NOTE: BagNewsNotes is now located at Please update your bookmarks.

You will be automatically redirected in a few seconds...

« Watch Your Back(drop) | Main | A Charge To Keep »

Jan 18, 2005

Someone's Been Sitting in my Chair ...and They've Broken it all to Pieces!


I have to admit, I'm still confused about the criticism I received during the Fallujah invasion for showcasing American troops storming into houses and messing up the furniture (See "Your House is My House" and "Fort Knocks").  I really do think I appreciate that couches and coffee tables don't mean much in wartime.  However, the fact we wreaked so much havoc (pretty much demolishing the city, as it turned out) not only didn't do much for winning hearts and minds, it directly contradicted the military's expressed goal of keeping the living situation mostly intact.


We Americans might have trouble relating to the people and culture(s) in Iraq, but it seems we are more than capable of relating to violations most dear to your average Nielsen family.  But that doesn't explain why my conservative friends reacted so negatively to images of domestic disturbance.  Perhaps it moved that silly "fight 'em there, so we don't have to fight 'em here" justification out of the abstract.  In contrast to the standard images of coffins and orphan refugees, perhaps the idea of riffling through toy chests and pulling apart hair dyers might have brought the whole campaign just a little too close to home.


In contrast to the Fallujah campaign, I really don't have a sense about the logic, efficacy or morality of the latest "home inspection" campaign.  What I do know, however (from following the wire photos pretty closely), is that the past week has brought a spike in photos documenting troops making house calls. 


Is this preventative action in anticipation of the Iraqi elections?  Has an improvement in intelligence given us new and specific evidence about which houses have RDX taped to the underside of the ironing board?  Or, are the pictures a more random event, perhaps just the latest assignment captured by the latest batch of embeds?  (As far as I can tell, the bulk of these pictures were shot by only two photographers.)

I'd like to return to Fallujah for a second, though.  There was a detail at the tail end of the last NYTimes update on that city that caught my eye. ("Residents Trickle Back, but Falluja Still Seems Dead."  January 6th, 2005.  Sorry -- link no longer active.)

After producing proof of residence and submitting to an "exhaustive" search at a U.S. checkpoint (which the Lt. Colonel in charge cheerily referred to as Disneyland), the Times asked one Fallujah resident, Sayeed Jumaily, 36, about his situation in the aftermath of the assault.  Quoting the article:

Mr. Jumaily has been staying with relatives in Baghdad but this week found that his house was largely intact, though the furniture was destroyed and to his deep shame, he said in an embarrassed whisper, rummaging troops had scattered his wife's underwear in the open.

Apparently, the article made no mention of the ironing board.

(image 1, 3 & 4: REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra in Yahoo News; Image 2: AFP/Mauricio Lima in Yahoo News)


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Someone's Been Sitting in my Chair ...and They've Broken it all to Pieces!:

» An alternate history Iraq parallel from Thought Mesh
I got in to another long and pointless argument recently, but it did bring up some interesting points that didn’t... [Read More]


War is hell; an illegal, immoral, unnecessary war is a bat outta hell. Nothing; not freedom, democracy or 'liberation' from tyranny can stand in the way of the US army and its declared mission to rifle through the underwear drawers of every dresser and closet in Iraq. Beware terrorists hiding under the bed; Uncle Sam is coming for ya, and he wants your dvd player too. It should be getting tougher and tougher for ultra right wing apologists for Bush to condone the actions of the troops, which appear increasingly like those of a conquering army, not a liberating one; actions which have only further inflamed the insurgency with all the subtlety of a 500 lb. bomb dropped on a hospital. Do you have to be a 'libgressive, America-hater' to realize that virtually every mission undertaken in Iraq has been an unmitigated failure? Someone, anyone, please explain to me how the elections will wipe out the insurgency, when its existence seems intractably linked to the occupation of the country by foreign armies? Is there one success story to come out of the 2 year stranglehold on the citizenry? Oh right; freedom's on the march.
Too bad chaos is already at the destination point.

Yeah, clearly the USA military decided to rifle through underwear drawers just to gratify their own perverted desires. It's not like there is any reason to be doing that kind of thing. Clearly whatever happens and whoever does it, the USA is at fault (it's not like Iraqis of any sort could be responsible for anything, being ragheads and all). And certainly it's a level of destructiveness unmatched in human history.

You've opened my eyes. Clearly it would be better to leave the Iraqis to the tender mercies of the insurgents.

I guess my own personal opinion about this is that these situations simply reflect the incompatability of a marginally military goal like "win hearts and minds" with the clearly military one of "prevail in conflict" when it comes right down to the grunt level.

Having once, many years ago, reluctantly been one of Uncle Sam's Own during wartime, I recall lots of training and indoctrination which might be brought to bear on the latter goal but no training or preparation in the former.

Once you get shot at a couple of times, the truth of the matter is you really start to doubt the non-combatant status of every "civilian." Paranoia becomes a survival skill. Couple that with officers and non-coms, some of whom you respect and depend on, who tell you it's your job to go do x, y and do it. There's this whole mileau thing that just owns you. Hard to explain. I guess if you know what it's like from feeling it, you know.

Even the Abu Ghraib thing makes some warped much sense as hacking around on corpses of enemies you stumble onto after a firefight.


JSLC and AOG; my wrath is not intended for the troops, who must engage in the daunting task of winning an unwinnable mission. Ask the Isreali's how well their 30 year occupation is succeeding. It is by now obvious to anyone familiar with either Vietnam or currently Iraq, that an insurgent uprising is not only going to lead to an unconventional war, but will inevitably force US troops to utilize unconventional tactics in response. There is by now no legitimate purpose for the Coaliton forces to remain in Iraq, apart from the thankless task of further supervising the destruction of the country. How many rationales for the invasion were there again? Weren't you supposed to be ridding the world of a mad dictator? Well job one accomplished, except he posed no threat to anyone, and you guys set him up in business in the first place. Then there was that pesky WMD issue; phew, glad that's been put to rest. Liberating the Iraqi people? Roger that. Finally, you were to deliver democracy to the grateful citizenry. Two weeks and counting; but somehow I see less the vision of a stable, democratic Iraq, and more the model of Afghanistan, lawless and dangerous outside of Kabul, where the bulk of US forces in the country are stationed, almost expressly to guard the Karzai government. For this you are sacrificing the flower of your youth?

hey there, just a note about dead ny times links. go to ny times link generator to get the permanent addresses for stories. and if you have the original links to any stories, you can get a permanent address. it's a useful tool for bloggers especially. it's at,

peace out, lim.

jr: whoa, man. My post, were it verbal, would have been delivered in as soft, off-hand tone as I could manage with care to try to bring in as much ironic shading as possible. Record straight: I didn't elect him...believe me, I didn't...I gave my vote, my time, my money to fight him and even helped transport prospective Kerry voters to the polls in Texas to boot (no pun intended), the quinessential red state. Just wanted to throw in one veteran's perspective on this question is all. In my mind "supporting the troops" always means, first of all, not sending them unless necessary and, secondly, bringing them home ASAP. IMO, to our national shame, we're in violation of both.


JSLC, my only point in including your name in my comments was to point out that my issue is not with the troops, but with the insanity of the smoke and mirror policy makers. I never intended to suggest that you shared AOG's sentiments; that was obvious from your own comments. I apologize for the confusion. AOG and I have been sparring for a few weeks now, and I can only hope that he can recognize my derogatory comments are directed at Bush and the administration, not at him or any other supporter personally; yet he doesn't seem to extend the same courtesy to me, as his consistent digs at my 'logic' or 'analysis' seem to reflect not only his disagreements with my posts, but also a decided lack of respect for any dissenting opinion.

"It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself."
Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826), Notes on Virginia


Since you infrequently make actual arguments instead of ad hominem attacks, there's not much else to work with. In this case you at least make some assertions, despite the fact that they're almost all wrong and without providing any supporting evidence.

There are so many errors that I can only hit the high points, so here goes:

  1. I am familiar with the USA effort in Vietnam. You might try looking in to it yourself. If you did, you might note that it shows that an insurgency can in fact be crushed. The Viet Cong were effectively wiped out during the Tet Offensive and were never again of significant. South Vietnam fell to a large scale invasion by a neighboring state, North Vietnam, not to any insurgency. Moreover, it fell only because the USA cut off air support and military supplies, precisely the course of action you seem to be recommending. Finally, as a result of the USA abandoning the South, tens or hundreds of thousands of people were killed, hundreds of thousands sent to brutal re-education camps and millions fled overseas and to this day the Vietnamese suffer under a repressive regime.
  2. As to insurgencies leading to unconventional warfare and unconventional tactics by the USA military, all I can say is "and so?". I fail to grasp your putative point.
  3. As for no legitimate point for the USA to remain, what about to help defend the Iraqis from civilian massacres? What about to aid the transition to a emerging democracy, as in Afghanistan? I guess you consider that kind of thing illegitimate. The Coalition is trying to prevent the destruction of the country, which is being carried out by the insurgents.
  4. Concerning rationals for the war, I will refer you here, which the text for the resolution authorizing the invasion. We did get rid of a brutal dictator, and one of the legimate reasons for remaining at this time is to prevent another one. I am glad to see that you are also relieved by the prevention of an emerging WMD threat in Iraq.
  5. Afghanistan is in fact a beacon of hope, given the way the situation is improving there and how the elections turned out. One notes that it's dropped off the news, presumably precisely because it can no longer be portrayed as a quagmire. I expect it to follow the same course as El Salvador which gradually became more peaceful after elections started happening on a regular basis. If Iraq goes the same way, clearly a win.
  6. Of course, El Salvador also demonstrates that insurgencies can be beaten (just like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria). I've already mentioned that this was the case in Vietnam as well, but let's consider the case of the Israelis. One notes that Israeli tactics have far more resembled the USA's than, say, the Syrians mentioned above. One might further note that since the Israelis have taken a far more direct approach, terrorism has dropped off substantially. All of this suggests that perhaps the problem in Iraq is that the USA has been far too restrained. I suspect, though, that we'd prefer to win in the El Salvador style rather than the Egyptian one.

What I really wonder, though, is what exactly you expect would happen should the USA abandon Iraq tomorrow. Could you outline that scenario for us, and why you think it would better than the current one? It might also be interesting to hear what you think the soon to be elected government is likely to do to fight the insurgents. Is there any outcome other than victory for the mass murdering thugs of the insurgency (the guys that were lobbing mortar rounds in to Abu Ghraib and killing the prisoners by the dozen) that you would find acceptable? Your position on this is completely opaque to me, unless you really do favor a resurgent Ba'ath regime or Iranian style theocracy.

AOG, if as you say the insurgency in Vietnam would have been crushed, if only the armed forces had been allowed to 'exterminate' the Vietcong, smacks of such an incredible lack of understanding of what fuels a rebellion, that it makes your arguments seem quite lame. I've been hearing that refrain from military hawks since I was 6. When in history has such a methodolology proven successful? The very fact that you fail to recognize that rebellions are initiated to fight an INVASION and OCCUPATION by foreign armies speaks volumes. If the US were invaded by China, I wonder then what your take on the 'resistance' would be? Would you be as willing to suggest that the Chinese remain to 'crush' the insurgents? I doubt it; but again, the idea is that any and all US foreign policy benefits not only America, but the poor, backward peons which must gratefully pay tribute to the allmighty conquerors. Is is totally beyond your grasp to understand that the civilian massacres you claim the US is now preventing, WOULDN'T BE HAPPENING IF THE COALITION ARMY HADN'T TAKEN OVER THE COUNTRY? Afghanistan has dropped out of the news, because it simply isn't self-serving for the White House to promulgate the idea that Karzai cannot travel outside of Kabul, that the production of opium has exploded, and that security throughout the country is a complete joke. 'Prevention of an emerging WMD threat?' That's the easiest task of the occupation, since there were no WMD's to begin with, thus the prevention of them seems to have been accomplished prior to the invasion. 'Terrorism has dropped off substantially in Isreal?' Is that why on the day of the Palestinan elections, Sharon broke off relations with Abbas, as a result of the bombing of an Isreali army outpost, which killed 6 soldiers just days before? I don't suggest the Coalition leave Iraq tomorrow, but let me ask you; do the 17 enormous military bases Halliburton is constructing in Iraq leave you with the impression that Coaliton forces are not long for departure? As to the elected Iraqi government, and its ability to fight terrorism, let me refer back to Dr. Rices' confirmation hearing this week, in which she was asked to estimate the number of troops which Mr. Allawi might count on as a security force. 'I think the number is about 120,000,' she replied. That is nearly the volume of Coaliton forces. If that number is accurate, where the hell are those forces? Why are they not patrolling the streets of their country? Why are they not replacing the Coaliton troops? Because that number is grossly inflated, that's why, and the idea that Iraqi security will somehow magically appear after the elections is a farce. It will be years at this rate, before any major Coaltion troop reductions occur, during which period, the rising level of anti-Americanism will continue to make the goals of the invasion virtually impossible. Your assertion that I somehow favor the insurgency over your troops is ridiculous; my brother is a test pilot for the Air Force here in Canada, so the idea that I favor the resistance over the Coaliton forces is plain wrong. My concerns are FOR the troops, who have been led to a nightmare through arrogance, piss poor intelligence and deceptions, which have done nothing but make their misssion that much more difficult. Your suggestion that insurgencies can be crushed by methods bordering on anarchism are just sad. Win at all costs, is that it? No matter the legitimacy or injustice? You mention the triumph of El Salvador. An illegitimate war fought using the most surreptitious means available; this is democracy in action? The biggest guns rule, no matter the price paid? You seem to think your comments alone are worthy of debate, and have nothing but scorn and derision for any opposing views. I fail to understand how thinking you are right, makes you right. You are entitled to your opinions, as am I; you're even entitled to disagree with mine. What I don't claim however, is to be omnisciently correct about everything, and have in fact even conceeded points to you now and again, when warranted. You however, have not made a single attempt to recognize that perhaps you don't always come out on the right side, which seems to be a perpetual problem for your government as well. Is it really possible for you guys to be right all the time? I don't think so. Despite my disagreement with almost everything you say, I again remind you that you are entitled to your opinion, and that I respect that. What I don't respect however, is your constant assertions that I am somehow less intelligent or historically aware, to even POST my comments. I have enjoyed debating you, and would only ask that our tone remain civil and courteous, as bombast and insults do nothing to further the dialogue. I trust you will find this appeal sincere, as sadly, too many forums of this nature are filled with nothing but vitriol, making any discourse tantamount to arguing in a vacuum.

Well, gentlemen, you both present your arguments with zeal and clarity. As a muzzy old man, I envy you that. All that history...all those logical forays...all that data: Iraq, Vietnam. It remains a puzzle to me. 58 thousand plus young men died in a jungle -- several of them after having become very good friends of mine. I was thinking idly about some of those fine men (who've stayed remarkably young and fit in my memory for all these years) the other day as I drove to Home Depot. As I was hugged the right curb and motored at a safe but geriatric pace befitting my near-60 years, being impatiently passed by cars of Japanese and German origin, a question began to form. I turned into my destination parking lot just beyond a dealership that sold Korean cars. At The Depot I purchased a welding implement clearly marked "Made In Vietnam" to fix a fire place cover which came in a box marked "Made In Thailand." By the time I was done, the question was fully formed: why...tell me again, please...are they not here among us still? Then I began to wonder what those young men on the nightly news with tight stomachs, wrap-around sunglasses and Kevlar hats would wonder about when they got to be 60. Their friends who didn't get the opportunity to become saggy baggy old men? And would they wonder why and be sad?


JSLC, your dilemma is shared by even those such as myself who were to young to be among those whose lives were sacrificed on the alter of corporate greed, and idealogical obssession. It is precisely the kind of angst you describe which so many of my generation fervently wish to avoid. If my country were to be invaded, I have no doubt that I would volunteer for whatever form of resistance which would inevitably rise up. By the most fortuitous of circumstances, such a conflict has not been the scourge of my generation. It is with profound sadness that I offer my condolences on the loss of your friends, and so many other young people, American and Vietnamese, and can only hope that similiar sentiments are not shared by the veterans of Iraq, though I fear they will.

AOG, not to be too ironic, but I just came across this headline from the BBC:

'Warlord survives Taleban attack.'


I'm sorry you find me so unpleasant, but once again you appear to be arguing with some one other than me, even though you address your comment to me, which I find very unpleasant. I did not write, as you claim, anything like

if as you say the insurgency in Vietnam would have been crushed, if only the armed forces had been allowed to 'exterminate' the Vietcong
What I wrote was that the insurgency was crushed. South Vietnam fell to a foreign invasion, not an insurgency (see here, in the 1974-1975 section). I certainly wrote nothing about allowing the armed forces to 'exterminate' the VietCong.

However, you did ask when such methodology to crush an insurgency has been successful. I provided two links to modern examples in the same region in a previous comment. Here's another one.

As for resisting an invasion of China, if the USA had a repressive Communist regime and China was a rich, liberal democracy I'd help China out against the resistance, presuming I hadn't already moved to China (like these Iraqis).

I would also like to note, that the insurgents are attacking primarily election workers and candidates, not the occupation, despite your assertion in that regard. In effect, they're the equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan, a group of terrorists who used violence and murder to prevent people from voting. It's not about the occupation, it's about preserving the rule of a privileged. What should be done about that, other than surrender the Iraqi nation to them?

Civilian massacres: Like Halabja or the Marsh Arabs? Or just the regular killing by the Ba'ath regime, up to 1,500,000 in the thirty years of Hussein's rule. Based on the historical record, it would be worse without the occupation.

Military bases in Iraq: Oh, how could we bear to have Iraq end up like Germany or Japan after WWII! Does the USA have an exit strategy for that war yet? I mean, the troops are still there.

Afghanistan dropping out of the news because the Bush White House wants it to: You can't possibly be serious. Look at Dan Rather's recent escapade and the extent to which CBS news went to get a negative story on President Bush and tell me these are propaganda tools of Karl Rove.

If there were no WMDs or even potential for them, what were all those UN Security Council resolutions about? Aren't those strong evidence for serious concerns on the issue from the major powers?

Now let's deconstruct this:

idea that Iraqi security will somehow magically appear after the elections is a farce. It will be years at this rate, before any major Coaltion troop reductions occur, during which period, the rising level of anti-Americanism will continue to make the goals of the invasion virtually impossible.
It's yet another straw man, as I never made any claims about such a magical ability. In fact, I cited the case of El Salvador precisely to show that I don't believe that, as it took between 10 and 20 years for the situation to stablize after the right wing death squads were shut down and elections held. I also wonder about your basis for rising anti-Americanism. You're saying that the Iraqis will increasing resent the Americans protecting them from mass murdering scum who want to impose a brutal regime on them? Your whole premise here is that Coalition troops will remain precisely because that would happen if they left. I am simply incapable of believing that the Iraqis are that stupid. Certainly the Kurds haven't been. Since they've been under the American boot the longest, why are they the most pro-American faction in Iraq? Shouldn't they be the least?

Here's the thing, though. I see the current effort as the least bad solution facing the USA for its long term interests. You obviously think it's a bad policy, but are unable to articulate a better one. That, to a large extent, is precisely my point. I've spent a lot of time thinking about what could be done differently but in the big picture the alternatives all look a lot worse. I'll take your word that you don't support the insurgents over the Coalition, but that makes it even less comprehensible that you blame the Coalition for all problems (the insurgency is inevitable, it is the Coalition "presiding over the destruction of Iraq", etc.), viciously attack the morality of the Coalition and its actions, yet never have one bad word to say about the insurgents nor their actions and actively make excuses for them by blaming the Coalition for their actions.

P.S. You call for civility, but unfortunately I consider not mispresenting other's views a basic part of that. I suspect that a big part of the reason you find me "scornful" and "derisive" is that you assign such opinions to me. I've provided a couple examples above, but here's another one: "the idea is that any and all US foreign policy benefits not only America, but the poor, backward peons which must gratefully pay tribute to the allmighty conquerors". That's pretty scornful and derisive, but fortunately it's not something I said or believe. Perhaps if you responded to what I actually write, you'd find me more pleasant.

Also, in many cases I'm not presenting myself as correct, but showing that some assertion of yours is wrong. For instance, the military bases. I don't consider them automatically a good thing, but my intent was to show that your implied assertion that such bases are automatically bad for the host nation is flat out contradicted by the historical record. They hardly constitute evidence for American imperialism (especially with the Germans whining about us removing those bases).

Good enough for me AOG, now I see the light.

I'd have to say that the reason your posting the pictures of Iraqi homes upset so many nut-cases is because they like to think of the people whose murder they support as poor savages. When you show photos of homes that look much like American homes they can't handle it. There needs to be more of those photos posted all over the internet!! Maybe reality will finally seep through their barriers.

By the way, Saddam Hussein was installed by the United States and armed with WMDs by the United States.

I guess calling thugs like Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden freedom fighters is a sure sign that Americans are excellent judges of character or values.

On logical coherence and analytical prowess, AOG wins this one hands down.


Ok, taken as stipulated. Does that mean the US is therefore permanently barred from correcting this mistake (I notice you completely ignore the context of the time), or does it mean the US has responsibility to rectify the situation?

Skipper; are you suggesting that the US solve the problems and mistakes it previously enacted in Iraq by incurring even more problems and mistakes today?


Primarily, I'm suggesting J.Lee's reply is completely vacuous, empty of context or alternatives.

A problem that pretty much characterizes the Left's position on this war, which is essentially a null hypothesis. The status quo ante had become a cul-de-sac requiring a signifcant change.

I am convinced the Pres Bush's choice was the best of those on offer. Which means any meaningful analysis, or criticism, must be against the other choices, not perfection.

Should you choose to do such an analysis, be careful. I spent 20 years in the military, been in combat, served in the area, spent and spent time in planning and policy making.

Rants, ad hominems, and baseless assertions won't pass muster.

There's just no arguing the 'success' of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice plan for Iraq is there? Especially when anyone can see how 'successful' it's proving to be.


You make my point perfectly.

Since perfection isn't an alternative, any meaningful anaylsis must be against available choices, all of which will be executed imperfectly, and entail their own opportunities and costs.

So, you are right. There is no arguing the success of the Bush administrations plan, because you have provided nothing to compare it against.

For a good analysis of what is in play, read Can we win?.

The question of 'Can we win?' becomes ever more irrelevant to the more compelling one of 'How much can we lose?'


Unless you are willing to start from the status quo ante, then establish and defend an alternate course of action, you are engaged in empty carping.

Unfortunately, empty carping is all I have ever heard from the Left, and all that answered AOG's thorough and analytical argument.

As well, you should review some history to put our losses in perspective.

It is simply amazing how right wing supporters apparently hear nothing but 'empty carping' when conversing with the left, and yet continue to show up on left wing blogs with the frequency of a recurrent carbuncle. Why not stay on and have all the consensus of moral opinion that you can stomach? Or is it just easier to spew your "We're right because we won the election!" nonsense?


"Since perfection isn't an alternative, any meaningful anaylsis must be against available choices, all of which will be executed imperfectly, and entail their own opportunities and costs."

I'm not looking for consensus, I'm looking for a rigorously thought out alternative to the current policy.

Or is it just easier to spew your "We're right because we won the election!" nonsense?

Does not qualify, nor does it bear any resemblance to anything I said (or AOG, for that matter).

Which once again makes my point--instead of posing seriously developed alternative, you have engage in yet more empty carping, accented this time by a patently false assertion.

Is there any 'alternative to the current policy' which can be put forth, that doesn't tow the Bush politburo line, or enrage right wingers with by its audacity to challenge policies which are strewn with lies, falsehoods and paranoia?

i think u all should just calm down for a moment and remember whats really imporant in our lives not just what goes on around us,just for a moment

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

My Other Accounts

Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 07/2003