Saturday, July 18, 2009

Do you like a good yarn?


The press hopes you do. They hope you love a good yarn so much that you're not going to ask any questions, utilize common sense or, heaven forbid, think for yourselves.

Which explains the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk. Iraqi forces, all by themselves, secured Iraq and Iraqis today. Mike Tharp (McClatchy Newspapers) is blabbering away faster than Rona Barrett declaring a psychic is running ABC. It's "their first big test," Tharp gushes, and they "passed" -- not only did they pass, they did so "with flying colors"! And he's not done yet. Please. He quotes Maj Gen Qaasim Atta -- don't you love it when even the publicity hacks are given military titles? -- declaring, "This is the first 100 percent Iraqi security plan to protect the pilgrims. The forces are all Iraqis, even the helicopters above."

Oh, Tharp, if you want to play idiot, do so, but don't insult the rest of us. At his own outlet, Mohammed al Dulaimy already reported that US helicopters -- two of them -- were hovering over Baghdad. Well, ignore the two in Baghdad -- and pretend other US helicopters haven't been flying all over Iraq -- and you can swallow the spin, you can splash in the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk. Why, it's practically purple fingers! It's 2005 all over again!

Reality is that Baghdad's rarely the point of attack. Reality is that the US forces, stepping away from Iraq cities, have been doing more work along the route of the pilgrims. Baghdad's the destination. But the pilgrims don't fly in to Baghad International, step onto the tarmac and rush to the shrine. That's not how it works. But if you're stupid enough, if you're as stupid as the press hopes you are, you will be grinning and swearing, "Mission accomplished!"

Yes, with a little help from the press, you too can be as stupid as George W. Bush.

And they hope you're as intellectually non-curious as George. That would allow you to stop long before paragraph thirteen of Tharp's eighteen paragraph article where he sneaks in "two US choppers also provided surveillance on Thursday." Blink and you know you missed it, lose your love when you say the word "mine."

The crackdown isn't explored. The crackdown includes curfews and a ban on traffic and that's mentioned (at the end, of course) and we get someone presented as something of a smart ass complaining but apparently actually interviewing pilgrims wasn't on the agenda. Apparently, taking dictation from the Iraqi spokesmodels was so much more important.

We're focusing on Tharp but Timothy Williams has a piece of garbage that'll run in tomorrow's New York Times and you can pick off any liar at basically any outlet.

In fairness to the press, it should be noted that this spin passed as reports should be part of a process wherein the coming days would explore what really happened. That still wouldn't justify relying solely on government spokesmodels, nor would it justify presenting unchecked spin as fact. But it doesn't matter because this won't be reported on. This won't be followed up on. And the point was always to get that splash of Operation Happy Talk headlines into the news cycle and never explore it. They never went back and addressed the problems in the January 31st elections, let alone in the 2005. It's all hype and hot air.

And they can't even get their hype right. Tharp insists no pilgrims died from Thursday to today. Really? That would be a first in Iraq or anywhere. If people injured by bombings, if every single one of them. Tharps insists 48 people were wounded since Thursday) was injured in a bombing and not one later died on the way to the hospital or in the hospital. If that happened to three days worth of bombing victims, it would certainly be a first. AP reports, "The event was a relative success, despite bombings that killed several people and injured dozens."

It's really something to watch as over 130,000 US forces are stripped of any credit because the press wants to paint Iraq as 'ready.' The press seems a little bit like a female singer who's sleeping with her guitarist and, therefore, eager to inflate his credit and build him up. So she goes around insisting he's really, really talented and really the brains behind every recording and no one would listen if he wasn't there. Reality, he's just the guitarist.

In the real world, the assualt on the Sahwa ("Awakenings," "Sons Of Iraq") continues. BBC reports that Naeem Saleh al-Halbusi was injured in a bombing near Falluja attack targeting the Sahwa leader and wounding him and killing his son and two bodyguards. AP covers that bombing and notes one outside Falluja which claimed the lives of 2 children and left eight more injured.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) notes a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured two police officers and a Mosul roadside bombing which injured two Iraqi soldiers. Reuters notes a Ramadi roadside bombing which injured one Iraqi soldier and a Mosul roadside bombing which injured one Iraqi police officer. Dropping back to yesterday, the US military reports 1 "Iraq local national was killed and another was injured during an accident involving a US military vehicle" in Basra.

The US military announced today:

DIYALA, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces delivered rice, flour, sugar and oil to citizens in Baqubah with the help of U.S. Forces. Video scenes include workers unloading five trucks of goods, and citizens lining up and receiving the has a one-minute package about the event as well as edited B-Roll and Interviews.
Direct link to the package: link to interviews: link to B-Roll:
For access to the video, contact the Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System by calling 1-877-DVIDS-247 or visit the Web site at

Yeah, that's right. Iraqi security forces couldn't even go into Baquba on their own. They came bearing gifts but still needed to be accompanied by US forces. But keep believeing the latest waves of Operation Happy Talk, the beautiful lie where Iraqi forces, all by themselves, ensured no pilgrim died.

The thing about waves of Operation Happy Talk? They always crash into reality. Alsumaria reports of today's pilgrimage: "One citizen was killed and tens pilgrims were wounded as they were heading to Imam Moussa Al Kazem shrine (AS) due to roadside bomb explosions in Zaafaraniya, New Baghdad, Al Saydiya and Al Dora region." So even the fact-free hype falls apart upon examination. And Mike Tharp, Timothy Williams and assorted others? As Gladys once sang, "Now your head's little lower and you walk a little slower and you don't seem so proud." (Ashford & Simpson's "Didn't You Know You'd Have To Cry Sometime?")

Photo credit is: "Staff Sgt. Alan Cable, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, (left), and 1st Lt. Adnan Ganim, 55th Iraqi Army Brigade, shake hands before returning to work at Joint Security Station Zubaida, south of Baghdad, July 15. Photo by Sgt. Mary Phillips, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team."

In exactly seven days, the KRG holds elections. You don't hear a lot about that, do you? Compare it to the January 31st provincial elections which the KRG sat out (this is their provincial and presidential elections comined). Nada Bakri (Washington Post) reports from Sulaymaniyah on one candidate, Hallo Rasch:

Rasch is running as an independent against the incumbent, Massoud Barzani, who was elected president of Iraqi Kurdistan in 2005. The pragmatic and cautious Barzani has been at the center of Kurdish politics -- in the region, in the rest of Iraq and in the broader Kurdish homeland -- since succeeding his father, a legendary guerrilla leader, as head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party more than 30 years ago.
Rasch's uphill candidacy is playing out in a region simultaneously considered the most democratic in Iraq and not all that democratic. Two main parties -- Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani -- have for years exercised a stranglehold on the region, dividing between them politics, patronage, investments and business deals.

As noted last night, a helicopter crashed in Iraq. CNN reports it was an "Xe" (Blackwater) helicopter and that two employees died and another two were wounded.

In other news, NPR's gone to the dogs.

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mcclatchy newspapers
mohammed al dulaimy
the washington post