2.18.2007

The Propagation of Ignorance Will Defeat US

Today Mark Steyn uses the Chicago Sun-Times as his bully pulpit to distort reality and create more conflict between Republicans and Democrats. Is he feigning ignorance just so he can take a few jibes at Democrats? Or is he truly ignorant of reality? I'm not sure, but his perspective is shared by many Conservatives and they are taking us down a very dangerous road.
Steyn uses the standard flippant Conservative voice when discussing the location of Al Sadr:
Meanwhile, the punk cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has decided that discretion is the better part of mullahs and has temporarily relocated to Iran. That's right: The biggest troublemaker in Iraq is no longer in Iraq. It may be that his Persian vacation is only to marry a cousin or two and consult with the A-list ayatollahs, but the Mookster has always had highly sensitive antennae when it comes to his own physical security -- he likes being the guy who urges martyrdom on others rather than being just another schmuck who takes one for the team. So the fact that urgent business requires him to be out of town for the Big Surge is revealing at the very least of how American objectives in Iraq are not at the mercy of forces beyond their control; U.S. military and political muscle can shape conditions on the ground -- if they can demonstrate they're serious about doing so.

Steyn has no evidence to support the claims that Muqtada is in Iran, but that doesn't prevent him from painting Sadr as a 'cut-and-runner'. However, Juan Cole provides a narrative that makes more sense:
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Muqtada al-Sadr and several leaders of his movement as well as commanders of his Mahdi Army are present in the southern marshlands of Iraq, a place in which dissidents in the former Baath regime used to hide out. The marshes have been re-flooded and are at 40% of their original area, and they do give good protection to anyone wishing to hide out. The Marsh Arab inhabitants of the swamps have largely become followers of Sadr, and so would protect him. They are in an area of Iraq that borders Iran and which serves as a smuggling route between the two countries, which may have given rise to the idea that Muqtada was on his way to Iran. He more likely is holed up in the marshes. This is the most plausible story I have seen yet on Muqtada's disappearance.

Jalal Talabani's account that Muqtada ordered his aides to Iran makes no sense at all given Muqtada's longstanding problem with Iran's authority in Shiism and his and his father's position that Iraqis should stay in Iraq even if they are in danger.


So which is it? Has Muqtada deserted his country and fled for Iran to marry his cousins? Or has he relocated to another area of Iraq? Relocation makes a lot more sense to me. However, that doesn't work with the Conservatives belief that the surge is already working so they are spinning nonsensical narratives to obsfucate the issue.

Steyn continues to weave his distorted tale:
According to a report by the New York Sun's Eli Lake last month, Iran is supporting Shia insurgents in Iraq and Sunni insurgents in Iraq. In other words, it's on both sides in the so-called civil war. How can this be? After all, as the other wise old foreign-policy "realists" of the Iraq Study Group assured us only in December, Iran has "an interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq.''

Au contraire, the ayatollahs have concluded they have a very clear interest in fomenting chaos in Iraq. They're in favor of Sunni killing Shia, and Shia killing Sunni, and if some vacationing Basque terrorists wanted to blow up the Spanish Cultural Center in Mosul, they'd be in favor of that, too. The Iranians don't care who kills whom as long as every night when Americans turn on the evening news there's smoke over Baghdad. As I say in my book, if you happen to live in Ramadi or Basra, Iraq is about Iraq; if you live in Tehran, or Cairo, or Bei-jing, Moscow, Pyongyang or Brussels, Iraq is about America. American will. American purpose. American credibility.

Well, if it's in Steyn's book then it must be true. Right? Except that it doesn't make much sense. I suspect Iranian Fundamentalists want to see their Shia brethren safe. I suspect the Iranian infrastructure wants to see a Shiite majority in the government because it would complement Iran's petroleum industry quite well. There is no reason for Iran to support Iraq's Sunni guerrillas. And then throwing the anti-Shia Al Qaeda into the mix obliterates Steyn's allegations. Does he really think that Al Qaeda will work with a group of Shia that they believe is a perversion of their own religion? That's almost as crazy as the idea of Al Qaeda working with Southern Baptists to fight the Jews. It's ludicrous. And where, exactly, does the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia fit into this mix? They are serious financial backers of Al Qaeda. Are we to believe that KSA and Iran are working together to create headlines in the newspapers in Chicago, New York, and Tokyo? That's almost like saying the British Kingdom was supporting the South during the Civil War so they could make headlines in Johannesburg.

I do see where Steyn is taking his argument, though. The Conservatives desperately need to link Iran to the Iraqi Sunni. It's the Sunni area where the Americans are taking the worst casualties, and it's imperative for Conservatives to create a narrative where the Iran Shia are the prime supporters of the Iraq Sunni. Yes, it's like saying the Ku Klux Klan were the backers of the Black Panthers, but people like Steyn are hoping that readers don't understand the difference between Shia and Sunni.

This is where the editor of the paper should come into play. Editors need to assert control and stand up for the integrity of their newspaper. I doubt that Mark Steyn would be allowed to write a serious column advocating that the Earth is flat. A responsible editor should come down hard on this type of material and say that it is too far away from reality to be published. There is a place for this type of idiocy, it's called the Weekly Standard. Not the Chicago Sun-Times.

And one more thing to Mr. Steyn: The Moderates in both parties, along with the Independents, do not want to live in a world where Iraq has descended into extreme ethnic cleansing. We do not want to live in a world where Iraq security is maintained by US troops indefinitely. If Bush takes us down that path, then he owns the "American Defeat", because both options are unacceptable. Neither of those are paths to "American Victory". If Bush decides to step back, admit mistakes in a frank and humble manner, and negotiate with international allies to create a new coalition; then I will sign on to that in a heartbeat and prepare myself for the resulting "Bush Peace." Ultimately, our goal is peace, not another war. There is still time to help create that type of dialogue in the world and in the United States. But that time is running out.

Stop creating new fights with Democrats and Republicans.

Start creating a new dialogue that will benefit our society and our world. The path to peace is in front of us if we decide to look for it. But we won't find it if we are focused on whether we should always take a Right turn or a Left turn.

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