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Fear and Inertia vs the Hotel California

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Reports have been circulating of “surprise” that the allied troops haven’t been universally greeted with dancing in the streets by Iraqi civilians. The answer seems pretty clearly that civilians are so fearful and traumatized by almost a quarter century of Saddam that they aren’t going to commit to anything until it is unequivocally established that Saddam cannot wreak his vengeance upon them.

This [French!] report seems a little closer to the truth:

    Sergeant Kenneth Wilson said Arabic-speaking US troops made contact with two busloads of Iraqis fleeing south along Route Seven towards Rafit, one of the first friendly meetings with local people for the marines around here.

    “They had slaughtered lambs and chickens and boiled eggs and potatoes for their journey out of the frontlines,” Wilson said.

    At one camp, the buses stopped and women passed out food to the troops, who have had to ration their army-issue packets of ready-to-eat meals due to disruptions to supply lines by fierce fighting further south.

    ….Corpsman Tony Garcia said the food donation was an act of appreciation for the American effort to topple the brutal regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

    “They gave us eggs and potatoes to feed our marines and corpsmen. I feel the local population are grateful and they want to see an end to Saddam Hussein,” he said.

    “It was a lovely, beautiful gesture.”

    Khairi Ilrekibi, 35, a passenger on one of the buses, which broke down near the marine position, said he could speak for the 20 others on board.

    In broken English he told a correspondent travelling with the marines: “We like Americans,” adding that no one liked Saddam Hussein because “he was not kind.”

    ….Lance Corporal David Polikowsky stood guard over 70 POWS near the broken down bus, saying how grateful he was for food cooked and donated by locals, which included oranges.

    ….He said they told him: “We welcome you. What is your name? We will pray for you.”

    He said another group of POWS, largely conscripts, had been moved south.

    “They told me they wanted to go to America after the war. I said where. They said California. I said why? They said the song Hotel California and they left singing Hotel California.” [AFP]

This is a beautiful picture, made all the more charming by the fact that “Hotel California” is basically an ANTI-California song. We have no control over our cultural artifacts once we send them out into the world – people do with them what they will, including construct dreams around them.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Eric,

    The answer seems pretty clearly that civilians are so fearful and traumatized by almost a quarter century of Saddam that they aren’t going to commit to anything until it is unequivocally established that Saddam cannot wreak his vengeance upon them.

    True. Once they are more afraid of us than they are of Saddam, we will have won their hearts and souls.

  • Reid

    Making them afraid of us is not the goal.

    Who can blame the Iraqis for hedging their bets? For all they know, we could cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow leaving him in power and they’d be swinging from the lampposts by nightfall.

  • Reid

    Making them afraid of us is not the goal.

    Who can blame the Iraqis for hedging their bets? For all they know, we could cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow leaving him in power and they’d be swinging from the lampposts by nightfall.

    Heck, we’re losing. Ask Peter Arnett!

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    The L.A. Times has a story about Iraqis who are coming into Iraq to fight the invasion.

    How is such a thing possible? How–in a world where only Iraqis who are fearful of Saddam’s regime would fail to acknowledge their desire for liberation by U.S. troops–do you account for Iraqis who are free of this regime coming into Iraq to fight? Boy, they’re keeping up one hell of a charade, aren’t they? I’ve never encountered actors with such commitment.

    The L.A. Times story makes some suggestions about motivation, of course–religion, peer pressure, some (not all) may be seeking other family members. But nothing about this story fits the standard claim: “Iraq is a country filled with desperate, repressed people who want nothing more than to be liberated by an invading army of Americans and British.”

    Maybe that assertion will ultimately prove to be true, on the whole. I certainly hope so. But, just speculating here, how much contrary evidence will have to accumulate before we admit that it simply isn’t true?

    Or is this going to be another one of those things, like aluminum tubes or Niger connections, that, upon being proved false, are suddenly declared not to matter?

    Are we heading for yet ANOTHER improvised rationale for the war? Now that we aren’t being greeted as liberators, is this a chance for the neoconservative warriors to claim, “No, no no. You see, the goal all along was to bring stability to the Middle East. And–you know what?–it might take a few more wars to achieve that. But that’s been the goal all along. We’ve never said otherwise. Bring stability to the Middle East. Yep. That’s the real goal.”

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Criminy, Brian. Why do you hate America so much? What exactly is your major malfunction? I mean, Jeebus man, you are determined to find any possible example or excuse to claim that America is the bad guy.

  • Larry R Duncan

    Brian, can you give me the source (You do put it in quotation marks, after all,) of what you say is “the standard claim: ‘Iraq is a country filled with desperate, repressed people who want nothing more than to be liberated by an invading army of Americans and British.'”? If the quote is a composite of what you think you heard then there is no need for quotation marks and that statement, so handled, is at least disingenuous and probably dishonest.

    There may be a very good argument against what the US and the UK are doing in Iraq and if there is it does not require made-up quotations.

    Larry R Duncan
    Mission, Texas

  • http://assyrianchristians.com/i_was_wrong_mar_26_03.htm raisinette

    Brian,

    Is this compelling enough for starters?

    http://assyrianchristians.com/i_was_wrong_mar_26_03.htm

  • Eric Olsen

    If you believe the Iraqi claims regarding the numbers returning to Iraq to fight you have indeed lost your compass. There are SOME idiots who are drawn to any conflagration like moths to a flame – so?

  • http://johntabin.blogspot.com John Tabin

    I’m not sure it’s correct to call “Hotel California” an “anti-California” song– the Hotel California is a metaphor for drug addiction (“you can check out any time you want/but you can never leave”). There’s more to California than drugs, and that may even have been true in 70s (though probably less-true).

  • Eric Olsen

    Drugs may be one of the meanings, but also the paradise lost of California in general. Regardless of the “real” meaning, it is still ironic that a cautionary tale is drawing people to the very thing being cautioned against in the song.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Drugs would be way too narrow a meaning to give the song. Look at the other end of the album for the bigger picture. “The Last Resort” is a beautiful epic song, though I would take some exception to the message. It’s about how the white men and their manifest destiny came and raped the land and ruined everything. They “threw up a bunch of ugly boxes, and Jesus’ people bought ‘em.” The California of our Beach Boy dreams is really just a mirage, having been destroyed by the sullying presence of dreaded white people. Something like that.

  • Laurie K

    Yeah, I get all my philosophical advice from rich, drug-addled rock stars. Screw ‘em. California’s a pleasant place to live, and if those big-hearted Iraqis on the bus want to come and live here, we can scoot over and make room.

  • Eric Olsen

    Right on Laurie, although ironically what the Eagles said 25 and 30 years ago when they were drug addled and whatnot made a lot more sense than the gibberish they have been floating since they became clean and sober.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Also, there is a version of “Hotel California” by the Gypsy Kings that is to die for. Obviously very different from the original, and it gives you a chance to hear the song with new ears. Highly recommended.

  • George Stewart

    Brian,

    As Geoff Hoon pointed out on a tv prog. called Question Time last week in the UK, in relation to the number of Iraqis in exile, the number crossing back into Iraq is miniscule.

  • Eric Olsen

    It’s miniscule even IF you believe the Iraqi numbers – if you believe real life numbers it’s sub-miniscule.

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Al,

    When I ask, Are we headed for another improvised rationale for the war? and you respond:

    Why do you hate America so much?

    Can you understand why I don’t find that a persuasive argument?

    Larry,

    No, the “quote” is not a quote. It is, as you suggest, a composite. I am sorry to have misled you. (I thought the plain wording would give it away–nobody from the government would ever speak so bluntly about “an invading army.”)

    Is that the entire response you have? One nitpick about quotation style? When I ask, Are we headed for another improvised rationale for the war? and you respond:

    If the quote is a composite of what you think you heard then there is no need for quotation marks…

    Can you understand why I don’t find that a persuasive argument?

    raisinette,

    Thanks for the link. Yeah–that’s exactly how I thought they felt. I thought it would be, I don’t know, 90% of the Iraqis who would welcome us as liberators. And I thought that the army would just collapse in the face of our invasion. I really did. I bought it. (I was against the war, but never because I didn’t think we could win it quickly.)

    How come these people aren’t playing their assigned roles?

    More important, what does it mean that the predictions of the neoconservatives have not panned out? “Cakewalk.” “Greeted as liberators.” “House of cards.” (Yeah, Larry, these are real quotes.) What if we were told IN ADVANCE that taking over Iraq would require an ugly and bloody military occupation? What if we were told that it was part of a long-term plan to remake the Middle East using luck if we found it (democracy spreads all by itself), or long-term military occupation of most of the entire region if necessary?

    Were you told these things? Do you believe them to be untrue?

    Give me an estimate: How long will our war(s) in the Middle East last?

    Because I think most Americans felt they were promised one quick “cakewalk” police operation against Saddam, and then we’re outta there. Disagree?

    Eric,

    “If you believe the Iraqi claims regarding the numbers returning to Iraq to fight you have indeed lost your compass.”

    Um…I didn’t say anything about Iraqi claims. I would no sooner believe an Iraqi official’s claims than I would…oh, I don’t know, Donald Rumsfeld’s.

    “There are SOME idiots who are drawn to any conflagration like moths to a flame – so?”

    True. I hope that’s the case here–a small number of holdouts, then on to the cakewalk. (I mean it–I want the cakewalk. I’m just not going to call Vietnam All Over Again a cakewalk, if that’s what this turns into.)

    What I’m trying to do is get somebody, ANYBODY, on the pro-war side to say…Where is this going? Is that what you had in mind all along? Is that in line with what the President claimed?

    Because I don’t remember anyone saying, “Even if this thing in Iraq turns into a long-term, bloody military occupation, I’m still for it.” Or, “Even if this turns into a long-term war to ‘bring stability to the Middle East,’ I’m still for it.”

    I would like to give you that opportunity now.

  • http://www.instapundit.com/ raisinette

    Brian,
    You have directed a number of questions at me, which I would like to try to respond to with some semblance of intelligence, but please keep in mind that what I say is in my humble opinion, based on the facts that I am aware of.
    Please visit http://www.kdp.pp.se/chemical.html and http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/27a/016.html for a good look at the chemical massacre to which the Iraqi Kurds were subjected at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s regime. This, coupled with the invasion of Kuwait laid a significant foundation for a UN coalition to come together….Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Honduras, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Turkey, The United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States…..these are the original countries which formed a coalition establishing Saddam as a dictator in possession of WMD and demanding sanctions against Iraq that were unanimously put in place by the UN membership in 1991 in the form of the resolution…..The outrage could only be exacerbated by the cruel torture and slaughter of an additional 30,000 Iraqis in the southern part of the country when they rose against Saddam, only to find that deals had been cut which prevented any support or reinforcement from the United States. It didn’t end there….see http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/si_online/news/2003/03/24/son_of_saddam/ for a general picture of how Saddam and those closest to him continued to torture and murder the Iraqi populace over the 12 years that followed. We are talking not only of a people oppressed by their own diabolical leader, but also let down by the United States once already (as well as the rest of the international community). This is strong incentive to make them mistrust the current coalition. Having the Republican Guard in their midst, urging them to fight, is also pretty strong incentive to prevent them from “playing their assigned roles.” This is pretty persuasively outlined in http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=iraq&s=diary032703
    For 12 years the international community turned a blind eye to the plight of the ordinary Iraqis while patiently waiting for Saddam to keep his word and disarm. Leaving him in power over that period of time was a financial godsend for some countries. A look at http://www.blarg.net/~minsq/NCArchive/00000027.htm and http://www.command-post.org/archives/002978.html might shed some light on the matter. Yet, when George W. Bush shows more devotion to upholding UN resolutions than the UN, all of the other countries that unanimously voted for sanctions and disarmament are suddenly let off scot-free, and they come up smelling like a rose. All this taken together paints a pretty compelling picture for me to support the decision made by the US/UK governments. It may not be sufficient for others to offer support, but I would think that it would be a pretty strong reason to, at least, remain neutral on the issue.
    The US may have implied that the war would be a “cakewalk” however it is not what I believed to be the case (at any rate, it is too early to tell). The elimination of Saddam and his inner circle creates the need for a new government. There are many different ethnic groups living in Iraq (Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians just to name a few). In the absence of assistance from the coalition, what is to prevent them from warring with each other? The Kurds in the north could face hostility from Turkey that is presently protected by US special forces. The southern marsh arabs are vulnerable to Iranian attack. To think that we could go in and out quickly shows ignorance on the part of the Americans and British with regard to the internal situation in Iraq as well as the volatility that exists as a threat outside of its borders. I think we will be there for several years, however I do not think that war will last for several years.
    With regard to emerging democracy, Jackson Diehl provided some wonderful information via Instapundit when he wrote:

    “The Bush administration’s embrace of a democratization strategy for the postwar Middle East has triggered a torrent of scorn from the region’s traditional political and intellectual elites, not to mention regional experts at the State Department and CIA. Less noticed is the fact that it has also produced a flurry of political reforms, quasi-reforms and grass-roots initiatives in countries across the region.

    Two days before the war began last week, the Palestinian legislative council dealt a major blow to the autocracy of Yasser Arafat, rejecting his attempt to limit the powers of a new prime minister. This happened by a democratic vote after a noisy democratic debate — which in turn came a few days after President Bush called for a strong prime minister in a Palestinian democracy.

    The next day an Egyptian court finally ended the prosecution of the country’s leading pro-democracy activist, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who had twice been sentenced to prison on trumped-up charges — and whose last conviction prompted the Bush administration to freeze aid to Egypt. Two weeks earlier, Gamal Mubarak, would-be heir to his father, Hosni, as president, announced a plan to end trials of civilians in the security courts in which Ibrahim was sentenced, and proposed an independent national council to monitor human rights.

    A week before Mubarak spoke, King Abdullah of Jordan, who has not allowed an election since taking office four years ago and who dissolved parliament in 2001, set a date for parliamentary elections. He chose June 17, thereby ensuring that as the postwar political discussion gets underway, Jordan will be able to point to its own democratic exercise.

    Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has been urging Western journalists to take note of an “Arab Charter” floated by ruling Crown Prince Abdullah, which calls for “internal reform and enhanced political participation in the Arab states,” and a related petition by 104 intellectuals calling for the direct election in Saudi Arabia of a consultative council, an independent judiciary and freedom of speech and assembly. In January, on Abdullah’s order, a host of senior Saudi officials met with a visiting delegation from Human Rights Watch — the first time a Western human rights group had been allowed to visit the country.”

    Now for the bit you have been waiting for….although I had the good fortune to be born and raised in the USA, most of the rest of my family did not. It was not so long ago that my own were under the yoke of Soviet dictatorship in Eastern Europe. Even if this thing in Iraq turns into a long-term, bloody military occupation, I’m still for it because the alternative would be even bloodier and far more brutal and oppressive. Just think, Brian, if we were in a place like Iraq, either you would be tortured and put to death for expressing your views, or I would be for expressing mine (depending on what the ruling party fancied). I have lost family members to such Fate. Have you? Have you any idea, really, what a gift it is for us to express our view, enjoy such freedom, and be able to walk away respecting each other’s views and rights, while agreeing to disagree? Once again I reiterate that what I have stated here is simply my own humble opinion based on my limited knowledge.

  • david polikowsky

    those iraqis we had captured on the bus, i think its the same one that got toasted about 500 meters down the road after one or two undercover soldiers began to fire on another marine unit after we released them.
    too bad so sad…wish i really gave a damn anyway!

  • Greg

    Well, Iraq is Iraq and they can take care of themselves, but they won’t do a good job. Whether the US can do a good job is doubtful. Probably nothing but complete socioeconomic reform will EVER bring about lasting change. I mean, if we’re eventually planning on pulling out of Iraq, we have to let the Iraqis do as much of the rebuilding as possible. If we don’t then they won’t have learned enough before they go out on their own and Saddam Hussein #2 will arise and the same thing will happen all over again. The Middle East is not a fun place to have a country, let’s face it.

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