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is it quagmire yet?

i just did a lexis-nexis search of major papers for the words "iraq" and "quagmire". over the last week alone, these two words have been used in conjunction eighty one times. granted, there is a wide range of uses--charles krauthammer, for instance, offered

By Monday the media were in full quagmire mode. Good grief. If there had been TV cameras not just at Normandy, but after Normandy, giving live coverage of firefights at every French village on the Allies' march to Berlin, the operation would have been judged a strategic miscalculation, if not a disaster.

in an editorial in today's washington post. emphasis mine in this and all quotes. and there are instances which caution overly hasty comparisons, but even those have to be taken with a grain of salt the size of gibraltar. consider today's toronto star, which suggests that the application of the dreaded q-word to a war with not yet a fortnight's worth of memories may be more appropriate than it would appear at first glance:

Nine days does not a quagmire make. And quagmire is a word that haunts Americans, so closely associated did it become with an ignominious, lost war in Vietnam.

Yet quagmire as a descriptor has begun to sneak into the speculative chatter surrounding a military campaign barely into its second week, despite a spearhead of coalition troops that has punched through to within 80 kilometres of Baghdad.

There's precious little rest for the 3rd Infantry, which has slogged northwards over the past three days, fighting much of the way...

Images from embedded TV crews paint an alarming picture of the unexpectedly pugnacious resistance and messy localized conflicts...

Coalition troops have learned this, the hard way, after the first giddy dash of long convoys crossing over from Kuwait on Day 2 of the war. They've been preoccupied fending off ambush attacks to their rear, behind the incrementally advancing front line, ever since...

Another bloody battle in Karbala, this one a war-within-a-war - the larger war portrayed in many Arab quarters as a clash of civilizations, Muslims versus the enemies of Islam - is rife with symbolic portent.

Beyond that, Baghdad beckons. Or scorns.

give me a break. while paying lip service to the allied forces' success (the writer does admit that the media anal exam of this war distorts our sense of perspective and that the allies, for all their apparent woes, are right on schedule) the ultimate conclusion is that we are in over our heads. i'm shaking in my boots. anyway, from here, it’s mostly downhill.

in an apparent friendly-fire incident, yesterday's guardian dropped the q-bomb on a column of iraqi troops leaving basra

The column left the main road and scattered into open countryside, much of which has become a quagmire after 24 hours of rain.

ain't war hell?

the new york times gave this quote (or the operative part of it) from saddam hussein three times in their march 25th edition alone, including one instance where it was used as the ominous closing paragraph of the story.

The Iraqi mujahedeen are now inflicting very serious damage against the enemy. And as long as the enemy works to make it a short period so that they can get out of this quagmire, we are trying, and we will do our best, to make it last as long as possible and to lead the war to stay down on us until they are strangled, until they believe they are strangled under the horse's hoof of resistance.

the los angeles times offers one mention of the same quote on the 25th, but had primed the pump the day before by concluding an article on the staunch, patriotic, down-right heroic iraqi resistence with an entire quagmire section.

A Quagmire for the U.S.

Information Minister Mohammed Said Sahaf set the tone for the day at a morning news conference where, boasting of the defense of Umm al Qasr, he predicted of the Americans: "They are involved in a quagmire from which they never will get out alive. The brave Iraqi fighters in [Umm al Qasr] are teaching the invaders a hard lesson."

It was probably no coincidence that the late-night Sunday movie on Babel, a television channel owned by Hussein's son Uday, was a black-and-white film from the 1960s that showed Iraqis successfully rising up against what were depicted as the cruel British occupiers and rapists who attempted to rule Iraq in the 1920s.

the jerusalem times gets in on the ominous ending games with this closing paragraph from an iraqi minister:

"The heroic units are fighting the mercenaries and showing them certain death," said Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf. "We have made them enter the quagmire and they will not be able to get out of it."

those zionist bastards.

in yet another instance of closing with quagmire, the baltimore sun cheerfully chirps

A striking photograph yesterday showed a marine kicking open the door to a house outside An Nasiriyah; another showed villagers squatting under the palms while their homes were checked for enemy fighters. Of course a search operation in such a place must have been necessary, but moments like this are disquieting echoes of Vietnam a generation ago, or of Chechnya in our own time. That older man in the second photo, protesting to the young American marine -- is he a friend or foe?

A quick and unambiguous victory is the best way to keep out of the quagmire -- but it's going to be demanding, and it's going to cost lives.

bonus points for making the whole vietnam analogy oliver-stone explicit, and for framing this conflict as a choice between either slow-death quagmire or short-lived but far-reaching meat grinder.

but in the land of the q-closers (and there were many more contenders than i mentioned here), the ottawa citizen is king. check out this opening/closing combo.

Francis Ford Coppola would have appreciated Baghdad yesterday. The light was perfect, a kind of eerie yellow with wafts of burning oil. And the pyrotechnics were impressive.

And there is the soundtrack. Car alarms and the wail of Allah Akbar, God is great, on a loudspeaker calling out after the beginning of every strike. The air raid sirens compete with each other like howling wolves.

--insert 800 words' worth of praise for the glorious iraqi people and their heroic leader--

At a press conference last night in English and aimed primarily at the foreign press, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz used the q-word, quagmire, and ridiculed the American leaders' naivete for thinking Iraqis would jump on their tanks and kiss the invading soldiers while proffering bouquets.

"The Americans expect to be received with flowers and music," he said. "They are welcome here and will be received with the best music they have ever heard and the finest flowers ever grown in Iraq."

oh, hell, i can't resist. i'll give you some of the middle too. the ottawa citizen has earned it.

Iraqi leaders, too, seem remarkably calm considering the future they face. They seem to relish being the underdog and, like Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, thrive on being cornered. Suddenly, international law appears to be on their side, along with God, the French and the weather. Sandstorms are kicking up, making helicopters useless, reducing the allies' advantage.

The president appeared on television yesterday -- it really did appear to be the man himself -- urging patience. Hang on until you can see the whites of their eyes was the message. The enemy wanted a short war, so let's make it a long one.

"Whenever the enemy is defeated before you they will increase bombing against you," he said. "So you must show your patience and keep your position because your status with God is very high."

that's all from their march 25th edition, btw.

we've got quagmire letters, like this one printed in march 22nd's toronto star

A new quagmire Iraq's only hope

I'm afraid I can't join Richard Gwyn in praying that the Butcher of Washington enjoys quick and easy success in his mass slaughter of Iraqis.

I cannot share Gwyn's comforting double standard that an American president could not possibly be a butcher since he is, by definition, a champion of freedom, democracy and human rights who only murders reluctantly and with the heavy heart of a sorely provoked Christian good guy.

It's a nice spin, but I fear the distinction between reluctant and eager murder will be lost on the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead and maimed and their grieving loved ones.

Nor am I comforted by Gwyn's recycled "white man's burden" excuse for mass murder.

The idea that conquest and slaughter are really the tough love by which the wise imperial West will save the backward peoples of the world from their own shortcomings should have died in Vietnam, Algeria, South Africa and all the other not-so-quick and not-so-easy colonial wars.

The only way to remind America of the mistakes of history may be if the killing fields it creates in Iraq quickly become a quagmire that trigger an ominous sense of deja vu, setting their alarm bells ringing early.

I hope that happens.

Alan Wain, Milton

ah, the level-headed, salt-of-the-earth canadians. good to know you guys are up there.

...and we've got quagmire editorials...

Alive or dead, the U.S, has lost the war. It was lost Sunday, when the news suddenly turned dark. Confounding all expectations, the Iraqis were actually shooting back, and many experts muttered that the total defeat of a nation the size of - well, the size of Iraq - might take days, not hours.

It was entirely possible that American Idol would finish faster than the American war. A reporter stood up at a CentCom briefing and spoke the dreaded V-word - was it possible that once again the glass-jawed, clay-footed giant of the American military had stumbled into another Vietnam?

It brings to mind the Quagmire of Afghanistan, that slough of despond in which U.S. forces were mired for an afternoon or two. It took three weeks for that war to earn Quagmire status - now here we were, hours from Baghdad, and it seemed as if coalition forces had set a record for failure.

that courtesy, once again, of our national-anthem booing canuck buddies, this time from the montreal gazette.

we've got american quagmire...

From cakewalk to quagmire

Just a short while ago, the White House and Pentagon were doing all they could to encourage a coup or to coax Iraq's top leadership into exile. No takers. They thought Saddam's regime would cave with a first-day decapitation strike. Didn't work. They thought the enemy would give up in Shock and Awe at the sight of our air power. No dice.

And now Iraqis are greeting us with few of the advertised hosannas, little of the expected gratitude. No, they're sneaking up and shooting at us.

Instead of refugees streaming to us for safety, 5,000 Iraqis who fled Hussein for Jordan have crossed the border to rejoin their Iraqi brothers against us.

from the florida sun-sentinal

...and international quagmire

All this could seriously mire any US forces in what is already a dangerously deep quagmire, both during and after the war.

from the asia times.

all told, we are innundated with images of sticky, stinky, stagnant muck squirting out of every iraqi orifice and clinging like grim death to the boots of allied troops now bravely fighting in iraq. and this war is nine days old. and we've had, what, 14 american kia's who were actually killed in combat? quagmire is wishful thinking. it's the fantasy of hate-filled, depraved minds and people who consider george w. bush a bigger human rights offender than saddam hussein.

that said, locdog had a lot of fun putting this together



baghdad market blast: who has the most to gain?

maybe the two blasts that rocked an iraqi marketplace were just a happy turn of fate for the hussein regime, maybe iraqi moles have infiltrated our armed forces and ordered the slaughter of 17 iraqi civilians, or maybe saddam (or whoever is calling the shots over there) just blew up their own damn marketplace because they got tired of waiting for us to give them something good to televise. anyway you care to look at it, the hussein regime and those loyal to it are overjoyed.

what sort of war is it, i wonder, in which the leader of the country being "invaded" is thrilled whenever his innocent civilians are massacred by stray ordinance? oh, that's right. a just war. if any of you think that saddam or his henchmen are not very pleased by (or directly responsible for) all of this, then shouldn't you be over there serving as human shields? they evidently need the help.

rivaling saddam's appetite for mayhem is the new york times, who's coverage of this incident would be laughable if one felt safe in ignoring the publication. unfortunately, one isn't.

At the Pentagon, officials said they had not directed any bombs or missiles at the neighborhood. But if anybody doubted American culpability at the site of the bombing in a district known as Al Sha'ab, or Place of the People, there was no whisper of it amid the cries for the victims, and the chorus of indignation that Iraqi officials, waving pistols and Kalashnikov rifles, led among bystanders.

As they have in every place in Baghdad where American air attacks are said to have gone astray, in the daytime or late at night, local party bosses made a political rally of the misery, leading a rhythmic refrain of loyalty to Mr. Hussein — "Our blood, our soul, we pledge to you, Saddam" — along with counterpoint verses of "Down, down Bush."

The chants also included the Islamic invocations Mr. Hussein, in his two television speeches since the start of the war, has made his central theme, along with his calls for Iraqis to kill as many American soldiers as they can. "God is great!" cried the men and teenage boys who made a stage out of one of the wrecked cars, carbonized by fire, that had been parked feet away from one of the blasts. And then, continuing the opening phrases of the Muslim prayer in a cold, drizzling rain that fell through a sandstorm and turned every falling drop to spattering mud, "There is no God but God."

"We have committed no sin, we are not guilty, why are they doing this to us?" said Hisham Madloul, a 28-year-old janitor who said he was a friend of the two men who died in the water-heater workshop, and who had helped pick up his friends' bodies and carry them to the ambulances that took them away. "We are innocent people, and we want to know: what is it that Bush wants?" he said. "If he wants Iraq to surrender its sovereignty, he will fail, because Iraq will stay Iraq. If he wants Saddam Hussein to go, he will fail in that, as well, because Saddam is an Iraqi ruler for Iraqis, and he will stay."


the front-page story devotes three pages (on their website) to wallowing in a tragic incident but one which, in the history of civilian casualties, is frankly marginal. when the united states fire-bombed the german city of dresden, for example, 40,000 civilians are estimated to have burned to death--some of them boiled alive as they sought refuge in water towers. the conventional bombings of tokyo that preceded the use of atomic weapons killed even more than that, and rivaled the deaths produced by the fission blasts themselves. which is to say that, rather than trying to convince america of how inflamed the arab street is (boy, howell must have been getting really worried there for a while) the times, had it any perspective, would be trying to convince the arab street just how remarkably tolerant of civilian populations america has been throughout this young conflict. thirty years ago, to achieve similar effects as our precision "shock and awe" campaign has produced in baghdad, we would have needed to carpet bomb the city to smoldering rubble. civilian deaths would have been numbered in the thousands or tens of thousands, not teens. the grisly moral calculus that forced previous commanders to such extremes no longer exists--if civilian casualties in those ranges ever occur again at american hands, it will be the result of a conscious effort on our part.

the times is quick to point out that

During the Persian Gulf war in 1991, errant bombs and missiles in Baghdad killed hundreds of people, including one incident at an underground bunker in the district of Amariya in which 403 people, many of them women and children, died from a direct hit by an American bunker-busting bomb.

Today, many who survived the blast seemed convinced that something similar had happened again. After 12 years of invective about the Amariya incident, memorialized now in the museum that has been made of the bunker and annual commemorations that serve as occasions for anti-American rallies, many who spoke at the scene of today's blasts did so in a common Iraqi parlance.

but do they tell you that saddam deliberately shuffled around his forces and civilian populations so as to maximize the number of civilian casualties? that he would house military bases in hospitals or hide his forces behind women and children? do they tell you that anti-american and pro-saddam rallies are forced by the state, and that those who do not participate are brutally punished?

i don't deny that the reaction on the arab street is just as the times has portrayed it. what i find fault with is their decision to portray this as the just reaction. their website has a photo montage of dazed children and grief-stricken women, but where are the side-by-side shots of previous missile raids and this one? why no investigative journalism where, rather than lazily printing pentagon we're-not-sure-yets, the reporters actually go out and determine for themselves whether or not this damage is consistent with american munitions? simple: they don't care. they've raised their doubts, cast their aspersions, shown their photos, told us how mad everyone is at us, and let it go at that. mission accomplished. saddam is in your debt, guys.

locdog forgot to include al jazeera--er, wait, maybe he didn't



that's a neoconservative?

just what is a neoconservative anyway? from what i've been able to gather, i'm one--although, now that i look at the definition offered in a recent time magazine story, i'm not so sure. the story is about the influence of certain key figures in bush's whitehouse. figures who had been banging the iraqi war drum for at least a year, and some for quite a bit longer. you know all the names--wolfowitz, perle, cheney, etc.--but did you know what they believe?

In their belief system, neoconservatives—or neo-Reaganites, as some prefer to be called—are at once pessimists and optimists. The world, they believe, is a dangerous, threatening place. Civilization and democracy hang by a thread; great beasts prowl the forest, ready to prey on those not tough enough to meet them in equal combat. At the same time—this is the optimistic bit—the U.S. is endowed by Providence with the power to make the world better if it will only take the risks of leadership to do so; if, in the current jargon, it is sufficiently "forward leaning."

The U.S., neoconservatives believe, is unique in its power and its principles. It cannot allow its mission to be tied down by international agreements that diminish its freedom of action. At the same time, neoconservatives insist that theirs is a generous and internationalist vision; other nations, other peoples, will willingly support U.S. policies—which, by definition, are good for them as well as Americans—if only those policies are clearly articulated and implemented with determination.

in essence, then, neocoservatives are paranoid jihadists seeking to cram their views down the world's throat at the barrel of a gun. these are the people who control your nation, america! thanks, time, for that expert opinion--did you find that on a bumper sticker or protest banner?

before you go jumping out of any windows (and since you liberals actually believe this crap, i have to wonder why more of you don't) let me offer an alternative view.

conservatism, traditionally, is an isolationist platform. america for americans, screw everybody else. at least, this is how pat buchanan, the self-appointed guardian of True Conservatism, would have you believe. we saw a bit of this back during kosovo and somalia, although a lot of it, to be truthful, was motivated by partisanship--and despite what democrats are now alleging, republican dissent at no point reached the fever pitch that daschle and co. have ratcheted it up to. neoconservatism, some might argue, is a reaction to the philosophy's isolationist roots.

i don't really see it that way. i see the neoconservative trend (which evidently now includes two-thirds of america if bush's poll numbers are to be believed) as a realistic appraisal of the global situation, and the best possible way to play the hand we were dealt on september 11th. it's realism. neoconservatism isn't so much a revamping of long-time belief as it is the extension of that belief to foreign policy, an area that had been too long ignored. if we can conclude anything from september 11th--and the entire century preceding it--it's that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure--or a 2000 lb precision-guided munition's worth.

i can't speak for all "neoconservatives" because, to be completely honest, i'm not even sure that word has an accepted meaning, but here are my own views on what a neocon is, and what he or she might believe about him or herself, and about america:

in our belief system, neoconservatives, or neo-reaganites, see the world as it is and not as they want it to be. we realistically appraise a world in which america is despised and threatened by terrorists and the rogue states that support them, irrational actors who are not bound by the rules of logic that we used to maintain the peace for fifty years against the soviet union. as has been clearly witnessed by all, our enemies strike without warning or provocation against targets that have done them no wrong. passive defenses are crucial but insufficient, and the best defense has become a good offense. bar none, the best weapon we have is democracy, which has emerged from the cold war as the clear winner, and, far from "hanging by a thread," is in fact the sure foundation upon which civilization rests.

the u.s., neoconservatives believe, is unique in its power but shares its principles with peace-loving peoples the world over. the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness has always been intrinsically human, but these rights have seldom been extended to the masses, and never to the extent that was secured by our founding fathers. what is uniquely american about these principles, therefore, is our implementation of them. no people in history have ever been truly free without war to secure and preserve that freedom, and america is no exception. through the exercise of american military power and cooperation with like-minded states, the world was saved from early-twentieth century imperialism, mid-twentieth century fascism, and late twentieth-century communism. today, we lead the fight against terrorism. no diplomatic agency, no treaty, no accord, has ever made or preserved the peace apart from the use or threat of force. without the soldier, the diplomat serves only to preserve the injustices he attempts to fight. and, if we learn from the diplomatic failures of the last century, of the non-responses to hitler, stalin, pol pot, et al, diplomacy by international agencies has served as the biggest hindrance to peace.

all governments have a responsibility to God, the Source of all liberties, to protect their citizens from those who would seek to deprive them of their rights. this obligation is in no way uniquely american, nor does america hold a divine mandate over any other state. in heeding this obligation, that is, by freeing people to pursue their own highest good, and through the judicious use of force, america has acquired power unrivaled in all of human history, and is the strongest nation in the world today in any meaningful comparison. in the past, such a state has invariably been the prelude to empire, but the united states has used its power not to consume weaker nations, but to elevate them. the neoconservative believes that by bringing freedom to the cesspools which breed terror, a lasting peace can be ensured, and wealth can be enjoyed by peoples who have known only poverty. for proof, we offer the fact that those nations who most nearly rival our power and prosperity most nearly rival our freedom. those nations that shun freedom suffer, wither, and often die. by encouraging democracy through trade, diplomacy, and when all else has failed, force, the united states has raised the baseline existence of humanity to unprecedented levels. by accepting, not usurping, our part of the God-given responsibility that falls on all nations, the united states has sought not to force other peoples to be more like ourselves, but to free them from the tyranny that deprived them of the rights we enjoy. every man, woman, and child has the right to live free, not just americans.

neoconservatives understand that peace is the byproduct of contentment, and that misery and deprivation breed terror and war. we do not believe that international hand-outs are a long-term solution, rather, they encourage lawlessness with rewards. the united states can no longer ignore its position, leaving its own safety and that of the world in the hands of those who have proven themselves inept. by sowing the seeds of democracy and rooting out the tares of despotism, the united states not only restores to humanity that which evil men had deprived it of, but ensures its own peace and prosperity.

look, i'm not saying the united states is perfect. we've made a lot of mistakes along the way, all would agree. what i'm saying is that, on balance, no nation or international organization did more to help humanity in the last century than the united states, and we remain the world's best bet for the forseable future.

i know, i know: if our use of force is so wonderful, why don't we just go blow up every dictatorship? military force really is a last resort. i believe in peace through strength, but that doesn't mean that we just go around blowing up whoever rubs us the wrong way. the taliban was very much responsible for september 11th, and saddam hussein has ignored every diplomatic advance in the past decade. will we need to use force again in dealing with other similar regimes? i would consider that a certainty, but if we are led to it by the "neoconservatives" in the whitehouse, my hunch is that there would be no other choice.

locdog's conservatism is nothing new



video of captured soldiers

probably the worst thing about this video is that most of the arab world sees it as nothing more than perfectly appropriate treatment of americans.

locdog warns you that these are graphic, disturbing images