August 21, 2003

Iraq Rant Ahead. Depart Now If You Wish

Let us turn now to a Newsweek report that, if taken at face value, makes it seem as if the terrorists of the world are winning and, even worse, are geniuses. Just an opinionated aside on my part, but loading a cement truck with explosives and detonating it outside of an unprotected U.N. compound does not, in any way, shape, or form, constitute the work of a genius. But, anyway.

Before reading this, I did a little background checking on the author, one Joshua Hammer. Mr. Hammer, it turns out, doesn't bring a particularly unbiased eye to his stories. Despite being a former hostage of the militant Islamic group Fatah, he remains a sympathizer to the Palestinian cause, so much so that he prefers to refer to suicide bombers as "martyrs." In other words, he basically supports terrorism, albeit a very specific sect of terrorism. Whatever. He thinks strapping on a bomb and blowing up a bus full of innocents is justified, which is a telling backdrop for this article about the recent U.N. bombing.

The late afternoon attack on United Nations headquarters marked the deadly low point in a week of setbacks to the United States-led effort to pacify and rebuild Iraq. At least 20 people died and scores were injured when a suicide bomber apparently drove a cement truck packed with explosives past U.S. military checkpoints and smashed into the side of the hulking white headquarters, marked by the familiar blue U.N. flag above its main entrance. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called the attack an act of "unprovoked and murderous violence."

Bias check. Ah, "deadly low point," and "week of setbacks." Listen, if you truly want to call yourself a journalist, you have to be able to resist the temptation to editorialize like that. Granted, the U.N. bombing isn't a cause for celebration, but it's not like the whole of Iraq is a seething hotbed of maniacal militants geared up to blow up cement trucks. Pacification efforts have been successful, but you rarely hear of the success stories. I suppose it's par for the course to paint a black shadow against everything the U.S. does, because that sells magazines, after all.

Among the dead: special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was holding a press conference when the blast buried him under a pile of rubble. Coming in the wake of a string of other attacks—another American soldier killed yesterday by a bomb in northern Baghdad; the main pipeline transporting oil to Turkey blown up at the weekend by saboteurs near Tikrit; a water main, also in northern Baghdad, destroyed on Sunday, cutting off water to nearly half a million people—today's assault underscores again the immense difficulties faced by coalition forces in their attempts to create order out of the post-Saddam vacuum. It belies repeated claims by U.S. chief administrator L. Paul Bremer III and other officials that life in Iraq is rapidly returning to normal. The blast will also undermine efforts by the coalition to restore basic services to the country—electricity, oil distribution, phone services, water—because those efforts are largely dependent on the creation of a secure environment. The attackers, whose apparent aim is to undermine the American-led recovery effort and turn Iraqis against the occupation, have struck their most significant blow yet against an increasingly shaky U.S. administration.

Gloom and doom, and gloom and doom, and gloom and doom. Here's a thought, though. What does it say about the attackers that, in order to upset the rebuilding effort, they're willing to destroy their own country? They're willing to sabatoge a water main to make 500,000 fellow Iraqis miserable. In the world of the mass media, this somehow constitutes a genius strategy. In my world, this just strengthens my mental resolve that we should stay committed to rebuilding Iraq. As for creating a secure environment, it should be underscored that the U.N. requested that the facility be less guarded. So, the U.S. is somehow responsible for a security failing for a building that the U.N. requested less security for. Sounds fair to me. Whatever.

At a gathering point of relatives, journalists and curious onlookers, two women screamed and wailed beneath a fierce sun; the husband of one, a clerk for the United Nations Development Program, had been working on the second floor when the bomb went off, and had not been heard from since. Moments later, the women caught sight of the man limping toward them across a field that divided the crowd from the U.N. headquarters; he had suffered only minor injuries. The women reached across a coil of barbed wire toward him, but were driven back by American soldiers, who said they had orders to keep everyone behind their lines.

Okay, so, first the U.S. is accused of not providing enough security, and now they're being accused of providing too much security in the wake of a terrorist attack. You gotta love how Hammer wraps his criticism in the nice human interest angle. How dare the soldiers keep such a tearful and joyous reunion from happening!

Ambulances continued to carry away the injured for the next two hours, and a trickle of people with minor injuries, many of them splattered in blood, drifted out, ambushed by the dozen or so journalists who had gathered at the scene.

See, now, to me the important word here is "ambulances." Apparently, ambulances are operating in Iraq. Despite all the "chaos" of Iraq, they're able to operate ambulance services. Sounds like an ignored success story to me. Granted, they may be military ambulances, but then I suspect Hammer would have said they were military ambulances to augment his biased point that the rebuilding is a failure ("they don't even have their own amulances running yet!").

Faced with another catastrophic failure of their security system—one that will almost certainly come in for a major review in coming days—American officials attempted to show a brave face.

How's that for a big splash of biased editorializing? I hate to repeat myself, but remember that the U.N. mission in Baghdad repeatedly rejected U.S. security offers, despite warnings that soft targets would likely be hit, and refused to take even the most common-sense recommended precautions. But, don't take my word for it, take U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard's: "Security around our location was not as secure as you might find at the U.S. compound, and that was a decision we made so the offices were available to the people." Oh, the offices were available all right, just ask the atomized cement truck driver.

"I am absolutely certain that instead of running and cutting the United Nations will remain," Bremer said shortly after today's blast. "We have to do our best to find these people before they attack to deal with them, and we will." Bremer's resolve may be no match for terrorists who have already demonstrated an ability to strike at will.

Yay for the terrorists! Yayyyyyy! *sarcasm* Strike at will my ass. They struck an unprotected facility because they're too weak to strike anything else. To hear Hammer tell it, you'd think the terrorists are winning, and that their cause is a just one. And, boy, that pisses me off.

Posted by Ryan at August 21, 2003 11:57 AM
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