Wednesday, January 10, 2007

GWB makes noise;
Death and resistance grind on


Image from Steve Gilliard.

So tonight the Boy Shah is going to tell us, again, how he is going to win a war he never should have started in Iraq.

My guess is that the speech will be just transient noise. I'll be curious to learn just how large his audience is. My intuitive sense is that most people have simply tuned the guy out. They hope they sent him a message in November; they hope maybe the new Congress can help get the country back on an even keel; they don't want to listen to GWB any more and they don't assume he is capable of saying anything that will make a difference in Iraq. (Polling seems to support the last point; roughly 56 percent of us don't think the President is able to change the course of events in Iraq.) One way to begin to measure this is whether more people actually watch tonight's performance than tend to watch the State of the Union speech. Last year commentators guessed the latter number was around one third of Americans. Wonder if he'll reach that percentage tonight?
***
One set of people who Bush's escalation will certainly impact will be members of the U.S. military. Their prospects don't look good. According to Cindy Williams of the Security Studies Program at MIT:

For the individuals affected, extended tours and repeated deployments raise troubling mental-health concerns. Nearly 20 percent of Iraq veterans are already returning home with serious mental-health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries that may go undiagnosed.

...Soldiers cited the length of deployment and family separation as the top non-combat sources of stress in their lives. Repeated deployments made things much worse; 18 percent of soldiers with at least one earlier deployment said they were under acute stress, compared with 12 percent of those who are on their first tour in Iraq.

...A tragic consequence of mental-health problems is that the suicide rate among soldiers in Iraq doubled in 2005 (the last year for which data have been published), leaving units to cope with those losses in addition to other casualties of the war.

***
Of course the people who are really on the block in all this are the Iraqis. I was struck by a quote from a U.S. training officer in the field provided today by Nancy Youseff of the McClatchy Baghdad bureau:

"There is no doubt in my mind that when the coalition does leave that this situation will get resolved within a fairly short period of time. These people will figure it out. It may be ugly. It may be very ugly. But they will figure it out," said Lt. Col. Jody Creekmore, who arrived in Iraq last summer from Huntsville, Ala. ...

This exactly echoes what we were told by a local diplomatic observer in Jordan last summer. Apparently it takes getting close up for many Westerners to realize that Iraqis are sophisticated adults who can run their own country. Actually, that seems to be indicated by GWB's periodic replacement of his commissars in Baghdad: every time a new batch begins to understand the country at all, they have to be removed so Bush can continue to try to impose his fantasy.
***
The only thing likely to come of tonight's performance is that it is goosing the peace movement into more action. I've received alerts about five or six protests tomorrow -- will try to visit and photographing a variety of them for posting later in the week.

1 comment:

sfmike said...

So which ones are you going to cover? I'll be at City Hall at noon and over with the Quaker at the Fed building at 1. Hope to run into you.

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