Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Friday, July 29, 2005

...With Affection, to the Men We Used to Be

Every day I think I am finally going to finish up at least one of my current half finished posts and every day I don't get to it, mostly due to work pressure, and partially due to an inability to organize my thoughts.

So, I'm just going to link what is probably my favorite blog post of all time. It was written about 15 months ago, and I have probably read it 7-10 times since then. Some recent conversations brought it back to my mind so I re-read it, and again took something new from it. It seems on each re-read it gets better and deeper. It should not be surprising that the author is Wretchard at the Belmont Club.

Here it is, enjoy.

Friday, July 22, 2005

What Journalism Is

Now this is reporting. Michael Yon has gone to Iraq as an independent journalist, footing the bill himself. And unlike his MSM counterparts, he's not spending his time sitting in the Palestine Hotel bar waiting for the next military press release on the latest random RPG attack. Nope, he's crawling into sweltering underground weapons caches at 4 am, taking pictures, and making them available on the internet for you and I to read.... for free. Here's a sampling from his latest, The Devil's Foyer:
Yes, "Goodnight, Goodnight," I kept waving to the [Iraqi] cops who were either diving in front of or away from the camera, and, as they left they waved and said, "Hello."

"Hello" in local dialect apparently means, "Hello; Goodbye; Thank you; You're welcome; I surrender; Do you want tea?" And so as they disappeared the cops each said, "Hello," and next, "Hello," and so on until all of them had melted into the darkness with their barnyard animals and new weapons. These cops had nailed the beheaders, rescued the woman, found this cache and left us to clean it up. No informed person can honestly say there is no progress in Mosul.

Most of the explosives were squirreled away in a room hidden under a filthy barnyard floor. The access point was a small square hole that opened into a room about half the size of a large semitruck. It was packed with munitions. Floor to ceiling packed. Wall to wall packed. To disassemble the room, soldiers removed bombs just to stand on other bombs, so they could dig through stacks of bombs until finally reaching the floor. Then they duplicated this sequence, to create space for two soldiers to work, and finally, there was room for three.

I came down, and there was Lt. Raub Nash sweating and grimy, working with one of his soldiers. CPT Paul Carron, the B Co commander, had just emerged and was covered in sweat, filth, and grime. The leaders here all share the dirty work.

There is much much more, including some pretty amazing photos. Make this one a regular stop, read through his previous postings (especially this one), you won't find reporting like this anywhere else. Hit his tip jar too, remember, this is a self-financed enterprise.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

London Bombings II

Yes, things have been slow around Freedom's Fidelity, been one of those very busy times at work..... anyway.

It seems details of today's London bombings are coming out much more slowly than those of 2 weeks ago. From what I can gather there were 4 explosions, three trains and one bus, just like the 7/7 attacks. However, this time around the damage was minimal. Apparently the explosive devices malfunctioned. Here's my conjecture (with some help from a radio personality: British intelligence was loosely on to these guys (terrorists) so, using an undercover agent they sold them a pile of play-doh disguised as some sort of plastic explosives. Not very sophisticated terrorists attach the detonators to the play-doh, drop it in their backpacks, get in position, yell "72 virgins here I come!" but only a firecracker like blasting cap goes off, essentially 'marking' the would-be bombers. The bombers are still alive and can be questioned, as well all the evidence that would have been blown up is still in one piece.

Maybe I've seen too many Bond movies, we'll see.

By the way, John Howard and Tony Blair were talking at press conference together today. They got the requisite dumb ass question of "is this bombing all your fault because of your policies in Iraq." Prime Minister Howard replied with a verbal bitch slap. Here is the transcript:
PRIME MIN. HOWARD: Could I start by saying the prime minister and I were having a discussion when we heard about it. My first reaction was to get some more information. And I really don't want to add to what the prime minister has said. It's a matter for the police and a matter for the British authorities to talk in detail about what has happened here.

Can I just say very directly, Paul, on the issue of the policies of my government and indeed the policies of the British and American governments on Iraq, that the first point of reference is that once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it's given the game away, to use the vernacular. And no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats, and no self-respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.

Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq.

And I remind you that the 11th of September occurred before the operation in Iraq.

Can I also remind you that the very first occasion that bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia's involvement in liberating the people of East Timor. Are people by implication suggesting we shouldn't have done that?

When a group claimed responsibility on the website for the attacks on the 7th of July, they talked about British policy not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Are people suggesting we shouldn't be in Afghanistan?

When Sergio de Mello was murdered in Iraq -- a brave man, a distinguished international diplomat, a person immensely respected for his work in the United Nations -- when al Qaeda gloated about that, they referred specifically to the role that de Mello had carried out in East Timor because he was the United Nations administrator in East Timor.

Now I don't know the mind of the terrorists. By definition, you can't put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber. I can only look at objective facts, and the objective facts are as I've cited. The objective evidence is that Australia was a terrorist target long before the operation in Iraq. And indeed, all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggests to me that this is about hatred of a way of life, this is about the perverted use of principles of the great world religion that, at its root, preaches peace and cooperation. And I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances rather than the abuse through a perverted ideology of people and their murder.

PRIME MIN. BLAIR: And I agree 100 percent with that. (Laughter.)


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Flypaper or Roach Breeding?

There has been some chatter that the bombings in London lay waste to the flypaper strategy and that rather than, on net, destroying terrorists, we are only breeding more of the roaches. Apparently, the assumption driving this line of thought is that a strategy whose results are short of perfection is a failure. That might be useful for scoring some partisan political points, but in reality, it is nothing more than an impossibly high (and useless) metric for success (not to mention what it says about our pre-9/11 policy of ignoring Islamic radicals). Newsflash! In a war the bad guys do shoot back, and as we like to say in the blogoshpere, the standard is not perfection, it's the alternative.

The question is then, what is the alternative, how do we quantify the effectiveness of our strategy at this point? Lets recognize that whenever an attack occurs on Western soil, the rhetoric can easily go both ways. Supporters of the war would use those attacks as evidence that we must fight back against a very determined and dangerous enemy, while opponents of the war will/are arguing that the London attacks represent proof that the prosecution of this war is a failure. What we are looking for is causation, which side of the above two arguments does the evidence support?

Wretchard discusses the one theoretically definitive way to answer this question:
The underlying idea is that Iraq is not Al Qaeda's unwanted 'second front' but its Fort Benning. The logical extension of the argument is that without Iraq Islamism would produce fewer or possibly less capable cadres. It's possible isn't it, Belton asks? So then how do we know which interpretation is correct. The definitive way to answer Belton's question would be to present numbers, a balance sheet so to speak, of that movement's assets and liabilities. It would be even better if we could construct some kind of 'income statement', which showed the delta in the movements value over a period. But I don't have that data and assert that in all probability, neither does Osama Bin Laden or any mortal man. It's hard enough to create an honest management information system for companies that deal in dollars and cents. The set of books which could answer Mr. Belton's valid question probably does not exist.

This is further complicated by the organizational changes Al-Qaeda has been forced through over the past few years. Rather than a top down hierarchal organization, it is now more of an ideology that franchises out to smaller cells. Who counts as Al-Qaeda? Do you want kill infidels? Are you willing to strap on a bomb vest and detonate it in a crowd of decadant Westerners? (Iraqi school children are legitimate substitute if Westerners cannot be reached.) If you answered yes to the above, and can find a couple of friends to go along with it, then you can call yourself an Al-Qaeda cell! That's pretty much how it is these days, which means these are numbers that are impossible to calculate, so we must do the next best thing and find a proxy variable. This is something that I have been thinking about and arguing for a couple of years now. We can debate the fine points of how this war has been prosecuted, but the fact is that there has been zero attacks on US soil since 9/11, something that was unfathomable on 9/12 and even 9/11/02. If the war has been prosecuted so miserably, how does one explain the lack of attacks at home, especially when we have been hearing promises that they will happen? I'm going to quote Wretchard at length here because what he says is not only important, but also a very thorough parsing of this question.
So we must do the next best thing. We must measure Al Qaeda's strength by the perturbation it creates; by the power it exercises; by the strength and capability it displays. Absent the books, we measure what we can measure by proxy. One way to do this is to create a column of countries: Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Indonesia, etc. and ask ourselves whether the fortunes of Islamism in general and Al Qaeda in particular have prospered in these places since September 11 and especially after OIF. My personal subjective judgment is that Islamism has weakened across the board in nearly all of these places even after OIF. If we consider the nearest thing to referendums on Al Qaeda (as a component of the general question) available in the Islamic world -- the Iraqi, Afghan and Lebanese elections -- it is safe to assert that they are not ringing endorsements of radical Islamism, but rather reflect its relative decline. Bin Laden was, until the London bombings, almost a forgotten man in comparison to his celebrity in 2001. The wisdom of the Western 'crowds' with respect to trends in the War on Terror was measured in the Australian, US and British elections. The proposition that Iraq was Islamism's Fort Benning, its recruiting station and training ground, was articulated with all the considerable fluency that its proponents could muster. Yet Howard, Bush and Blair were re-elected. If the proposition was true the electorate was not convinced.

From a technical point of view the London bombings, when compared to their counterparts in Iraq, the West Bank or Beirut, have the look of marked poverty. The quantity of explosives employed was in the tens of kilos max. This is far less than the Canary Wharf bomb employed by the IRA which was rated at 500 kg. For that matter, it was much less powerful that Timothy McVeigh's device at Oklahoma city. It was nothing compared to what blew Hariri sky-high in Beirut. The weapon of choice in Iraq, the trademark of Zaraqawi, is the car bomb. If we had seen a car bomb used in London, then we might say, 'aha! An Iraqi insurgent has come to mentor the British Al Qaeda cell'. That might still be true; but there is no obvious way one can get from Iraq to the London operation. Occam's Razor urges a simpler conclusion: that Al Qaeda's British minions either didn't have enough explosive to do worse or they didn't have the know-how to assemble a bigger bomb. It might still be argued that Al Qaeda is 'holding back' -- that it "reserved its best operatives for attacks against Europe and the United States while sending its foot soldiers into the trenches in Iraq" -- toying with the West really, teasing it with these tiny little bombs when it was capable of much more. Mark Steyn in the Telegraph argued that this self-restraint theory made no sense. The London attack was as deadly as Al Qaeda could make it. They would have blown up 30 trains if they had the means. Certainly it was not the milk of human kindness that stayed their hand.

...The inevitable question then is 'why could Bin Laden not find the means to attack 30 trains?' The answer it seems to me, must be Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa and hundred other places where he is engaged without quarter by US forces. Resources, whether Jihadi or no are not infinite. They do not have some magical machine that allows them to be everywhere at once, to sustain losses yet grow. There's no free lunch, not even, and especially not for Bin Laden. If it were true that Islamism would shrivel faster were it pursued more passively, then pre-911 policy should have finished it by now. But what we empirically observe is that ignoring them allowed them to mount 911-scale attack. Hit them continuously and in four years they could scrape together enough to blow up a London bus and some subway trains.

I realize that this is not the unassailable proof that Patrick Belton seeks. I cannot provide that. But the practice of engaging an enemy on one front to weaken him on another has been tested from antiquity and is more natural than the alternative. The idea that fighting the enemy makes him stronger everywhere is a curious one and I've often wondered about the battlefield arithmetic that would make it possible. There are many who accept without question the proposition that the US Armed forces are being 'bled dry' in Iraq; that it has become over extended. They would accept, without reservation, the idea that using the US Army in Iraq would weaken it with respect to Korea. One Swedish researcher kept writing to me privately, 'proving' from all kinds of weird arithmetic that the USMC had been annihilated in Fallujah. Yet the very same persons will vehemently reject the idea that Al Qaeda can also be spread thin; that its cadres are subject to death as wastage; it is as if one set of natural laws operated for the Jihad and another for the blundering Americans. But mental honesty will compel us to accept that this can't be true: that the sun rises and sets on one man as for another: that if we thought about it really hard, everyone who lives peacefully in a Western city owes it to the men out on patrol tonight

So true. We want you on those walls. We need you on those walls.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Weekend Reading

My thoughts and condolences are with you, Britain.

Lots of interesting London related stuff in the blogosphere today. Here's some stuff that I read:

One of the most valuable post 9/11 thinkers out there, Lee Harris, has some somewhat chilling thoughts on how this conflict should be characterized. Here he makes the case that we are in a blood feud.

Christopher Hitchens, our favorite lefty cantankerous contrarian is always worth the read.

The Moderate Voice looks at some war criticisms, where you'll also find this link, Defective Flypaper?

Harry's Place posts a reply letter he wrote to a friend in London, it is a MUST READ.

And of course, OF COURSE, Wretchard at the Belmont Club is an everyday required reading. Start with this one then just keep scrolling.

And I'll end with this from Jeff Goldstein:

update 19 Atrios, Pandagon, Kos, and - more disturbingly, if it proves predictive of how the Democratic leadership will respond - at least one Democratic congresswoman I'm aware of, are all suggesting that today's London bombings prove that the "flypaper theory" is demonstrably false, this despite the documented fact of thousands upon thousands of jihadis pouring into Iraq each month, where many of them will be killed.

Which, for a group of people who claim to be so nuanced, things really are quite black and white in the reality-based community: if we can't take down every dictator simultaneously, we shouldn't take down even one; if a terror attack happens outside of Iraq, the thousands of terrorists we're killing inside Iraq are no longer part of the equation.

It is infantile to expect every terror attack outside of Iraq can be stopped; and it is ridiculous to extrapolate from a single terror attack the lesson that somehow our entire longterm strategy for defeating Islamic terrorism is faulty. Doing so just serves the terrorist's interests by showing them that such tactics could well weaken our commitment to an overall war strategy of spreading the seeds of democracy throughout the mideast. (Thanks to Allah for the heads up).

Call to the Carnival of the Capitalists

This week I have no special insights to offer, instead I am asking for your help. I'm hoping to leverage some of the collective knowledge of the blogosphere in general and the Carnival of the Capitalists in particular. I and some work colleagues are putting together a presentation on the coming GIPS (Global Investment Performance Standards) Gold standard. GIPS, in short, is a set of standards for investment managers to report their performance in a manner that 'ensures fairness and comparability.' For my part, I am looking for information on the pros and cons of this (i.e. opportunity cost of implementation vs. value added for compliance) as well as perhaps looking to any issues the UK - who by law is now GIPS compliant - experienced in the process. As well, some analysis of how new regulation (in this case self-regulation) will effect the market.

If any of you have opinions on this or have seen any articles/blog posts on the subject please leave a link or let me know your thoughts in the comments.

All thoughts, musings, links are greatly appreciated!

Thank You.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London Bombings

The power of blogs is truly amazing. I get into work today about 7:30 am central. I see an email from our London office regarding the bombings there(!) Huh, what bombings?!? I quickly hit the Chicago Tribune's site where I saw a few articles. Then I realize, 'what the hell am I doing?' I bet Instapundit has a link-filled multiply updated post already, and I bet he has several links to eye-witness accounts as well as some analysis that goes beyond the fluff. True enough.

UPDATE: As usual, worthwhile thoughts from Wretchard:
These coordinated attacks are, technically speaking, at far higher level of sophistication than the Madrid attacks of 3/11 which involved a single train. The attack on London was a "time on target" attack which required simultaneity so that one incident did not compromise the subsequent. By implication the personnel involved received some degree of training and planned the operation in sufficient secrecy to prevent British security services from getting wind of it. The six attacks probably mean that a minimum of forty persons were involved, if those in support roles are included. The attackers must have an egress plan or access to safe houses where they can weather the inevitable crackdown.

Insular Britain, which fought a long terrorist war against the IRA is one of the hardest targets in the Western world. There is no reason, in principle, why similar attacks cannot happen on a larger or deadlier scale in some American or Australian city, less prepared than London -- or indeed anyplace in the world -- such as Thailand, India or the Philippines -- where they have happened already. As long as Islamic fundamentalist terror exists danger will exist. Liberals may believe that accommodation, appeasement or flattery can change this correspondence. But terrorism will remind the world as often as it needs reminding that there isn't room enough on the planet for Islamic terror and civilization.

Personally, I think this is a bad strategic decision by Al-Qaeda. Just as the Western World is beginning to get weary of war, and just after Britain announces (based on some contingencies and at least a year away) a troop withdrawal in Iraq, the terrorists send an awfully sobering reminder that they are still out there willing to slaughter innocent civilians.... anywhere in the world. Point taken.

Another thought I wonder if the British will thank the Spanish for cow-towing to the demands of mass transit suicide bombers and encouraging similar attacks elsewhere in Europe? If the Spanish responded with a big FU*K YOU instead of a big apology, would the bombing in London have happened today?

Another update: I certainly have no expectations that this will cause the British to appease as the Spanish did and the French do. Nice to get some confirmation from an LGF commenter:
Just a word. My sister was at Tavistock Square at the time of the explosions, and my daughter and nephew were also in central London. We had some anxious moments, the more so because the cell-phone system was down (probably due to overloading), but we've all spoken now by land-line and email and they're all safe and well.

For those of you who are anxious to know how the UK will react, we've been bombed for years by the IRA, and no-one spoke of quitting. Half of London and much of Coventry was flattened by the Luftwaffe a generation or two back, and no-one ran. Before that, in my grandparents' time, we were bombed by Zeppelins and didn't give in. We gave up appeasing after Czechoslovakia. There's no panic today, and there won't be, but we, all of us, are bloody angry. Al quaeda may think we're going to run up the white flag, but I promise you nobody else does.
The response out of London will be quite interesting.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Nancy Pelosi on Eminent Domain

(via InstaPundit) Maybe this shouldn't surprise me, but it does. Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives, and the first woman in American history to lead a majority party in the U.S. Congress.... doesn't quite get the whole concept of the Supreme Court and rulings and all that complicated government stuff.

This whole press conference is on the strange side of bizarre, but witness:

Q: Later this morning, many Members of the House Republican leadership, along with John Cornyn from the Senate, are holding a news conference on eminent domain, the decision of the Supreme Court the other day, and they are going to offer legislation that would restrict it, prohibiting federal funds from being used in such a manner.

Two questions: What was your reaction to the Supreme Court decision on this topic, and what do you think about legislation to, in the minds of opponents at least, remedy or changing it?

Ms. Pelosi: As a Member of Congress, and actually all of us and anyone who holds a public office in our country, we take an oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Very central to that in that Constitution is the separation of powers. I believe that whatever you think about a particular decision of the Supreme Court, and I certainly have been in disagreement with them on many occasions, it is not appropriate for the Congress to say we're going to withhold funds for the Court because we don't like a decision.

Stop. Okay, apparently Ms. Pelosi thinks that Congressional Republicans are planning to cut funding from the Supreme Court of the United States to avenge the Kelo decision. Hard to say if this reflects her reactionary stereotype that all Republicans are evil and would really stoop to such Constitution crippling levels, or if she truly believes that Congress has the power to cut funding to the Supreme Court and legislate one of the three branches of government right out of existence as if it were some social program. Neither conclusion is particularly flattering.

No worries though, the reporter apologizes to Ms. Pelosi for confusing her, clarifies, and re-asks the question in more accessible terms, we continue:
Q: Not on the Court, withhold funds from the eminent domain purchases that wouldn't involve public use. I apologize if I framed the question poorly. It wouldn't be withholding federal funds from the Court, but withhold Federal funds from eminent domain type purchases that are not just involved in public good.

Ms. Pelosi: Again, without focusing on the actual decision, just to say that when you withhold funds from enforcing a decision of the Supreme Court you are, in fact, nullifying a decision of the Supreme Court. This is in violation of the respect for separation of church -- powers in our Constitution, church and state as well. Sometimes the Republicans have a problem with that as well. But forgive my digression.

So the answer to your question is, I would oppose any legislation that says we would withhold funds for the enforcement of any decision of the Supreme Court no matter how opposed I am to that decision. And I'm not saying that I'm opposed to this decision, I'm just saying in general.

Q: Could you talk about this decision? What you think of it?

Ms. Pelosi: It is a decision of the Supreme Court. If Congress wants to change it, it will require legislation of a level of a constitutional amendment. So this is almost as if God has spoken. It's an elementary discussion now. They have made the decision.

Q: Do you think it is appropriate for municipalities to be able to use eminent domain to take land for economic development?

Ms. Pelosi: The Supreme Court has decided, knowing the particulars of this case, that that was appropriate, and so I would support that.

Wow. Hard to tell if the re-phrasing of the question helped or only sent her further down confusion lane.

Quick recap: the Kelo decision only means that the Supreme Court affirmed it is within the bounds of a 'public use' for a government to take property for economic development, there is no 'enforcement' angle in this at all. They are not Constitutionally required to take property. Pelosi also mistakenly asserts that it will take a Constitutional amendment to 'change it.' Well quick some tell John Cornyn! He just introduced a regular old bill, not an amendment, won't the joke be on him?!? No. Any state legislature can pass a law that they will not allow eminent domain takings for economic development, there is nothing unconstitutional about that. Amusing too, that she makes the reference about Republicans not being able to separate church and state, then a moments later refers to the Supreme Court ruling "as if God has spoken." Perhaps she could mine her staff and interns for a second year government student to explain to her how all this works? Or maybe, under the pretense of "quizzing them," she could just ask one of the high school students that surely will soon be coming through on their school's annual 'Washington trip.'

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Weekend Round-Up and a New Addition

Well, I had a pretty cool weekend. Enjoyed a lot of freinds I hadn't seen for a bit, spent some time at the Taste of Chicago, then walking around the city to one of our favorite places to eat/drink, the Green Door Tavern, then to our "summer home" for the 4th on Sunday night. I heard and saw fireworks pretty much non-stop. But it was Saturday at the Green Door that kind of stands out.

It was there that I ended up in a conversation with an Army nurse and her husband, who had served in Gulf War I. The girlfriend and I told how we send letters and care packages to soldiers through Soldier's Angels. He was impressed and said that it really does mean a lot to the soldiers especially the younger ones and especially their spouses. It was good to hear that as I have never received a letter in reply, which I completely understand of course - they are busy after all. But still, it's hard to keep sending letters of one sided-conversations and care packages, when you can't get it out of your mind that what you are sending just might be disappearing down the post-office black hole. I'm definitely going to make sure I keep it up.

Anyway, lets just call the guy 'T' since I don't know if I should or should not use his name, we talked for a few hours about a lot of things, and he is deploying to Baghdad in a few months. The guy is a real soldier, the kind of man that honestly makes me feel very small. His wife was understandably nervous about his deployment, but he wants to go, he really was excited about getting out there and helping the Iraqis build their country. He talked of all the good things that are going on over there and thought it was a shame that these young kids, doing all this work while risking their lives, weren't getting the proper credit/recognition. What else is new? It's a recurring theme, there is a considerable gulf between what our MSM newspapers report, and what is actually happening.

It got later and they had to take off, but not before I gave him my email address and the link to this site. If things work out as planned, he's going to send me some updates of what's going on with his division/troops/company (sorry, don't know the proper terminology) in Baghdad. So, it looks like Freedom's Fidelity will soon have its very own foreign correspondent in Iraq! How many does the New York Times have?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Iran's Phony Election

So Iran decided to appoint a dicta.. I mean president who was one one of the key figures in the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran. Charles Johnson has the pictures and some links.

While Tall Dave says congratulations are in order.

Let's all congratulate Iranian President-"elect" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his promotion. He’s gone from holding 52 people hostage to holding 68 million people hostage. Quite a step up.

Funny, true, and tragic. I guess Iran will be seeing much more of this.

Iraq: What's Really Going On?

Military blogger Greyhawk, has written a worthwhile series examining the differing lenses through which the war has been covered by different media and independent journalists. It's a well laid out 5 part series, and here is a key insight from Part I:

Another story from Arthur's collection:

Recent polling data shows that fully two-thirds of Iraqis believe their country is headed in the right direction, Saboon said. While a poll in January showed only 11 percent of Sunni Muslims in Iraq shared that view, that percentage has since grown to 40, he said.

Though Sunnis largely didn't participate in the Transitional National Assembly election Jan. 30, that outlook has changed as well in anticipation of coming elections. Saboon, who is a Sunni, said 92 percent of eligible voters throughout Iraq and 80 percent of the country's Sunnis are likely to vote in the next election.

Saboon told the group that Iraqi security forces now have the confidence of 83 percent of Iraq's population, that 70 percent are confident in the transitional Iraqi government, and that 73 percent believe the government is representative of the Iraqi population.

In contast, here's what America thinks, according to USA Today:

Nearly six in 10 Americans say the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq, a new Gallup Poll finds, the most downbeat view of the war since it began in 2003.

Let's assume (for sake of discussion) that both claims are true and accurate. If so, an obvious conclusion can be drawn: Those who live in Iraq have a decidedly different opinion than those who only know what they read in the papers and see on TV.

To further support Greyhawk's conclusion lets note that while recruiting for the military has fallen slightly below stated goals, retention rates have actually risen.

Finally here is my own little contribution, from a Chicago Tribune article I read on my 'el' ride in the other morning:
Though violence surrounds them, Iraqis list the lack of electricity as their No. 1 concern--though megawatt production is now higher than it was before the 2003 U.S. invasion, according to figures compiled by the Brookings Institution.

A lack of jobs and health care ran second and third in a recent poll. Personal safety was fourth.

Again we see the media selling the 'quagmire' meme (how can they be concerned about electricity when violence surrounds them?!?), while actual Iraqis seem to be concerned with more pedestrian issues of employment and healthcare. Omar, another voice inside Iraq, concurs:

It's visible to everyone that debates over the war in Iraq, war on terror, invasion or occupation or whatever you may name it are at peak levels right now.

The process is being questioned, criticized and discussed more profoundly than at any time in the last two years but you know what?

That's not happening in Iraq; you can find such discussions and accusations in America but you can't find them in Iraq.

Go read Greyhawk's 5 part series, it's chock full of interesting links and pieces of news, with much deeper detail and insight than anything coming from major newspapers. You don't have to take my word for it, he puts the reports head to head so you can decide for yourself.

Here's Part I again, follow that and you'll find the rest. That's your 4th of July homework.


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