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September 16, 2004

Credibility Miser

Sheila Lennon links to Christopher Albritton's troubling account of events in Iraq:

Thousands of Iraqis are desperate to get a new passport and flee the country. These are often the most educated Iraqis — the have the money to get new passports and travel — so the brain-drain will accelerate.

The poor and the disenfranchised are finding their leaders in the populist and fundamentalist Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr or in the radical Islam of the jihadis, who are casting a long shadow on this formerly secular country. Iraq has its own home-grown Wahhabists now, something it didn't have 18 months ago.

In the context of all this, reporting on a half-assed refurbished school or two seems a bit childish and naive, the equivalent of telling a happy story to comfort a scared child. Anyone who asks me to tell the "real" story of Iraq — implying all the bad things are just media hype — should refer to this post. I just told you the real story: What was once a hell wrought by Saddam is now one of America's making.

But y'know, I have to tell you that I'm having trouble buying it. Something about the note from the anonymous MP offering "my perspective as a grunt who was on the ground" just rings a bit oddly — like a journalist's voice in a soldier's mouth. It doesn't help that Albritton's subsequent post is a request for confirmation of Bush's admission, "God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them. And then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did." (Following the first commenter's link for context, we are reminded that the quotation comes second-hand, by way of an anecdote shared by Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas while in "cease-fire negotiations" with Islamic Jihad and the Popular and Democratic Fronts.)

It also doesn't help that, just a few days ago, Sheila Lennon tapped into the Gender Wars in order to distract from the fact that "a legion of young male bloggers" have caught Dan Rather and CBS peddling forgeries. (Although, Lennon says they're "likely" authentic.) Previously, she's implied that only the Right can be hateful, so much as to cause civil war.

Frankly, there's not a whole lot of credibility left on the Left to shake the conflicting impression that, for example, Arthur Chrenkoff leaves with his good news in Iraq posts. For one specific example, whereas Albritton's anonymous correspondent offers some vivid imagery...

No matter what we wanted to do, my squad was not going to restore electricity to Iraq. Every day for several months we had to drive past a blown up power tower with lines dangling about 20 feet off the ground.

... that imagery doesn't entirely square with Chrenkoff's military source, which notes:

U.S. engineers have helped place seven generators on line this month in Iraq, bringing the national electricity capacity to more than 5,300 megawatts - a level that exceeds the country's pre-war capacity of 4,400 megawatts.

Well, at least one can say with complete confidence that "power" is being lost somewhere.

Posted by Justin Katz at September 16, 2004 7:03 AM
News Media

Justin-- I can tell you categorically that my former MP grunt is a guy I know, have met personally and even seen his serving papers. If his tone sounds journalistic, that's because he's a freelance writer who was in the Reserve and got called up.

As for Chrenkoff's military sources, let's just say they have a number of credibility problems of their own. They may be generating that much power at peaks, but it's not sustained, and the infrastructure of the Iraqi electrical grid is so antiquated, that those same sources -- which I've talked to -- say they lose 10-15 % in transmission costs, because of uninsulated wiring, old cables and sabotage. There may be a lot of juice being produced, but it's not getting to the Iraqis' homes, and that's what really counts.

You're right to take Chrenkoff -- and me -- with a grain of salt, but I think I and my sources are probably better positioned to know what's happening here than some guy reading press releases from CENTCOM.

Posted by: Christopher Allbritton at September 16, 2004 8:09 AM

"and the infrastructure of the Iraqi electrical grid is so antiquated"

Which is whose fault, again?

It is completely morally fatuous to equate Iraq today with Iraq under Saddam. Especially when your description of 'hell' devolves into: "There may be a lot of juice being produced, but it's not getting to the Iraqis' homes, and that's what really counts." Oh, the horror! 10-15% transmission losses! It's just like being put through a shredder!

Posted by: Mike S. at September 16, 2004 10:15 AM

Bravo Mike S!
Too many people forget how much infrastructure might have been kept up to par if Saddam had not been building so many palaces all over the place or lining his pockets. Saddam failed to repair infrastructure from the ravages of his war with Iran as well.

The doom-sayers want to believe that our actions in Iraq are a failure, so badly that they feel the need to repeat the lies over and over again in an effort to bring it about. Since when does an MP have anything to do with rebuilding or even building new infrastructure? Most likely, the MP is going to be shipped to where ever they need a police presence, unlike where ever the engineers can go about getting their work done in peaceful surroundings. If the MP doesn't like the kind of job he's working, maybe he ought to change career fields.

I too have an army friend (Corp of Engineers) that spent some time over in Iraq helping rebuild their infrastructure. Hearing his stories, I'm more inclined to trust Chrenkoff's accounts than Albritton's.

Posted by: smmtheory at September 16, 2004 12:47 PM

This is a very interesting blog; got here by the way of NE Republican.

Just got through with Norman Podhoretz' wonderful, and long, article in "Commentary" entitled "World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win". Highly recommended, unless to those unpersuaded by the neo-con world view.

The world is changing everywhere but in the minds of Democrats, and the particulars of the Iraq War, however awful, are cancelled by broad, deep and almost unreported changes in the Middle East itself because of the war. Reformist talk is heard in all the ME countries, the Palestinians are finally challenging the long stasis and brutality of Arafatism, Iraq as a partly open society contributes a border to the surrounding of neighboring dictatorships, resistance to other frozen and tyrannical system take the US presence seriously, etc.

The Left is forever doomed to small, reactionary and limited thinking on most issues, but particularly to the War on Terrorism.

Posted by: Rhod at September 18, 2004 3:24 PM

Welcome, Rhod.

I don't know that the Left is forever doomed. One hopes that it would fizzle out eventually.

Posted by: Justin Katz at September 19, 2004 9:09 AM

Yeah. You're right. I fell into my own hyperbole again; my excuse is that it comes from arguing with The Left all the time. I used to be one of them, too, way, way back. The Hound of Heaven was on my trail though, not necessarily the Bibilical One, but one very similar.

Posted by: Rhod at September 19, 2004 1:25 PM