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Monday, July 09, 2007

Excellent article in Yesterday's post by Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks.

I think some of their sources are seriously irritated as the article frankly notes that having lost the surge game, the Bush administration wants to change the rules and declare success even though they will not meet the benchmarks they established and declared to be essential. They will be particularly furious about the headline

Administration Shaving Yardstick for Iraq Gains
Goals Unmet; Smaller Strides to Be Promoted


I have no idea who these sources might be as they seem to have demanded double super secret anonymity. The article frequently quotes "officials" without describing their rank, location or number. I don't think this is just saving ink. Consider the first paragraph in which "senior administration officials" admit that they won't meet the benchmarks and totally unidentified (and uncounted) "officials" are cooking the books.

We are well beyond not "naming names" and close to interviewing the Zeitgeist (off the record of course).

The Iraqi government is unlikely to meet any of the political and security goals or timelines President Bush set for it in January when he announced a major shift in U.S. policy, according to senior administration officials closely involved in the matter. As they prepare an interim report due next week, officials are marshaling alternative evidence of progress to persuade Congress to continue supporting the war.

Not many extra trees would have been killed if "officials" were replaced with "these officials". I am fairly sure that they are the same officials. I strongly suspect that they demanded that the book cooking be ascribed to "officials" that word, those letters and no more. If so, this would be an interesting sign that they have not completely lost all shame.

I am not expert in source anonymising, but I definitely have the impression that anonymous sources are more likely to be "White House", "Pentagon", "State Department" or "Bush administration" if they are political appointees and "military" or "intelligence" if they are career employees. I think when the post begins quotes things they learned from "someone" we will know that the administration is about to crack. Maybe I'm wrong and we will have to wait for stories sourced to "a mammal" or "a carbon based life form".

below the boring run down of the appearances of loquacious "officials" and quotations of "an official". One is too wonderful to miss.

"a Pentagon official said about the Iraqi police, "half of them are part of the problem, not the solution." The portrait officials paint of the Iraqi military is somewhat brighter."

Huh ? DeYoung and Ricks imply that "a pentagon official" is not an official. Logic requires some qualifier on "officials" as, for example, "other officials." This could be a grammer boo boo (I write from my glass house) but I prefer to imagine that
DeYoung and Ricks promised to identify sources using only the word "officials" with no qualifiers.

In any case, they use that sourcing a lot.

The second paragraph ends ", officials said".

Later we hear about Senior administration officials
"According to several senior officials who agreed to discuss the situation in Iraq only on the condition of anonymity," and later we find that one set of talkative officials contains only one member "one official said," but since this sourced a direct quote, I guess it just means that officials know that no one would believe that they leak as a chorus.

"one official" appears again. There are two paragraphs without "one official" so he or she can not be identified as "this official." The paragraphs are logical as the topic shifted from political to military.

Now we hear from "these officials and others close to Iraq policy" so the officials appear to have something to do with Iraq policy (big shocker I know).

"the official said" again.

Ah now someone willing to make it clear that she is the source

Top administration officials are aware that the strategy's stated goal -- using U.S. forces to create breathing space for Iraqi political reconciliation -- will not be met by September, said one person fresh from a White House meeting. But though some, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have indicated flexibility toward other options, including early troop redeployments, Bush has made no decisions on a possible new course.

"The heart of darkness is the president," the person said. "Nobody knows what he thinks, even the people who work for him."

Odds that she isn't one of of the "Top administration officials" ? And she sure seems to have learned from her predecessor how to avoid blame by leaking hints that she doesn't really agree with the President's idiocies. Does seem to be the key competency for a Secretary of State these days. Notice how much ink was wasted on the key word "the" in "the person". But Condi, should you really call your President the heart of darkness ? And what happened to an official ? Does this shift to transparent non anonymous anonymity mean that mistah official he dead ?

Nope. Reports of his heroic death were much exagerated. Here the number of sources changes in mid paragraph

Because of corruption and mixed loyalties, a Pentagon official said about the Iraqi police, "half of them are part of the problem, not the solution." The portrait officials paint of the Iraqi military is somewhat brighter. "These guys have now been through some pretty hard combat," said a senior administration official. "They're in the fight, not running from it.

I think "a Pentagon official" must be a civilian. It is delicate for "officials" to try to argue with a Pentagon official's clearly correct evaluation. It is clear that one of the officials is a senior administration official, but there are others of indeterminate number with double super secret job titles.

This is off topic but an intelligence official said something so dumb that I have to quote

Even if U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies are able to hold Baghdad and the surrounding provinces, noted the intelligence official, there is a good chance that security will deteriorate elsewhere because there are not enough U.S. troops to spread around. As U.S. troop numbers decrease, he said, it is possible that by sometime next year "we control the middle, the Kurds control the north, and the Iranians control the south."

It is crazy to distinguish between Iraqi allies of U.S. troops and Iranian influence. Iran is closest to SCIRI and Dawa who control Iraqi forces allied with the U.S. They are on better terms with the Mahdi army than the US is, but we have managed to place ourselves in a proxy war where we are supported the same side as Iran and still not winning. US service people are dying in order to extend the control of Iran's best friends over Iraq. It's so embarrassing that maybe we will invade Iran before people notice.

Oooops maybe my close reading is totally idiotic. I have no theory about

Late last year, amid strong doubts about Maliki's leadership capabilities, senior White House officials considered trying to engineer the Iraqi president's replacement.

Doubleplus Huh ? which official are they talking about: Prime Minister Maliki or President Talibani ?

Anyway to continue, now we get a hint about gender

"But officials caution that [snip] a U.S. official said.

"[snip]" he said."

Prose style back "Bush has stepped up his warnings that a sudden U.S. withdrawal would allow al-Qaeda or Iran -- or both -- to take over Iraq. " Ouch

"What is more likely, several officials said"

An official makes an analogy.

What is more likely, several officials said, is a deeper split between competing Shiite groups supported in varying degrees by Iran, and greater involvement by neighboring Arab states in Sunni areas battling al-Qaeda in Iraq. The Kurdish region, officials said, would become further estranged from the rest of Iraq, and its tensions with Turkey would increase.

"I can't say that al-Qaeda is going to take over, or that Iran is going to take over," an official said. "I don't think either are true. But I do think that a lot of very, very bad things would happen." If the administration decided to have troops retreat to bases inside Iraq and not intervene in sectarian warfare, he said, the U.S. military could find itself in a position that "would make the Dutch at Srebrenica look like heroes."

He's still male. I would not want my gender of species identified, if the best I could come up with was the words "deeper", "greater", "further" and the phrase "very bad things." "Be prepared to die to prevent a 'deeper split' and 'further estrangement'" is not a very good slogan. Also "an official" just admitted that Bush lies like a rug.

Dolcis in fundo I find out what a clear mission is

For its part, the military has calculated that a veto-proof congressional majority is unlikely to demand a full, immediate withdrawal. But however long the troops remain, and in whatever number, the military intelligence official said, they see a clear mission ahead. "We're going to get it as stable as we can, with the troops we have, and in the time available. And then, we'll back out as carefully as we can," the official said.

I'd say that, for its part, the military is mad as hell with Republican senators and I am glad that "an official" has a keen sense of what is a clear mission and what is devastating irony.


Anonymous said...

Well done. I am by the way reading each post, but will little comment for a while because when I am wandering your comments crash my computer now and then.

I have a cherry tree full of a friendly family of catbirds at my New York home.


Anonymous said...

That neither you nor Brad DeLong saw fit to post either on the Supreme Court re-segregation ruling or the New
York Times call to leave Iraq immediately is an weakness in sensitivity in both of you. I write that gently, but the lack of sensitivity of economists on such issues is quite discouraging.

Please feel duly criticized, especially so the next time you may think to Martin Luther King's supposed legacy. We are a troubled people, and need such as you to understand.



Anonymous said...

Even my sister, who shuns publicity, spoke in interview on public radio for 45 minutes on the Supreme Court re-segregation ruling. She understood, you should understand.


Anonymous said...

Please consider my criticism, for I am stunned that so few understand what has happened to American idealism.


Anonymous said...

Heck, you should be ashamed and I am angry. Conservatives with no morals are crowing that we are finally understanding the integration is a fool's ideal, completely unrealistic, but supposed moral opinion leaders have no sense that we are giving up an ideal that took so many generations to realize on paper in 1954. We have returned to embracing WEB Du Bois regretted "color line" in education, and the lack of caring is shameful. Phooey.


Anonymous said...

We have forgotten Martin Luther King in 40 years, when it took more than 4 wrenching times that to get to King.

Remember, we must ignore the mandate or permission to resegregate America as we ignore efforts at peace.

Am I being angry enough?


Anonymous said...

Fine, since I have complained. At least bother to read Bob Herbert today to understand what Iraq is doing to American idealism. Possibly then you will understand why you should have recognized the importance of the New York Times call to leave Iraq.

Among economists, evidently only Mark Thoma really understands.


Anonymous said...

July 10, 2007

Abusing Iraqi Civilians

With no end yet in sight for the long dark night of the Iraq war, The Nation magazine is coming out this week with an article that goes into great and disturbing detail about the brutal treatment of Iraqi civilians by some U.S. soldiers and marines.

The article does not focus on the handful of atrocities that have gotten substantial press coverage, like the massacre in Haditha in November 2005. Instead, based on interviews conducted on the record with dozens of American combat veterans of the war, the authors address what they describe as frequent acts of violence in which U.S. forces have abused or killed Iraqi civilians — men, women and children — with impunity.

The combination of recklessness, wantonly destructive behavior born of panic and deliberate acts of cold-blooded violence by G.I.'s are believed to have cost the lives of thousands of innocent Iraqis, the article says. The soldiers interviewed said they believed that only a minority of U.S. troops engaged in objectionable behavior, but the toll of their actions has been huge....

[Tragedy on tragedy.]

Anonymous said...

July 30, 2007

The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness

[We must leave Iraq immediately; written while public radio is happily celebrating surging.]

Anonymous said...

Yes; public radio is happily telling me what I can do to serve in Iraq. What I am doing in sacrifice, is not serving in Iraq. There is my patriotism, that and wishing every soldier home now now now.