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.