Tuesday, December 26, 2006


As the New Year approaches, one can't help but reflect on the recent past. The incomparable Billmon has been "rummaging around in the Whiskey Bar archives" and he has discovered that
... much of what I wrote back then proved not only true but also extremely prescient -- especially in the first few months after "mission accomplished," when the corporate media by and large was still drinking the White House Kool-Aid and the conservative movement was proclaiming the deification of Emperor George.


But to piece together the truth in those days you had to scrounge for it, ignore the ignorance and lies pouring out of Donald Rumfeld's mouth and defy the prevailing political tide of arrogant triumphalism. Very few journalists, and even fewer politicians, were willing to do that. Some in Left Blogistan were (Kos, Needlenose and Steve Gilliard, among others, also come readily to mind). As a result we presented a far more accurate picture of the war to our readers than the corporate media -- with a few honorable exceptions -- did to its own. I'm proud enough of that to want to remind the world, and the moronic media blog bashers in particular, of it.

What follows, then, are some selected passages from the Whiskey Bar in that first fateful year of the war, from the fall of Baghdad to the capture of Saddam. They have been edited for length, but not for content or context -- or at least so I think you will find, if you check the original posts.

Far be it from me to suggest yesterday's Iraq "liberation" is rapidly descending into tomorrow's Middle East quagmire. I couldn't be heard anyway -- certainly not over the chestbeating and the Tarzan cries from the freepers, the neocons and other assorted Bush babies. But at least consider this gem of a quote, plucked from deep down in the BBC reporters web log:

One of my close Iraqi friends went up to an American marine and said to him: "I'm going to exercise my right of free speech for the first time in my life -- we want you out of here as soon as possible."

The Day After
April 10, 2003

By appearing to ally itself so openly and so closely with one side of the sectarian division in Iraq, the Coalition risks alienating the other side. This could make it easier for Baathist remnants to regroup as a new, pro-Sunni ethnic faction hostile to the occupation government . . .

The Iranian example, however, suggests the Shias are not the best instruments for an American neo-colonial order in Iraq. While the Islamic Revolution’s political hold over the Iraqi Shiite imagination was always exaggerated -- by the Baathists as well as by their enemies – the cultural influence is real and deeply rooted. Here, too, geography is destiny: Iran will always be near at hand and America will always be far away. Proximity eventually may trump raw imperial power -- at least over the long run.

And the Sunni elite? It's living through the final moments of its historic domination of Mesopotamia . . . The Baath is fading away. The future is molten, like lava. Attitudes formed now, decisions made now, could endure after the lava cools.

Elites driven from power usually have much to fear. Fearful people need protection. If the invaders are seen as fundamentally hostile -- or worse yet, allied with a domestic enemy . . . well, the Reconstruction Era KKK wouldn’t be the first terrorist organization to flourish under such circumstances. Or the last.

Geography is Destiny

April 11, 2003

Even now, there are hawks who firmly believe we invaded Iraq to fight the "Islamofascists." Some of us tried to tell them they were wrong -- that the Baath were secular nationalists, and that America risked repeating Israel's mistake in the early '80s of building up Hamas as a religious counterweight to the secular nationalists in the PLO:

"I’m afraid the Bush Administration is about to make a similar mistake – but on a vastly larger scale. By knocking Arab nationalist thugs like Saddam out of the box, aren’t we just taking out the competition for Al Qaeda?"

We may soon learn the answer to that question. The hawks wanted to go to Iraq to fight "Islamofascism." They may get their wish.

Al Qaeda Recruitment Center
June 1, 2003

Whatever chance Iraq had to eventually emerge from Baathist dictatorship into some less horrific form of government has been blown. The only options now are Lebanon-style chaos or an expensive, bloody U.S. occupation -- followed by Lebanon-style chaos once we finally give up and withdraw . . . Bottom line: The conservatives, their beloved president and his neocon revolutionaries have made an ENORMOUS mistake -- of the kind that keep historians busy arguing for decades: How could they have done something so stupid? It's the March of Folly, heading straight over a cliff.

Question of the Day
June 3, 2003

The deception was not in the claim that Saddam had WMDs . . . although that claim indeed may turn out to be a falsehood. The deception was in the claim that Saddam's WMD capability posed an immediate, critical threat to the security of the United States, urgent enough to require a massive military invasion to overthrow his regime. This is the conclusion the administration cooked the intelligence estimates to produce, this is the lie. And every piece of evidence we have seen since the "end" of the war -- up to and including the discovery of Bush's precious trailers -- has demonstrated that it was a lie.

June 4, 2003

A wise hegemon goes to great lengths to conceal the true extent of its power. It always leaves something in the tool kit, so to speak, so that enemies and allies alike can never be sure exactly what's in there. But the Bush Administration has let the cat out of the bag. It has exposed to the world the limits of U.S. military power -- both in terms of the size of the forces (divisions, troops) and the relative ineffectiveness of those forces on a complex social and political battlefield like the one America faces in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. These events no doubt will be noted, and closely studied, by friend and foe alike.

The End of the American Century?
September 3, 2003

By putting Iraq in play, [Bush and Blair have] opened up an entirely new front, one that sucks up people and resources at an alarming rate, but yields absolutely no offsetting advantages in the struggle against jihadism. It's become the 21st century version of Gallipoli -- at best, a bloody stalemate; at worst, a disastrous strategic defeat . . .

It seems more obvious than ever that neither man has the slightest idea what kind of war they're fighting. They're as clueless as the British politicians who fed men into the meat grinder of trench warfare during World War I, or the French generals who tried to hide behind the Maginot Line in World War II. They have no strategy. They don't even have a concept of a strategy. All they have is warmed over Churchillian rhetoric, as uninspiring as it is irrelevant.

The Price of Folly
November 20, 2003


If blogs in general, or this blog in particular, have ever served a useful purpose, it should have been then -- when the consensus had overwhelmingly embraced a policy doomed to catastrophic failure, and mainstream dissent had been cowed almost into silence. But, of course, there were too few of us and our voices weren't nearly loud enough to make a difference. Certainly not compared to the power and majesty of the corporate media.

If I sometimes seem bitter to the point of blind rage at reporters like Tom Ricks or columists like David Ignatius, who now recite the ignorant mistakes and outright crimes that led us into this hellhole, it's because they couldn't see them while they were being committed -- or, if they did see them, kept silent.


If nothing else, though, the Whiskey Bar archives prove to my satisfaction that it was possible, even for a nonspecialist (which is all I'll ever be in the fields of foreign policy or military affairs) to see at least an outline of the disaster as it started to unfold. What was lacking in the corporate media was not the opportunity, but rather the insight, the courage and the independence to say what needed to be said -- at a time when the both the powers that be and the paying audience were unwilling to listen.


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