Why Can’t Johnny Read?

kills us the way the pundits prognosticate the political future by rehashing
the past. "Never before…" "Every
election since 1865…" "At this point in previous campaigns…" Give
it up! The sample is simply too skimpy to make categorical predictions.

Just when it seemed Kerry was irredeemably mired in his
own pretentiousness, real life is conspiring to breath new life into
his moribund movement. Turns out he was right to be centering his campaign
on the war. He just happened to have the wrong war. Nevertheless, Kerry
is doing his best to fumble the ball, and the clock is ticking down in
the fourth quarter.

The news from Iraq today was a depressing bit of Vietnam
deja vu.  A milestone was reached; 1,000 American men and women
killed since we invaded. We truly believe a majority of Americans, although
they will always support our armed forces when they are sent on a concrete
campaign or mission to defend our interests, will NOT, in this day and
age, support an indefinite status quo in which our guys and girls are
being shot at and killed day in and day out, with no end in sight.

We have opened a Pandora’s box of wicked ills in the Middle
East, and we are discovering a whole world of pain, which is destined
to affect our society as deeply as Vietnam did a generation ago. Suddenly,
we are not in control of the situation on the ground. US forces have
withdrawn from city after city across the center of Iraq. Faluja, Karbala,
Ramadi, Najaf and large sections of Baghdad are in the hands of militants
whose entire existence is based on a desire to kill Americans and drive
us from their lands.

Worse, we have lost the support of the people we have come
to liberate.  The scale of our destruction has been so awesome and
indiscriminate that the rank and file, the teachers and bakers and washer-women,
the millions of peace-loving people of Iraq, see us as an evil army of
death and are increasingly willing to feed and hide the insurgents. As
anyone who has tried to help an alcoholic or drug addict who hasn’t
hit bottom knows, saving someone who doesn’t want to be saved
is an impossible quagmire.

The military says that they have a plan.  if the Incipient
Iraqi security forces can’t maintain control in these cities, US forces are ready
to retake them, one at a time. How a series of bloody urban battles,
mosque-to-mosque combat, with heavy casualties on both sides and even
more so among the doomed civilians, will play in the midst of a Presidential
campaign will be interesting to see.

More interesting, we hope, than the insipid display of
ham-handedness we just saw on the nightly news.  John Kerry, asked
to comment on today’s milestone in Iraq – a political softball to his
wheelhouse, just begging to be swatted over the wall
answered, in his gaunt, sonorous and sepulchral tomes, "Over 1000 of
America’s sons and daughters have now given their lives to the war on

NO, NO, NO, John.  That is the Bush lie. They have
given their lives to an obscure, oil-drenched Texas family feud, to a
personal vendetta that has nothing to do with the real security of the
United States and in fact is making us less secure by breeding a million
widows and orphans who blame us for their misfortunes and will spend
the rest of their lives trying to get back at us.

The Real War on Terror is tracking down Osama, rooting out the
entrenched hate-mongers in our "allies", Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, stopping
the massacres in Africa, finding the Anthrax killer, and getting real
about protecting our borders, airports and container ports.

This is the message. Is it too late for the messenger to
figure it out?

article from the New York Times

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20 Responses to Why Can’t Johnny Read?

  1. Dave Winer says:

    Great piece Michael. One has to wonder if Kerry could really be that stupid, or if we’re all just actors in a Truman Show.

  2. George Entenman says:

    Come on Michael and Dave. You seriously expect any candidate to say 1000 Americans have died for nothing??? True it may be, but if Kerry said something like that, the poop would hit the fan!

  3. Donald Larson says:

    I’m voting for President Bush and will support his war plans throughout his second term. Of course, I don’t think he’s harsh enough on the enemy.

    Maybe soon, we’ll deal the killer blow to terrorists and terrorist supporting nations. Then again, maybe the Ruskies or the Israelis will do that before we do.

    p.s. Kerry is going down in flames as the loser he is. America’s not electing a flip-flop wimp. He can start to pack up his Vietnam War medals now and go back to being the junior senator from a dinky liberal state. He’s become the biggest Democratic embarrassment since Jimmy Carter!


  4. Stomaphagus says:

    Maybe soon, we’ll deal the killer blow to terrorists and terrorist supporting nations.

    Don. In warfare and in police work, “maybe” is a bad bet. “Maybe soon” is even worse. The reason going after states generates a “maybe” prognosis on the defeat of terrorists is because these terrorists are non-state actors at the core. We might have gotten rid of the Taliban, but al Qaeda itself was only affected for a moment. Waging war on these guys is like waging war on Usenet; two hundred thousand troops only shuts down a few nodes.

    The answer is the same boring detective work that puts killers in jail every day. We also need to find a way to systemically disrupt the nodes. And we need to make terror a less convincing alternative for these unemployed, angry young men.

  5. Donald Larson says:


    That takes much too long and I doubt it will work as the ultimate solution. But, in the interim, until those nations are blown up, anything that helps cripple their capcity to wage war against us in any form is fine with me. Just as long as we kill so many more of them then they kill of us.

    Right now, I’d say we’ve killed a 1/4 million of the Iraqi and Arab assholes in Iraq. Maybe a somewhat lower number in Afghanistan. That’s a damn good ratio for all the Americans that have died starting on 9/11/2001 when it was America ~3,000 dead, the enemy 19 dead.


  6. Phil Wolff says:

    Ha! Don, you’re funny.

    I’m thinking that these 1000 dead and the many 1000s injured in Iraq didn’t die for nothing. But they didnb’t die to fight a terrorist organization working to attack America.

    In terms of message: Kerry seems to be following George Lakoff when it comes to moral identity politics. Your Democratic core wants you to be supportive, nurturing, whining about the poor dead soldiers. Your conservative right wants a strong father that can protect us in a dangerous world, willing to do whatever it takes to fiercely defend the family from threats foreign and domestic. It’s hard to do both, but he needs to. We’re in a time when terorists can hurt us.

    So Kerry has to both demonstrate his moral character and warrior competence while attacking Bush’s character and competence. It’s been tough, especially when Rove is working the same strategy (swift boat liars on the character issue, waffling on the competence issue).

  7. Cog says:

    I would not include Najaf in your list. The city residents themselves are close to ejecting the remaining armed Mehdi members still in the city.

    One of Sadr’s top chiefs, was actually caught with loot from the shrine which enraged the locals and the shiite pilgrims.

    I am as skeptical as anyone about the Iraqi police and the ING’s ability to maintain control, but there are many accounts of the Iraqi police performing extremely well under very dire odds during the start of the most recent crisis.

    The police repelled the first three attacks on the Najaf police station, and then called in the Americans which touched off the Najaf fighting. Interviews from some of the policeman said that they had ran out of ammo at times but did not turn.

    You are painting the picture above in the worst possible light, but I think you need to follow the Arab press for a length of time before commenting on the issue. Look at how every attack in Fallujah, Ramadi, and Karbala are played on Al Jazeera.

    There was even a script that surfaced on how to cover attacks by Americans, with questions that should be asked of “witnesses” and personel at the hospitals. I swear, the same doctor in Fallujah has given the exact same statement 20 times, but I may just be seeing things.

    The problem is, verification is non-existant because reporters will be either ransomed for profit, or beheaded to garner more air time for their terrorist message.

    I have seen three first-hand accounts of Al Jazeera reporters or stringers hired by Al Jazeera who have directly contributed to attacks on the coalition or the Iraqi government. And there are probably a dozen other, rumors/accusations that could or could not be true.

    Ask Healing Iraq about the bombing on his street, and the people trucked in to protest the Americans on Al Jazeera. Ask the LT. from San Diego who had witnesses come to him and tell him the two local Al Jazeera reporters paid Iraqis to throw rocks at Americans. Ask the Arab-American reporter who was able to file his last report before non-terrorist affiliated journalists were purged from Fallujah. He witnessed an Al Jazeera reporter going over a terrorists speech before it was video taped. Ask the Iraqi truck driver who was kidnapped and threatened with beheading. He told a paper in Egypt that an Al Jazeera cameraman filmed the terrorist statement and his forced replies, before his escape.

    You are painting a very serious picture of Iraq, much of which is true. But you are also ignoring another vital aspect to what the government and the coalition are facing in Iraq.

    And I said you were not completely wrong in your characterizations of the war, but Bush is also not competely wrong with how they are addressing this issue. Whether it can change or not is a portent for how the war will turn out.

    And about the 1000 causalty figure you mentioned as an ominous sign the war is going to take a precipitous turn, compare the Iraq war to Vietnam, Korea or WW2. Then get back to me.

    Hopefully some sympathetic countries can be found to help with border duty. The open borders between Syria/SaudiArabia/Iran are the biggest problem facing Iraq at the moment.

  8. Cog says:

    Oh, and when I mention a scripted report about American attack by Al Jazeera, it goes like this.

    Americans attack a target in Fallujah. Al Jazeera will film children, always children, playing in the bomb crater.

    A few [2-3] neighbors will claim that only women and children were killed, no Al Qaeda or militia members were anywhere near the bombing. Someone will take it furthur and say there are no Al Qaeda or foreign fighters in Fallujah at all.

    Then they will interview a doctor at a local hospital. I have seen the same doctor give near identical statements over a dozen times. Only women and children were killed.

    If there were military-aged males killed, they were buried immediately after the attack in accordance with Islamic customs. If there were woman and children killed they will be filmed at length for footage aired every 30 minutes in “occupation updates”.

    If no woman or children were available for filming, they will use archive footage with the subhead, many women an children were killed by American occupation attacks.

    Occasionally one of the other Arab networks will report fighting age men were killed in attacks, and at times even list their names and nationalities. Al Jazeera commentators will refute this emphatically.

    That is pretty much how every news report of attacks in Ramadi, Fallujah and Karbala are reported.

    Now re-read your blog post about the messenger and tell me that has no effect on what is happening on the ground.

  9. Cog says:

    Since you mentioned it…

    You could put 500,000 US troops in Afghanistan, and unless you are prepared to invade Pakistan, they would not do a thing to find Osama. Lets get that clear.

    They would definately help man the border with Iran and help control warlords, but that is not really the point you are making.

    The issues are a lot more complicated that politicans and psuedo-pundits make them out to be.


  10. Mike Golby says:

    Given that even the Pentagon admits to having alienated Iraqi Sunnis and Shi’ites, who and where are these terrorists working to attack America? I’ve not seen them. Who and where is this al-Qa’ida? Have they been taking out installations at night? While Ted Kennedy is hassled at the exit gate? While political bun fests boast armies that would make small nations weep?

    I don’t know, I’ve been looking everywhere for these terrorists swarming across the United States, but have not seen or heard a single report of them. Or has turning a budget surplus to a record deficit turned these crazed people away? Have the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis [who had nothing to do with al-Qa’ida], even while attacks on U.S. occupying forces increase, given these people pause for thought?

    Whatever. Recent polls show Americans believing the illegal occupation of Iraq to be a good thing. I understand this. Americans want their troops out there, hunting down the terrorists reported to be ready to swarm across the United States (there was that Bin Laden chap–mind you, he never actually claimed responsibility and he didn’t ‘swarm’–but I wonder what’s happened to him…). Yes, Kerry’s mistake is not pointing out he intends sending in more troops (I feel a draft), while everybody’s mistake is believing there is a way out of this. There is not.

    The neocon agenda is “the export of security”. That means perpetual war and the deployment of troops across the globe. Therefore the only troops coming home in the forseeable future will be those in body bags. George W. Bush knows this and he does not care. At least, and unlike John Kerry, Bush has the courage of other people’s convictions.

    From a foreign perspective, this is all a bit of a sick joke driven by greed and fear. The largest army in the world, fighting an illegal war against a threat as real or unreal as that posed by Saddam Hussein (a U.S. creation), is on the back foot. Hounded out of Somalia and bogged down in Afghanistan (for God’s sake) and Iraq, it takes it on itself to threaten others? Should resistance to occupation draw Iran into Iraq (three times the size, readiness, and population of Iraq–remember, during the 80s, Saddam held Iran off only with massive U.S. WMD and intelligence support), I’d say “God bless America. She’s really jumped the shark this time.”

    Ultimately though, the focus is the Iraq invasion and occupation. Americans see 1,000 dead and 10-15,000 wounded. I see tens of thousands dead and hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed. George W. Bush and John F. Kerry see only opportunity.

    [My apologies for sounding negative, but millions of lives are at stake. I believe it’s time people got serious about what is going on. It affects all of us.]

  11. Donald Larson says:

    I take it as a good sign that Russia’s top general says they will attack terrorists anyplace on the globe. This is the threshold of a whole new approach in the War on Terror.

    The Ruskies don’t worry too much about foreign complaints on how they fight wars. I look forward to some real good ass-kicking by the Ruskies on the news in the weeks and months ahead. I say they can wipe out terrorists and terrorist supporters by the thousands in each attack.


  12. Paul Guinnessy says:

    One thing I do notice, is that there is no discussion about the Iraqi civilians who have died in the same time period. From what I recall, US troops have accidentially shot or killed several thousand by now, plus the insurgents have killed a significant number on top of that. To quote Regan, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” although many Iraqi’s hated Saddam for good reason, its getting to the point where people are going to be wistefully look back to his regime. What’s the strategy against terrorism in Iraq? Because I don’t see one when I look at it. I see the opposite, lots of people becoming committed to kill Westeners.

  13. johnww2 says:

    Since your weblog has a wide readership, and you are making several assertions of fact, it would be nice to see some citations to bolster the assertions.

    You say: “Suddenly, we are not in control of the situation on the ground. US forces have withdrawn from city after city across the center of Iraq. Faluja, Karbala, Ramadi, Najaf and large sections of Baghdad are in the hands of militants whose entire existence is based on a desire to kill Americans and drive us from their lands.”

    I expect this is true for Fallujah. The reports I heard from Najaf seem to indicate the insurgents are not welcome there, and there is some support for U.S. and ING forces actions to push them out. The fact that Sistani and his Shiite base don’t want U.S. troops in their cities is understandable, but they have also made statements in support of the rule of law, and against fighting the government “for now…”

    The administration and the military can and should lower the profile of U.S. troops in Iraq (keep them on bases, only send them out when necessary) – so “withdrawal from city after city” may be the appearance of retreat when it is actually a sound strategy to convince the average Iraqi that U.S. troops are not “occupiers” – but only plan to stay until security improves and ING and IP forces can manage on their own.

    If you have a source for the assertion that “large sections of Baghdad are in the hands of militants … desire to kill Americans” – I would like to see it. Perhaps you mean Sadr City? There are reports that the Iraqi government is undermining support in Sadr city for the Sadr movement, by promising millions in reconstruction contracts to local tribal chiefs.

    In my opinion, at this point the best strategy is for U.S. forces to keep a low profile, and only provide “backbone” to the Iraqi government in conflicts they cannot handle. That will seem like ceding control to the locals, but isn’t that the end goal anyway? Who cares who runs Fallujah, as long as they stop trying to undermine the government, security, and the rule of law?

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