looking for WMDs the wrong way. I believe inspectors are doing their jobs, but that offering $25,000,000 for info leading to WMDs would help. The fact this has not been done, while it has been done for Saddam and his sons, is a sign of either incompetence or betrayal.
    Don’t we all want to know? Screw reconstruction, screw Saddam, set priorities right, we want the WMDs under control because while Saddam might be coordinating terrorist attacks leading to 1-2 soldiers dead a day, WMDs could lead to the death of thousands of innocents!
    If chemical or biological weapons have been smuggled already in US or Israel, and are about to be used, do you think 2000 inspectors in Iraq will find them? Only intelligence will help securing them, and a $25M prime would help a lot I am sure.

  7. Kalroy

    Basil,
    They may have been smuggled in. Agent is very easy to hide, and chucking a freon bottle full of VX into a TV and throwing it into a connex headed for the US is pretty simple.
    Hiding the stuff is incredibly easy too. The way the US stores it means you could paint a ton container white, stencil “propane” on the side and stick it on a lot next to a trailer; and no one will find it unless they already know it’s there.
    The reward idea is a good direction, but the money aspect is flawed. The people who most likely have the knowledge we seek and are still alive are more interested in amnesty, freedom, or killing Americans than they are in making money.
    We have a couple of people like this in custody (Dr. Germ comes to mind) but none of them are talking. They’re in a position where if they admit things they are guilty of some heinous crimes. It would put the US in a position similar to the one we faced with Japan after WWII. A situation that still grates and angers certain survivors of that war. I’m not sure the US could get away with giving them immunity the way we did with the Japanese heirarchy and Unit 731.
    I mean guys who ate American liver and experimented on Chinese and Americans became high placed government officials and CEOs. Mitsubishi’s American ex-slaves are still pretty pissed.
    My point being that those Iraqis in the know most probably won’t be motivated by money, and we can’t give them what they want.
    I do agree that the money could help in that there are people who would have been involved in transport and such who could be motivated by it and don’t really have to worry about being prosecuted. I wouldn’t doubt (but don’t know) that it was those kinds of people whose information was used to compile the list of sites for inspection.
    Then there’s always the possibility that Saddam simply dug a hole and dumped the stuff to soak in the sand. So far, however, I haven’t seen anything that seems to make that likely right now.
    We do know one thing for sure, had we not gone in Iraq would be producing WMDs as soon as the sanctions were lifted. We at least know that for sure now.
    Kal

  8. Scarab

    Basil, the main problem with your “$25 million reward” is that such rewards when offerred for fugitives have a black or white goal. Was it him? If so you get your money….if not, keep trying.
    But how do you define to untrained Iraqis what you are looking for? I can see every dirt farmer suddenly deciding that teh fuel dump down the road is hidden chemical weapons and then being outraged when they don’t get millions. A few outcries of *cheater” and no reward or negociating system will work.
    Scarab

  9. blogfan

    Riverbend routinely spouts pure rumor and ninth-generation hearsay as fact. It rarely is even vaguely accurate. She is a spoiled little girl who hides out in her house all day watching satTV and talking with her friends on the phone about all the juicy new rumors they had heard that someone told someone, according to my brother who heard it from… etc. She’s just pissed off that she was booted out of her nice comfy job and position of privilege under the former regime, and now spends her time doing… well, absofuckinglutely nothing other than bitching and sitting around her house watching media and surfing the web. I stopped reading her after one too many instances of completely inaccurate, distorted rumor spun as truth. Why anybody would continue to read her drivel, let alone use it as a source of information, is beyond me.

  10. zackett

    Much of Riverbend’s description of personal life in Iraq agrees with my own personal experiences while I was working in Iraq, prior to this war. Zeyad expresses a totally different opinion based on his own experiences and position in Iraqi society. Just from my own personal interaction with both Iraqi Arabs and Kurds, I believe that Riverbend appears to express an opinion (no matter how right or wrong in facts) that represents an overwhelming majority view of both urban and rural Iraqis.
    The manner in how this occupation and “democratization” process has been conducted, especially Gen Garner’s initial interaction with Iraq’s Sheiks totally insulted their authority and personal prestige. Such insults run long and very deep in Iraqi culture and makes the task of winning over the hearts and minds of the people that much harder.
    How are the American people going to feel, after shouldering the burden in blood and money to Liberate and Democratize Iraq, to see them shun an American allience and instead join the EU (which appears almost a certainty)?

  11. Clear Waters

    I’ve read Riverbend periodically for a few weeks, and have often been frustrated at her unreasonable criticisms and lack of long term perspective. However, this is the essence of freedom to express one’s opinion. With freedom of speech comes the frustrating burden of having to tolerate those who are unfair, unreasonable, unrealistic, hypocritical, etc.. etc… But, this is a wonderful burden to bear. When I read Riverbend, I dissagree with just about everything she says, and my blood even starts to boil… How could she be so damn unrealistic and so overly critical of the bad things while purposefully omitting the good things (like her new found freedom to speak her mind, for example). But, every time I read Riverbend, I also feel a great joy that she can now feel as free as we do to write or say what is on her mind, misguided and unreasonable as it may be. I hope she keeps writing, not because I agree with her, but simply because she is an example of why this war will, in the end, be a positive thing for Iraq and for the world. And, even if she continues to resent the war… so be it. The fact that she will still have the right to express her resentment as she pleases is good enough for me. There will be plenty of other Iraqis who think otherwise. Riverbend can say what she wants, but she cannot avoid the fact that her freedom to be so nasty, in and of itself, speaks a hundred times louder than her unreasonable opinions and condescending observations.

  12. spotelmo

    basil,
    1) rewards and other incentives are being offered to those who come forward.
    2) many banned items have already been found in iraq. this includes chemical and biological agents found at homes of scientists, plans for missles, contracts to buy missles from n.korea, parts for missles, unmanned aircraft that went well beyond the allowed limits
    3) saddam was in breach of the cease-fire and every un resolution regarding iraq.
    it doesn’t matter if we find a fully loaded nuclear capable missle on a launch pad ready to fire at lincoln nebraska or not, the fact is, he did not comply with the un resolutions.
    4) what would you be saying about bush and others if saddam had given al-queda or other terrorists a suitcase bomb containing anthrax(or other poison) and they had detonated it in the mall of america during christmas season?
    i’d bet there would be outrage at the president for not doing something to stop saddam from doing it.
    5) the rebuilding of iraq and afghanistan is the most important part in the war on terror. that part of the world has been allowed over the last 50 years or so to fester and breed terrorists. that was all fine and dandy as long as they stayed over there and only killed eachother. now they are starting more and more to get bored with killing eachother and have started targeting the west and interests of the west. we need to put a stop to it. there are several ways of stopping them…
    a) let them know that when they attack us, we will attack them back with a force 1000 times greater than what they did to us.
    b) give their governments money and support and show that we make better friends than enemies.
    c) educate their people on how good democracy can be. show them that living a life in freedom is far better than living a life in terror.
    we need to continue doing all three of these things at the same time just like bush has started. by rebuilding iraq in a democratic form of government we can show those around iraq that freedom and democracy are a good thing and then soon people in iran and syria and saudi arabia will start to fight more and more for their own freedom and government reforms.
    this is far more important than any wmd because this is the core of the terrorist movement. sure, a few terrorists might make it through with a couple bombs. but i would prefer dealing with the few that get by rather than having to deal with the thousands that would be allowed to train and recruit others if we were to allow iraq to become another terrorist sponsoring extremist state bent on taking down the US.