Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 26, 2008

Juan Cole and the Iraq Public Opinion

Prof. Juan Cole points to an air attack by the U.S. forces in Iraq which killed another family and concludes:

This sort of thing is why the Iraq public wants any Status of Forces Agreement between the Iraqi government and the US to ensure that US forces can only deploy force with the agreement of the Iraqi government.

That conclusion is nonsense.

The 'Iraq public' certainly never asked for or wants a Status of Force Agreement. All available polls find that the majority of the Iraq public wants the U.S. forces to completely leave Iraq.

Indeed only U.S. puppets in the Green Zone, who's position depend on backing by U.S. forces, do argue for such an agreement.

To what purpose is Prof. Cole making this false assertion?

Posted by b on June 26, 2008 at 9:38 UTC | Permalink


Very early on in Cole's misnamed informed comment it became apparent that this was no anti-imperialist, cole is an anti-rethug imperialist. He's undoubtedly hoping for some sort of position either within the dem prez administration or a 'think tank' funded by that administration.
When cole first appeared there were few establishment amerikan bloggers who could base their assertions on provable facts. Cole's tenure as a ME academic gave him a deeper knowledge of arab especially Iraqi history and culture than virtually any other amerikan commentator, and he also had a few contacts in Iraq, probably by now long dead or fled.
But even at the start cole got enough things wrong to remind one of the saying "In the land of the blind, the one eyed-man is king".

We have nothing reliable to inform us outside of our instincts for sniffing out main-chancers. MoA has always thrived on sorting through the voices in the cacophony, and selecting which parts of each voice have credible facts and which parts are self-aggrandisement, main-chancing or both.

Remember as old a. hitler used to put it. "If you want to sell a lie wrap it up in the truth'. Absorbing everything and unwrapping the truth from distortion and outright lie usually gets you pretty close to what is really going on.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jun 26 2008 11:32 utc | 1

Some years ago a knowledgeable person told me that Cole works for the CIA. I find this entirely plausible, given the fact that regional studies programs in American universities are usually funded by the CIA, if not by the DOD or some other interested party.

Posted by: alabama | Jun 26 2008 13:59 utc | 2

Sort of like saying "My wife wants me to stop leaving the lid off the toothpaste tube in the bathroom" when the real message is "My wife wants a divorce".

Posted by: ralphieboy | Jun 26 2008 15:57 utc | 3

The attack on Professor Juan Cole reflects badly on this blog. Juan really merits a sincere apology. For the last 5 years he has kept tabs on and reported the depredation of the American foreign policy in Iraq and the ME in general.

Perhaps to say 'This sort of thing is why the Iraq public wants any Status of Forces Agreement' would have been more accurately stated as '..the Iraq government..' rather than 'the Iraq people'. But such a slip hardly warrants the accusation of his being an 'imperialist CIA stooge,' if I may conflate a little. There is surely unseemly haste here to condemn. There is undue haste to condemn someone who has worked so hard for so long to present the facts of this disgrace.

Posted by: Sona | Jun 26 2008 17:51 utc | 4

The attack on Professor Juan Cole reflects badly on this blog. Juan really merits a sincere apology.


You obviously don't visit often, as 'sacred cow' is served as 'today's special' with regularity here at MOA...

Nowhere does he mention,the controlled collapse of the last crusades. Get off your tritecycle.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jun 26 2008 18:24 utc | 5

I don't think it's necessary to attribute pecuniary motives (e.g. future job in gov't) for Cole: like many U.S. "liberals," his expressed opinion always seemed to reflect a preference for foreign interventions provided that they are done "right" for "right reasons," whatever that might mean. While I don't doubt he has had dealings with CIA or other government agencies in the past, I doubt it amounts to much--regional experts often do consulting work for gov't agencies anyways.

It could very well be that he sincerely believes in the American liberal mantra: foreigners would like us to stay around, only if we "behave."

Posted by: kao-hsien-chih | Jun 26 2008 18:27 utc | 6

is it only in america where a scholar who specialises in a certain region can do so - with great authority - without even speking the language - i find a little querelous - & i have never been much impressed by his michael-fouglas-kind-of-consensus

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jun 26 2008 21:36 utc | 7

Sacred cows make great holy sirloin....and not much else, except in the original Indian context, where they do produce cooking fuel and fertilizer. Oh yes...and you can use the urine to set the dye in cloth. In any context, they are more useful than Cole's article.

Posted by: Diogenes | Jun 26 2008 23:15 utc | 8

I don't know anything about Cole other than what he professes to be - i.e., a professor of middle eastern history and culture. It would not be surprising if he at least has some contacts with the CIA and their ilk, and in fact he would not be doing a very good job if he did not. I have sometimes been appalled at views he expressed, and many more times appreciated his views and his insights. He was blocked from getting a job at Harvard by some well-placed people who did not appreciate his (from their point of view) anti-Israeli sentiments and his defence of palestinian rights.

I am not necessarily defending him here - he does not need me or anyone else to do so.

And as previously noted, there are no sacred cows or people on pedestals who are above criticism at this blog -which is one of the reasons it is so refreshing. But, my take on Cole is just typical (used to be, anyway) liberal college professor with all the good and bad that may imply.

Posted by: Maxcrat | Jun 27 2008 0:51 utc | 9

Sona, you seem to regard my previous post as "an attack". I don't agree: I consider it an evaluation of sorts.

You may, more precisely, suppose that I have only hostile, negative judgments of the CIA, but that's also not the case. As I see it, all people need governments, and all governments need spies: the better the spy, the better the government--in principle.

But spies, however valuable their work, are expected to serve the power paying them (just as lobbyists are expected to do); and in playing their role as spies, they are expected to conceal their contractual bond from the world at large.

Again, I have no trouble with this fact (I'm a fan of Valerie Plame).

But when a spy, whose role and whose interests are unknown to me, poses as a neutral observer professing the facts of the case, then my knowing what I shouldn't know about that "observer" helps me assess the bias of his work; it enables me to evaluate his work more realistically than I could otherwise do.

Juan Cole has always pulled for an American presence in Iraq--but in principle, as a scholarly observer, and not as an interested party (a government servant). And since I'm against the American presence, in principle, knowing where Cole comes from can only help me evaluate his arguments supporting of a position contrary to my own.

Cole serves an interested cause, not a disinterested view of the facts. And if I didn't know where he comes from, I'd be hard put not to take his arguments at face value. Which is not to say that his arguments aren't interesting, or that they don't command respect. Indeed they are, and indeed they do.

Posted by: alabama | Jun 27 2008 1:23 utc | 10

our giap - good to see you.

Posted by: beq | Jun 27 2008 1:50 utc | 11

Don't ask Badger what he thinks of Cole!

Posted by: Pitirre | Jun 27 2008 2:05 utc | 12

I'd rather have Cole blogging than not. Its also useful that his real opinions become self evident, even if I don't agree with (some of) them. On par more help than a hindrance, not that's a substitute for genuine insight, but thats hard to find anywhere. Except for maybe>Reidr Visser.

Posted by: anna missed | Jun 27 2008 2:21 utc | 13

Thanks for the link, anna missed!

Posted by: alabama | Jun 27 2008 3:33 utc | 14

Prof. Cole has done a good job in bringing the facts on the ground to the public, and as far as I can see, he reports with compassion and exemplifies a kind of liberal kindness and consideration, if I may say. Cole has presented a lot of raw information from Iraq; and he has done a lot to clarify the complex relationships between the sectarian factions. Furthermore, I'm under the impression that he is conversant in Arabic and Farsi.

Over time he has done a great service in conveying the depth of suffering in Iraq; and for that reason alone he has probably earned a star in Heaven.

Whatever can be gained by inferring that Cole is a CIA stooge is too hard for me to fathom. Prof. Cole has had the marked courage to be critical the Israeli govt. and has suffered the loss of an academic appointment over it. I can only describe the sniping at him in this thread as petty, at least; and it possibly has its origin in jealousy.

Posted by: Copeland | Jun 27 2008 6:01 utc | 15

I do think you are (nearly) all too hard on Juan Cole. Nobody's perfect. He's had a distinguished career in Shi'a studies, taught in Beirut, knows well Arabic and Persian. The big minus with Cole is that he has never visited Iraq, and for that reason some obvious things he just doesn't see.

It is also obvious that he's quite egotistical, as many of the comments on his blog seem to be in praise of him.

But all that means is that he is human, and like any blogger, you have to take what he says with a large pinch of salt. It is obvious that writes at high speed late at night, not too carefully. He is well-informed (as against DiD's opinion); at least as well as anybody. And certainly better than the US government (that is not difficult).

I have a theory, by the way, that people in government, in spite of all the satellite gear, and their other expensive supposed sources, are not in fact better informed than us. They merely pretend it, in order to justify their positions. The position over intelligence about Iran is quite a good example.

When I was in Iraq, under Saddam, it was 100% clear that I knew as much about the situation as the British Embassy (I am Brit). They used to tell me the most utter crap, because they sat in their embassy only talking to Saddam's regime, while I was out in the field, seeing things happen.

I don't believe Alabama's #2 that Cole is CIA, though I don't entirely exclude it. The reason he is like he is is because he comes from a military family.

Posted by: Alex | Jun 27 2008 8:57 utc | 16

I didn't come at the dem party journeyman thing, completely off the wall.
It is an assumption I made back before the 04 election when Cole appeared to put some effort into getting to know the proprietor of the previous establishment many of us hung out in. I have no desire to revisit that time in detail since no one covered themselves in glory, but it appeared there for a while that our host may have felt pressured by something Cole said to 'trendify' the bar up and get rid of the 'extreme' opinions of anarchists, stalinists and the like.

At the time it felt like we were being entreated into 'going clean for kerry' a trade off which probably didn't sit well with the host let alone those of the rest of us who weren't dem functionaries, cause back then there were one or two of that ilk lurking, no doubt in the hope that any barflies registered to vote in the US would accept the anyone but bush meme that was covering the all dissent with a shallow patina of shined up bulldust.

All of the angst of that time seemed to boilover after the Cole had said whatever he said. No one mentioned the confluence at the time and I always assumed it was for the same reason I hadn't - that our barkeep was under too much pressure as it was without cranking up more.
I have always fallen out with humanists when they choose to form cadres, caucuses or cliques, these are favourite ploys of 'left' pragmatists to concentrate the power. Inevitably freedom of expression becomes restricted except for that which is proscribed by the cadre, caucus or clique and at the time it seemed to me that Cole was a part of something along this line.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jun 27 2008 12:01 utc | 17

re #17 DiD. There's no doubt that Cole has changed his views over time. What he may have thought in 2004, is not necessarily what he thinks now. His present views seem to me to be in line with the correct approach: that is, that the only solution for Iraq is for the US to get out, fully, and leave the Iraqis to find their own way forward. Anything else is just prolonging the agony (until the total withdrawal solution is finally chosen).

Yes, he was in favour of the invasion initially, but then even I was open about it, as I'd seen the unpleasantnesses of Saddam's regime.

Posted by: Alex | Jun 27 2008 13:47 utc | 18

Copeland, Cole is not a stooge, but he's partisan to a cause with which I've always been in total disagreement--except that he never speaks as a partisan. I also value his courage and informative ways, not to mention his linguistic competence--virtues of a valuable spy.

Alex, I found the point plausible after I heard it from an ex-CIA agent whom I happen to trust. Hearsay, therefore, and maybe not true, except that it definitely fits in with Cole's position, and that position's a problem for me.

Posted by: alabama | Jun 27 2008 13:57 utc | 19

it was my understanding from a post made by the 'angry arab' - that cole spoke bneither arabic or farsi - i was completely perplexed - given his 'authoritativeness' - it is not a secondary question in this case - & i'd be happy if copeland you have a link that shows that i am in error on this -& if i am -then i apologise

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jun 27 2008 15:03 utc | 20

r'giap - could it be that you are thinking instead of fisk, per your comment here?

Posted by: b real | Jun 27 2008 15:07 utc | 21

b real

thanks - i'm still quite young but it seems my brain is a little addled

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jun 27 2008 15:12 utc | 22

Cole speaks and translates Arabic and Farsi. I do not doubt his knowledge. I doubt his judgment on politics. At core he seems to be an imperialist of the do-gooder kind. His interpretation of events is often in line with the 'official' U.S. one whereas other knowledgeable people (Visser, Badger) have more independent opinions. See the post above for an example.

With Cole's opinions on Iran one has to keep in mind that he is of Bahá'í faith (though he left the official church over some squabble).

Posted by: b | Jun 27 2008 16:22 utc | 23

I doubt his judgment on politics. At core he seems to be an imperialist of the do-gooder kind. His interpretation of events is often in line with the 'official' U.S. one

I find it difficult to believe that a Baha'i can be really an imperialist. But then one can always accommodate contradictory ideas in one's head.

More important, as I said above, I do think his opinion has moved over the period of the US occupation of Iraq. How could it not? It was a not unreasonable position to take in 2003, that overturning Saddam had positive aspects. Many Iraqis thought so. Saddam's was a really awful regime, thuggish and brutal, and I am a personal witness to that. Even if the invasion was illegal.

What those people, including me, did not expect was how much worse the US occupation would be. Starting with the sack of Baghdad and the archaeological museum. Everybody who knows anything about Iraq, and was mildly accepting of the invasion, even if illegal, as a means of getting rid of Saddam, has swung through 180 degrees since 2003 to complete opposition to the occupation. That includes Cole, and the many Iraqis who were initially favourable. The only question has been whether the occupation troops are not better than the brutalities of Maliki's forces; that is a temporary issue. And it does not touch Cole, as he has not been in the country.

With regard to the other commentators you mention. Badger is a nice guy, he's learned Arabic, and he's good on the detail, but he is a newcomer, without great knowledge. Visser is like Cole in being a professional Middle Eastern historian. I am a great admirer of Visser. Doctorate and book on Basra in the 1920s. However, he too has never been in Iraq.

The differences between Cole and Visser are 1) that Visser is a tenured researcher of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences, or whatever is the correct title, and thus free to say whatever he wants. Cole is a professor in the capitalistic system of US universities, and is to a degree constrained by what the financiers of his university think. 2) Cole did his initial research on the relatively irrelevant subject of the Shi'a in Najaf and Kerbala in the 19th century. Visser did his on Basra under the British in the 1920s, when the
same questions came up as are repeated today. I am a great believer in the idea that the subject that you undertake for your doctoral dissertation is the foundation of your later ideas. In the case of Cole and Visser, that is certainly true. It is why Visser's interpretations of Iraqi nationalism have value, and Cole doesn't see it.

Nevertheless, here we are into academic interpretations. You may like the one, and not the other. But both are worth reading.

I should add that there are many academics who are worse than these two, who take money for what they say. That's why I say, take Cole for what he says. He may be right, he may be wrong. What he says is a valuable service, and I wouldn't agree with a campaign against him.

Posted by: Alex | Jun 27 2008 21:17 utc | 24

thanks for the friendly whack across the head - & i apologise fully for my error - but i feel no more sympatetic to mr cole or his position

& certainly he is not the only fish in the sea - there are an abundant group of commentators in the middle east itself in the arabic language & through the arab press there & in exile

where i am here(france) are serious thinkers on the question tho the govt has never seemed to use their expertise. in the italian & spanish languages there are a great many refined experts not only on the arab question but specifically on iraq

germany too has its large field of experts on this question

& to my knowledge (which might again be addled) - they were in their totality opposed to us invasion & occupation from the beginning

& alex, we are dialecticians after all & we follow the dictum of woody guthrie,- take it easy, but take it

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jun 27 2008 22:02 utc | 25

Alex, I think I can see where we disagree.

You sincerely regret this war in the light of the occupation, and how bad it turned out to be. I detested this war long before it started--ten or eleven years before it started (my take on the first Gulf War was ambivalent).

I believe the position you took in 2003 was entirely unreasonable on ethical grounds; I believed so then, and said so at the time. I'm saying it again here and now. We can review those grounds if you like--or just agree to disagree (I'm trying to correct a tendency to scold).

Notice, by the way, that I'm not calling you unethical. I'm not even calling your position unethical--only calling it "unreasonable" on ethical grounds. So it goes without saying that my own view here may also be "unreasonable" on ethical grounds (and these points may be open to argument).

Posted by: alabama | Jun 28 2008 0:11 utc | 26

alex: i am sorry your optimistic expectations in regards to an illegal, imperial act of preemption has turned out so badly. as alabama points out, there were lots of skeptics before this fiasco started, and they were right. so let the lesson be learned: in its brief history, amerika has NEVER acted altruistically on behalf of its people or other nations. whether we're talking about freeing the slaves, or entering WWII, the mythical gloss of amerika's global influence is finally getting rubbed off. what's been lurking beneath is both ugly and unexceptional: it's empire, and if you have something we want, or need, we will try and take it.

Posted by: Lizard | Jun 28 2008 4:09 utc | 27

"What those people, including me, did not expect was how much worse the US occupation would be."

I would say that anyone who truly believed this is quite naive. Some Americans will try to do things for foreigners for altruistic reasons - but a large number of Americans are prone to violence and are dumb and racist.... not a good combo.

And the system itself is empire and conquest..... and has always been.

Posted by: | Jun 28 2008 8:13 utc | 28

Uncle $cam

You could step down off your ant as well. Cole is being slandered. I'm not surprised by the comments but I am by the article. (Slow news day?)

Posted by: waldo | Jun 28 2008 14:48 utc | 29

Cole. Way back when, I was wary not of his religious affiliation (Bahai) per se, as an atheist I tend to be rigorously non judgmental in that area, but of the serious and ponderous and slightly presumptive tone - not my style. His bahai blog was well know before Iraq etc.

Bahai is a very ‘respectable’ religion, it is (afaik) the only one that has a permanent ‘voice’ at the UN. (see link.) Of course Bahai detractors point out the ‘oneworldgov’ implicit aim..anyway..

The Iraq war gave him wings ...>old blog cole>bahai at the UN

Iran president on Bahai, speaking at the UN>youtube

I’m not condemning or defending, see Maxcrat above, but saying that I never entertained the idea that Cole was CIA or anything sinister, covert, or even complicated.

He is simply an ambitious, efficient, once minor, academic, with a very universalist (bahai roots - i know his history with them is complicated, strongly anti-Iran in any case..), western, ideology.

Posted by: Tangerine | Jun 28 2008 16:21 utc | 30

Re Tangerine #30 He is simply an ambitious, efficient, once minor, academic. Actually Cole still is a minor academic, though famous because of the blog, and one of the few, in the wake of the 2003 invasion, to have knowledge of Iraq. His book on Napoleon's Egypt has not been that well reviewed. The feeling is that he has imposed the present world-view on the end of the 18th century.

I don't usually like to come back on criticisms of what I said earlier, because normally it is a waste of time and nobody reads the end of a thread. However I don't like it to be thought that I was ever a supporter of the invasion.

Evidently this is a general discussion blog, where few posters have detailed knowledge of the Iraqi situation.

There are two different threads to the 2003 invasion, which have little relationship to one another. One is the role of the United States and its allies: Amerikan Empire, good or evil? The other is Iraq itself and its interests: Saddam's regime and the future of the country.

You guys concentrate almost entirely on the first issue. I was interested by Alabama's remark: (my take on the first Gulf War was ambivalent), because it shows how far things have moved simply to the issue of Amerikan Empire. The recapture of Kuwait was an entirely legal operation, intended to undo an illegal invasion by Saddam. It is indeed a basic principle of international relations that small countries have to have their independence guaranteed by greater powers. If not, the entire international system will be undone (you could argue that the international system is now being undone anyway, which is true), but still I would not have wanted Kuwait to remain in Iraqi control. There was a price to be paid, as the "greater powers" have their own interests, the source of Alabama's ambivalence.

With regard to Iraq in 2003, many, if not most, Iraqis had had enough of Saddam. The majority of the Iraqi army did not fight to resist the invasion; they simply took off their uniforms and went home. The Pentagon would have you believe it was Shock and Awe that succeeded. Far from it. The Iraqis had no idea of what Neo-Con plans might be, indeed no interest in the United States at all, but they had had enough of Saddam. It was this point of view to which I was reacting, and I would think Cole was too.

Posted by: Alex | Jun 28 2008 20:18 utc | 31


I think that most readers here disagree with you on a couple of fronts. Kuwait seems to have been a bit more complex than just a naked land grab. There is the issue of cross drilling with Kuwaitis stealing Iraqi oil, there is the issue of it being a traditional part of Iraq or Mesopotamia, and finally there is something to be said of the supposed green light given by April Gillespie.

Saddam’s intention to invade Kuwait was known to the US ambassador April Gillespie who in fact gave a clear approval by recognising that Iraq’s dispute with Kuwait is an internal matter between the two nation. Many ordinary Americans do not know that Kuwait was part of the southern province of Iraq (Walayah of Basra) for centuries. Iraq has far greater right to claim Kuwait than the US has over the Hispanic territories that it annexed. It was the British colonial designs that created such fault lines in order to keep the Islamic world divided and weak, its gravitas naturally increased after the discovery of oil. The Kuwaiti movement for unification with Iraq in 1950s were ruthlessly hunted down by the Kuwaiti regime with the help of the British.

my belief is that Saddam had stopped being sufficiently obedient and would not accept US bases on his soil. The US was under pressure to leave Saudi Arabia and needed/wanted a major presence nearby. A casus belli was needed and quickly found or created if you will. That is how the coalition of the willing was created and the counter invasion was carried out.

I simply cannot imagine why anyone would think the US would act without self-interest in first driving Iraq out of Kuwait and then in invading Iraq proper. As for the lack of resolve on the part of the Iraqi soldiers to fight the invasion force that too seems to be more of a strategic retreat rather than cowardice or welcoming the invader. The fairly successful resistance movement that is still going on and started immediately after the invasion leads me to believe that there was considerable pre-planning.

I suppose it boils down to ones belief that war is sometimes necessary. In this case I remain firmly convinced that it was a war of choice on the part of the US and was done purely for financial gain by the ptb in the US and the UK.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jun 28 2008 23:22 utc | 32

dan of steele's simply but clear rebuttal speak for me as well

alex i find the contempt hidden behind the faint praise of your 'general discussion' an impertinant rhetorical device - there are people here with every bit of 'specialisation' you seem so fond of elsewhere

for me, mr cole is cafe casuitry dressed up as commentary. they do not replace the facts. & the facts. the facts alone are not kind to your argument.

imperialism whether you want to call it an 'international system' - rest imperialism. & as i have sd here often enough the war on the middle east is in fact the first step in the long war on china

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jun 29 2008 0:10 utc | 33

ditto DoS and 'giap. and while i am definitely one of the posters Alex calls out who doesn't have detailed knowledge of the iraqi situation, i am familiar with the predicament of dwindling resources and exploding populations that underlies this geopolitical theatre where mass murder is an accepted side effect of imperial domination as the west circles its wagons 'round China.

Alex: since i am ignorant of iraqi sentiment towards the US before the invasion, i was wondering if you could explain further how you arrived at your conclusion that iraqis had "no interest in the United States at all" considering how the US backed off supporting the uprising during Gulf War I, opting instead for a slow, choking strategy of sanctions that only served to starve the undeserving masses, before waging a second military assault that for all intents and purposes appears permanent.

Posted by: Lizard | Jun 29 2008 3:57 utc | 34

With regard to Iraq in 2003, many, if not most, Iraqis had had enough of Saddam. The majority of the Iraqi army did not fight to resist the invasion; they simply took off their uniforms and went home..... The Iraqis had no idea of what Neo-Con plans might be, indeed no interest in the United States at all, but they had had enough of Saddam. It was this point of view to which I was reacting, and I would think Cole was too.

If I take you at your word, Alex, then you, Juan Cole, and "the Iraqis" truly supposed that the deposing of Hussein was the actual casus belli in this affair; that it was fine with "the Iraqis" to let the USA perform this helpful act; and that none of you could imagine any great harm befalling Iraq if we did so.

Is this exactly what you mean?

If so, I will simply say (being at the moment in a kindly frame of mind), that your thinking (and Cole's, and "the Iraqis") was at least as naive as that of any well-meaning neo-con who also saw no other casus belli at play, and truly thought that an enlightened regime would arise when Hussein was pulled from his pedestal.

From which I infer that for you, Juan Cole, and "the Iraqis"(!), forty years of Ba'ath nation-building--a collective undertaking of incalculable magnitude, for good as well as for ill--simply didn't achieve anything, simply didn't amount to anything, simply never happened at all. That it all came down to the whims of a single aggressive bad guy driving his 26 million (more or less fellow) citizens into the ground.

I believe that you believed this. And I also suppose that you couldn't imagine (and really still don't), that the resistance of those people to our ongoing presence there counts for nothing much. You may even think that the whole resistance is the work of Hussein's surviving henchmen--the guys in that deck of cards.

I think otherwise, and thought otherwise at the time, as did others who were really in the know (which I am not)--many of them in the American military, the State Department, the CIA, and who knows where else besides?

It's also true that I bring my own "agenda" to this discussion: I believe that the world is the devil's playground, that evil is everywhere, and that the subjugating of one people by another--Iraqis by Americans--is an especially evil act, a point that has yet to be made by any elected American official on the national level, or by any major American publication or TV network.

And I believe, as I've said here before, that this "war" will not reach a rightful conclusion until the last Americans are driven out of Iraq, dead or alive, as they were driven out of China in 1948, and Viet Nam in 1974 (two nations that do very well in the business of building themselves).

And no, I'm not an anti-American Communist. I'm just a citizen who's a little disgusted with his country, and with lame verbiage mistaking itself for serious political discourse.

Posted by: alabama | Jun 29 2008 4:07 utc | 35

The only caveat I would offer here, is that the "cafe causitry " class does not criticise the Israeli government, and most pundits laboring in US academia, officialdom, and media bonnets slink away from the very idea of pointing out Likud and related brutalities against the Palestinians. Give Cole his due. It's not fair I think to paint him as a lightweight.

Posted by: Copeland | Jun 29 2008 4:24 utc | 36

And I also suppose that you couldn't imagine (and really still don't), that the resistance of those people to our ongoing presence there counts for nothing much.

"for anything much", that is...


Posted by: alabama | Jun 29 2008 5:03 utc | 37

Wait! Alex, are you April Glaspie? That would explain some

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jun 29 2008 10:33 utc | 38

Alex wrote: I was interested by Alabama's remark: (my take on the first Gulf War was ambivalent), because it shows how far things have moved simply to the issue of Amerikan Empire. etc. I agree. And have come to the conclusion, unsupported for now here, that the story of April G. in her PJs (actually she changed out of them, but it was a midnight meeting) giving Saddam the green light is incorrect.

The Iraqis had no idea of what Neo-Con plans might be, indeed no interest in the United States at all, but they had had enough of Saddam. It was this point of view to which I was reacting, and I would think Cole was too.

They had no idea and *Shock and Awe* was not necessary. I mean not necessary for the type and level of take-over or domination that the US implemented subsequently. One could argue that.

No interest in America, that is going too far. I would say ‘they’ (meaning ordinary Iraqis, and soldiers, not the elites) were ignorant and hopeful, or simply terrified, or appalled and filled with hate towards the US... in what proportions one can’t know...maybe the ignorant and hopeful were numerous...Some, of course, welcomed the US’ incursion, hoping for reversals of the old internal iraqi order, and opportunities for them.

OK this is getting complicated...responses to exactly what, etc, hope its clear anyway, see Dan of steele at 32.

Posted by: Tangerine | Jun 29 2008 12:36 utc | 39


you know i respect your post

so respectfully i feel cole is a casuist - & i do not use him as a reference in much the same way that i do not find bill maher either funny or intelligent - in the manner of a bruce or a carlin. they are supoosed to be allies but i see them as part of the problem

maybe i have the luxury of reading french & italian commentary they leave cole's prejudice clear

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jun 29 2008 14:59 utc | 40


on the subject of April Glaspie, it is entirely possible that she did give the OK to Saddam, she was a career diplomat and most likely believed what she had been told by Baker. It becomes ever more apparent the treachery of the Bush clan in particular and the US government overall. The State Department has long been considered useless and often in the way.

I think the US wanted an excuse to take Iraq down, be it for Israel's sake or just because "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall." - Michael Ledeen. Imperialism in theory & practice, Bush-style. [2003]

Posted by: dan of steele | Jun 29 2008 15:57 utc | 41

alex The recapture of Kuwait was an entirely legal operation, intended to undo an illegal invasion by Saddam. It is indeed a basic principle of international relations that small countries have to have their independence guaranteed by greater powers.

this is hogwash. their independence was created for the sake of the british initially to secure their dominance in the region! very little has been examined about the a certain aspect of the truth regarding saddam's invasion of kuwait.

don't forget the debt issue @ the jeddah conference

Iraqi invasion of Kuwait came one day after the Kuwait-Iraq talks held in Jedda, Saudi Arabia collapsed as Kuwait refused to yield to Iraq’s demand to demarcate disputed border and write off about $ 14 billion dollars loan Kuwait gave to Iraq during its war with Iran. Kuwait, having felt threatened by the impact of Iranian Islamic revolution on its Shiite population, had provided Iraq with extensive loans during the war with Iran. Kuwait’s Shuaiba port was used to transport military hardware and other supplies for Iraq. With the end of the war, however, the Kuwaiti government demanded full repayment from Iraq, whereas Iraq expected Kuwait to write off its debt as a reward for its providing protection from Iran.

set up

one need only look at the Bush administration's public pronouncements in the weeks before the Iraqi invasion to verify that Glaspie's words to Hussein were in line with offical administration policy:

"We do not have any defense treaties with Kuwait, and there are no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait." - U.S. State Department Spokesperson Margaret Tutweiler, July 1990

"Historically, the U.S. has taken no position on the border disputes in the area, nor on matters pertaining to internal OPEC deliberations. We have no defense treaty relationship with any gulf country. That is clear . . . we have not historically taken a position on border disputes." -- Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly before a House foreign affairs subcommittee on July 31, 1990

back to the first link..

Even the mainstream press has been forced to acknowledge how U.S. statements of neutrality were so frequent and non-interventionist in character that they led Saddam to believe he had a green light to invade Kuwait. The Washington Post reported: “Since the invasion, highly classified U.S. intelligence assessments have determined that Saddam took U.S. statements of neutrality... as a green light from the Bush administration for an invasion. One senior Iraqi military official... has told the [CIA] agency that Saddam seemed to be sincerely surprised by the subsequent bellicose reaction.” (Cited by Waas, Murray, ‘Who Lost Kuwait? How the Bush Administration Bungled its Way to War in the Gulf’, Village Voice, 22 January 1991).

Hence it will not be too much to say that the Unite States, in fact, emitted signals that encouraged Saddam Hussein to believe Washington would not dispatch armed forces to rescue Kuwait in the event Iraq invaded its neighbor.

What was worse, it also encouraged the Kuwaitis. In a word, according to Jean Edward Smith, author of George Bush's War, the administration spoke with the proverbial forked tongue. "By saying it would not defend Kuwait, it encouraged Saddam to invade; by stressing its continued support for 'its longstanding friends in the area [of the Persian Gulf],' the Kuwaitis were given no incentive to compromise." By offering encouragement in both Iraq and Kuwait, Smith has concluded, "the United States bears substantial responsibility for what happened," i.e., for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the resultant Gulf War.

what is so unreasonable about expecting other countries to invest in a war they have a vested interest in? what kind of assurances had kuwait received from the US prior to the jeddah conference that kept them from negotiation? what is so weird about saddam expecting these countries to wipe out his debt for the war? i mean the US hardly paid anything for the 91 war. lots of countries paid for it. what is so different about the iran/iraq war? isn't it normal if you support a war, to pay for it. so in this sense i can understand saddam expecting some fluidity wrt his/iraqs debt position @ jedda. why even have a meeting otherwise? but if kuwait already knew they had US support, and went to the meeting knowing they were going to give iraq the thumbs down, weren't they just antagonizing him? why agree to a meeting? why was the US involving itself in the iraq/kuwait border issue to begin with? or kuwaits debt?

john rendon..The Man Who Sold the War

What the Kuwaitis wanted was help in selling a war of liberation to the American government -- and the American public. Rendon proposed a massive "perception management" campaign designed to convince the world of the need to join forces to rescue Kuwait. The Kuwaiti government in exile agreed to pay Rendon $100,000 a month for his assistance.

To coordinate the operation, Rendon opened an office in London. Once the Gulf War began, he remained extremely busy trying to prevent the American press from reporting on the dark side of the Kuwaiti government, an autocratic oil-tocracy ruled by a family of wealthy sheiks. When newspapers began reporting that many Kuwaitis were actually living it up in nightclubs in Cairo as Americans were dying in the Kuwaiti sand, the Rendon Group quickly counterattacked. Almost instantly, a wave of articles began appearing telling the story of grateful Kuwaitis mailing 20,000 personally signed valentines to American troops on the front lines, all arranged by Rendon.

meanwhile, according to gallespie, she didn't even know she was meeting w/saddam til she was in transport to the meeting (source)
the whole thing stinks, the last thing we need is more official spin. history will not be written by the current empire.

ps, i read the end of the threads!

Posted by: | Jun 29 2008 17:59 utc | 42

whoops, that was me, and sorry for the bold.

Posted by: annie | Jun 29 2008 18:02 utc | 43

long time no see annie, all is well?

Posted by: dan of steele | Jun 29 2008 18:07 utc | 44

hi dos. all's very well considering. just finished a job that required me to be away from my computer for a few weeks. part of me wants to go dumpster diving to see what i missed and another part says 'why bother?'

been missin y'all tho.

Posted by: annie | Jun 29 2008 22:17 utc | 45

order your poison annie... :-)

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jun 29 2008 23:29 utc | 46

Where's waldo ?

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jun 30 2008 1:02 utc | 47



Posted by: annie | Jun 30 2008 3:19 utc | 48


I defer to your judgment on Cole, yet I confess to a certain fondness for him, the pluckish, boyish, hometown favorite aura, the boy's favorite beamishness that he seems to exude.

I even find him to be someone who is doing his best and working diligently, even though his efforts may not be up to those whom you admire more. He seem decidedly fallible, human; and his ego enlarges at times, awkwardly in the fashion of those who are, underneath it all, uncomfortable and not well adapted to celebrity and the attention of admirers. He's an American Liberal (for what it's worth) and I at least defy you to find a mean bone in his body.

Prejudice? Every human has prejudice on some level. And I forget who the man was who said we can't really eliminate our prejudice, only recognize it for what it is.

Posted by: Copeland | Jun 30 2008 4:24 utc | 49


you do not have to defer to me, not in the least - i can understand why people find a mr cole respectable in the same way that i can also understand how others can see dailykos for example as a forum of the left - when it is anything but

i acknowledge however that we live in an environment of hysteria & this hysteria has its roots in the cold stroage think tanks of the right particularly but also of the so-called left

it is an environment of hysteria in world - particularly in iraq - where the major facts - are completely obliterated by discourse, deceit & a deliberate campaign by both conservatives & liberals. the west & parts of the arab world - who do not tell us of the absence of basic services, of the intense & ongoing bombardements, of the intense assasination programmes that have their source - the united states

we live in a world where the juggernaut of imperialist 'jurisprudence' is stealing the wealth of the people of iraq in partnership with puppets who have never lived in iraq

it is wholly scandalous

but then i live in a world where it has taken 70 years for a realistic appraisal of the russians heroic & dominat role in the defeat of fascism - in the two books - 'absolute war' & 'stalin's war' - which we find out in the end were really the contemporaneous anlaysis of the situation - but the rest was propaganda

then, that propoganda was in its infancy & was not total - now it is toal & cover the enitre waterfront including 'liberal' commentators

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jun 30 2008 18:20 utc | 50

Cole lives in the US and is in academe.

(as he is a public figure and so an example)::

He can choose to leave / give up / be a target? Or meld in...

He can be hesitant, reasonable, working hard, getting his PC truth out, modulating, etc. and earn bucks -- at a steady day job to keep his house and children fed, no idea if he has either, but that kind of thing, it might be just position and safety... Maybe he isn’t even conscious of these dilemmas...

Many, many ppl have been put in that position. Most go one way with cynicism or genuine if a little forced belief, the smaller group, away with pride and great loss.

Many don’t even consider choices, just go on. They generally are the most successful.

Posted by: Tangerine | Jun 30 2008 19:10 utc | 51

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