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Aug 08, 2008

Latest Cover For Iraq's Core Meltdown

The-Last-Battle

Remarkable, isn't it, how this cover -- illustrating Sunday's NYT Mag lead story on Iraq -- manages to reduce an otherwise complex multi-ethnic, multi-party train wreck into a simple one-liner?

What Michael Gordon's 8,000 word article does well is detail the U.S. Military's intense and largely successful effort to convert the Sunni insurgency into Awakening councils, and how these entities now hang in a tenuous state given the Shiite government's reluctance to legitimize or integrate them.  The article also describes the delicate circumstances between what it terms the ‘powers that be’ and the ‘powers that aren’t' within Shiite Iraq.  The article outlines power schisms between tribal and more urban/professional Shiites, and between more religious and secular Shiite factions.  In particular, it highlights the power struggle between Prime Minister Maliki's Dawa party, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim’s Islamic Supreme Council party and the Sadrists.

Over and over, however, the article places all the chips for coherence, stability and political order on the provincial elections scheduled for this October.

Those are the same elections we learned Wednesday, however, that now aren't going to happen based on the failure of the Iraqi parliament to approve them prior to adjourning for the summer.

Because the Administration and John McCain's story line about the stabilization of Iraq is actually based a lot more -- especially at this point -- on democratic progress than on military supplication, you would think that this setback would be extremely major news.  But no, with the U.S. election in full swing and those Olympics getting started, nobody -- especially the U.S. media -- seems much interested in the fact that this patchwork state America pulled apart in the Persian Gulf is failing because the Kurds, in a battle for Kirkuk with the Arabs and the Turkmen, had already opted out of the elections, and the rest of the government -- especially the Prime Minister, looking to duck al-Sadr at the ballot box -- took the same pass.

Which leads me to the "tastes great, less filling" dynamics of Sunday's cover.

What we see here is an thoroughly artful image of one of those Sadrist "Death to the U.S." demonstrations, the boy literally in the face of the American audience.  The text -- "The Last Battle"  -- activates a sense of an ultimate confrontation, but misleads one to think it's between the Mahdi and the Americans as opposed to the Shiites and the Shiites.  (The nuance-killing caption reads: "An anti-American protest by Iraqi Shiites in Sadr City last month.")  Even more misleading, though, is the sense that, after five years of war, finality in any form is coming to this battered country.

But even that degree of misdirection and reductionism is trifling in light of Wednesday's parliamentary debacle.

Far from failing to honestly represent the Shiite-Shiite conflict, this cover misses the larger picture by kilometers.  It's not just that the cover shills for the Bush and the authoritarian Maliki Administration and the McCain campaign by, one more time, laying blame at the feet (and umbrellas) of the Mahdi.  It's that it completely negates the complexity of: the central government's lack-of-a-battle with the Kurds, who have largely broken away; the brewing re-run with the Sunnis, who see the "make nice" money running out at the same time the prospects for representation are slipping away; and a Shiite core meltdown, based on the fraying disposition of all manner of Shiite have-nots, who aren't getting any.

Okay, now back to Paris, Britney, the floor exercises and synchronized swimming.

(image: Benjamin Lowy/VII  for The New York Times)

Comments

Make rain, not war.

I had no idea umbrellas were the weapon of choice for the The Last Battle (is that the final battle, or the previous battle, anyway?). I better stock up.

Its Michael Gordon of Judith & Michael fame. Will not find a more biased propagandist inside the NYT than old Mike. Whatever he tells you, expect the exact opposite. Can't lose. If he says this is al-Sadr last battle, expect it to be the beginning of something very ugly.

Didn't we start this fiasco in earnest March of 2003? Think it's "only" been a bit over five years of war, not seven. Five years too long, certainly, but we haven't reached seven yet, at least in Iraq.

probably a coincidence, but the title of the article is also a reference to the climactic novel in the "Narnia" series, which features a rival kingdom that's clearly intended to represent Islam in opposition to Christendom, so you've got the whole "crusade" and Christian millenialist rhetoric right there.....

Yes five. Fixed it. Feels like between 7 and 100.

The boy isn't simply in the face of the American audience. With his raised fist and the low camera aimed upward, it creates the illusion that we (or the photographer) are in mortal jeopardy, collapsing beneath a hail of blows prior to being trampled by the angry mob.

Also, the NYT should point out that those umbrellas may be capable of injecting a deadly ricin pellet. Hallelujah! The WMD have been found, Bush and the NYT are vindicated at last.

Say what you will about the rag, the title, or the contents of the so-called "article", that's a pretty damn good picture--elegant, well composed, plenty of energy and force. Hard to get this level of artsiness in a news shoot where you can't pose models and set up the scenery.

I like.

para sol ar's

The BAG said: Because the Administration and John McCain's story line about the stabilization of Iraq is actually based a lot more -- especially at this point -- on democratic progress...

If and when BHO becomes the progressive Democratic President, he'll inherit the same Iraqi mess without being able to change it much (or quickly). Maybe in a few years we can hope for another BnN post with a slightly different slant:

Because the Administration and Barack Obama's story line about the stabilization of Iraq is actually based a lot more -- especially at this point -- on democratic progress...

Barack may get in, but will his administration get America out?

the bag said
Even more misleading, though, is the sense that, after five years of war, finality in any form is coming to this battered country.

raphael said
Five years too long, certainly, but we haven't reached seven yet, at least in Iraq.

-

actually the u.s. has been trashing iraq since january 1991, no?

gulf war; at least 100 000 iraqi dead, systematic destruction of the country's infrastructure, depleted uranium,

then, 12 years of sanctions; with daily bombing runs, ~1 000 000 iraqi dead

then, well, whatever this current bloodbath is called.

it's a continuum, what's with this collective imaginary counter reset?

love the bag, thanks.

crossref : “The US would have to divert 2,000 men to this dangerous task (and it is intrinsically dangerous to have US troops directly on the Iranian border).

it is ‘intrinsically dangerous’ for US troops to be anywhere other than behind the blast walls of their own Green Zones, or hunkered down in the bunkers of their Forward Operating Bases ~ Which is why they have been / are now huddled in an entirely defensive posture, save for that hideous Russian Roulette game of statistical attrition known as "combat patrols" or "convoy duties", while the staff officers at the Pentagon have gone all AirWar haywire on us.

At some point, one would think that candidate Obama would just come out and say something to the effect of : “You know, Senator, that's the real difference between you and me: I don't want to just keep hangin' around Baghdad, wasting our fine Infantry and Assault Troops as dumbed-down Security Guards and ‘Peace Keepers’; I want to go after the bastards who attacked us on 9/11!”

I say enough of this Republican "stay the course" stasis nonsense, and this PNAC neo-con chickenhawk crap! We have not yet begun to fight the right fight, and everybody knows it save the President himself, who remains utterly clueless, and ~ unlike the American people, themselves ~ I daresay casualty-cowardly as a War Leader...

...Bush&Co have succeeded only in creating a scoptophobic American Wehrmacht that has not the stomach to see raw images of the real War they are responsible for directing; that will not allow us to bestow Old Glory to the coffins of our casualties.

ref : “Churchill's furious description of WWII General Mark Clark: "Instead of hurling a wildcat onto the shore, all we got was a stranded whale!"

Good Grief! If the Americans did manage to put a real Commander -In- Chief in there, the first thing these political staff officers like General Petraeus would probably do is pee themselves. Get on with it, or get the hell out of the way, Senator McCain: brave American Men & Women are dying every day, while you dilly-dally us with this adolescent dose of Paris Hilton nonsense, telling us that: "My plan to end the War" is to do nothing new about it.

Please take 12 minutes and review this very important video: http://www.obsessionthemovie.com/trailer-12min.php

Great truths, all factual and very scary.
http://www.TheMovieObsession.com

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