March 16, 2008

Iraq Looking Good, Part 1: Winning By A Dip Stick


In the most in-depth picture of the trend, the Pew report says that about half the public (48%) now says the Iraq war effort is going either very well or fairly well. That compares to a more than 2-1 majority who said it was going badly a year ago. Nearly half (47%) say the U.S. should keep its troops in Iraq until the situation there has stabilized — roughly the same as those (49%) who favor bringing troops home as soon as possible. A year ago, 53% favored rapid withdrawal versus 42% who favored keeping the troops in Iraq.  — WSJ

“It has a great deal more to do with the economy than with ideology,” said one senior American military official, who said that studies of detainees in American custody found that about three-quarters were not committed to the jihadist ideology. “The vast majority have nothing to do with the caliphate and the central ideology of Al Qaeda.” — NYT

Why is the perception of the Iraq occupation improving?  It’s because both parties are measuring progress in terms of reduced incidents — and images — of violence.

If, however, the images that are circulating detail political, economic or military futility, these can be taken for progress, too … if nobody knows how to read them.

The shot above — and the gallery it comes from — is actually offered in an ironic vein.  What we think we see is one more example of Iraq functioning normally, under the helpful hand of Uncle Sam.  Specifically, American troops are checking the level of fuel in this tanker truck against the measure in the driver’s records.

What we discover from the article, however, is that whether or not skimming was prevented here, a third and maybe much more of the oil coming from the Baji refinery in Northern Iraq — an instillation that American troops are scrupulously guarding — is ending up on the black market, and bankrolling the insurgency.

The fact there is no way to see what is happening at either end of the tanker sends a message about an overall fragmentary picture.

Sentiment on Iraq Is Changing (Wall Street Journal)

image from:
Iraq Insurgency Runs on Stolen Oil Profits (NYT)

The Baiji Refinery in Iraq (NYT slide show)

(image: Eros Hoagland for The New York Times.  Baiji, Iraq.

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Michael Shaw
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