Cole on The Photo-Op Trip and the Video

From Holden:

Juan Cole, worth reading as usual.

Bush tried to define down victory to a general ability of people to go about their lives. He said it was unreasonable to expect to end “all violence.” But Mr. Bush, no one suggested that you end “all violence.” The goal here is to win the guerrilla war.

During a guerrilla war, people always go about their daily lives, except when a bomb is going off in their specific neighborhood. So if the goal is that Iraqis should be able to buy bread and go to school and drive to work, most of them have that already most of the time. It is just that little problem of some 12,000 people a year being blown up, assassinated, or beheaded and their heads wrapped in cellophane and stored in banana crates along the side of the road that remains.

In other words, Bush defines the main weapon in the guerrilla war, carbombings, as ineradicable, and declares that he can win that war without actually ending its main weapon. It is a cheap trick of rhetoric, a prestidigitation of the lips. “These are not the ‘droids you’re looking for.”


US troops are under enormous strain in Iraq. They cannot most often tell friend from foe. When they first arrived, they were encouraged to make friends with local Iraqis, but now often are told to keep to themselves, just because it isn’t clear who the guerrillas are. They are apparently constantly taking mortar or sniping fire, most of it ineffectual and so never announced to the press. If they go out on the road, they are in substantial danger of being blown up. Few units haven’t lost a dear friend and colleague. They are fighting for a local government that often seems not much to want them and clearly wishes them gone sooner rather than later (Maliki says at most 18 months). Some high ranking members of the government have been scathing about them. The Europeans see US troops in Iraq as a bigger threat to stability in the Middle East than is Iran. Some 60 percent of Americans think their being there was a mistake in the first place, which cannot be good for morale, which is slipping inside the military according to polls. They signed up to fight for their country and their country asked them to fight in Iraq, and in the military you do as you are told, so it is a raw deal for them to end up being so unappreciated when they are doing brave things every day. So I get it that they are frustrated. But, it just is very bad politics for them to sit around singing songs about killing Iraqis, and worse politics to videotape it.