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July 25, 2006

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billmon has been ripping this ricks character a new breathing hole for this book ( compared to his cheerleading at wapo leading into the fiasco / war crime ) - and it seems that ricks is having a tough time taking the criticism - gee, go figure.

http://billmon.org/archives/002563.html

http://billmon.org/archives/002560.html

Thanks for those links. I'll take the new Ricks over the old Ricks.

btw buried in there, Billmon syas:

OK, so it's all water under the bridge now. Ricks has wised up and written what is, by all accounts, a pretty good book about what went wrong in Iraq.

If I rip up everyone who was wrong in 2003, it'll be pretty messy. i'd rather hold my fire for those who are wronmg in 2006. Get the message, Joe?

Thomas Ricks:Joe Galloway::Avril Lavigne:Buzzcocks

Sven , the point is that anyone who deviates from the WH party line takes incoming, no matter who they are or what their past history is.

Galloway and Hack aren't being compared to Ricks re the body of lifetime work.

Dem, I think Billmon's point was that Ricks was wrong then -- simply transcribing what U.S. military insiders were telling him -- so how can we believe what he's saying now? Once again, given Ricks's style of work, he's probably just transcribing what a different set of U.S. military insiders are telling him.

Ricks wasn't just wrong pre-March 2003; he continued to get it wrong, dreadfully wrong, for years after the initial invasion. People who were wrong about Iraq (when it was so obvious even at the time that they were wrong) lack credibility when they speak about Iraq (or anything else that pertains to international affairs) now.

I don't think he's comparable in any way. He's "sympathetic," or at least was, to the "military" point of view - as expressed by the "military."

But he's the antithesis of a Galloway or Hackworth, who wrote from the soldier's POV and with their interest top of mind at all times. The soldiers are incidental to Ricks' reporting, whether he's in military sycophant mode or military skeptic mode.

sigh... fine. I am aware of who Galloway and Hackworth are. Are we now making a list of who is permitted to be critical of the war?

I am aware of Billmon's point, and I think he's off track. Anyone who writes a book on how bad things are, and gets that message into the mainstream press, has done this country a service, especially, as Billmon notes, if it's a high quality book as this appears to be. And johnny-come-latelies are welcome. It's the johhny-still-doesn't-get-it's that aren't.

I'm not recommending Ricks for a medal, or that he run for office. Anyone, from lowly Ricks or Jim Hoagland or anyone who has been an ass in print (hey, let's include Bill Buckley) to the more exalted ranks (via quality and performance) of Galloway etc who take this position about Iraq will be hammered, past performance and contributions notwithstanding. To me, they should be supported now, not nitpicked. They will sway public opinion in ways blogs will not.

The fact this his book will make a rather large splash is of more import in the long run (and it will). Nor will Ricks be the last.. after all, the people with greater insight are already there and don't need to be late converters. Hopefully, they, too, will write wellreceived books on the topic and when they do, be sure that I'll post about this hugely important topic.

Nonetheless, the excellent links people are providing are greatly appreciated, and btw very interesting.

so here we are..

Troops in Iraq to Shift to Baghdad, Bush Says

see also:

he source of the candidate's anger -- and his anxiety -- is the Iraq war, which he called "the single thread that is weaving through every issue," including high gas prices and the violence in Lebanon. "People want an honest assessment from the administration, and they want to hear the administration admit we thought this, and it didn't happen that way, and -- guess what -- it didn't work, so we're going to try a Plan B." He continued: "Let's call it what it is. We thought this was going to be a different kind of engagement."

He seemed less agitated by the policy failure than by Bush's unwillingness to admit failure. "I don't know why the people around him don't see that," he said. "It is a frustration, to say the least. I think it is a lost opportunity to bring the American people along on a mission that is incredibly important."

This really is a fiasco.

DemFromCT, isn't this latest scurrying around Iraq with fireteams reminiscent of the French experience in Indo-China just before the collapse of Dien Bien Phu and their finally agreeing to the Geneva Accords peace treaty with the Viet Minh in 1954? The French were dropping a battalion of infantry into DBP a week while also trying to prevent the VM maneuvers through Laos and central Viet Nam. The French lost the equivalent of an armored combat brigade in the Central Highlands right around the time they surrendered DBP as they had it dash back and forth across the Annamese Cordillera. Guerrila war consumes manpower like a furnace, which is clearly something Rummy never learned. We may be fortunate in that we have only our wounded to care for after we withdraw and don't have to worry about the POWs being handed back by our enemy. Unless, of course, one wants to consider the Bush Administration the enemy of the the American people.

To me, they should be supported now, not nitpicked. They will sway public opinion in ways blogs will not.

I disagree, dem. Like Billmon, I don't trust them as reporters, since they've proven themselves little more than stenographers and cheerleaders until now. So we should forgive and forget, until the next time they kick us in the nuts?

But more importantly, public opinion isn't the answer. Public opinion is already there. The Cheney administration could care less about public opinion, public safety, or public democracy. Their delusions are so pervasive that no turn of events will change their plans, until they are removed from office.

merciless, healthy disagreement there. I'm not a purist. I am a big tent-er (is that word?). I am happy to accept any recanter and I would praise Lieberman, David Brooks, Kondracke, or anyone else to the skies were they to do so tomorrow, even if I still wouldn't vote for him or recommend them for a Pulitzer, or make them in charge of anything.

(Don't worry... it won't, alas, happen, that these people will see the light any time soon).

Fair enough, dem. You have a bigger heart than I. I just feel like these guys are shuffling over, one by one, trying more than anything else to figure out exactly which table is the cool one now. And some of them have caused a lot of damage to the country, and maybe even the world.

I just don't want the dems to make the appeasement mistake again. These guys don't play nice.

merciless, consider them swing voters and treat them accordingly. ;-)

That's not appeasement. Let them in the club, and give them a table near the kitchen but serve them a good meal. That's just good politics 101.

*sulks a bit*

Ok, dem. As long as the table is near the kitchen. One election at a time, right?

One election at a time. ;-)

Ricks was interviewed by Terri Gross on Fresh Air today -- hour long interview. I think NPR maintains an archive, but if not, Minnesota Public Radio does, and you can find it there for your listening enjoyment.

The interview convinced me to get the book. Ricks is someone who changed his mind based on oodles of evidence, including long reporting trips in Iraq. Of particular interest I think TNH readers will find his discussion of where the culture of abuse came from and how it eventually became generalized -- and his discussion of the security contractors and how their behavior really led to hardening of the insurgency. Likewise, he has much to say about how the Military was essentially at war with the CPA during the year of its existance. He took Breamer apart cell by cell.

Ricks also has nothing at all good to say about Congress -- in fact he said much in very strong language about the total deliquency of Congress, naming names. His description of the Green Zone during the CPA period as contrasted with the various places where military were trying to do reconstruction is something I suspect will survive. Green Zone was 9-5 work, American and European style restaurants, a couple of discos, six bars, other sorts of recreation, films and all -- something like a shopping center with food court and multiplex dropped down in Iraq. CPA folk never really left. Then out in the reconstruction areas it was hot, dusty, no power camp life with many lower ranking officers trying to connect around goat dinners with the local tribal leadership. The CPA folk had a direct line to Rumsfeld and his Civilian Appointees -- the military in the field only had the next guy up in the military chain of command. Over and over again apparently CPA used its direct DSL line to fudge up normal military order.

Gross managed to get Ricks to sound really mad -- and I suspect he is. Among other things, apparently about 2/3rds of the Military command absolutely hates Rumsfeld's guts, and the milue about which Ricks reports is precisely this group.

Gross managed to get Ricks to sound really mad -- and I suspect he is. Among other things, apparently about 2/3rds of the Military command absolutely hates Rumsfeld's guts, and the milue about which Ricks reports is precisely this group.

I think this is the whole point of Billmon... the military is in CYA mode when it comes to Iraq right now, and Ricks is their stenographer. "Blame the CPA because the grunts were doing a good job" is a cop out, and the same military types who are now complaining to Ricks were part of the go-along-to-get-along crew in the Pentagon that stood silent when a few military leaders (like Shinsecki) put country ahead of their careers, and told the truth.

As things began to fall apart in Iraq, critics were saying "we need more troops on the ground to succeed", Bush the military leadership was not telling Bush and Rumsfeld to send more troops (and if they were and Bush and Rumseld were lying, none of them ever had the guts to call Bush and Rumsfeld on those lies.) Instead, the military leadership was parroting the Bush line about how successful the Iraq misadventure was.

THAT is Billmon's point -- that what we are getting from Ricks now is about as reliable as what we got from Ricks a couple of years ago. Ricks relies almost exclusively on "military" sources for "the truth", and we know that these same military sources have lied in the past to advance their careers.

I reject that criticism, p.lukasiak. I'm quite interested in what the military has to say and rejecting "the miltary" as a class or a group and dismissing them as "just a bunch of liars" is really doing everyone a disservice. How they think and what they think and what they're saying is as important as the same with this WH (would you dismiss Ron Suskind's books and articles about the Bush WH because of our -erm- low opinion of the current occupants? How would we know about such gems as the reality-based community and the 1% solution)?

To further the analogy, I am interested in what Woodward has to say about the WH as well; that doesn't mean I rate Woodward particularly highly these days (his books can come from the library). I'd rather read Suskind, both they both have something to offer. Again I note billmon's begrudging praise of the book despite his complaint about Ricks. Given that, Ricks' access might give us something we don't currently have in terms of a window on military thinking and context. Even if it's a frame for excuses, that's valuable.

btw, another view of Fiasco, hardly an uncritical pean to the military:

As most U.S. military experts now acknowledge, these tactics violated the most basic principles of counterinsurgency, which require winning over the local population, thus depriving the bad guys of a base of support within which to hide. Such rules were apparently unknown to the 4th ID commander, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno. The general is a particular and deserving target of Ricks's book, which is perhaps the most exhaustive account to date of all that went wrong with Iraq. Nonetheless—according to that iron law of the Bush administration under which incompetence is rewarded with promotion, as long as it is accompanied by loyalty—Odierno will soon be returning to Iraq as America's No. 2 commander there, the man who will oversee day-to-day military operations. (Odierno, asked by Ricks to respond to criticism, replied that he had studied the insurgency and "adapted quickly.")

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