Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wag the Dog...and more

Well, I´m back. Bucaramanga was very nice. It´s a beautiful city set astride the mountains at a lower altitude than Bogota and thus, much warmer. The meetings were more or less a dud. Very bush league, but then again, nothing surprising there, now is there. I was particularly impressed with how every single presenter used the meetings to finish their powerpoint presentations instead of listening/participating. It made for quite a ruckus of tapping of keys and more or less made the whole exercise futile. Of course, that wasn´t as bad as one of our team member here from the Bogota office playing a video game for about 50% of the total meeting time over two days (maybe more, I missed some time on Friday with a...um...hangover).

At any rate, more ridiculousness out of the US. I watch CNN every morning while I´m getting ready for work. Their morning show is essentially a fluff show of irrelevance but they do report on broad trends like the War, serious weather problems, and who´s hot or not. I find it helps keep me a little more connected to US culture than 1000 CSI episodes.

Last week, I saw Homeland Security Chief Michael Chernoff get on national TV and state that while he didn´t have any evidence that Al Queda was planning something, he felt "in his gut" that they were gearing up for a major strike against the US. Today, they had a piece about DHS warning scuba instructors about students with strange requests. Of course, they never mentioned that the scuba warning went out only a few months after 9/11 (I guess the guest they had on didn´t get the memo to leave that bit out). The TV isn´t the only player here as well. The print media is aflame with Al Queda threat risk and stories of vulnerability.

You know, when Clinton bombed Serbia, everyone said "wag the dog". Now, the full Bush fearmonger strategy is in full play, he has the lowest popularity of any modern president (and bordering on all time), his administration is actively trumping up the Al Queda risk, and no one is saying "wag the dog"? WTF?

Potentially even more troubling is that the CNN morning braintrust (and I´m probably exaggerating their collective intelligence even while I mock them) has repeatedly interviewed GOP Senators about the Iraq war in the last few weeks and not once asked them a tough question or even come close challenging their view.

One storyline I´m particularly tired of is the, "surprise, Mr./Mrs. XYZ is in Iraq and walking in a street market that used to be an Al Queda stronghold. Look how safe things are getting." This may seem compelling to an uninformed public, but that´s only because the media isn´t doing their job. Remember, in an insurgency, territory is irrelevant.

Let´s say that again: Territory is Irrelevant.

Rule 101 of the Insurgency Handbook is to never try to hold ground your enemy really wants because holding ground doesn´t win the war. Ratcheting up casualties, staying hidden, constantly exposing your enemy´s weaknesses, these are the tools of insurgency. So walking down the street in a market that used to be controlled and bombed by serious bad guys really doesn´t mean jack shit.

Ultimately, the US government and public have to decide this: Do they want an Israeli-style occupation for the next 20-50 years. Because that´s what it´s going to take and even that probably won´t "win" the insurgency. So all this hobnobbing about visiting and being impressed and hearing positive feedback from the troops and the new strategy, et. al., really doesn´t mean a damn thing in terms of our overall Iraq policy. Sadly, the media seems incapable of even considering such a line of questioning.

At any rate, my message to the media: If you´re not part of the solution, you´re part of the problem. I hold you media accountable on this. Take care or I´ll send Jon Stewart out there to shut you down with pure ridicule and shame.


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