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Jan 23, 2005

Let's See That Glue Stick, Soldier!

So, the neocons have regained their ascendency and George Bush is pledging to bring freedom and democracy to practically every corner of the world. 

If that's so, we had better hope that the next couple campaigns are more successful that the one we're now attempting to wash our hands of in Iraq.  Even though we've caused the country to fragment into ethnic and religious factions, and most Iraqi's who plan to vote don't know who represents the faction they're voting for, to Washington, it's all good. 

If we're so confident about the election, however, and we've got so much work to do fighting the insurgents and training Iraqi soldiers, how come the big assignment from Central Command is to "get out the vote?"

Generally, it's almost impossible to know how much to read in to a particular newswire photo.  In could be, for example, that a photographer happened to capture a soldier taking a minute to put up a campaign poster in his downtime. In this case, however, it seems that the story is bigger than that.  I say this because these pictures of soldiers circulating campaign literature depict three different units in at least two different cities on at least three different days over more than a week span. 

 Images 2005 01 21 International 21Garcia 650


In this first shot, an Army Sgt. is handing out leaflets on January 20th in Ramadi, in Anbar Province.

 Us.Yimg.Com P Rids 20050121 I R445225127

In this second shot, U.S. Army soldiers from Bravo Company of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Division, are hanging posters in Mosul on January 21st.

 Us.Yimg.Com P Rids 20050114 I R3176634300


In this third shot, also in Mosul, a soldier from Alfa 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, is hanging a poster.  Also, the date (January 14th) is a week earlier than the previous picture.

 Us.Yimg.Com P Rids 20050114 I R452151202-1

This shot, apparently showing the same soldier as directly above (also in Mosul on January 14th, but one minute later -- at 9:07 AM versus 9:06), seems to add more to the story.  If you notice, you can see that he's got a large stack of posters in one hand, and some kind of printout in the other.  With his halting walk and his attention to the paper, his hand looks to be tracking a list, possibly running down locations for distributing the posters.

Given the apparent widespread electioneering effort on the part of the military, it suggests -- in spite of the confidence voiced by the Administration  -- that there is a sense of desperation about this election and it's perceived legitimacy.

It also suggests a few other things. 

It points out how much the U.S. is stage managing this election.  (Aren't you curious, by the way, who designed and printed this nice poster?) 

Also, it illustrates the stranglehold the Pentagon continues to maintain over foreign policy.  In the old days, wouldn't the State Department (not to mention, the U.N. and the N.G.O.'s) have had something to do with the nation building side of things?

(image 1: Joe Raedle/Getty Images in NYTimes; image 2, 3 & 4: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters in YahooNews)


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The first shot shows an interesting contrast between the soldier and the civilians to whom he is handing leaflets. He is wearing 40 pounds of armor, and the man on the right is eyeing him warily, arms crossed in a very defensive position. It may be revealing that only armed GIs are pasting up and handing out leaflets in these photos. Did you see any photos of Iraqis electioneering?

Any idea if these leaflets being passed out are associated with a particular party or if they are just general notices about the upcoming election?

anyone know how to translate arabic? I went to the website and the page is in arabic and all the free translators on the web don't do arabic. I'd really like to know what the site says.

I wonder how these professional, well trained soldiers feel to be essentially distributing election propaganda in another country for a candidate in a language they do not speak.

I wanted to join the military to defend my country if I was ever needed for that.. but are they defending the United States now? What role exactly are they playing in protecting us?

Our grandfathers in WWII were heros.. these guys are just doing a job.


We've caused Iraq to fracture in to factions? Go talk to the Kurds, the Shia or the Marsh Arabs about how they were getting oppressed and massacred before the invasion. Iraq has been riven by factional warfare ever since the British created Iraq.

I'd also like to hear what you think the Coalition should do instead of having the election, as flawed as it will be. Surrender to the caliphascists, who are now the openly declared enemy of democracy? Rule Iraq as a satrapy? Install a dictator? Hand it back to the Ba'ath? You've already objected to trying improve the security situation so that's out.

As for spread democracy and freedom (which you seem to disdain as a bad thing), at least President Bush didn't say anything as radical and jingoistic as this during his inauguration:

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
Now that guy was obviously a complete right wing nut-job, eh?


Iraqis candidates are campaigning primarily on broadcast media, in large part because of the anti-election violence. Personally, I think we should lend moral support to those (Iraqi and Western) who are taking great risks to support the vote, the same way we did campaign workers in the south of the USA during the civil rights era, but that seems to be a minority opinion here. It seems very odd to me that so many people support democracy and elections everywhere except Iraq. Can you explain that to me?


Our troops are helping to transform a hostile state that invaded our ally and threatened others in to a liberal democracy which will at least not be a military threat to the USA or its allies. Do you really think the USA would be less threatened if the troops left and turned Iraq over to the caliphascists? Do you think that a theocratic or fascist ruled Iraq would be better for the USA than a liberal democratic Iraq? If not, then it follows that the troops are playing a role in defending us. Given the price the troops are paying, "just doing a job" seems like damning with faint praise.

Mr. Guy;

I think you misunderstand my meaning. I was asking Michael if he had seen any pictures of Iraqis electioneering. It wasn't meant rhetorically. I wholeheartedly support elections in Iraq. What is going to take place there barely qualifies as an election as many people are afraid to vote, and from my understanding, most people don't know what candidates are with which parties.

But perhaps that is beside the point. I think the Bush administration and Bush in particular are confusing elections with freedom and democracy. Elections alone do not make democracy. Participation in the process and faith in the process make a democracy and if Iraqis are not electioneering then they are not participating in the process.

Even more to the point, imagine if the roles were somewhat reversed. Imagine the Chinese army, for example, in our cities armed and armored to the teeth, going around putting up "VOTE!" posters for our next election. Would we have any faith in the elections?


Ah. I apologize for being overly sensitivie. I don't think there many, if any, such pictures because Iraqi candidates are using primarily broadcast media and local sermons for campaigning. It's also not overly important to know which candidates are with which party as the vote will be for a party, not a candidate. This is similar to the election system in Germany.

The lack of direct campaigning by Iraqis is certainly a cause for concern. It's just not clear what can be done about it at this point in time.

Related to that, I'm not sure I see the confusion to which you are referring. While elections of themselves don't make a democracy, it's hard to have a democracy without elections. I don't think we should let the perfect be the enemy of the good in Iraq. Will it be better to have these flawed elections or none at all? I favor taking what steps are possible, when they are possible, instead of waiting for a perfect time.

As for the China question, do you mean a rich, liberal democratic China that had overthrown a brutal fascist government in the USA and that had just had a moderately successful vote in occupied Canada (in which China had overthrown a brutal theocracy)? Or China and the USA as they are now?

I see that you must be practiced in the art of Yoga, because it takes a major stretch in thinking we are doing anything constructive in Iraq by installing a man who murdered 6 people in cold blood right before cleaning up for primetime as Premier ... also i didnt think that democracy in other countries had to favour the USA. It has to favour their own people first doesnt it? elections should be held, no doubt but they should be on the Iraqi's terms not our own. thats what a democracy implies. anything else would be a satellite or a military outpost at best.

also what barak said.


You're kidding yourself with the same pansy idealism Bush has. Let them vote, tra-la-la-la....yeah, let the Shia vote, oppress the Sunni, and then see what happens as they prop up a theocracy with hard ties to Iran - oh wait, we can't have that....stop, stop....result:civil war

OR - get out the vote, see what the results are, and then setup the govt you want anyway....which undercuts the thing it need most - legitimacy....result:continued unrest

Until we can make this place secure - which will be impossible without at least 100k more troops AT LEAST - than we might as well walk away now. Bush was never realistic about this thing - never cared to put a plan together that was a result of pragmatic, realistic goals. Just - Frheedom and'll loves us. yeah, let's disband the army and not pay them - great idea! let's refuse to add even the number of troops centom advised, awesome! let's forget everything we know historically about the region, its neighbors, and our past involvement both good and bad - terrific! surely things will just work out because...(drum roll please) WE COME IN THE NAME OF LIBERTY....huh? what's that? you just want running water?..oh, sorry - gotta wait on that. :-I

If we can't even provide security for a vote, it's doomed. You should read up on why Turkey is what it is today - many years of brutal oppression of the things that make things like a theocracy crop up in the first place. If you can't provide security for initial elections in a place that is gong to require generational attitude changes about how people should be gov'd than you're doomed. Enter:Iraq, and Bush's failed job so far. 25k troops for the election???? for crying outloud - makes me wonder why he secretly wants it to fail.

This election is a PR event for other goals and motives - I think. But, heck, I could be wrong. Hope I am but, Bush isn't showing me anything to think otherwise...


In coming upon these images, I never thought to compare them with other election-related shots in terms of whether "non U.S. military" were also engaged in electioneering. As AOG replied, the bulk of the campaigning is apparently not taking place "on the ground." However, it's hard to believe that there isn't more activity going on. (Even if there isn't, you would think Iraqis, or particular factions, would want the photographers (and the world) to see them engaging in at least some activity to prove that they (or their particular slate) is not afraid. I'll see what I can come up with as a follow up.

Regarding Steve and Mark's questions, I think they are excellent ones. I, too, would be very interested to know what these posters say, and whether they simply urge people to vote, or actually (actively or tacitly) back a particular faction.


Don't you mean seven? Do you always believe stories with a single source via unidentified witnesses providing conflicting data (e.g., where Allawi got the gun) that closely parallel earlier urban legends? Also, Allawi is the Prime Minister (not Premier). Not a particularly plausible performance on your part.

On the other hand, I'm not sure what you mean by "democracy has to favour the USA". I never seen a claim like that concerning the Iraqi elections. Could you cite one, or is this from the same urban legend pile as the Allawi story?

As for the elections being on the Iraqis' terms, as best we can tell Iraqi public opinion is to go ahead with the vote. So going ahead now is on the Iraqis' terms, as much as it is possible to be. See, there isn't a democracy there yet so it's hard to do things democratically. Or perhaps you mean there should be a vote on when to have the vote… but we couldn't have that with a vote on when to hold that vote… see the problem with your suggestion to do it democratically?


Numerous other examples of voting under violence have been cited in this thread, all of which disprove your claim that security is required before having elections. The Iraqis on both sides obviously believe that elections will be a telling blow against the caliphascists. I think they're more likely to be correct than you.

Moreover, didn't jr just finish telling me that you can't beat an insurgency that way? He was half right – you can't do it with more troops unless you're going to let the troops commit large scale, serious violence. Yet people on this weblog get queasy when Coalition troops search people's houses and the Washing Post goes weak-kneed because during a search some guy's Mom found out he had girlie magazines. So I want to know – what, exactly, do you think another 100K troops would do to make Iraq more secure and not just be more targets? Search houses? Shoot looters? Attack caliphascist strongholds? What?

On the other hand, what seems to have worked best in the past in similar cases is … elections! See the above comments for cites.

P.S. It's easy to say "walk away" when it's the Iraqis doing most of the dieing, trying to stand up for their right to rule themselves. And of course, we walked away in '91… that worked out well, didn't it?

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100k more troops would get the job done. Or at least get more of it done. The job that isn't getting done now. It's like anything else, without proper man power, things just get left out/behind. I just don't think we've suffciently staffed this effort. And our expectations are such that we need more people on the ground doing not only security but reconstruction. We have american families sending supplies to help troops get things done. While I applaud their effort, it smacks of just poor management all over the place - same the the security situation and reconstruction progress.

I am not saying to not go forward with elections, I am not saying elections are bad, I'm not even saying that more aggressive troop activity is a bad thing - what I am saying is, for the election itself, 25k troops is a whisper when we need a shout. We've needed a shout for a while now and the elections just underline that need.

Can elections happen under violence - sure! Why exactly are we not sending more troops anyway? We still only have about 150k troops over there. It was recommended that we have over 250K before the war even started. I simply don't understand why you think it's OK to half ass this and just tolerate the level of violence rather than put more troops in and get it done right (and then LEAVE!)

To address your question specifically: "So I want to know – what, exactly, do you think another 100K troops would do to make Iraq more secure and not just be more targets? Search houses? Shoot looters? Attack caliphascist strongholds? What?"

yes. all of the above.

I think Powell has it right (powell doctrine) and Rumsfeld and his boss dropped the ball

even if it is an urban legend, what do you say to the fact that allawi was a baathist, and seems to belong more in the Chalabi column than the Thomas Jefferson column?

Our troops are helping to transform a hostile state that invaded our ally and threatened others in to a liberal democracy which will at least not be a military threat to the USA or its allies. Do you really think the USA would be less threatened if the troops left and turned Iraq over to the caliphascists? Do you think that a theocratic or fascist ruled Iraq would be better for the USA than a liberal democratic Iraq?

that is what i was referring to w.r.t 'democracies' favouring the USA. and also, holding the elections on iraqi's terms means once they stop killing good american soldiers every opportunity they get unless you happen to believe they are the same terra-ists that hate freedom.


I say let's have an election and allow the Iraqis to decide whether they think Allawi's Ba'athist past disqualifies him. But you should take it up with the UN: their envoy picked him.

In terms of favouring the USA, I'm still not clear on your point. I believe, based on the historical record, that the replacement of dictatorships with liberal democracies intrinsically benefits the security interests of the USA. Such governments, of course, favour their own people first. These are not contradictory, in fact the latter is the cause of the former. The one thing dictatorships don't do is favour their own people – that is what makes them dangerous to the USA.

All the evidence I have seen indicates that the people attacking Coalition troops are the same people killing civilians and opposing elections. So, yes, I believe they are the same terrorists.


You ask some good questions. I will have to move in to the realm of opinion to provide my answers. I offer this as an opinion instead of rebuttal, because my real point remains that regardless of how badly managed the invasion and occupation has been, going ahead with elections as planned is a good thing and that the troops are fighting a good fight for a just cause in the interests of the USA.

For a far better write up than I could do, see here. The bottom line in that article is that with the USA military as it is, we can't realistically sustain more troops than are currently in Iraq. I think reconstruction has been more hindered by bad management (such as the snafu with the CERP funds) and the political costs of spending money on contractors (just think what a dirty word "Halliburton" is) than lack of troops.

I sometimes wonder if part of it is the constant harping on Vietnam. One of the key attack memes was the constantly escalating number of troops in country. If that starts happening in Iraq, might the political will in the USA fall apart, leaving the job not half-assed but undone entirely? War is simply politics by other means, so questions of high strategy will inevitably involve political considerations such as that.

P.S. I will note that the USA has never been involved in a war in which folks at home did not send important equipment to the troops. Just think about GPS and the '91 phase of the Gulf War. I doubt any one here will believe me, but I'm a bit of a military history buff and let me tell you, the amount of screwing up that's been done in this war is reasonably good by the standards of other wars fought by the USA. Go read up on the first couple of years of the Civil War as run by Abraham Lincoln for a good example of what I mean. Or ask the Candadians about Dieppe. Or read some Clausewitz on the friction of war – 'Everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult'.

No kidding! How about the screwup Patriot Missile system? What a pile of crap and huge waste of cash!! That thing can't even hit drones in a playground-safe test area!

Yes, the incompetence of the US military is offset by the untold TRILLIONS spent on it.


You said "regardless of how badly managed the invasion and occupation has been, going ahead with elections as planned is a good thing and that the troops are fighting a good fight for a just cause in the interests of the USA. "

I agree with moving forward with elections. Our troops fighting a good fight - that one is loaded. I think our troops are doing the job they've been told to do and that the majority of those instructions are based on good intentions for a good outcome for Iraq. But, like you said, there have been screw ups. More or less than other wars? I think to use that measure against something like Abu Ghraib is disingenuous.

I think they are fighting a fight that, while just from an alturistic stand point in terms of taking out dangerous guy, and while it was in the interests of the US for him to be gone, I think both of those are a bit naive in terms of the real results and real justifications we have and have had with this war. I don't think this war was a good idea to begin with but, once I realized we were going to do it anyway I was and am extremely upset that our leaders executed it so poorly. Again, measure it against other wars if you like but, the bottom line on this for me is the people in charge had plenty of good advice from top leaders and others that they ignored in favor of their own world view and ultimate objectives. Can you point to leaders in the past who have done the same or worse? absolutely! Does that absolve these leaders from their horrific and deadly mistakes? Absolutely NOT!

as far as sustaining a larger number of troops. please correct me if I am wrong but centcom is the one who recommended 250k troops - on the ground, not rotated.


Past comparisons are not about absolving, but about creating a proper standard of measure. You say the war was handled very poorly. By what standard? What would you use as an example of a war that was well handled? Hypothetically, if you couldn't find such an example, might that change your view of the handling of this war? Or is your view that in order to achieve an "acceptable" rating, Bush has to operate at a level of competence never before achieved in a USA war administration?


I disagree. I think to judge the success or failure of a current war against past wars is a failure to see the reason for war to begin with. War is about accomplishing objectives that are in conflict with another group/nations own set of objectives. In this case, as I see it, our objectives were to free Iraq, create a democracy, and secure the nation as a means to creating a bridgehead of peace and democracy in the middle east. This would then further our cause against Al Qaida and any other terror organization. This was also going to help secure our own homeland by A)creating this example of peace and democracy in an area that fosters terror and B)"taking the fight to the terrorists".

Now, that last point you could say was successful in that we've not had another attack here. But the rest? I'd say the job we've done so far does not bode well for overall success. And, when I listen to the leaders on this thing they just don't seem to get that. Also, the larger point I think here is that we didn't do this for Iraq - really - I mean, we did this as a way of making us more secure and less likely to be attacked again. Have we been successful? I'd would again say that while yes, we have not been attacked again, I don't think we're safer because of this.

You might then argue that this takes time. I hope you're right on that one but, at least in looking at how long Isreal and Palestine have been at it, I have serious concerns about us being successful at all. Concerns that were outlined by many people much smarter and knowledgable than me and most of what they said we'd be facing as a result of this adventure has come to pass. Some of it simply due to execution of the event, some of it due to poor planning. Either way - so far, the folks who took us here had plenty of warnings about where we'd be. And if those same warnings hold up then the future is also quite bleak given the existing leadership's lack of ability to listen.

It's pretty simple. The skull signifies death and killing, 24 is for 24 hours a day.

In other words,a skull with a 24 on it, means 24 hour a day/Killers.

Ya'all see it - Just say it.

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