Monday, September 19, 2005

Iraq, Batgirl and Catwoman

Got an e-mail from Cedric where he says we should have made something one of our spotlight entries Saturday at The Third Estate Sunday Review. I agree with him. I also know that C.I. thinks those spotlights should be used for the other sites. But Cedric posted the section in full today at his site and asked me if I'd pull a paragraph or anything from it.
For Cedric and because it's so good (and dare I say groovey) here's C.I. on Iraq from within Saturday's "Other Items" post (at the end I'll explain "Other Items" because it has a groovey background):

I'll note Richard A. Oppel Jr., Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker's "Baghdad Bombings Raise Anew Questions About U.S. Strategy in Iraq" (which is credited with this note: "This article was reported and written by Richard A. Oppel Jr., Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker."):
Although the attacks in Baghdad suggest that there may be cells of insurgents there, or at least that they can sneak into the city to plant bombs, senior officials at the Pentagon and in Iraq say they believe that Mr. Zarqawi and the insurgency's "center of gravity" is now in the bends and towns of the Euphrates River valley near the Syrian border.
Commanders say they plan to squeeze the Zarqawi leadership and Iraqi insurgents in those areas. Throughout the spring and summer marines and Army forces staged raids into those same towns, confiscating weapons and killing scores of insurgents. But many fighters melted into the countryside, and there were not enough coalition troops to keep a sufficient presence in the villages.
Commanders say new offensives in Anbar Province in coming weeks will be modeled on the siege of Tal Afar, which used 8,500 American and Iraqi troops.
"You will see the same thing down along the Euphrates Valley to push back out and restore Iraqi control to the area around Qaim," Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American commander in Iraq, said in an interview in Baghdad. General Casey said the Iraqi forces had little control of the country's border with Syria on either side of Qaim, a desolate town on the Euphrates.
Why am I noting it? I think we should remember what "commanders" say in this piece for a future date. Also we've dropped to the figure "8,500" (the one Elaine noted was consistent with other reporting but inconsistent with the Times' claim on Sunday [11,000]). And because "you will see the same thing." Not what's reported in the Times, but the same actions in Tal Afar that you saw in Falluja will be repeated elsewhere. Unlike the optimists quoted in the report, this will not be the end of it (even with death squads) but fuel for more rage.
Hopefully, Christian Parenti was correct and the Times reporters (at least Dexter Filkins) are aware that there is reality and then there is the spin that's characterized too many reports from the paper. We're told, by commanders who lead in the story, that Iraqis are cooperating to halt the insurgency (they're supposedly outraged by the violence). We've heard that claim before. We heard that claim, in fact, before we invaded.
It's offered as new and developing as though we've all acquired early senility and forgotten all that's come before. And we're also supposed to believe not only that in choosing between their own citizens and the occupiers, Iraqis are siding with the Operation Enduring Falsehood "coalition," but that they're ratting them out.
"Secretarian" wasn't a word that popped up much in the limited Tal Afar coverage in the Times. But it's worth noting the term. No doubt many sects are turning on each other (some believe that has been the US plan). But the idea that a country of people embraces an invader over their own people goes against history and political theory. Today commanders present it as fact.
Here are the facts. Violence rages still. Violence has not been "subdued." It is unlikely that it will be "subdued" with these actions. We could let Negroponte unleash all the death squads his heart may desire but everyone that's killed will be replaced with friends and family. That's how a resistance breeds. That's historical.
There is no "subduing." This isn't a state in the United States (though certain policies seem to attempt to make it that). This is a foreign country. And to the citizens the US is a foreign force.
They will argue and fight amongst themselves and we may prove momentarily effective at playing them off one another but not in the long term. In the long term, they want us out and they will not be "subdued" or "channeled." This isn't an issue of "Give us ___!" whatever service. This is an issue of autonomy and it won't go away while we're there.Our presence only adds to the problems. "Fine tuners" will no doubt trumpet today's claims by commanders with choruses of "See!" I'm not sure what they think they're seeing (possibly the happy talk the Times portrays and gives far too much weight to -- though give the paper credit for clearly identifying who reported what), but it's an ahisotrical approach (and, bluntly, an ignorant one) to think that this is a turning point in the favor of Operation Enduring Falsehood.
"Winning" defined by the terms of the administration will mean more massive killings and they may delay certain attacks, maybe planned ones in the works, but this is how a resistance breeds.If you and I argue over the tree in the middle of both of our properties, I may kill you and claim the tree. Before I claim victory, I better be prepared to kill everyone close to you and everyone who's not pleased that I moved into the neighborhood.
We're talking a Biblical slaughter (term used intentionally). No baby Moses better be floated down a river.
If I don't kill everyone then they will be there to tell what happened, to stroke the outrage and to encourage it.
There is no turned corner here. Suggesting there is requires a denial of history and a denial of how a resistance operates. That a nation (the US) supposedly so consumed with the Bible can't grasp the basics suggests that maybe they might need to read a little more closely. Otherwise, cries of "Let my people go" may come as a shock to them.
These are points that are raised later in the article, after the happy talk:
But independent analysts suggest that the strategy of driving the insurgents from urban centers and trying to capture or kill as many as possible, aiming especially at leaders, may be flawed. The violence in Baghdad is only one problem. Another is that the fighting may work against the search for political consensus among Iraqis.
Whether it was an editorial decision or one on the part of the journalists, pushing reality down into the article, as opposed to leading with it, was a mistake.
In terms of past reporting, however, I'll give the writers (and the paper) credit for noting reality somewhere in the article. You lead with the most important information, however, and happy talk isn't important to anyone but the people spinning. Readers need reality from the start.
If I reassemble the article on my own, there are few quarrels I have with it. (As always with the paper, the reliance on "official sources" would be a quarrel I have with the article.) For a Times piece it's a strong one. But as assembled, weighted with happy talk at the start, it's not as strong as it should be.
A daily paper wants to provide you with a sense of "This just happened!" so possibly it's a problem with the form itself? However, I'd suggest that the opening paragraph could have been written in such a way that we'd have both history and what the military is spinning today.

"Other Items." That's one of the two morning entries most mornings at The Common Ills. C.I. started it for mornings when the paper was especially devoid of reality so that stories from elsewhere could be spotlighted. Get it? No?

"Other Items" was originally intended to be what should be in the Times. Still lost?

Follow me here:

. . . .


. . .


Now do you get it?

It's the alternate Times. The one from a perfect universe. The minute new stuff started going into "Other Items" members started sending in stuff for the first entry, the non "Other Items"
entry. So now the two usually bleed over. But in the original conception, "Other Items" was supposed to provide "Other Times" e.g. stories that should be in the Times.

Weirdest dream Sunday "night" (Sunday morning, after we all finally finished with The Third Estate Sunday Review and The Common Ills). I was at a bookstore in the dream (no jokes) and they had this fenced display really low (about six inches off the floor). Maggie was in the dream, we were looking for some book for her (probably something new age-ish since Maggie's in the dream). So she sees the display (which was intended for children -- so no surprise . . . .) and squeals with delight. It's got the new Ginger and Mary Ann dolls. (Don't get excited doll collectors. I think these dolls only exist in my dream.) So she's jumping up and down and has to have them right then but can't reach them and is wearing heels to high to be stepping in the midst of a display. I'm looking around for Toni, Dak-Ho or Sumner but apparently in the dream it's just me and Maggie. So I say, "Fine, calm down, I'll get them" because I'm wearing sandles.
So I step over the little fence and go in to grab a boxed Mary Ann and a boxed Ginger (these are Gilligan's Island characters in case anyone's more lost than usual in one of my posts) and I'm handing them to Maggie when I see Catwoman and Batgirl.
Longish story as short as possible. My cousin Mary had these on display when I was a kid. She was probably 17 at the time and I was probably 8. I'd go over and she had them on little stands in her bedroom. I'd always want to play with them but they were for "display." Mary really got on my nerves.
(She goes by Louise now, her middle name. If I've ever mentioned Louise in anything I've written, or ever do, that's her. And she still gets on my nerves.)
These were little seven inch dolls of various super heroes. She also had Aquaman, Robin, Batman, Superman, Supergirl, and some more.
But I always just wanted to play with Catwoman and Batgirl. Catwoman's mask was painted on her face in red. (See, I really wanted to play with them, I can remember everything about those dolls I could only look at.)
She had short, black hair. Not "short" in reality. It was probably down to the back of her head all over, the hair was one length all over, but another cousin had just had her long, long hair cut into a bob and everyone in the family was freaking out over her "short hair."
Her Catwoman suit was purple and where it wasn't, it was fleshtone on the arms and I think white to indicate stockings on the legs. The knee high boots were purple.
I don't know who they used to get that Catwoman.
But the Batgirl was supposed to be Yvonne Craig's Batgirl. She had red hair. Her mask was blue plastic and it came off. She had the cape and the yellow boots and everything you expect from Craig's Batgirl.
I used to hope Mary would leave her room when we visited so I could have Catwoman take over the Batcave (she also had that on display) and I could bring Batgirl in to save the day.
Never happened. Never got to play with either.
So in the dream, I'm on the display, standing inside of it, and there are boxes with Catwoman and Batgirl dolls of that sort. So I grab them for myself.
Then I step out of the display. We pay. I end up back at my place, so excited. I open the Catwoman box, so excited. She looks just like I remember. I open the Batgirl box . . .
And it's Green Arrow. Only he's got a skull instead of a face. No idea why and he was never one of my favorites characters as a kid.
I was so bummed out. I woke up sulking. No idea what the dream meant.