Thursday, January 25, 2007

Embassies good and bad

Icicles on the bus terminus monitor, Helsinki.

I've been to two embassy events in two days, one at the British Embassy and one held at Helsinki University by the U.S. Embassy. Embassy gigs are always jolly nice, diplomats are - after all - diplomatic, and a glass of wine in the early evening along with the chance of hearing some interesting news, or just plain gossip, is all good. But it also made me think of story I heard on the radio last week, one that everyone should listen to. The biggest U.S. embassy in the world is in Baghdad, yet if an Iraqi wants to apply for a U.S. visa: for work, as a student, for business, increasingly as refugees and presumably even as a tourist, they can't do that at the largest U.S. embassy in the world in the Iraqi capital, they have to get to Amman in Jordan. For those who can scrape the money together, it's a USD 1000 for a round-trip ticket on Royal Jordanian. For those who can't afford that, they take a taxi. Through al-Anbar province. Yes, that's the bit of Iraq controlled basically by homicidal Sunni insurgents, which probably makes the taxi option one to avoid if you a Shi'a.

It seems increasingly that Iraqis who have worked for the coalition in any capacity are now getting death threats, and with the Iraqi government and the U.S. (and UK) forces unable to provide security, they are being chased out of their own country. But the UK and U.S. governments, whom some of these Iraqis volunteered to assist in the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam, aren't very interested in helping. And to get told that it will cost you a thousand bucks on Royal Jordanian, or maybe your life in the back of taxi.

And that is deeply shameful.


Akinoluna said...

What also struck me as rather sad was the companies the US government hired in Iraq. With all the talk of reconstructing Iraq and getting its economy up and running, you'd think they would hire Iraqis and Iraqi companies.


The only Iraqis I ever saw on the base were prisoners picking up trash on the side of the road. Well, the guys at the Internet cafe were Arab, so maybe they were Iraqi. Who knows. Anyway...

We had a very nice Lebanese man whose company fixed our bathrooms. A couple Russian/Ukrainian? guys used to come repair our generators. A couple British men showed up for chats when we were looking into a new building for our compound. The cashiers at the PX were all Ethiopian. And the hundreds of chowhall workers were straight off the bus from India. I saw some South African contractors in the chow hall food line once but I don't know what they were doing there.

Didn't really make much sense.

KGS said...

Kvetching and moaning about the US in Iraq, oy gevaldt! Nothing ever positive happens there, absolutely nothing. I'm shocked, shocked! :-)

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

well what exactly positive is happening currently then, amongst the daily car bombs killing dozens? I would be really interested to hear. But if you say "they've fixed up another school" don't be surprised if you hear hollow laughter.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

...and what does "oy gevaldt" mean?

KGS said...

Iraq economy surges ahead:

Iraq economy booming:

That is not to say the problems are not real, and going away any time soon, but there are real progress to be reported. And as for the snide comment about "schools opening up".

They are no small deal to the local Iraqi communities, signifying development and normality in the midst of chaos and violence.


Oy gevaldt is a yiidish term for "surprise, shock, oh my"

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

There is nothing snide about it in the week that saw a multiple car bombing of a university killing something like 70 students and staff. The daily carnage makes people out side of Iraq forget what these individual events really mean to people concerned. The biggest atrocity in recent years in the UK, the 7/7 bombings didn't kill that many, yet still is being talked about and having policy implications over a year later. On the day of the London bombings no one expected the media to be running "school opening" or "cat rescued from tree" stories. I think that when the Iraqis are facing "7/7s" on a weekly - if not daily - basis, those who claim the "MSM" is ignoring the "good news" (as Vice President Cheney basically did to Wolf Blitzer last week), they are insulting the memories of the hundreds of innocent Iraqis who are getting killed each week. They are basically saying the Iraqis should stop whining about their friends and family being killed around them and focus on the positives such as being able to find a job (as long as no one bombs the queue to sign up for it).

Akinoluna said...

Also, a lot of the things people like to cite as "good things" happening in Iraq are in fact things that were functioning just fine before the war (like their healthcare system) that got destroyed as a result of the war. Patting ourselves on the back for rebuilding a neighbourhood we blew up in the first place isn't exactly progress...

KGS said...

"If it bleeds it leads", nothing to debate about in that, the media lives for nothing less. What is also indisputable, is the lack of knowledge in the public sector of anything else but the carnage in Iraq.

Ironically, Toby's recent post about Somalia, proves my point. With most of the major fighting done, the aftermath of the fighting is hardly news worthy anymore. It's not that Somalis are of little concern, its that the media needs blood and gore to sell its papers.

I had a chance to field some questions to (formerly host of the Finnish maailmannäytämöllä program) Jorma Mäkelä, about how the media reports about conflicts. He said that they report what people want to hear about, business is business.

The Palistinians though, have always had great success in hogging the international spot light, as well as interantional funding, while states like Somalia go begging.

Finns want to hear more about the Palestinians than they want to hear about Somalis, so at least here in Finland, there is a virtual news blackout going on about the current siutuation.

But as for "life under Saddam", while the health car system was up and running, the carnage from Hussein's Ba'atist rule was also up and running, with close to two million dead through his wars, and internal democide programs.

Those terrorists that are carrying on with the current outragious violence against civilians, are just continuing with what Saddam did under his veneer of sovereignty. Their rule would resemble Saddam's in much the same way.

Toby, you first asked whether I had found anything good to write about Iraq, (as if NO was a forgone conclusion) then you refuse to even acknowledge (or even downplay) the good issues I linked to. Your London bombing comparison is not fair. Of course the bombing was the focus of all the news media.

But Britian is not fighting for its very heart and soul as in the case of Iraq, and every negative story sends that much more people into column of "Iraq is not worth it". That most of these people could not tell you one story of positive mention, tells me that the reporting on Iraq is one sided.

This is just what the insurgency is banking on, and with thousands of nit wits marching in Washington the other day, with calls for an immediate pull out, tells just how much the insurgency is depending upon the US media, and "peace protesters as a "fifth column.

These ninkompoops, call for peace, and an immediate pull out, regardless that such a pull out would result in outragious massacres most likely worse than in S.Vietnam, and most likely on the same scale as in Cambodia.

How things are cintinuously portrayed does matter...allot

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

"These ninkompoops, call for peace, and an immediate pull out, regardless that such a pull out would result in outragious massacres"

I guess you, as a firm supporter of the war from the start, don't see the irony in insulting the peace protesters now?!? Most of the protesters never wanted a war in the first place. The moral imperative is on us who were for or ambivalent about the war beforehand to try and think what is the best solution. Calling others a "fifth column" is frankly pretty low.

And of course my London bombing comparison is fair, unless you want to argue that Iraqi civilians are worth less than British civilians. You are telling the Iraqis to look on the bright side and us to ignore the news of car bombings and multiple deaths, whilst they almost every day they face the type of carnage Britain faced for just one day. You are saying that the media shouldn't be focusing on the same scale of atrocity as London only because it has become 'normal' in Baghdad. How can you expect anyone to see anything positive amongst that much death?

KGS said...

And once again Toby, you miss the whole point of what I was saying, while also "building a straw man, to only knock it down." I have not downplayed the atrocities, nor have said that the media shouldn't report on them, but that it's not being balanced by "not reporting "everything" about Iraq," which includes many of the success stories of everyday life, and rebuilding of Iraq. I just stated the facts on "WHY" the media focused more heavily on British casualties.

Comparing how the media reports on a terrorist attack in a calm society like Britain (in spite of being at war), to that of a war torn state like Iraq, is like comparing an apple to an orange. A single, isolated act of atrocity in a calm civil environment will of course generate more press coverage than in an area that experiences such atrocities on a daily basis. There is no favoring over peoples here, just the stark reality of the situation. That's how the media and public reaction works. It's not my invention.

As for the "peace protesters"...., you're kidding me right? How in the hell can I insult people who are demanding for the immediate withdrawal of US forces, though it would result in a power vacuum that would ensure the massacre of people on the scale of a Vietnam and/or Cambodia? What kind of mental midgets are these people, like Fonda and ilk, who barely gave mention/shed a tear for the hundreds of thousands of fleeing S.Vietnamese who were lost at sea as result of fleeing the red scourge, or those untold thousands "re-educated in their camps to secure a "better future citizen"?

Or worse yet, those who refused to believe that the Khmer Rouge were murdering millions in spite of evidence to the contrary? The dear MIT professor was one of them, and as a result of his fame, continues to pollute peoples' minds with his shamefull books of "political" hogwash.

These protesters are a fifth column for the terrorists now, as were the protesters in the 60's and 70's for the N.Vietnamese, who have said so themselves. Calling them a "fifth column" accurately depicts their use for anti-democratic forces in Iraq and elsewhere, who see the West as a bunch of weak infidels, not willing to offer a united front (for long) against any Islamist offensive. It only goes to further underline their contempt for Western democracies as being weak, short sighted, self destructive entities, that just have to be waited out until they fold.

Being weak "dhimmis" in face of tyrannical Islamist supremacists, will only serve to embolden these types. That a major portion of the vocal Left continually decides in favor of anti-democratic forces, while berating governments who are trying to make a difference in the world for the better, IMHO, makes these people into imbeciles. The very vocal portion of the Left has always had the propensity for self destruction, with the latest alliance between them and the jihadists proving my point. Whose battle cry is "anything that will serve to derail US foreign policy is worth supporting", even if it emblodens forces that will eventually seek to destroy them. That's both idiotic and suicidal.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

No Kenneth, you can't see the logic inherent in your own point. You are saying that because so many people are dying regularly in Iraq the media can stop focusing on that and look at the positive stories. If you really believe that, it means that you are actually following what Stalin said - along the lines of one death being a tragedy, but a million simply a statistic. And I can't believe that is really your position.

You of course missed my point about the protesters, preferring to throw out more insults. There are "Islamist supremacists" as you put it running rampant in Iraq because, at best, the US and its allies made such a total mess of the occupation, or at worse by simply picking the war of choice and invading Iraq in the first place. If you go into a lion's den and then get mauled, yelling abuse at the people who told you not to go in in the first place, seems rather absurd. You can call them "imbeciles" if it helps, but it is the (lack of) planning and ridiculous assumptions behind the decision to go to war that look imbecilic now.

There is slaughter going on on a huge scale already, plus US troops continue to die whilst failing to stop it, the only discussion is whether it would be any worse if the US troops weren't there. I'm inclined to agree with you on that one, but there are plenty of sensible analysts who might disagree with us, and plenty of patriotic Americans who don't think it is worth the American lives even if US troops are slowing down the killing.

KGS said...

Toby, that's plain silly. You're now re-inventing what I actually said. Please point to any of my comments that underlines your claim that I have said otherwise. I have not asked or demanded that the media stop reporting on the violence, but that it strike a balance.

Ahem....war of choice? UNSCR 1441 says differently. That 3/5 of the security council choosed to ignore Saddam's defiance over 16 SC resolutions over the last 11 years before 2003, and finnally giving its middle finger to the last resoultion, 1441, does not speak of a war by choice, but of a pro-Iraq policy by the Chinese, Russian and the French, with the latter coming out in favor of voting non on any resolution opting for war, regardless.

You should know that its impossible to keep a standing army in the sands of a desert for an indefinate period before it starts to break down.

The only reason why Saddam let the inspectors in was due to the US fleet in the Gulf, and the build-up of its army on the Iraqi border. Sure, the US could have chosen otherwise, but that would have seen a continued flaunting of 1441 (as Blix himself admitted) and the recinding of UN sanctions againsst the regime, which was being heavily lobbied by Iraq upon the 3/5 of the UNSC. It almost worked.

If the generation of the 40's had been infected with same kind of "mind think" that prevails in todays society, the covert ops to the build-up of forces for the allied invasion of Normandy would have been "blown by the New York Times", Roosevelt chastised by a vitriolic news media for getting us into his "dirty war", (like Joseph Kennedy sr. tried with Truman, who threatened to throw him out of the window if he didn't shut up) and hundreds of thousands of "peace protesters" marching through the streets of Washington and London, denouncing evil Franklin and Winston for war crimes in killing tens of thousands of innocent Dutch, French, German and Italians. They would be worthy of the title of imbeciles as well.

That re-inlistment is up at an all time high, with a large majority wanting to head back to Iraq, tells me that US military personnel are seeing something there in Iraq, that the media here is not willing to expose. Point-counterpoint

KGS said...

This hour long interview on CNN of Michael Yon is well worth the time needed to view it.