Tuesday, August 19, 2008

iRack (with an additional note)

In an earlier time, you probably could have written popular accounts of Canada and called yourself Dr Canuck, or about the American West or South and called yourself Dr Injun or Dr Nigger. Naturally without being expected give any deep account of the humanity and aspirations of the people in question, and anyway those days are gone by. What then to make of this time-traveller from the nineteenth century writes about Iraq and calls himself Dr iRack?

In the Iraq news this morning, there are a couple of items that tell how Iraqis feel about current events under the American occupation, for instance: Aswat alIraq says the provincial administration in Diyala has shut down for three days "in mourning and in protest" against the killing of a provincial official during a raid by forces of the Iraqi Interior Ministry on the provincial offices, conducting a military campaign in the province "with the logistical support of the American forces." There were similar attacks on Provincial government offices and officials in Amarah recently, also with logistical support from the Americans, and it should also be remembered that the American military and diplomatic officials who were killed at a Sadr City government office in June were there to supervise the anti-Sadrist takeover of a local advisory council there.

American-supported attacks on local-government structures, and the reactions from grief and protest, to bombing, aren't part of the "iRack" story. Nor is the general revulsion against the American occupation. Rather, what we hear this morning is a warning: The Maliki government may have started attacking groups that are America-funded and America-supported. The horror! Everyone who is interested in Iraq "should keep a VERY close eye" on "this story," says our nineteenth-century popular historian. That is "Iraq" through the eyes of the local American military commanders. Or "iRack", I should say. (Don't miss his very feisty defense and counter-attack in the comments).

NOTE: Back on the topic of the actual Iraq, Reider Visser has posted a brief note about Sunday's Interior Ministry raid on the Diyala government offices, noting that the governor is SupremeCouncil (ISCI), and this appears to be another manifestation of a struggle between Maliki and his circle on the one side, and the SupremeCouncil, or parts of it, on the other. (The Diyala police chief who was fired by the provincial council the other day seems to have been close to Maliki, and the move probably displeased the Interior Ministry). There is a lot that is still unclear about the Maliki-SupremeCouncil relationship, so it doesn't seem possible to talk with certainty about the origins, or the implications, of this split in what is supposed to be a unified "powers-that-be" front.


Blogger Dr. iRack said...

Wow "Badger," you really crossed a line. The name "iRack" has none of the racialist overtones you ascribe to it. You are looking for darkness and secret agendas when there are none. Indeed, as I've noted numerous times on the AM blog (including my first ever post), "iRack" (little "i" like "iPod") refers to a MAD TV skit that satirizes the ridiculous nature of American policy in Iraq: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mCCYLC-4xA

Nothing I write trivializes the human dimension of this conflict. I've written often about the plight of refugees, IDPs, people living behind concrete barriers, etc. You are right that the AM blog--or at least my posts--tends to operate at the level of analyzing and critiquing U.S. policy in Iraq, but that is important stuff too.

Also, as I've noted numerous times at AM, I didn't support the war to begin with and I share many of your concerns about the occupation. But I'd like to see it end in a way that doesn't leave Iraq worse off. If you think that an immediate, fast-as-we-can-leave withdrawal is in the interest of most Iraqis, I suspect you haven't been to Iraq and spoken to very many recently. Opinion polls regularly suggest that Iraqis hate and resent the occupation and want Americans to leave . . . but not until the situation has stabilized. Maybe I'm wrong about that -- and I'm willing to have you prove me wrong. So let's have a debate about that -- about how a U.S. withdrawal should be conducted in the best interests of the Iraqi people -- instead of stooping to middle-school name calling.

As anyone who follows AM knows, I regularly criticize Iraqi leaders--especially Maliki and his allies--because they have little support among the Iraqi populace and, in pursuing their own parochial and sectarian agendas, are establishing conditions that could reignite widespread ethno-sectarian strife -- causing great suffering among the Iraqi people. When U.S. policies have this effect, I criticize them too.

You are free to disagree. You are free to support what Maliki is doing and defend it as in the best interests of the Iraqi people. A substantive debate on these topics is much needed.

But it seems somewhat ironic that a guy who blogs anonymously as "Badger" would rest most of his argument on the fact that some other blogger chose a funny name (even though you, "Badger," didn't get the joke).

7:08 AM  
Blogger badger said...

The point of course being that your theme is American military-political dominance of someone else's civil society and how to maintain it (with some leavening of humanitarian concern, as you note), but you purport to be speaking as an expert on "Iraq", telling people what is important to Iraq based on AP dispatches and the like. The name just underlines the basic point, as bad jokes often do. If it's discussion you want, a good starting point would be recognition that the national language is Arabic, not English, and Arabic-language sources are important.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Dr. iRack said...


I think it's important to know Arabic, and I have never argued otherwise. Unlike you, I do not make any special claims to be all knowing about Iraq. I think I know a lot -- more than most. But I don't know everything, and I'm sure I get plenty of stuff wrong. I hope I'm open-minded enough to admit it.

I read a lot about Iraq (in English -- including Arabic texts in translation), and I talk to a lot of U.S. military folks, officials, Iraqi pols, and (yes) average Iraqis. This information is biased in the way that all information is biased, but I try to keep peoples' motivations in mind when consuming what they say, and I frame hypotheses and test them against available evidence.

Now, you would say, "all your evidence is in English." But that is not a good response. Most of my arguments track closely with those made by analysts such as Marc Lynch, Sam Parker, Reider Visser, and researchers from the International Crisis Group -- all of which read Arabic. The fact that these Arabic-speakers tend to agree with me more than you, Badger, calls into question your assumption that it is somehow my lack of Arabic that is clouding my vision. Now of course, all these analysts could be wrong -- and I'm sure you think they are -- but so could you. And the fact that intelligent Arabic-speakers can disagree amongst themselves, and that some find considerable evidence in the Arab press to support many of my contentions, calls into question your central premise: that reading Arabic gives you a unique window on the truth.

Plus, to turn the question around: Since you clearly know little, and care less, about the U.S. military side of the equation, how are you situated to make recommendations about how the military occupation should end? You can't snap your fingers and end the war. I think we both want it to end (I know I do), but the difference is that I'm actually trying to figure out HOW it can be done without triggering a bigger bloodbath.

On the military front, should the Americans leave tomorrow, as fast as they can? Is that how you think the occupation should end? Have you spoken to many average Iraqis in Baghdad lately that think that is a good idea? How do you explain the fact that Iraqi opinion polls consistently show (not surprisingly) very low regard for the occupation, but ALSO show that the majority of Iraqis don't want the Americans to leave until (a) the country is stable; (b) the government is strong; or (c) the Iraqi security forces are more capable?

On the political front, do you think the Americans should unconditionally support Maliki and his allies (because "pressuring" them would be imperialist)? Do you honestly think leaving the "Powers That Be" alone will make things better for the average Iraqis you think you have a special empathy for and, because you read Arabic, a unique understanding of?

These are policy questions that require, you know, policy suggestions. And, yes Badger, that means making suggestions to the imperial power in this equation: the United States.

The war was and is awful. The occupation was, and remains, awful. So what is do be done? What is your answer? Until you provide one, you have nothing but critiques -- and pretty lame ones at that.

But, hey, at least you speak Arabic!

11:54 AM  
Blogger Joel Wing said...

I have to go back through my notes but I thought the Diyala police chief was SIIC as well? Anyway, if he hired "ex-Baathists" they were probably all Shiites. This is the same police chief that led to strikes by the Sunni SOI in the province that accused him of running death squads and torturing Sunnis. The AP said the provincial council wanted him out because he ignored the provincial security head and was only appointing his cronies to police positions and was also trying to interfer with the running of the council. His dismissal seemed like a provincial power struggle, but I haven't read anything about his connections with Baghdad politicians.

12:46 PM  
Blogger badger said...

motown: Just relying on that brief note by Visser, where he said there was a suggestion of a connection to Maliki...

doctor: at least you speak...

actually I don't. I read a little, that's all. It is a poor thing, always reading with a dictionary, and it certainly never occurred to me to flaunt anything like that. But hey, if that's your best argument, go with it!

Your other line of argument, namely that several others agree with you, seems to me to be somewhat weak. Moreover, your idea that I make sweeping recommendations as you do, is an illusion. From time to time I point out Arabic texts that suggest points of view different from what you (and/or others) assert, and to you that somehow represents either a claim of being "all-knowing", or else "nothing but critiques". You've really thrown the book at me !

You do seem to have a great sense of humor though, I'll give you that.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Dr. iRack said...


You don't seem to read your own posts or comments. Your major indictment of my line of argument -- after accusing me of being a neo-colonial racist -- was that I ignore or downplay Arabic-language sources. The implicit argument here seems to be that if I only had access to the same information that you, Badger, have access to, then I would really understand what was going on. You are using your language skill as an intellectual trump card. My point about others who read Arabic and think carefully about these matters agreeing with me was meant to blunt that criticism.

In any case, I will sign off now since I've asked you repeatedly to provide your learned opinion on what should actually be done to end the occupation -- and to do so in a way that serves the best interests of Iraqis -- and you have said nothing. Zilch.

What use is all your insight if you offer no actually solutions?

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Buchananite "nativist" and thus am vulnerable to certain
descriptions applied to the occupation blogger. Yet, I can attest to the fact that most polls of Iraqis since 2004 have shown the exact opposite of what he avows. The majority of Sunni and Shia, proportions varying thru the years, have usually wanted the occupier OUT regardless of the consequences which followed. The belief being that Iraqs themselves
could effect stability more effectively than could a mistrusted and resented occupier.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Dr. iRack said...


Sorry, you just happen to be wrong on this one. A March 2008 ABC/BBC/ARD/NHK poll of Iraqis found that 59% of Iraqis wanted the U.S. to stay until the situation was stabilized, the government was stronger, OR the ISF was more capable. In contrast, 38% wanted the U.S. to leave immediately.

The same poll has been conducted every year since 2004, and has consistently found similar results. The high point for support for an immediate unconditional withdrawal was August 2007, when 47% supported it. But even then, a majority felt otherwise.

Look at Question 22: www.uniraq.org/documents/Poll_Iraq_five_years_later_March2008.pdf

3:11 PM  
Blogger badger said...

For what it's worth, that's the poll where an overwhelming majority of non-Kurdish respondents said things like availability of jobs, supply of electricity, availability of drinking water was "Bad", yet overall 55% said their own life is "going well". Seems a little mysterious if you're not a pollster.

On question 22, the question starts off: "How long do you think the coalition forces should stay..." then offers leave-immediately and five different "stay until" options. Arab Sunni majority said out now, but only 33% of Shiites said that, choosing instead one of the "stay until..." options. However 43% of Shiites along with a majority of Sunni Arabs said it's acceptable to attack the coalition forces.

Sponsored by ABC, BBC, Japanese NHK and a German outfit...

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

abc, isn't that disney. excuse me for comprehending maybe the iraqis they were interviewing were in those places mcCain said were perfectly safe.

dr iraki, i read your blog and wouldn't really think it appropriate to criticize you there for 2 reasons. i don't generally frequent blogs to criticize the host, i frequent them to understand what they think. you said something that shed a light on your perspective

Since you clearly know little, and care less, about the U.S. military side of the equation, how are you situated to make recommendations about how the military occupation should end?

the concept that because the military is the occupation, that that same occupation should be the judge or the decisive factor regarding when the occupation should end, or how, is a false assumption.

one can produce a poll, and claim the iraqi don't want us to leave, and after that simply sweep the issue of THEM, to the side, and discuss US military tactics/strategies or puppets of the US military.

i've been reading your blog for awhile and i don't really recall any posts that call into question the integrity of the US military. it simply is a line not crossed. there is never an assumption they could ever be responsible for any of the clandestine bombings. one can assume their are covert activities but not cross a line indicating we could be financing death squads and such. one can say they made mistakes, but never allude they could have been intentional, or a tactic in themselves.

that means making suggestions to the imperial power in this equation: the United States.

so just out of curiosity what if we were still there in 20 years? do you still think it would require making suggestions to the imperial power?

Your major indictment of my line of argument -- after accusing me of being a neo-colonial racist -- was that I ignore or downplay Arabic-language sources.

well, there was this without being expected give any deep account of the humanity and aspirations of the people in question

did you brush that off as if it either wasn't very important when discussing the war, or maybe you didn't think it applied?

The implicit argument here seems to be that if I only had access to the same information that you, Badger, have access to, then I would really understand what was going on.

i didn't read it that way. you have access to Arabic-language sources. maybe you just don't access them, or share what you access.

incidences of the US military assisting in the operations where the IG take out (kill)officials. hmm, wonder why that won't turn up in the media here? or if they do it will always be because they were harboring a bad guy, or they were a bad guy, or whatever. where's the trial? lol. yeah right.

some people think the only reason this government is in power is because of us. you come from an occupation centric ptv. everything revolves around the occupation. they get to invade, they get to carry out missions, they get to control the airspace, they get to have bloggers discussing their tactics, they /we arbitrate when they leave, their polls are the ones that tell us what iraqis think.

your blog is an excellent blog for seeing thins from that perspective.

but for some of us, we see iraq primarily as a place where 25 million iraqis voices should come first. and i don't really hear those voices coming out of the doctor. since your focus seems to be 'making suggestions to the imperial power', a more amusing title could be dr America, or DR Occupation.

but franky, i don't mind your name, i think it suits you fine.

4:51 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Btw, doctor, I wasn't suggesting any such linguistic shortcut to wisdom as sarcastically imply. Or that I have that magic shortcut. In fact, no matter what knowing the language might or might not teach you, and no matter what my own experience or attitude is, none of that alters the fact that you are a pundit making sweeping assertions about the affairs of a country of whose language you know not one word, and mainly on the strength of what you are told by the occupation military authorities. All you have to say is it doesn't matter, you think it's okay. All the ad hominem in the world won't exonerate you.

5:02 PM  
Blogger badger said...

anon-- our comments crossed. You made some good points...

5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw the video, which was clever, well done, and made its point. I get your "joke", I just don't find it particularly funny. But then, I don't have much of a sense of humour about people who think the imperial conquerors' view of a country has validity - as if they have a clue, which they clearly do not, never have, and never will, no matter how many anthropologists they employ to study the "locals".

And if you are going to invade by shock and awe, brutally occupy, and try to take over a country, destroying it in the effort, the least you can do is learn how to approximate the correct pronunciation of its name. Hearing ignorant Americans talking about eyerack is like having one's cornea scratched by nail. On the other hand, the fact that they call it eyerack kind of says it all, doesn't it?

12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"iRack" said in part: "...a U.S. withdrawal should be conducted in the best interests of the Iraqi people."

Every goddamn time I hear some American offer this defense for maintaining the illegal and poisonous occupation of Iraq, the arrogance is so blatantly tumescent that I want to scream!

How in HELL can an American judgement about the "best" withdrawal for Iraq be any better or less provincial and presumptuous than America's arrogance in initiating the "best" invasion and maintaining the "best" occupation for Iraq?!

As Col. Kurtz might have said, "The hubris... the hubris!"

2:53 AM  
Blogger Cugel said...

How long should the German army and police forces have stayed in Poland in 1945? If there was no prospect of Soviet forces conquering Poland from the Nazis, how should Hitler have ended the occupation?

If rival Polish forces would have engaged in a bloody struggle for power after the Nazi troops withdrew, should they have stayed and backed one side or the other? Should they have withdrawn to "bases inside Poland?"

Should German combat forces have left, leaving behind several hundred thousand German "advisers?" Should German army and security forces have been able to carry out clandestine raids and attacks on neighboring countries from Polish territory or the German Air force to overfly Polish airspace?

If a major German leader called for a "100 year" occupation of Poland, but for this occupation to be "peaceful," "like Luxembourg, like Denmark," how would these comments have been received?

If you think the U.S. occupation of Iraq cannot be equated to the Nazi occupation of Poland, what principles are different? Did the U.S. have a better right to invade Iraq than Hitler did to invade Poland? How?

If Hitler carried out the Holocaust killing several million Poles, and the U.S. occupation resulted in the deaths of over 1 million Iraqis, as studies suggest, is there NO moral equivalence because only a portion of the Iraqi casualties were caused by U.S. forces directly?

6:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


2004 Gallup poll showing Iraqi majority wanted US troops gone immediately. Of course the occupier's criminal ineptitude might have worn Iraqis down through the years to the point many were proffering the mixed message "stay until you stabilize us--and get shot, with our approval--" this is hardly an excuse for staying. Not, especially, for a nation with lawless metropoli in its own domicile-examples to the world of
exactly what you don't want presiding in your own country.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The majority of Iraqis have wanted the Americans out ASAP since the very first poll that asked that question. And if memory serves a majority have expressed the view that the Americans are causing far more problems than they are solving or preventing since the first poll that included that question as well.

As for Kurds, although they have not experienced the unbelievable brutality of the occupation, they have been increasingly fed up with the Americans as well, particularly since the Americans have been giving a green light to the Turks to attack targets in Kurdistan, but even before that they would have been quite happy to see the Americans go. And what I would love to see is a poll of Kurds living outside of Kurdistan as compared to those living in Kurdistan. My bet is that there would be a significant difference, with the Kurds living outside aligning closely with the rest of the population.

It is anecdotal, of course, but I have not spoken to a single Kurd in years who is not very ready to say goodbye to the occupation. And among those I know who have worked for American contractors, the stories of corruption and incompetence and misuse of funds certainly give new meaning to the word reconstruction.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear God. Not only is the Amerigocentric "Dr. iRack" a pseudonym plagiarist from "MAD TV" -- he also "steals" what he undoubtedly thinks is a "hip" reference from "The Daily Show" by referring to Iraq as "Mess-O-Potamia" in his blog bio: "Dr. iRack is a Washington, DC-based analyst who works on Iraq issues. He has traveled to Iraq and spends considerable time studying the evolution of U.S. COIN ops in Mess-o-potamia."

His blogsite is basically a nest of US counterinsurgency mavens and military fanboys, propogating the conceits and myopia of US military supremacy.

Expect mastubatory tactical analyses of -- and support for -- the US occupation in Iraq. Expect little recognition of, and less compassion for, the Iraqi people's right to autonomy, sovereignty, reparations, justice -- not to mention the absence of murderous invaders entranced by their own illusions of superior wisdom.

DO expect endless, tortured, jingoistic excuses for an eternal US occupation of Iraq (unlike what eventually and properly happened in Vietnam, where the US just up and left -- however belatedly!).

War is these guys' bread and butter, and they want to seem oh-so-hip while they conduct or cheer it, this time in Iraq. Their approach to Iraq embodies the conceit of "The Ugly American."

I can feel only a fraction of an Iraqi's pain when confronted with such arrogance. But I feel a full measure of shame and disgust that this kind of imperial "thinking" defines the policy of my government, and that the "Dr. iRacks" of this world are permitted to exercise their lethal ignorance upon the people of a once-sovereign nation.

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. iRack and his various psuedonyms on other blogs (Mess-O-potamia, msr, etc) has always been one of the York Hardings of Iraq. One can't worry about the bigger picture when one has all those details to obfuscate with.

It's what serious people do.

3:46 PM  

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