News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: The Rabid Dog -- Exihibit A

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Rabid Dog -- Exihibit A

I quoted Helena Cobban in the original post. Her understanding of Mideast politics is quite extensive. In consultation with other Mideastern political experts like Juan Cole and Pat Lang, she produces some of the most in-depth analysis of Mideastern politics than anything you can find in innumerable think tanks and talking heads on the MSM.

Beamed over the MSM all day today was Pres. Bush's meeting with Shiite parliamentarian Hakim. Amid all the emprty talk and spin, I was left scratching my head in confusion about why the heck Bush was meeting this man at this time. The so-called analysis on the MSM just didn't make sense. Imagine my surprise, then, to read Cobban's understanding of what's afoot in Iraq. ...

That is, while Bush is flailing about like a drowning man but with that shit-eating grin that's really starting to get under my skin, while US troops seem engaged in an insurgency of attrition, Bush's brain trust seems to have had some type of "thinking outside the box" and brought in far left field perhaps a misstep that will not only worsen the political situation but exacerbate the carnage.

Cobban writes quite convincingly that Bush's A-Team has misjudged, misunderstood, and stepped into the cow paddy up to his hip this time.

According to Cobban, the story that the MSM's missing is that the movement that Bush should be concerned about and perhaps backing is the one being ndertaken by the very man that Bush's fascist minions are presently saying he should assassinate--or "take out" as Wolf Blitzer and Lou Dobbs so nonchalantly suggest.

Cobban writes:

I mean, what is happening is that apparently Moqtada al-Sadr-- who was crudely caricatured on the Newsweek cover this week, and portrayed as some kind of near devil-incarnate-- is entering a coalition with Mutlak (a "Sooni") and Allawi (pretty much of a secularist and a fairly strongly Baath-style enforcer)-- and between them the three of them are also hoping to split Maliki's party and lure a sizeable chunk of its members over to their new Front....

Important stuff, don't you think?

The politics of the new Front haven't been described in any great detail that I've seen. But I'm fairly confident that this group of people would be fairly strongly Iraqi-nationalist and anti-occupation. (Though Iyad Allawi looms like a bit of an outlier in this regard.) They are also determinedly cross-sectarian.

So my question remains: Why don't we hear anything about this in the MSM?

I mean, I know journalists can tend to get lazy and use handy labels like "Shiite" or "Sooni" in a fairly sloppy way... But doing so at a time like the present seems to run at least two serious risks: (1) Inasmuch as western media people have any effect on attitudes in Iraq, the too-sloppy use of such labels would seem to essentialize and harden the inter-sectarian differences in question; and (2) This sloppiness leaves the average US consumer of media-- and the average US policymaker-- completely in the dark about what is really going on, while strengthening these people's beliefs that all Iraqis are simply primitive, unidimensional beings who are "consumed by ancient tribal hatreds", etc etc (and thus, that they more or less "deserve" whatever horrendous things befall them.)
You have my vote Helena for Secretary of State. Or how about a position as editor at WaPo?

PS This is an amazing little interview with al-Sadr's spokesman, Baha al-Araji. Listen to this guy; he's intelligent, articulate, knowledgeable about American politics. Imagine seeing this guy on TV--wouldn't that dispel something of the MSM's portrait of the insurgents, al-Sadr etc. as stupid, parochial blood-feeding zombies?

al-Araji says:
The emergence of militias in Iraq is a natural response to the situation here. There is a principle which says that for every action, there is a reaction. So, when there are occupation forces on the ground, there should naturally be a resistance to that occupation. We choose peaceful and diplomatic resistance, so the government and the coalition forces should not exaggerate our activities. Because those of us who are affiliated with the Sadr movement are sensitive, we don’t like to provoke this contentious question.

Do you know that 60 percent of the Mahdi Army already serves in government programs and installations? One of our biggest challenges with this issue is getting the Americans to understand it. The problem is that the U.S. leaders in Iraq, even though they are here, still think in an American way. But Iraq totally differs in its nature, its economy, and its culture from the United States.
Or maybe it's this guy that the Bush brain trust is listening to:
Washington is abuzz with theories offering a potential way out of Iraq, one risk expert poses a new option: split Iraq in two. "We need radical thinking. The military situation (in Iraq) cries out for political experimentation," David Apgar, a risk and development strategist and author of the book "Risk Intelligence."

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