Blog Turfing

There seems to be a spat concerning Omar & Muhammad (the brothers who write the Iraq the Model blog). They’re currently touring the country as part of the Spirit of America tour. Most rightie bloggers are fond of these two because they embrace the Administration line on Iraq: namely that things are going better than people think.

In this tour, this apparently has consisted of saying that Iraqis in general are looking forward to the January elections. Many people (notably, Prof. Juan Cole, but there are others) think that Omar & Muhammad might be part of a Administration spin campaign–an accusation that, given this Administration’s, shall we say, problematic relationship with truth and reality, isn’t too far-fetched. One of the blogging duo’s pals, Jeff Jarvis, reacts to those accusations by calling Prof. Cole "pond scum". And in the crossfire, other Iraqi bloggers get brought into the action, like Zeyad, whose cousin was apparently killed by soldiers in my division, and Riverbend, who writes from Baghdad and is highly opposed to the occupation.   

So why is this a big deal?

For starters, the issue of the Iraq War is very emotional for a lot of people, including me. This is the first war, after all, in which we chose to go to war. People invested a lot of their credibility, on both sides, on the outcome of the war. Seeing as how it’s turned out so far, how can anybody be surprised at the heat of the rhetoric? People who were, and remain, pro-war, are now in the position of grasping at anything, no matter how tenuous, in order to justify their position, which in hindsight, was the wrong one to take.

I think what Omar & Muhammad are doing in Iraq is courageous, and if that tragic land is going to have any shot at freedom, it’s going to be because of people like them, who take a bold leap into the unknown maelstrom of democracy. I salute their efforts, and if I have a chance to tell them face to face, I’ll do so.

Nevertheless, no matter how badly, how earnestly Jarvis and other pro-war bloggers wish it to be otherwise, the majority of Iraqis are highly opposed to our occupation of Iraq. And in that context, someone like Riverbend is more reflective of what Ahmed in the souk really feels.

Jarvis, Omar, Muhammed and many other people may be taking heart in anecdotal evidence that Iraqis are getting more and more interested in the upcoming elections–but I think they’re drawing the wrong inference from that evidence. Iraqi interest in January’s elections is driven not by affection for us, but by the possibility, however real, that they’ll be able to end the occupation. How do I know this? Because the biggest party in the elections, the Sistani-backed United Iraqi Alliance, is campaigning on getting the troops out of Iraq.

The question is, when they ask, will we withdraw? It’s easy to say we will when they ask us to, but we’ve got lots of interests in the region–interests that are complicated by a withdrawal of American power from the region.

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