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November 30, 2003 - Winning Hearts and Minds

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Two notes on winning the hearts and minds in the country we now occupy and control.  On the left, the issue is collective punishment.  Specifically this involves firing tens of thousands of Iraqi teachers who once belonged to the Baath Party.  This doesn't exactly help the nation get back on its feet.  On the right, the government we have selected and installed in Iraq has now warned both CNN and the BBC about their reporting, and thrown another news service out on its ear.  Not a good lesson in "freedom of the press."

I'm glad Im not a teacher these days, but it's even harder to be a teacher in the new, free Iraq.
Here's a UPI report that U.S. occupation administrator Paul Bremer recently fired 28,000 Iraqi teachers as punishment for their former Baath Party membership.
Analysis: Iraqi CPA fires 28,000 Teachers
Date: Friday, November 21, 2003 6:40:58 PM EST By RICHARD SALE, UPI Intelligence Correspondent
America's top man in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, last week fired 28,000 Iraqi teachers as political punishment for their former membership in the Saddam Hussein-dominated Baath Party, fueling anti-U.S. resistance on the ground, administration officials have told United Press International.
A Central Command spokesman, speaking to UPI from Baghdad, acknowledged that the firings had taken place but said the figure of 28,000 "is too high." He was unable, however, after two days, to supply UPI with a lower, revised total.
The Central Command spokesman attributed the firings to "tough, new anti-Baath Party measures" recently passed by the U.S.-created Iraqi Governing Council, dominated by Ahmed Chalabi, a favorite of administration hawks in the White House and Pentagon.
"It's a piece of real stupidity on the part of the neocons to try and equate the Baath Party with the Nazis," said former CIA official Larry Johnson. "You have to make a choice: Either you are going to deal with Iraqis who are capable of rebuilding and running the country or you're going to turn Iraq over to those who can't."
Facing a spreading insurgency, this was "not the time to turn out into the street more recruits for the anti-U.S. insurgency," Johnson said. ...
[ ... see link for full text ... ]
This probably doesn't need comment.  I guess these were bad people who deserved punishment.  But it does seem an odd way to rebuild a nation.  The conservative fra, far right has always inveighed against public schools, saying vouchers for private schools made more sense that a "socialistic" public school system - but they really prefer unregulated home schooling over all other kinds of education.  Is Iraq part of a grand experiment to see how this works in building a country?  Well see.
Also from the UPI item:
"It's an incredible error," said former senior CIA official and Middle East expert Graham Fuller.  "In Germany, after World War II, the de-nazification program was applied with almost surgical precision in order not to antagonize German public opinion.  In the case of Iraq, ideologues don't seem to grasp the seriousness of their acts."
Ah, but I expect they do.  This is a show of force, to put these people in their place, to show who's boss now.
And the treasonous US State Department, the guys who question the Rumsfeld approach and still stubbornly believe in diplomacy and all that kind of thing, have a problem here:
"The anti-Baath edicts, all of which are ideological nonsense, have been an outright disaster," a State Department official said.  "Whatever happened to politics as the art of the possible?"
"All we have done is to have alienated one of the most politically important portions of the Iraqi population," another administration official said.
Whatever happened to politics as the art of the possible?  That's for wimps and sissies, one would assume.
Consider this also: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld months ago moved to get rid of sixteen of twenty State Department people because they were seen to be "Arabists" -  overly sympathetic to Iraqis.  One of our guys was quoted in last week's Newsweek as saying the vetting process for Iraqis "got so bad that even doctors sent to restore medical services had to be anti-abortion" - and that's important in the Bush administration.  When Secretary of State Colin Powell protested directly to Rumsfeld, he ignored Powell, the Newsweek source said.
But things are going well.  Things are going well.

Making Iraq a Model Democracy
In November 30, 2003 - Why We Fight I discuss our invasion and occupation of Iraq and how this is a neoconservative project of installing our idea of what we think they should have as a government, and what its policies should be. That would be a secular democracy, with a deregulated totally privatized capitalist economy, few if any social services (to require personal responsibility), friendly to multi-national corporations like Wal-Mart, Starbucks and KFC (and Exxon-Mobil and Arco and the rest), and so on and so forth.  Schools would be private, not public.  Abortion would be totally illegal.
This is the standard Republican list of how things should be in a well-run nation.  Iraq is kind of a "great experiment" in creating this ideal state.
What about freedom of the press?
Well, our president doesn't like the press, "the media" as it were.  He claims they filter the truth.  Bush told Brit Hume on Fox News that he never reads any newspapers, nor does he watch any news on television.  He relies on "unfiltered" news from two of his key subordinates, who summarize events for him.
Given that view of the media, what would a "free press" look like in a nation we get to build pretty much from scratch?
Well, the press would be "responsible" - not reporting things that would cause people to lose faith in their government.  You know, kind of like Fox News, only much more disciplined.
You don't believe it?  The government we have selected and installed in Iraq has now warned both CNN and the BBC they will face sanctions if they continue reporting things that raise too many questions.
Read this from the Toronto Star:
In another sign of a harder line coming from Baghdad, the Washington-appointed Iraqi Governing Council pulled the plug on the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite television network yesterday, saying it would no longer be allowed to report from Baghdad until it agrees to stop "encouraging terrorism."
Its crime appeared to be airing an audio tape purported to have come from deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.  It aired the audio tape, in which a voice calls for a holy war against occupying troops on Nov. 16.  The CIA said it could not confirm the voice was, in fact, Saddam's.
"I would like to you know that we are serious in fighting terrorism and the Governing Council will exert more efforts," Jalal Talabani, current head of the council, told reporters in Baghdad. "We will have an active political, media and military role against terrorism."
CNN reported yesterday that it and the BBC had also been warned that they, too, could face sanctions if they did not toe the line.
Well, the current administration hasn't yet been totally able to reign in the press here.  I'd say they're three-quarters there, but still face some uppity reporting here and there.
But now we have a model for how it should be done.  The "it" here is how the government should work with the press.  A short leash.
This is from a section of a longer item -
Resolve won't be shaken: Bush
Vows to avenge soldiers' slayings
$401 billion U.S. defence bill signed
Tim Harper, The Toronto Star, posted Nov. 25, 2003. 06:32 AM (EST)
I don't like the implications of all this.  It couldn't happen here, right?