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Aug 19, 2007

September's Wallpaper


(click for full sizes)

Once again, we have corporate media caught up in the wave of a sell job.

With the Administration's "show progress" deadline fast approaching, Sunday's NYT offered not one, but two high-profile stories pitching "improvement propaganda."  In the front page piece, we are informed that Fallujah is calm -- but will probably not remain that way if America choses to cut and run pull out.  In an inside piece (U.S.-Backed Plan for Sunni Neighborhood Guards Is Tested - link), we learn about the suddenly-breakthrough concept (extrapolated mostly from one locale, Ghazaliya) of contracting Sunni security forces from local "tribal groups."

What is soft peddled in both articles is the fact that these deputized militias, consisting of previously designated bad guys and/or bands of hitherto insurgents are, for the present, being bought off to act (under the necessarily close supervision of U.S. military) like local security -- mostly in place of the Iraqi police and military we have given up trying to work with.

Whereas the Neighborhood Guard photo offers Bush marketing director Gen. Petraeus gleefully pumping hands with members of the newly minted, freshly named and custom outfitted "GG Force" (ladies and gentlemen, the Ghazaliya Guardians!), it seems telling the three props recruits fail to  pay much heed to a great military celebrity.

The Fallujah photo from yesterday's front page is a little more involved.  According to the caption, we see "Fallujah residents" (i.e. former and potential evil doers) lined up to join an "auxiliary force" (i.e. independent U.S.-backed paramilitary group) to "bolster" (i.e. cooperate for pay with) the local police.  By the way, those are local police in the foreground (behind the barricade) deemed to be "guarding a suspect."

What we see, at surface level, is a telegraph to the American audience that, short of doing something stupid (like changing course), we're finally managing to pacify the restive male population of Fallujah, and elsewhere.  At the next level, of course, the image elaborates the mechanism behind September's sales pitch. Through this lens, we see the procedure of carving up cities into smaller and smaller cordoned quadrants, along with the recruitment of bands (that would otherwise actively hate us) to keep everyone else that hates us off our backs.

( image 1: Spencer Platt/Getty Images.  August 18, 2007.  image 2: Marko Georgiev for the NY Times.  July 2007.  Fallujah, Iraq.


no interpreter needed/left behind

The Ghazaliya Guardians and coach Gen.Petraeus.
An analogous explanation of whats happening in Iraq, its instructive as a primer for the upcoming September debate as well.

--Bud & Lou .

The strategy you describe is pretty much accurate and seems to have a measure of effectiveness, especially when contrasted with all the other tactics we've used in the past. If only we had been doing this three years ago.

There's every reason not to trust Bush or anyone that might be beholden to him at this point. Which means that even if the surge and current tactics were working, we'd have no way to reliably tell. Thus the whole situation becomes a Rorschach test.

With the Administration's "show progress" deadline fast approaching,

Yes, and a reduction of coverage by the media helps too. No news is good news.

It's not photographic, but I thought this ( was the most systemic and damning account of the Iraq war I've read in a while. I think it's telling that in the lack of any substantial or compelling visual evidence of peace (we have nothing left to topple), merely effectively detaining someone serves as evidence of progress.

I find the second image terrifying. Merely having militia members with uniforms gives the first photo a semblance of order, and for that reason I find it more successful as propaganda. I think the plastic lawn chair and the soldiers without uniforms feed the sense of chaotic desperation which taints all US policy concerning Iraq. Part of what makes military discipline effective is the lines it draws between civilian and military life, constantly reminding soldiers that they have to play by different rules than civilians. granted, this has the potential for vast abuse, but military professionalism makes sure military force isn't subject to the whims of individual prejudice, at least miming a structure of accountability. the plastic chair, the lack of uniforms undermine the idea of military discipline which is reinforced by visual symbols

In the first photo, the "neigborhood guards" look like security from a tennis match at Wimbledon - take a look at those fashionable matching caps and slacks and unbuttoned collars; and furthermore, it looks like they are watching the tennis match as opposed to giving a damn about the game show host who wants to shake their hands. Even the guy shaking the General's hand is looking past him at something more interesting.

I love the circle of security, too. There are at least 2 armed soldiers guarding the unarmed guards in the presence of General grip and grin, who's guarding all of Iraq, including the guards, of course.

The second image looks like a crackdown. If these people are being reviewed in order to "join the force" or support them, they are simultaneously being inspected, questioned and detained. If this really is about recruitment, they are being asked to walk the razor's edge.

The currently hyped "success" of arming bands of Sunnis in order to fight other extremist groups is unbelievably short sighted. The blurring of roles and alliances must be confusing on the ground. I wonder if some of these men didn't show up thinking they were joining one side only to find out that they are joining the other. To clear up any confusion, this should be the poster - "Come join the Sunni Revolution (which will be armed by, and temporarily supporting the infidels against the shiites and al quaida before regrouping) to kick the infidels out of Iraq!"

Heretofore = from now on

Hitherto = up until now.

I'm not nearly as sanguine about the 'hostage' or whatever. He looks like just a kid being held for ransom. The guy in the lawn chair is bizarrely too relaxed. Like he's going to get off on doing god knows want to the kid later.

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