Sunday, October 30, 2005


America - Behind the Curtain

Libby and American Political Justice

Like many other people, I was closely following the ‘Plamegate’ affair in America: the investigation, the indictment, the spinning, the speculation… and the anticipation.

It is only natural. Libby and the likes of him have devastated my already ruined country. Anything that exposes these people for what they are must bring some gratification.


I keep thinking back to other cover-ups and other indictments… and I find something common to most of them: they were not initiated by the great harm some of those villains did to innocent people around the world or even to Americans or to America. Those scandals blew up because those people attacked Establishments of the American System.

This may sound unfair, but please bear with me.

Nixon was brought down for doing something immoral and illegal against the Democratic Party. That was what started it and brought all those ugly worms out of the can. Yes, there was an avalanche of events and a lot of soul-searching in America. But what started it were not the crimes against humanity committed, but using the ‘government’ to spy on the other party. The original injured party that sparked the investigation was the Democratic Party.

This is so similar to the Plame affair. The fuss and the investigation and the indictment were originally about exposing a CIA operative. The CIA was the injured party.

The slow, but reliable judicial system in America will no doubt grind its way through the maze of secrecy, lies and deceit. Other nasty worms will probably come out… but we all should remember that what started it all was not the act of murdering innocent people… but the act of exposing one CIA operative.

I cannot help thinking that justice was done only because there were powerful bodies, inside America who wanted that justice to be done… and fought for it.

In millions of other case, no one defended the injured party… whether they were foreign nationals, Americans… or even America itself.

The fact remains that the act of ‘exposing’ Plame was performed to harm her husband who exposed one of the lies used to justify a war to the American people – a war in which people (many thousands of American and Iraqi people) were, and are still being killed and injured. But that is only a secondary issue, and may have to wait.

Plame is being avenged. So, who will defend all those suffering innocent people? And who will avenge all those dead people, Iraqi and American? This can only be done by the American people, not by the American political justice system. But why isn’t this happening now? Is America evil? Are Americans so insensitive? The answer is: no!

It has to do with a curtain that surrounds America.

Behind the Image Curtain

For decades, people were so fond of Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” description of the Soviet Union and its allies. There was a great deal of truth in that description. In the Soviet Union, as in all totalitarian systems, iron curtains were possible. When that Union collapsed, the curtain was hurriedly demolished.

In America, and in other democracies, iron curtains are not possible. Because of the vision and decency of those who originally designed the political system in America (perhaps even because of the nature of America itself) darkness and iron curtains are simply not possible. They are incompatible with the very concept of the system.

However, in America there is another curtain that is more difficult to demolish… because it is not ‘solid’.

Imagine a huge room full of light and noise, called the United States of America.
People in that room are free to come and go as they please. They are free to talk, to listen, to say yes or no. But they are not totally free to know.

The room is surrounded by huge, white velvet curtains. On those curtains are projected images of what goes on in America and in the rest of the world; a lively, noisy, entertaining world of images.

There are numerous screens projecting on those curtains. The numerous larger ones are all owned by only a few big corporations, and consequently follow the bidding of a handful of individuals. These screens project images of the real world and of reality that does not always reflect that reality truthfully. The images pass through a number of selective filters.

There are many other, smaller screens, but few people bother to watch them. They strain the eye, are usually full of unpleasant images and are generally thought to be less reliable.

There also numerous holes in those curtains. Anybody in America is absolutely free to have a peek at the real world through those holes. But not more than 10% of adult Americans actually do: scholars, academics, the inquisitive and the discontented. Some of those choose to or are paid to retain the filters they are accustomed to when having a look. For the bulk of the population, those holes are not even visible from the living room couch.

People are also free to come and go across those curtains. Few people bother. Some of those who do, take little projections of the screens they are used to with them.

Those who venture out without their little screens or filters and have a good look at the real world, come back in disgust and start yelling like madmen… but no one listens to madmen in that bustling room. They, as well as the people on the other side of that image curtain… remain unheard.

I sometimes find myself looking at some of the misery caused by American policies in the world and wondering: are Americans so evil to be so insensitive to the harm their country has done and is doing to innocent people? The answer is a definite no!

They simply cannot see the real world from behind that image curtain.

Modern day politicians in America have naturally taken to that wonderful system. Politics in America has now become mostly not about substance and view… but about ‘image’. This is probably why actors have been doing so well in politics.

The internet, an American invention, is bringing some change. It has introduced a few more holes in that curtain. But we have a long way to go. Most are still too small for people sitting on those couches. We will have to wait for those velvet curtains to have enough holes in them, to become more like lace curtains… for the other side to be seen from the couch.

It is only then that America and the rest of the world will live in the same world… hopefully in peace.


Circular and “Hello” Anon,

Your remarks on the previous post kept me thinking last night. I was actually following that scooting affair closely with a vague sense of unease.

I find Circular’s comment about the media image of sectarian Iraq and “Hello’s” comment regarding the Libby affair closely related. So, I left the Sistani article aside (I am sure His Holiness can wait) and posted this essay.

This blog is a tiny hole (perhaps even a microscopic one) in that curtain. To those who take the trouble to peek through that hole: I greet you!

As a reminder of the world behind that curtain, here is a little quote from what David Stout wrote in the New York Times:

"At first, the matter seemed like a tempest in a political teapot, driven by spite and revolving around the issue of whether anyone had violated an obscure federal statute that makes it illegal, under some circumstances, to unmask an undercover agent.

"If the charges announced today lead to a conviction or guilty plea, the episode will stand in Washington history as another example of a cover-up becoming more serious than the original wrongdoing."

Nothing, absolutely nothing about the much more serious original wrongdoing…


i really like the image of the projections on the curtains-sort of like a rear-view projection screen. However, I am not so sure that the Plame Affaire is just about Plame and Wilson getting "justice" - I really think it is about several things:
a) The CIA is VERY pissed off at several people- Rove, Cheney and pals come to mind
b) it is an effort by the juduciary to keep the Executive branch from driving us over a cliff- especially since Congress and the Mainstream press seem to be in some kind of induced stupor in teh back seat
c) and possibly- to be very cynical- and not too far off the mark- this is the gauze over the curtain- you know- the lighter curtain in front of the heavier one- which allows certain things to pass without comment or uproar and they are these:
- 2,000 US soldiers dead
- The interesting information that the US has been counting the Iraqi dead- ah- but just the ones killed by the insurgency- never mind the ones we killed - although I believe there is a list and some basic figures for that as well.
- The fact that major portions of the Patriot Act are up for review and will in all likelihood pass- wave good-bye as Civil Rights leave the building by the back door...
- The fact that a number of prisoners in teh Guantanamo Bay facilities are possibily entering their last days alive as hunger strikers- they may either die or "live on" as comatose bodies
- The growing call for regime change in Syria
- The possibility that the report on Syria's role in the Hariri assassination was cooked- after all, who else had something to gain from his death- just Syria? Oh, please.
-The utter and abysmal failure of FEMA to stand by New Orleans- and the discovery that some of us too, live in a Third World nation
- The fact that torture may be legislated as perfectly fine to use on our enemies including the phrase "The CIA will not engage in such activities outside the US." And after you all stop laughing- where else would they do this? Oversee third country "wetwork?" Or better yet, practice their skills at home. We're becoming more an more like Galtierri's Argentina every day..
- That Bush is trying to rescind the Posse Comitatis Act so that he can deploy the Army in the event " of an emergency." Interesting when you realize that EVERY CITIZEN has the right to bear arms and that after the Posse Comitatis Act goes- I doubt that right will exist for long.

We shall see what we shall see....

Dear Mr. Khaleel,
I was very moved by your post, I read it on the Daily Kos. I have started to read a great deal about the Plame Scandal since Judy Miller testified last month. Up until then I really didn't know any of the circumstances surrounding the lies our President told about Iraq. We still don't get any information about what is going on except for the elections.
I'd like to re-post comments here if I may, it's about a book I read in college which detailed the poverty and misery that existed in New York City slums, the tenements, until soon after the publication of this book.

My post on Daily Kos:

Thank you for that post. It reminds me of the classic book The Way the Other Half Lives by Jacob A. Riis. This too was a little hole in the velvet curtain, Mr Khaleel. When it was published in 1890, the country saw through this hole a world of human misery and suffering that shocked and embarassed.

Iraq today is our East Side Tenement, a proposition of commerce, convenience and absolute human misery existing in silence in the dark. From the book:

Their (the New York Aristocracy or the "Knickerbockers") comfortable dwellings in the once fashionable streets along the East River front fell into the hands of real-estate agents and boarding-house keepers; and here, says the report to the Legislature of 1857, when the evils engendered had excited just alarm, "in its beginning, the tenant-house became a real blessing to that class of industrious poor whose small earnings limited their expenses, and whose employment in workshops, stores, or about the warehouses and thoroughfares, render a near residence of much importance." Not for long, however. As business increased, and the city grew with rapid strides, the necessities of the poor became the opportunity of their wealthier neighbors, and the stamp was set upon the old houses, suddenly become valuable, which the best thought and effort of a later age has vainly struggled to efface. Their "large rooms were partitioned into several smaller ones, without regard to light or ventilation, the rate of rent being lower in proportion to space or height from the street; and they soon became filled from cellar to garret with a class of tenantry living from hand to mouth, loose in morals, improvident in habits, degraded, and squalid as beggary itself."

Mr. Khaleel is right, when the curtain is drawn back to reveal the misery, the misery will be ended. How many more days until the revelation? Katrina was an open curtain. Yet no murmurs since those 5 days that shocked us all. How many more days? How many more dead until the curtain shrouding Iraq in silence and darkness is drawn back? What means to open the window?

Circular says
Well I’m sorry if I "kept you thinking last night" Abu. You need all the rest you can get.
I’m also sorry but I got a bit lost in your analogy - too many curtains, too many images, too many holes. And now Cassandra’s gone and added another layer of gauze - I can’t find my way around.
Partly what you’re saying, it seems to me, is simply that when the SuperPower sneezes, everybody else gets sprayed with ...
Better not continue that analogy, it becomes disgusting, except to query your touching faith in the US Justice system, which as a handkerchief for the SuperNose seems awfully tattered these days?
Your curtains remind me of some past discussions on your Blog. There was the one about the very low proportion of Americans who own passports or have travelled the world. There was Princess Someone who hoped the boys could come home to enjoy "things American, like football and home cooking." (Some of us took exception to the implication that we poor furriners hadn’t mastered the controls on our stoves, and lived exclusively on takeout.) And there was Nadia’s story about her colleague who, hearing that she was going to London, asked whether she was driving or flying. Good times.
Could I suggest that it’s really nothing new? Hell, I can remember as a child in the Fiji Islands, over 50 years ago, going down to the wharves to watch the American tourists come off the early cruise ships - strange, loud, grumpy pot-bellied creatures in ridiculous gaudy clothes.
"Geez Hiram, get a shot of that old guy by the temple. He’s so picturesque." To us reserved British, they were like visitors from Mars.
On the other hand, my favourite reading at the time was Popular Mechanics, with its neat model aeroplane and boat plans.
Was that more-or-less what you were saying in your "US Mistakes in Iraq" Blogs? That Bremer’s loyal Republican naïfs came roaring into Iraq with a sort of Popular Mechanics, "can do" attitude acquired behind the curtains, and found that remaking a country that they knew nothing about wasn’t quite as simple as building a little outboard boat.
Especially when they didn’t even have any plans to work from.
And seem to have ended up with something that doesn't float.

Abu Khaleel, that was an excellent post!

I happen to share your views 100% on the way the Americans have been conditioned by their media. I used to use the image of an ‘echo chamber’ – a big empty room where the speaker’s voice is constantly reflected back at him. It seems to me that the US media reflects back US voices as being representative of other people in the world. In other words, we have Chalabi and Allawi (??!) speaking for Iraqis, prior to 2003. Yet, they were merely echoing the desires and scripts of their masters in the White House.

But I feel it goes further than that.

The undeniable economic success of their country and the principles that their country was founded on give them a sense of, I don’t know, “how can we possibly be in the wrong”, perhaps, which is ingrained into their bones. Couple this with the resonance of their intervention in World War 2 against the Nazis, and the image of America seems to glow. So much so, that it has been alluded to as the “Shining City on a Hill” (the phrase alluding to Biblical passages) an example of living to which everybody aspires to and is jealous of.

So we have a people with a sense of superiority (real or imagined – that’s not important right now) and with a sense of destiny, that believe themselves to be the custodians of human values and the norms of civilisation … whom we are trying to convince that they are in the wrong.

The first reaction is disbelief and ridicule.

Then when one lays the case out, they try and understand ME. But of course, this is through the filter of the abovementioned beliefs, so typically the reaction is: “You’re anti American because you’re just jealous that YOU aren’t living here. I wonder what shitty country you come from. Just don’t ask us to ever liberate you, y’hear.”

The ensuing argument will be long on the insults and short on facts, at least from their side. This kind of explains why so many Americans didn’t openly burst out laughing when Bush explained the root of terror against the US as being “because they hate our freedom.”

The media echo chamber or ‘curtain of light’, as you so aptly described it, reinforces these notions (not entirely incorrect, which makes it even harder to penetrate the veil that clouds their eyes) so that in their eyes, whatever atrocities have been committed are invariably due to individual aberrations (eg-abu ghraib), and whatever injustices have been set as policy must of course be temporary or necessary measures justifying the ultimate end.

Of course, exactly what the ultimate ends are, and how the means are justified in this regard, they are usually a little vague in describing.

They will, however, strongly disagree that the US killing thousands of Iraqis is in any way comparable to Saddam killing thousands of Iraqis.

abu khaleel,

Do corporations control public attention and debate? My answer: No, for the most part.

Demonstration: For many years, the news departments of major TV networks were systematically left of center, and anti-business. (It's probably still true, but I don't watch them often enough to be sure.) If a news story was about a large US corporation, dollars to doughnuts it was a story about pollution, the combination of layoffs of employees with soaring profits, raising prices, corporate executives being prosecuted, and the like.

Even more impressive were the NON-news programs. Every so often, a dramatic series would have an episode in which a business or corporation would play a part. Invariably, the corporation was involved in doing something wrong. Pollution was a favorite. What was really bizarre was that, in series involving crime, the original business misdeed might itself be criminal, but then the business often would use violence--usually murder--to cover up the original misdeed. Just to be clear about this, I cannot remember only one REAL case in which a US corporation has even been ACCUSED of violence of this sort: There were unconvincing claims in the 1970s or 1980s that a US corporation poisoned with plutonium a woman employee who was accusing it of violating safety standards in the handling of plutonium.

Why would major American corporations attack other major American corporations in such a way as to damage the long term reputation of American business? I think it is part of the US business focus on SHORT-TERM profits. Scandal sells. Note that, traditionally, each network news department has been very reluctant to do stories that attack its own network.

The network journalists also seem to be more liberal (i.e. leftist) than average Americans. Leslie Stahl of CBS TV appeared to be on the verge of tears as she announced Reagan's huge majorities in the Mountain states on election night 1980. A poll of network news producers--the people who provide the resources to research and film particular stories--indicated that they heavily favored McGovern over Nixon in 1972. (The public voted for Nixon by one of the largest percentages in history.) The Left in American politics has traditionally been suspicious of, or hostile to, business.

I have been considerably frustrated to see that most people are more interested in spectator sports than in what is going on in Iraq or Afghanistan. The doings of the Boston Red Sox baseball team are the subject of more conversation in Massachusetts than all foreign affairs put together. I'm sure that some people will claim that this is the result of corporate manipulation and advertising. It is not. The corporations are simply making money by following popular taste. Similar corporations have been trying for 40 years to build soccer (what the rest of the world calls "football"). The rest of the world shows what is commercially possible with soccer. The only reason it is making a slow penetration as a US spectator sport is American taste. And that is not so easy to mold.

There are enormous resources available for those who want details about current events. In addition to the major broadcast media, there are the leading newspapers, such as the New York Times. There are three major news magazines: Newsweek, Time, and US News and World Report. The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Harpers often run lengthy stories on some public matter. There are the political opinion journals, such as New Republic, Nation, and National Review. There are specialist publication, such as Foreign Affairs.

To sum up, the primary cause of the inattention of the US public to many important aspects of current affairs is its INTRINSIC lack of interest.

So, if you notice some mistakes that seem obvious and a degree of gullibility, I'm not too surprised.

I don't want to go too far along this line.

Churchill was right, about democracy being a terrible system, but all the others being worse. When Saddam invaded Iran and Kuwait, he took Iraq with him. When he knew that he had no WMD and took half measures to cooperate with UN inspectors and prepared for underground resistance, Iraq made this same loony set of decisions, too, although it was unaware of it.

US democracy has also done quite well by comparison to the other established democracies during the last century. France has had the 3rd, 4th, and 5th republics during that period. The 4th republic was overthrown with military assistance as recently as 1957. France, however, have been one of the democracies most willing to take the initiative on behalf of Western policy, especially in their former African colonies. I will just state my conclusions that the US was the main force against communism outside Europe during the Cold War and that the collapse of communism was not inevitable, but, rather, PARTLY reflected the resistance that it faced.

Michael in Framingham

For many years now I have been angry at what I have seen the US doing in the world.

Its foreign policy undermining many nations democratically elected governments only to install those who would do its bidding and in the process thousands of ordinary people get killed.

My rage has been doubled by the same actions in both Iraq and Afghanstian - where the people of these nations remain facless and nameless in the western or should that be the amerikinized mind as somehow less than themeslves.

Was the CIA involved in the Syrian killing, its got their historic MO all over it. Who profits by his death? could it be American intersts?

The greatest nation on the face of the earth - I don't think so, the US is only one nation amongs many, and one culutre amongs thousdands, and one people amongst millions. Something that as a culutre and as a people they have yet to learn en mass.

My heart goes out to all the people who have had their lives terrorised by the Americans and who have been killed and had their families ripped appart by the trigger happy, WMD toting cowboys (basically scared little boys) they call the US military.

yes the illusionary reality of the US is a series of obsence images projected onto the white curtains of delusion - keeping the people enslaved in their own dogmatic we are the best culture.

And your right, this entire court case is about one of their own, not about the people of Iraq dying under contaminated and radiated yet clever use of recyling nuclear waste or dying because of an illegal invasion. Its not even about all the crimes against humanity that these 'men' have committed in their rush to covert thy neigbours property

However the illegality of this US waged terrorism will ...well...(hopefully) come out and may be at the bottom of the entire court case.

I would like to think, that the deaths of all those in Iraq are the motavating factor for many millions of us the world over who are watching with bated breath the outcome of what appears to be on the surface the outting of a CIA agent

however, deeper down, underneath the illusion of deciet and betrayal lies the dark truth that gave an eronous legitimacy to the american people to go to war with a massively improvised country that had done nothing at all to anyone in the entire US.

The deaths of everyone involved in this terrorism is the motavating force - I would like to think - behind the Plame case.

Meaning - behind our visons and prayers for justice lie the bodies of all who have fallen in the deciet lies coruption betrayal and treason, of what is argubaly the most despised and corrupt nation on the face of the earth.

One that has yet to learn that it is
neither the world, or the superior race/force (hmm akin to hitler there) but a bully that lies and cheats to get its own way and would and has, walked over thousands of dead women children and men, to 'covert their neigbhours property' Its already happened.

From time spent outside the country, I discovered how little we Americans knew about our country and what it does. America stopped an airline from South America from landing in Miami, because the other country did not want its national airline's fares undercut by American carriers in some stupid price war. So, of course, America prohibited their flights from our country even though they were cheaper for Americans travelling in their country. (Sure the government does all this so WE get cheap goods...if anyone believes that, I've got a swell bridge for sale).

In any event, when I read today's blog, I thought about all the bad that has been done, that we don't know about...and all the lies that our government has told us and that we have told to ourselves. Some of us have even begun to believe that there are those who hate us for absolutely no reason...I don't speak to too many of those, but I do know that they exist. In 2000, I was so concerned about Bush winning. I knew what kind of person he was, or at least I thought that I did and I am pretty informed. Then I began to read in ernest. This family is horrifying. They are criminals with good suits (and bad taste). They believe that it is their right to loot this country. I am so appalled.

Please go to this website: and read about Harari...its in an article about the White House. Please make sure that someone pulls the truth out of the pile of dung piled on it.

Abu Khaleel:

I take great offense at your “image curtain” metaphor. It essentially infantilizes all those Americans that disagree with your political views. You, the man who has provided outsiders with such vivid examples of the complexities and inconsistencies of Iraqi society (which I for one greatly appreciate), should expect that the U.S., with its tenfold larger population, is at least equally complex.

Further, as you should be ware, there is a broad range of public opinion in the U.S. on the advisability of the Iraq invasion as well as the efficacy of the subsequent occupation. Moreover, public opinion here has shifted strongly against the Iraq war as well as against Bush's administration in the past two years. This is hardly consistent with your theory that little information has penetrated through the pro-war "image curtain" encircling the American public.

Could you please consider for a moment how insulting it is to have your country reduced by an outsider to a simplistic metaphor? Had I made the types of broad generalizations about Iraqis, particularly, such unflattering ones, I am quite certain that you would be upset.

Further, you must certainly agree that there are Iraqis, who are equally as informed as you, but who hold different political views. Such differences in opinion, in my view, are probably not based on anyone's ignorance of any fact or of history, but on the different relative weights individuals assign to religious, political and economic values.

In my line or work, where conflict is a frequent occurrence, one rapidly becomes aware that two bitter adversaries in a dispute may simultaneously and sincerely believe in the righteousness of their cause. In most cases, such adversaries come to those positions by simply viewing the facts in the light most favorable to their own interests. To do so is simply part of the human condition. Other times, disputes arise from the adversaries’ application of their differing value systems to an undisputed set of facts. In any event, there is no need to resort to ascribing ignorance, laziness or ill-intent to those segments of the American public who see things differently than you.

I hope that all is well with you and yours.



Michael, Mark, thank you for your spirited counter arguments / contributions to the discussion.

All things considered, I would probably lean more to Michael’s side of the explanation : “To sum up, the primary cause of the inattention of the US public to many important aspects of current affairs is its INTRINSIC lack of interest.”

Certainly Americans are largely self absorbed; nothing necessarily wrong with that, since many nations, my own included, follow similar trends.

On the other hand, this does explain the ignorance that the average American seems to have about affairs outside his borders.

And Mark, I’m sorry, but in my experience this IS the case, with a couple of intelligent individuals excluded. For example, I took a trip to and engaged in a little discussion with the fellows that hang out there. Strategypage is typically quoted as some sort of ‘authority’ on the situation in Iraq, yet quite honestly I took the lot of them to the cleaners. They were simply unaware of basic differences on the ground that are actually huge – for example – the difference between the Sadrists and SCIRI. Some guy claimed to have a doctorate in ME studies, but he seemed to be more than a little on the shaky side when it came to facts. (Frankly, I don’t believe him.)

(I have since been unable to logon, and suspect that the ol’ ‘ban’ button was deployed as the ultimate argument – stopper.)

My point is, if this is the “informed” American, then geez, what about the rest?

Back to the media angle.

Michael claims that logically, big corporations would not necessarily discredit each other, and yet the fact that stories on pollution by such corporations are run means that the media is not controlled. Um. Yes and no.

From an ultra cynical point of view, I postulate that one’s country going to war makes better news and garners more viewers than a baseball game. (I could of course be wrong.)

Secondly, it is a fact that this US administration in particular makes a point to control access to press releases on the basis of the coverage it receives from individual broadcasters / newspeople. This attitude cannot but help promote views that are sympathetic to the neocon outlook.

Thirdly, some of the big players in the media game are unabashed war supporters. I’m thinking of people like Murdoch here. This can’t help but to promote a certain outlook.

Fourth - Check out this extract from a Juan Cole interview:

The treasure, the strongbox and the crowbar - 19oct 2005
Tom Engelhardt interviews Juan Cole

“ TD: About the president's most recent global terror speech you wrote, "Mr. Bush, I don't recognize the world you paint." Could you start by laying out for us what's missing from our picture of Iraq - not just Bush's picture, but the mainstream media's?

“It's not just from Iraq. It's our picture of the world. The United States is a peculiarly insular society. Most people here haven't traveled very much and our mass media, all television news of any significance, is controlled by about five corporations. We have a tradition in the State Department and our press corps of preferring generalists and being suspicious of deep expertise as a form of bias. So a journalist covering Iraq, who knows the Middle East well and knows Arabic, might well be seen as someone too entangled with the region to be objective. The American way of ensuring objectivity is to parachute generalists into a situation and have them depend on local informants. The whole theory of it is wrong. The BBC, for example, wouldn't dream of having most of its Middle Eastern coverage done by people who don't know Arabic.

Basically, the public is informed about things like the Middle East by generalist journalists who were in Southeast Asia or Russia last year, and by politicians and bureaucrats who were dealing with some other region last week. And then there's official Washington spin, and the punditocracy, the professional commentators, mainly in New York and Washington, who comment about the Middle East without necessarily knowing anything serious about it. Anybody who's lived in parts of the world under the microscope in Washington is usually astonished at how we represent them. You end up with an extremely persistent set of images that almost no actual information is able to make a dent in” // end excerpt

Alright, so Mark certainly has a point when he mentions opinion shifting against the war as indicative that there is not a monopoly on information.

But Abu Khaleel never claimed a monopoly.

The fact that it has taken 3 years for US public opinion to shift against this war, which in my mind was hopelessly naïve and deceitful to start off with, shows just how strong this mindset is. And it is not a big majority – it is about 55 % who feel it was not worth it. 55 % ?? After 3 years of (supposedly) hearing about the corruption of the US companies in Iraq, of (supposedly) hearing about the blood splattered consequences to the Iraqi population, of (supposedly) hearing about the multiply layered lies that led to this war, after seeing the limbless and traumatised US soldiers return from Iraq … I’d say that the ‘curtain of light’ is pretty damn strong, if 45% of the populace still think it was a bright idea.

Oh, and one must talk to these people to actually get an idea WHY their opinions are changing. Not because they disagree with the lies, profiteering and Iraqi trauma.

It is the ever increasing tally of US dead and maimed that has caused this opinion shift.

One individual, in between various creative insults (my father left the best part of me between the butt cheeks of a camel etc …) eventually came out with it that he thought that:

[jack burton] “The entire fate of the muslim arab world is not worth the life of one US soldier. Not one. I think we should pull all troops out in total, close our borders to all from the middle east and let you turds fight it out.” // end quote

Interestingly, and strangely enough for this discussion, he also had the idea that his news had been filtered for him, and that the internet was a very useful tool with which to see reality:

[jack burton] “Our news was filtered by the likes of Dan Rather, so where the truth was savagery, we were shown misunderstanding of cultures. Not anymore my friends. Thanks to the internet, we get real time updates of the actions of the populace of the middle east, their true intentions, and the prism which they view life through courtesy of Bruno and the like. Don't tell me what I should think of them, because I already know what I do think of them.” //end quote – extract from the ‘warriorsvoice’ blog.

Gee, and I tried hard to be NICE to them.

I think that Mark hit the nail with this remark:

“In most cases, such adversaries come to those positions by simply viewing the facts in the light most favorable to their own interests. To do so is simply part of the human condition.”

In any case, and to conclude, the reality is that the media also helps frame the standpoint of the ‘human condition’ of which Mark speaks about. The question is – how LARGE a role does it play?

Btw, I don’t think Abu K was being insulting. I think he was making a genuine attempt to understand why there is such a large disconnect between his reality and the beliefs of the American public.

If one were to assume that the US public were in FULL possession of the facts and UNDERSTOOD them completely, I would have to come to the conclusion that you were evil inhuman scum … from MY standpoint! I don’t come to this conclusion, because it is very difficult (impossible?) to achieve understanding in a matter simply by watching newscasts.

That’s assuming, of course, that the majority of Americans WANT to achieve deep understanding in the matter in the first place … and I suspect that quite simply, they don’t care.


Please consider that Juan Cole is upset that he and his buddies in the ME studies programs are being bypassed for highly prestigious jobs (resume builders) by the hated generalists he references. This certainly colors his view of their competence. On the other hand, he is certainly correct to point out that Arabic language skills would sure come in handy for anyone that wishes to work in Iraq.

Frankly, given that many American's were still traumatized by 9/11 in April of 2003 and that those emotions were manipulated to build sky-high support for the Iraq invasion, I suggest that a two year turn around in public opinion illustrates very efficient media information delivery. As to the 45 percent, there will always be differences of opinion in this country for the reasons I discussed in my posts above.

Frankly, you and Abu Khaleel are on to something with regard to partisanship of the U.S. press. As I explained before, I am a political moderate. I have family members and friends at the political poles and have noticed that they tend to rely largely on the most partisan sources for their news, the conservatives on FOX (the Murdoch network) and the liberals on NPR (publically funded radio). When I have the time, I consume foreign and domestic media from a variety of sources and tend to compare and constrast coverage of the same events. This makes me a "news junky" and places me in a tiny minority.

As I live in the U.S., I can assure you that finding press reports with a positive slant on curent events in Iraq is a challenge. However, American press reports are slightly more positive than the relentlessly negative ones that I see from the international press.

As to the incompetence of the Iraq occupation, perhaps you and Abu Khaleel would be interested in the new book on the subject, The Assassins' Gate. A review of it by Fareed Zakaria can be found at .


"Please consider that Juan Cole is upset that he and his buddies in the ME studies programs are being bypassed for highly prestigious jobs ... by the hated generalists he references."
Juan Cole seems to get things wrong from time to time, but he is a Professor of History who does indeed speak and read Arabic. I can remember nothing from any of his postings which suggests that he wishes to leave academia for a presumably more lucrative policy position.
This seems to me to be a blatant example of an "ad hominen" statement, where one attacks the person rather than their argument. Such statements have their place in Junior High School or comedy debates, but not in serious discussion. Why do you descend to this level?
Are you referencing the Fareed Zakaria review of Assassin’s Gate with approval or disapproval? Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to be a summary of everything Abu Kahleel has been saying for many months now about why it has all gone so wrong in Iraq? If you agree with the general tone of the review, I can’t see how you can take offence at Abu’s "curtained room" metaphor. As I understand it, the whole point of the metaphor is that whatever sources of liberal or objective news may exist in America, they are somehow not getting through to the ignorant proletariat who form the far right’s electoral power base. This is surely America’s current tragedy - it’s not what you say, but how loudly you say it, that matters at present.

Mark, first of all, thank you for the link.

I believe that you will find it *quite* interesting as well, Abu Khaleel.

Secondly, congratulations on your fleetness of foot at dodging the um … rhetorical bricks tossed in your general direction. It’s a refreshing change from the usual rent-a-chumps.


[mark] “Please consider that Juan Cole is upset that he and his buddies in the ME studies programs are being bypassed …”

Yes – possibly you are right - but is he WRONG?

Let’s take a look at your statement:

[mark] “Frankly, given that many American's were still traumatized by 9/11 in April of 2003 and that those emotions were manipulated to build sky-high support for the Iraq invasion, I suggest that a two year turn around in public opinion illustrates very efficient media information delivery.”

Well, that’s more like 3 years, but that’s besides the point.

The point is the complete ease with which the US public was manipulated, through the media, into a completely senseless war that even a moron could see was going to open up a whole new can of worms – (Even I predicted fully many of the events currently unfolding in Iraq, to the derision of the pumped-up war fans before this war) – all this based on total lies and distortions that could, AT THE TIME, be debunked through a little curiosity and an internet connection.

The gullibility of the US public and the lap dog acquiescence of the US press to the BS that was peddled as policy is what was scary. And the persistence value of this BS is also scary … it says interesting things about how the average American either receives or deals with information.

Halfway through 2004, the stats on the US public perceptions were more than a little disquieting:

US Majority Still Believe in Iraq's WMD, al-Qaeda Ties
by Jim Lobe - April 22, 2004 by Inter Press Service

“Among the 57 percent of respondents who said they believed Iraq was either ''directly involved'' in carrying out the 9/11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon or had provided ''substantial support'' to al-Qaeda, 57 percent said they intended to vote for Bush and 39 percent said they would choose his Democratic foe, John Kerry.
Similarly, the percentages of those who believe Iraq provided ''substantial support'' to al-Qaeda (37 percent) and those who believe contacts were minimal (29 percent) are also virtually unchanged from 13 months before. As of March 2004, 11 percent said there was ''no connection at all'', up four percent from February 2003.
As to WMD, about which there has been significantly more media coverage, 60 percent of respondents said Iraq either had actual WMD (38 percent) or had a major program'' for developing them (22 percent).
In another misperception, 59 percent of the public believed that world public opinion either favored Washington going to war (21 percent) or believed that global views were ''evenly balanced'' (38 percent). Only 41 percent appeared aware that a majority of world public opinion opposed the U.S.-led war.” //end excerpt *

(* I’m aware that this poll is dated … it would be interesting to see what trends are right now, though.)

Surely the casus belli on which the entire war was based on are of prime importance to a (supposedly) interested and (supposedly) involved public? Yet the scary thing is that after several very important people made public statements on the non existence of Al Qaeda links or WMD programs / stocks – substantial amounts of the US public continued to believe in faerie tales. Even now one can easily get into arguments about Saddam’s links to bin Laden.

To be fair, the PIPA report did indeed indicate that trends of belief in the US followed partisan voting patterns, so partisan media bias DOES seem to exist. And I suppose that this ties into the news selection patterns of individual people as well – with the one reinforcing the other.

But again, the truth was out there for people to find … if they wanted to.

I suspect that until the coffins started rolling in, people there just didn’t care.

Now THAT worries me, the implication being that the US government can do pretty much what it wants overseas, as long as there are no repercussions for people back in the USA.


I have always regarded you as a sensible person who tries to put forward a rational argument. I certainly would place you within that 10% elite group :) However…

I was surprised that you took offense to my metaphors. Bruno is right. I assure you that no offence was intended. Can you be more specific and point the offending passages in my essay?

There is nothing simplistic about the model I presented. It left a man-of the-world like Circular dizzy to the extent that he couldn’t find his way around.

I did not address political viewpoints or complexities within America. The curtain model I described was the one between America as a whole and the rest of the world.

Now please look at the other side of the coin. My view of the curtains of light I hope has not done much damage to America!

Consider, on the other hand, the rather more simplistic view of my country: A country that is more than 30 times older has been reduced to just 3 words: Kurd, Sunni and Shiite!

This view is portrayed by most of the media outlets, it has affected the way many millions of people view my country… it is even affecting the way many of my compatriots are viewing their country.

What is worse is that this flat and simplistic view is also held but by US administration policy makers. They used this naïve view to design the ‘democratic’ political system that has caused so much damage, even devastation to mine… a damage that may last for generations!

"Glimpses of Political America"

A friend of mine grew up in Maine in the 1950s. Americans think of the poorest states as being in the Deep South, such as Alabama and Mississippi. In the early 1980s, however, two New England states, Maine and Rhode Island, were in the bottom five states per capita disposable income (AFTER taking account of local cost of living and taxes). His family's farm had no electricity. When he was about 10, electrical service was extended down the road to include his farm, but it was the last on the road to receive service at that time; farms farther down the road continued to be without electricity. The ultimate source of political power in New England towns traditionally has been the annual town meeting which all residents can attend and vote. Direct, not representative, democracy. He said that there wasn't much to do at night in those days, so turnout at Town Meetings ran around 80%. It was quite a social occasion.

I attended a town meeting only once, about 1984. I was living in suburb of Boston that still had the strict traditional Town Meeting. I think the population of the town was around 25,000. There were several hundred people in attendance. After one neighborhood group obtained what they wanted, they left, halving attendance.

Framingham contends with Brookline for the title of largest town in America, that is, that uses a Town Meeting. Framingham has 65,000 residents and an "elected Town Meeting." Two hundred or so members are elected from small districts to make up the Town Meeting. Other residents can attend, and, I think, speak, but NOT vote. (I've never attended.)

New England Town Meetings were the subject of a rueful statement by President Thomas Jefferson when he was engaged in the Embargo on all foreign trade, during the early 1800s. That ruined commerce in much of New England and Town Meetings all over New England were passing furious resolutions against it. I think many Town Meetings eventually passed resolutions against the Vietnam War. I know that there are efforts to obtain resolutions against the war in Iraq. Of course, under the Constitution, foreign policy is reserved to the Federal Government and state and local governments have zero authority in the field.

When cable TV began to grow, the cable TV channels joined together to form a public-service channel called CSPAN. I don't think anyone then regarded it as a source of profit. They restricted themselves to low cost shows, mostly from Washington. They would put a camera in Congressional hearings and at symposiums held by think tanks like The Brookings Institute (Left) and American Enterprise Institute (Right). They would have long interviews with public officials. They had a camera in the House of Representatives chamber where Representatives could address the camera after hours in an empty house--low on drama, but Republicans discovered that it was an inexpensive way to reach part of the public. CSPAN was part of "basic" cable subscriptions--the minimum group of cable channels that one could subscribe to, no extra cost for CSPAN. Decades passed and CSPAN became popular, so popular that some cable companies moved it from the basic subscription up a notch to a premium package that was more expensive. This proves that detailed public affairs information sells! One must realize, however, that broadcast TV is a mass medium. Cable TV has the capability for niche programming. Undoubtedly, the success of CSPAN reflects the hunger of the American public--BUT ONLY a minority segment of it--for information.

I lived in Denmark for a year. I was impressed by how much the average Dane knew about American events and politics. When I returned to the US, I kept my ears open for news about Denmark. For years at a time, I would hear nothing about which party was in power, unless I went looking for the information. Even now, I know that a Center-Right coalition that backs the Iraq War is in power, but I can't remember the PM's name.

Most US and British entertainment TV shows were not dubbed, but subtitled. This was useful as I did not speak Danish. I noticed that the US series that were chosen, and what friends translated from the TV news, seemed slanted toward negative things about the US. Talk about a curtain! There was only ONE Danish TV channel and IT was government owned. In Copenhagen, one could pick up one or two Swedish channels and those with the proper attenna could pick up one or more West German channels.

Michael in Framingham

Americans have the same opportunities to dig at the truth that the rest of us have.We are all suffering the results of a compliant press.The trouble is that a majority of the US populace has come to regard itself as a "chosen people".They think that "winning" is always honourable. The US will only curtail its brutal ways when it discovers that it cannot win.It will withdrw from Iraq not because of the realisation that it is wrong but that it is losing.Iraqis are now the enemy...All of them.

Mark, Michael, Abu Khaleel, and all,

As a native of Los Angeles, with both conservative and liberal friends, and with an intense interest in the Assyrians I have a bit to contribute to this discussion. My experience is that most Americans simply are not interested, even if the information is available.

Last month I shared a commentary by an Assyrian (entitled 'Who will write the book "How America Betrayed the Assyrians", referring back to a book written in the 1930s, "How Britain Betrayed the Assyrians") on a forum mostly frequented by conservative American Christians. Only a handful of readers (less than 15 as far as I know) perused my post, and fewer yet responded. One respondent wanted to know if Saddam Hussein were an Assyrian!!! In fact, there were only two respondents, of whom only one was aware both of the Assyrians and of the situations in Iraq to which the original writer was referring. One out of over 8,000!!

Our lack of awareness even of things out-of-the-ordinary here in America is surprising to me. I live in a city with perhaps 5000 Assyrians, and only a few local people who haven't met Assyrians are aware that they even exist. In fact some school teachers will tell their classes (including Assyrian students) that the Assyrians are all dead.

The American left (with which I usually tend to agree) can be equally narrow in viewpoint. The attacks on Rev. Ken Joseph, an Assyrian-American from Japan (long story) are an example of the American left narrowly chosing to ignore anything which doesn't fit into its own viewpoint.

One other quick note:about 11 years ago a friend was studying Journalism at a community college in a nearby town. Two of the stories he wanted to do ('Mayor Escapes Drunk Driving Charge', and 'Was Justice Denied Local Retarded Black Man') were suppressed. The editor informed him that no one was interested in the stories, and too many people would be offended were the stories to be run. The message my friend got was that, as JKRowling has so wonderfully put it in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the newspaper exists merely 'to sell itself', and not to enlighten the public, who don't want to be enlightened anyway.

Be Well,
Bob Griffin

What a charming and patient commentary, but I think you're too kind: ignorance and media manipulation are no excuse for enabling barbarity by electing barbarians - either actively, by voting for them blindly, or passively - by not voting at all. We're talking about a bully nation here, where more than a third of the population says they are not troubled by state-sanctioned torture as conducted at Gitmo and Abu-Ghraïb.
And - minor point, but just to strip off that little goodwill feather you stuck in their cap - it wasn't Americans who invented the internet but a little known Brit, Tim Berners-Lee and a small Swiss team at CERN:
which makes the US claim to OWN the internet a preposterous falsehood. It's just another case of repeating a lie so casually and so often that after a while it becomes received knowledge. Like, "we didn't know", or "we were misled by our Intelligence sources". Rubbish, in my book they're all guilty as charged and there are no mitigating circumstances. That goes for their British, Australian, Danish, Polish and Italian partners in crime too.

Bob Griffin,

You are certainly right that the history of Assyrians and Iraqi Christians in general are overlooked by those on both sides of the political spectrum. Yet another reason why reduction of Iraq into "Sunni-Shia-Kurd" does a an horrible injustice to the complexity of Iraqi society.

Not to get too off-topic, but I am curious about the story of Rev. Ken Joseph. Was he really planning on becoming a human shield before he turned into a supporter of the invasion?

Abu Khaleel:

The thing that I find the most insulting about your metaphor is the presumption that if all Americans were aware of the facts about Iraq, they would nearly unanimously agree with your views. I submit that such unanimity is extremely rare in this country. This is because there is simply too much diversity in religious and political value systems as well as levels of self interest (as suspect there is in Iraq) for such unanimity of opinion to occur. Thus, to me, it seems patronizing to suggest that, if American's were just better informed, they would all agree.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that you should take great offence when we outsiders attempt to reduce all of your countrymen to simply, Sunni, Shiite, or Kurd. These types of generalizations are not only dehumanizing, but misrepresent the richness and complexity of the society you have described to us.


I am a political centrist. Apparently, this makes me hard for some to understand. We centrist tend to pick and choose bits or the political narratives generated by those closer to the political poles. As I do not believe anyone has a monopoly on the truth, such picking and choosing is the only way for me to arrive at an approximation of it.

As to Juan Cole, I have been reading him for years, not necessarily because I agree with his opinions, but because he has far more knowledge of the ME than I and because of the consistency of viewpoint. Your critic concerning the ad hominem nature of my comment is ironic since Professor Cole frequently engages in that tacit to disarm his critics.

Further, if you read carefully, you will note that I did not personally insult Professor Cole, but merely suggested there may be some additional motives for the vehemence of his attack on the competence of the Bush administration team. Also, please note that I agreed with Bruno that Arabic language skills would seem to be of considerable importance in selecting members of such a team. However, Professor Cole has on more than one occasion brandished his superior Arabic language skills as a weapon to attack his critics. This seems to me to be a conceit since it implies that only those with at least equal language skills are entitled to disagree with him.

While you are quite correct that Cole himself probably does not wish to join the Bush team, I do think that he would like them to at least solicit his or his like minded colleague's opinions from time to time. Further, had a less rabidly partisan administration undertaken the task of rebuilding Iraq, it would have certainly recruited from among Cole's like minded former students and colleagues within the ME studies community of major American universities. Thus, I would be quite surprised if there was not an element of professional pique fueling the vehemence of his criticisms.


I think you will find that the most ill-informed are the most unlikely to vote. Thus, from a purely political viewpoint, there opinions don't really count. For this reason, I am never overly concerned with polling showing that significant segments of the U.S. population hold indisputably erroneous views. For those that do follow current events with some interest, the selection of only like-minded media sources is far more problematic.

Bob Griffin:

Frankly, I agree with you that there are many with little interest in politics or world events and that the U.S. press is often guilty of pandering to that segment of the population.

However, there is no excuse for anyone to be ill-informed in this day and age. That this occurs is due to pure laziness. Fortunately, the apathetic and lazy are the least likely to become involved in political decision making. It simply requires too much effort for them.


Of course, all the issues you have addressed are simple matters of black and white, and all those who disagree with you are barbarians. Your certitude on these matters quite elegantly illustrates your intellectual kinship with the radical, religious right of the U.S. My congratulations on your attainment of such exalted levels of self-righteousness and judgmentalism. Your mother must be proud (Anonymous: this is an ad hominem attack with an extra dose of snarky sarcasm for Circular’s entertainment as he asserts, with justification, that I frequently lack much of a sense of humor).


From Circular
Actually, Anonymous about Juan Cole was me - I forgot to sign it.
" ... I would be quite surprised if there was not an element of professional pique fueling the vehemence of his criticisms..."
Defending an ad hominen attack by indulging in a further one based on supposition is surely going a bit far, even for a loyal American, isn’t it? Can’t you spell "sorry?"

Mr Kahleel
Well Abu, I’ve thunk about it, but I still find your metaphor overly complex, what with the curtains, projected images and holes. (Love the flower pattern on the shades, though.)What happens when an American peeks out through the same hole that an Iraqi is peeking in? Do they sort of kiss eyelashes, or just start shooting?
However, your metaphor does prompt the speculation that there is something in the nature of nationalism that can lead some peoples, in some circumstances, to erect curtains of illusion around themselves. To take just a few examples:
behind your Iron Curtain, reportedly quite a few Soviet citizens, for quite a time, bought into the mythology that they were special, the vanguard in the advance of world Socialism, until reality finally blew the curtain away:
and more than a few Germans believed the Nazi nonsense about them being special, the embodiment of the Aryan master-race. It is doubtful that many of them think like that now:
and an awful lot of British subscribed at one time to their destiny of taking up the white man’s burden, and having dominion over palm and pine (including your date palms, mate) - gee, I can vaguely remember my parents sitting on our colonial verandah, with their pre-dinner G&T’s, worrying about what was best for the natives. Now there’s presumably locals sitting there:
the French are meant to have an especially strong sense of national identity and superiority, although I’ve never fully understood what about:
hell, there’s even some people, who better remain nameless, who think they’re a bit special because their land was once the cradle of civilisation (Hey, put down that AK47! I was thinking of the Persians! Honest!)
Of course, there’s a lot of nations who seem to get by without any sort of illusion of Manifest Destiny - not just small ones, either: think India. Think China, which has always been the centre of the Universe, and regarded the rest of the world as barbarians who were best ignored.
(Kiwis of course have no illusions about their superiority to everybody. It’s just self-evident.)
So maybe there are no curtains, maybe the images are the curtains, just temporary illusions hanging in space waiting to be dissolved by history.
The Bushies, the far-right fantasists, may have especially powerful image projectors at present, and a lot of Americans may be mesmerised by their visions of Superpower supremacy and the mission of bringing "freedom and democracy" to an unconvinced world.
But it’s just a projected illusion, not a real curtain. When it fades, the world will still be out there.
Minus Iraq though. Won’t be a lot of you guys left by then.


What ARE you waffling on about? You think there are civilised 'grey areas' in torture? (or perhaps it's just your wounded national pride striking out, which seems to be US trait).


Who is defending torture? I am merely responding to your characterization of an entire nation as a "bully" and "barbarian" based on an opinion, which by your assertion, seems to have been rejected by 70% of its citizens.

The national pride crack is also rich. Do you have any more stereotypes to throw my way? I really am amused.


While questioning a speaker's argument based on questions of self interest is in a strict logicians world an "ad hominem fallacy," it is not only a rational argument, but is one that most legal systems view as highly probative when assessing witness credibility. Such arguments may not satisfy that strict logician buried deep within you, but in the real world, they are found by most to be worth assessing. Further, suggesting that one consider another's self interest in assessing the vehemence of their claim while agreeing with several of its main points would hardly seem to constitute "an attack," whether ad hominem or otherwise.

Circ, I can easily let go of the "ad hominen" quarrel between us; however, I am absolutely shredded to pieces over your failure to comment on my attempt at snarkiness? Are my attempts at sarcastic humor so feeble that you have concluded my funny bone is shattered beyond repair? Can you throw me a bone here (funny one preferred)?

Hey, go easy, I’m just a simple Kiwi! As far as I can make out, what you are saying with your torturous first paragraph above, translated into simple English, is something like "Juan Cole is usually right, but I dislike him, so I’ll devalue his commentary by making snide insinuations about his motives."
This may pass for reasoned argument in your world. Not in mine.
As for Blizzard, I don’t know whether he will hang around, but I suspect that if he does he could turn out to be another Bruno (or Circular) ruffling your hair. So far he seems to have got the best of the exchange, in my view, your sarcasm notwithstanding. I don’t know if the phrase "bully nation" is his own, but it sure says a lot in two words.
My advice, stay stern and serious. Suits you better.

Further to the above: a point I would be interested in your comment on, in relation to Blizzard’s "...exalted levels of self-righteousness and judgmentalism..."
For quite a long time after WW2, much of the world held Germans collectively responsible for the crimes, excesses etc of the Nazi regime. And this despite the fact that although they did sort of elect Hitler initially, for most of the period in question they were very much subjects of a dictatorship.
America of course is the supposed bastion of democracy, and its citizens are certainly not subjects of a dictatorship. Yet. So if the current US regime is guilty of crimes and excesses, as Blizzard accuses, are not its citizens more guilty, collectively, than the Germans were?
I tend to agree with Blizzard that Abu is "too kind" in absolving Americans on the grounds that they have been misled by politicians and the media.
It is a nation of adults, isn’t it?

Rev. Ken Joseph did indeed originally go to Iraq to be a human shield. In February or March of 2003, before he had left Japan for Iraq, I read an on-line article by him quoting a number of anti-invasion Iraqis as evidence taht the US SHOULDN'T invade. I believe that he had been at least partially taken in by pro-Baath propaganda, though there may indeed have been some Chaldeans who weren't especially suffering under Saddam. I believe that the contrast between what he had preached before he went in and what he heard from his Assyrian hosts was what lead him to be so firmly pro-invasion.
His viewpoint was NOT left wing, or generically peacenik. Rather I believe it was more generically Japanese, as that is where he had spent most of his life.

Be Well,
Bob Griffin

I have found that many of my right-wing friends are quite 'well informed', at least as regards information supporting American activities (and lack of the same) in Iraq and here. That is to say, I would have to involve myself in reading a fair number of left-to-far-left journals to match the level of biased information they have. They are preached at, taught-at, lectured at, broadcast at... with a Pat Robertson/Ann Coulter/Rush Limbaugh message, which they accept as the unadulterated truth. Of course I can find left-wingers with a similarly biased viewpoint. What I rarely find are those who will go outside the right/left dichotomy for information. The right-wingers are generally very eager to vote their opinions, while many with a vague centrist viewpoint are, as you've said, uninterested in voting.

Much of my anger at American actions (and lack of same) in Iraq is fueled by reading Assyrian on-line journals. The Assyrian-Americans TEND to be pro-American, conservative, pro-family-values... but their opinions on Iraq are not derived from American foreign policy, right-wing radio rants, or some interpretation of Bible prophecy.

Be Well,
Bob Griffin

If anyone wonders why I, who tend to be a Bleeding Heart Liberal, would read online Assyrian journals -- I have been interested in the modern Assyrians for nearly 30 years. Only in 2000 did I finally find much information, most of that on-line.

Thus, a BHL reading (and influenced by) right-wingish Assyrian on-line publications.

Be Well,
Bob Griffin


Please go easy yourself on Mark. I know his performance in this post has been disappointing, even pathetic, but somehow he doesn’t seem to be in his usual sober and collected mood! Perhaps, as you say, it doesn’t suit him to be “snarkish” and sarcastic.


That does not absolve you of the many stumbles you have made in the above discussion… particularly regarding Juan Cole or this rather feeble defense of “ad hominem”. Although questioning the motive of someone may be legitimate, it is another thing to throw in wild unsubstantiated accusations. It is called slander in my book and, it seems… in the books of others.

I too frequently read Juan Cole. And although I have my own reservations about some of his views, I generally find him to be one of the most informed people in America regarding this part of the world. I also find him generally sincere and consistent. He never gave me any impression of harboring any of the inclinations you so casually slandered him with.

Circular again,

I am not absolving Americans of responsibility. I fully agree with you that they share more responsibility for the atrocities taking place than the Germans did under Hitler. They re-elected this administration after many of the lies were exposed and after many of the atrocities were known for heaven’s sake!

However, it may be too soon to address the responsibility issue. The question now is to penetrate that curtain, make the majority of Americans aware of the evil that is taking place. Once that is done… then we can talk about responsibility!

My fear would be that Mark turns out to be right, and that after the average American is aware of that evil and wrongdoing… most people still maintain much the same position… then we would have a problem.

Unfortunately, in this regard, past performance is not encouraging.

By the way, it is despair and total lack of confidence of justice ever being done that is the primary fuel motivating people who resort to violent means when dealing with America. The problem is quite ‘old’ and goes back much further than the Iraq issue. The invasion of Iraq is seen by millions outside America as just another ‘proof’ of American foreign policy wickedness and ill intentions! Those people have lost all hope of any justice coming from America… I haven’t. Not yet. I keep stopping myself from crossing that line. I keep reminding myself of the countless decent people over their… behind the curtain. But for how long?

We are constantly being asked to “understand” America’s reaction of anger to 9/11, after 4 years of the event… and “understand” why America is doing a 9/11 almost everyday to innocent people in my country who have never had anything to do with that event. We are asked to “understand” and to forgive… America’s violence and the violence of those murderous people that America brought into our country… to prevent another 9/11 taking place in America. Countless innocent people are being sacrificed so that Americans may not suffer… and many people in America accept that as reasonable!

You know what? They are also wrong regarding their conclusion that these atrocities will make them safer. Isn’t it our duty as fellow human beings to make them aware of that?

Just a minor note:
The basic substructure of the internet (TCP/IP, DNS, FTP, UDP...)WAS invented by Americans. However HTTP and HTML, which have made the internet far more useful and accessible, were indeed not invented by Americans. Google ARPANET and/or DARPANET for more information.

Blizzard and Bob Griffin,

Another footnote: I think that this history is reflected in terminology. As Bob Griffin said, the "Internet" included such things as TCP/IP. What the CERN people created was (or led to?) the "World Wide Web (WWW)."

Michael in Framingham


Just to toss a little into the mix, some of the Assyrians and Chaldeans living in my town (in SoCal) are quietly and privately livid about what is going on in Iraq, They fear to speak up because of fear or reprisals here and to their familes back home. The local Chaldean pro-invasion line is -natch- a fine commodity here and happily replayed on local TV as is the pro-invasion Kurdish line. Few but the most brave or fool-hardy will go on public record as saying anything against it. When I worked in TV I tried to get an Assyrian I knew to explain his position and he vehemently refused to be on tape - which I understand, but I feel it is a shame that these voices receive no coverage while Chalabi and his crew stand in for the average "wronged" Iraqi. And I also find it highly regretable that the US media showed little or no ability to dig deeper into the stories of those doing the sympathy circuit- the Iraqis of all backgrounds who were the public martyrs on display to incite pity and morally indignant action. For example. there is a gentleman of the name of Naama from a SoCal town whose entire family did the circuit, telling the story of their dramatic flight from Iraq after their father took part in a coup against Saddam. But the missing parts of the story are very telling: Nowhere that I read has Naama explained what was to take place after the coup. Naama was a military officer and very, very seldom does the military stage a coup in order to make the country immediately more democratic. Nor did Naama mention he was part of the group with Chalabi that met with Cheney in March the year before the invasion to plan invasion strategies. Nor did he indicate what were to be his duties and obligations after the war. Shortly after the invasion, Naama and his daughter turn up on national TV (CBS, I believe)- and Naama now holds an important provincial post ( or at least did at the time). And yet the local Scoal media fawned all over him, his wife and daughters illicited great pity for their story.

Mind you, I completely believe that there were untold horrors that happened under Saddam, that we sold the Kurds down the river (and will again) and that we failed the Shiites as well. But our eagreness to believe that we invade only for good and are incapable of mimicking the "evil" that we claim to intend to stop is ludricrous and leads us into criminally naive misjudgements.

Iraq has been a shell game, run with Enron-like efficiency, we now appear to be planning Reagan-era "interventions" (how Nancy would have loved the drug war reference) in Venezuela and Syria- odd- more OPEC nations...

And still, the Americans are passing around variations of the big bad wolf story like candy. When will they wake up and realize that the wolf has already breached the brick house and has the three little pigs cooking dinner and gran tied to a tree in the backyard?

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Since its gone quiet, a report from out cruising the Web, which Abu may delete since he’s a bit prudish.
If you go here:
you will discover what appears to be a review of a pornographic book that Scooter Libby published in 1996, involving all manner of weird sex and bestiality, including girls being raped by tame bears.
I dunno if its genuine, but it reminds me irresistibly of an old joke.
See, this very dumb Canuck wanted to join the Mounties. To put him off, they told him, Look son, to get in, you have to prove yourself, you have to tame a wild horse, rape an Indian maiden, and shoot a grizzly bear between the eyes.
No problem, a week later he was back, very battered and dusty, but leading a tamed wild horse.
Off to the next task. This time he was away for ages, but eventually he returned, bruised, scratched and bitten, but still game.
OK, he said, where’s this Indian maiden I have to shoot between the eyes?

Seems to me George Bush is still stuck in Task Two.
But I'm only

Bob Griffin & Michael/Framington:
Tecnically correct (inter vs. intra), though the Web is the revolution. The 'net' was devised as a limited access information conduit for military co-ordination while the unrestricted global medium we're using now was undreamt of.
But getting back to the original point - Abu Khaleel seems to be appealing for a sense of decency, understanding and restraint in his commentary and goes out of his way, in my opinion, to excuse or exculpate citizens at large of the invading countries. It just doesn't wash. It's bad enough to be ignorant and ill-informed from laziness and indifference - fine, just eat, copulate and watch TV then; but when a huge majority of civilians and armchair warriors whip themselves into a mob frenzy and wade in with their flags and bigotry, they are ENJOYING it. And when they vote in the war-mongers for the 2nd time in a row (even if by a slim or questionable margin) it tells the world - "We don't care".
Although there are many extremely worthy and brave individuals in the US and its poodle satellites who continue to resist and oppose the relentless brown-shirt tide - Jon Stewart lampoons, Scott Ritter blows whistles, Amy Goodman frees speech, George Galloway scorns, decent citizens take to the streets - the fact remains that the vicious juggernaut thunders on, applauded by the 'patriots', high-end salaries, zealous Christians and the media and the rest just don't care - especially about torture of foreigners and civilian casualties.
You can't separate citizens from their government's foreign policy in a democracy. Everyone's responsible and will have to take the flak sooner or later - whether it's by being jibed by the words of critical foreigners or by losing a child or grandchild in some hijack atrocity of the future; long after the cynical launch of this stupid Crusade, the evil it has unleashed will still be fresh history and not quickly forgotten or forgiven. Get used to it.


The reason is that I have given up on addressing those flag-waving superpatriotic Americans for some time now. It is no use.


It has been a hectic day. I took the chance to relax and have a look at the blog… only to find your provocative comment! I may be a bit prudish, but I belong to an older generation (your generation actually). Apparently I have not moved with the times like you have ;) … or perhaps you people in NZ and the USA are more advanced along this path! I don’t know.

The first time I came across this was when a Hungarian American friend sent me some (more explicit) details of Libby’s literary gems a few days ago. Almost immediately I wrote back something like…
I still vividly remember my shock at the language Richard Nixon used in the Oval Office! Somehow, it didn’t seem right that Statesmen who were concerned with grand issues and global concerns would use such vulgar vocabulary… not in those offices of power anyway.

Your note reminded me of that feeling of sickness and disgust.

P.S. Re your joke analogy: What happens in the more likely event that the bear wins?

hello there. hm. well. bumping into some discussion here it seems. but i only have a question which is about 'landcontrol' in Iraq. it is usaid info, but i can't figure out what is meant by it. or, if there's any sense of reality to this. here's the link:
and i got there through:

take care out there

Hello Cile,

Well, I can’t blame you for not knowing what it all means. Agricultural land ownership in Iraq is quite a complex issue! I would hesitate before addressing it as I don’t think many people would be interested. But very briefly: Unlike urban land, there are few pieces of agricultural land that are freehold owned. In most cases, the land is state-owned, but there are several categories of the ‘right to use the land’. There are also more than a million small plots (around 2-5 ha) of land distributed by the government in major agrarian reform initiatives in 1959 and 1970 where the small farmer can make use of the land ‘under contract’ with the government. Although this ‘contract’ right is not strictly inheritable in theory… it is in practice !It is quite complex, but it has been working for generations.

So, the project may be a good idea in principle but I hope that the US administration does not try to make it work in a manner similar to the liberation or to the democratic process they have engineered for us… or with the same level of competence… or to the same ethical standards… or under the supervision of some of the corrupt characters that we now have. On the other hand, such a project may take many years. By that time, the present adventure will probably be history… so, after all, probably not much damage will be done.

More confused? Well, I’m sorry Cecile, but this is the best I can do at the moment.

Now look what Circular has done. He has moved us all off topic with his bear story. Not only that, but I think Mark will be even more deeply offended now. I’m sorry Mark, but the image of your President wrestling with that bear must be more distressing than my image curtains. However, there may be some poetic justice in all this: The man who made my country go to the dogs… himself going to the bears! Again, it’s all Circular’s fault.

If you wish, I can delete all the last few offending comments… starting with Circular’s 

Geez, some people can’t take a joke!
I would consider it most unsporting for you to delete my comment, Abu. The image of GWB, and by extension his benighted country, misguidedly trying to have his wicked way with the Iraqi bear is to my mind a very valuable contribution to your Blog. Brings some real insight to it!
But it’s only a joke - the mad Canadian couldn’t really have done it.
Can’t you be serious for a minute? Never mind curtains and bears, what’s really going on? Surely you more than most are in a position to give us an update, an assessment, of where the whole thing is at? I frequent, which is pretty much unrelieved doom and gloom these days. Is it really that bad? It sounds like the whole so-called "Sunni" area, including Baghdad, is just in total chaos now - nothing achieved, nothing gained at all by the assault on the bear. Is the South really that much better, does the lesser insurgency there mean that some economic progress is being made, that law and order prevails, or are we just not hearing about the real situation?
There’s not just a curtain around America, there’s one around Iraq too, you know. Give us some more glimpses behind it.
What happened to the 27 sharecropper families on your farm? What are they living on now?

Sorry, Abu, please ignore the general question above - too much to ask, I know. Dashed off last thing at night.
But it was prompted by a statement Mark made above: "As I live in the U.S., I can assure you that finding press reports with a positive slant on current events in Iraq is a challenge."
The obvious comment to make is that this is because there are no current events in Iraq which can be given a positive slant, but that is overly simplistic. And Mark seems to ignore the "progress towards democracy" theme which the mainstream media is presumably still obediently promoting as justification for the whole mess.
I think what I meant to ask was: what do you see, in there anything you see in Iraq today that gives any grounds for hope or optimism about the future? (The near future, five years or less, not some distant prospect.) Is there increased prosperity anywhere? (Except, apparently, in Kurdistan.) Is life for ordinary people actually basically secure in the South now, is there some semblance of law and order there? Does sectarian tolerance still mainly prevail in Baghdad?
Is that an easier way to ask for an assessment or update? Can you give us any "positive slant?"
Riverbend’s just posted again. She can’t.


This is not fair! The more I write the more questions you ask!

[I wrote this response last night before you posted your last comment but my internet connection went dead for more than 20 hours. It is nevertheless still true!!! But at least you now seem to realize how unfair that bundle of questions was! On the other hand, I do realize how little “true” information is filtering out of Iraq. I wish I could do more.]

First, of course there is a curtain around Iraq!! There are in fact several layers of curtains, some of them with huge distorting lenses. The latest has been christened “The Steel Curtain” by the US army. This itself is a sick joke.

I assure you that those terrorists can come in and bring in anything they want through the official border points supervised by the US army. I have seen the lax procedure at these points myself, so has everybody who has crossed them. It may not be the terrorists they are after, it is probably Syria!

The gentleman at TodayinIraq has been tirelessly documenting things… but he can only mention the things that he reads about. These are only a fraction of what is taking place. So many incidents… not just in out-of-the-way places, but even in Baghdad and other large cities, go unreported.

Just a few examples:

Last year, when that canteen tent in a US base was blown up in Mosul, where 24 people were killed, there was much media coverage. A few days later, there was another ‘incident’ (an ambush, really) where 15 ‘American-looking’ armed people in civilian clothes were all killed not far from Baghdad. I kept searching the net. Not a single word anywhere.

Two months ago, there was a fierce battle in the Death Triangle; more than 135 people (all Iraqi) were killed and 22 police vehicles destroyed in a single morning. A major battle… but again, not a single word in the media.

Stories of people being abducted by people wearing police uniforms and then found handcuffed and shot are abound. A small fraction of these only find their way to the media. I personally know first hand of at least two of these. One involves the murder of 18 people (actually 19, one of them survived). [OK Cecile, I promise I will tell this incredible story one day]. I know for certain that at least those two particular ‘incidents’ were designed to incite sectarian strife.

The list can go on and on. I really do not have the resources to keep you updated on these. It simply is not possible. Things are so bad, even in the south, that you may have noticed that all those rosy-picture painters are now less vocal… although some of them still try feebly!

I hate to make new promises, but giving a picture of what is happening in the different areas in Iraq may be a good idea. I will keep it in mind. Is that fair enough?

My sharecroppers are scattered all over the place, but most have gone to live in the vicinity of relatives and kin in various places, some of them not far. One of them went all the way to Samawa in the south.

The last 3 who were left behind fled after someone planted an IED in the way of a US army patrol, some 400-500 m away from the farm. A tank was blown up. Their houses were sprayed by an unbelievable barrage of bullets. Everybody had to ditch into an irrigation canal. One cow was killed, all three houses were damaged, power lines were cut… Naeem Jabbar went back to Diwaneyya.

However, most of them have been keeping in touch, dropping in from time to time. I know that most of them will eventually come back. Some of them have lived on the farm for so long, it is like home to them. Only poor Abbas Uwayyed was killed. His son came to my place in Baghdad a few days ago with a couple of CDs which document the unbelievable damage done to their home and others in the same village (by Iraqi forces), supervised by the Americans. I watched it. He promised to make me a copy.

As to income, well… you tell me! They will live off selling their livestock, like I’m doing at the moment, then – as they say – Allah Kareem (God is Generous). This reminds me of a joke we had during those sanction years: the story is that during one of those utterly useless Arab Summits, Saddam, Mubarak and the late Hafez Assad met over dinner. After dinner, the chat moved on to magic and magicians. Assad said that they had some 10,000 magicians in Syria. Mubarak said that in Egypt the number was like 50,000. Saddam said that he had more than 20 million magicians in Iraq. When asked how, has said that despite all the sanctions and all the pitiful amounts the government pays and the stagnating economy, the power cuts, the deserted factories, these people are making a living… Isn’t that magic?

I hope that these tidbits will keep you contented for a while… although something tells me that they may lead to a new bombardment of questions!

shukran abu, take care ;)

Really great letters revealing the true face of US government

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