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July 03, 2008


LT Nixon

This has been in the news for months, but it just hasn't happened yet. After awhile you just start to tune it out.

Ashraf al-Halabi


What in this post is original? Just point to one thing that you, as a human can claim to be your thinking...

I pity those who take you seriously...


....Just as many pity those who visit blogs just to leave negative comments of no real value.


True story:

I first heard the name "Ashraf al-Halaby" when he made a Facebook "friend" request. I didn't respond, because I didn't know who he was (even though Spencer Ackerman, Juan Cole, and Asad AbuKhalil had already accepted his friend requests). Imagine my surprise when a few weeks later he started showing up here as a particularly crude and unoriginal troll!

There's really only two possibilities:

(1) he's such a sensitive soul who so badly wanted to be my friend that my rejection drove him over the brink, desperate for attention, or...

(2) he made the friend request under false pretenses, hoping to exploit whatever private information he found there maliciously.

Either is truly pathetic. As if what you've seen here in the comments thread weren't enough reason for pity... or contempt. Ah, the internet.


If you remember what Jack Keane said recently (sorry, i don´t remember if it was here or i read it in another site), he said that there was simply no problem with the Awakenings, "we don´t need to integrate these people. They´re not going to go back into the insurgency". Now it seems as if he was trying to justify the plan in the making - dumping the Awakenings.

And at the same time the Iraqi side in the security agreement says the Americans have been very flexible...so what about this theory: the Islamic Party returns to the government on the condition that it crushes the Awakenings (which anyway the Maliki government seems eager to do indeed), through banning the most troublesome of them on the grounds that they are militias, rigging elections in the case of others, etc.

And the Iraqis finally let the Americans have a few things in the security agreement, but in exchange the Americans let down the Awakenings.

In this picture, the Powers That Be get together to establish a firm grip on power and marginalize the rest. The Sadrists are not willing to openly confront the Government (in fact they are always backing down and have withdrawn their fighters from the streets), and the insurgency only matters in Mosul and a few rural areas. Now, the main problem are the Awakenings - guys with firepower, fresh energy and popular support. The government has made very clear that it is not going to integrate them, much less share power with them as usually is done when a civil war is ended through negotiations. The government thinks it can crush everybody.

This will cause a lot of pain for Iraq. Already there have been a few bomb attacks in usually safe Adhamiya and Ameriya over the past two or three days. The only thing that can get a lifeline for the insurgency and perhaps the Mahdi Army is a major government blunder - just like cracking down on the Awakenings.



It can't be possibility no. 2, because he could simply join the Washington network and access all your private information if he wanted to. Maybe you're not much aware of how Facebook works, but if you want to guard against snooping then you better change your privacy settings.

Otherwise, "Ashraf al-Halabi" cannot be dismissed as "crude" and "unoriginal". Have you seen his blog, pivazistan.blogspot.com? It's quite sophisticated and original. He should be encouraged rather than attacked.

Having an open comments sections means that one is exposed to hecklers. Don't be so darn sensitive.

PS: I'm still waiting for you to correct the record in The real problem with 'everybody's al-Qaeda'...


Oh, and I'd like to get your reaction to this story. You're usually on top of all Aljazeera stories but you didn't address this one even though it falls squarely within your area of expertise: Aljazeera ran footage purpoting to show the execution of five men in Karbala Province. Their supposed take was that Iraq is bloody, lawless and cruel.

But it turns out that the footage shows Iranian police (in white uniforms and white shoes) executing five Afghans in Karj (...south of Tehran?) that had been charged with raping a girl and killing her. The (cell-phone) footage was allegedly recorded six months ago.

Here's the Iraqi government's official rebuke of Al-Jazeera: Bogus Scenes Shown by Aljazeera Concerning a Public Execution (Arabic link from nahrain.com)

What do you make of Aljazeera's journalistic stunt, if it is indeed as the spokesman described it (...I didn't see it myself)? In my view it is part of a long-established pattern of malicious distortion on Aljazeera's part, but you've always seemed to defend their reporting.


Actually, it could be option #2 if the privacy settings were already set. Kaz assumes that they were not. As for his admiration for Sayyid al-Halabi, the "sophistication" and "originality" he seems to be referring to is related to finding another kindred spirit who doesn't like Marc Lynch and who, like Kaz himself, is capable of writing longwinded, self-congratulatory posts.


Cee dearest, you're the one making assumptions: the privacy settings weren't set.


Kaz habibi, perhaps you didn't notice the word "could." Wrong again.


Sorry Cee, but it is a little hard to follow your logic. For the life of me I could have sworn that you had written "Kaz assumes that they were not". Wait, you did.

Now then, don't you think you're being a little cult-ish and over-defensive?

I'm trying to engage Marc and his readers, in my own way. I thought Marc's response to "Ashraf" was overblown; "Ashraf" had made a salient point about originality (...his tone here is no different from that of his irreverential blog) but Marc lashed out, as he did in his initial and deliberately misleading responses to my criticism of him. I also think that the point about Aljazeera's Iraq coverage is pertinent since this is Marc's forte. In doing so, I don't have to be as fawning as an undergrad, now do I? Blogs do not provide the sequestered sense of security that a lecture hall does. Marc's a big boy, he should be able to handle the rough-and-tumble of street corner debates.


Don't you people have July 4 barbeques? Jeez.

Nibras, I only saw the Iraqi government's response to the al-Jazeera clip, not the clip itself -no idea what's going on there. I'll keep an ear open.

Re Facebook, you missed the point. I don't care if people see/"snoop" my profile (though now that it's been made a point of, I guess I need to restrict it for a while). It was the fraudulent friend request which was really something special.

And now, I have to get back off the computer again - as should you all!


Sorry Kaz Habibi, for the life of me, I could have sworn that you had written: "...if you want to guard against snooping then you better change your privacy settings," which suggests that the privacy settings were either not set up or in need of tightening. Oh wait, you did write that!

Now Kaz seems to think I am a "cultish (I see you added the extra hyphen)" follower, presumably of Prof. Lynch. There you go assuming things again, Kaz Habibi.

I'm not sure you've been in a lecture hall recently, habibi, not all undergraduates where I'm at are "fawning." In fact, some of them are downright more intellectually stimulating than some of the graduate students. It's nice to see that you are an equal-opportunity stereotyper.

Now back to the 4 July festivities!


Marc and Cee,

It may be best to progress beyond your highschool definition of cool.

Oh, and this is interesting: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080705/ap_on_el_pr/obama_to_the_center


Kaz habibi, your class and intellect continue to stun and amuse.


Cee, I've found that those who measure themselves up on "class" and "intellect" are usually insecure about their reserves of both.

I'm more interested in honesty, intellectual honesty to be precise. The theatrics and rituals of academia and what counts as "good behavior" are boring subjects to me. I'd like Marc to go back and address some things that I don't think he's been honest about. That's all. If you go back and look at all the evidence then that'd be clear.

I don't like or dislike Marc as a person. In fact, his personality is irrelevant to me, but his facts, or what he presents as facts, are. When he gets his facts wrong, and refuses to correct them, only then does his personality come into focus as a possible reason as to why he's being obstinate. He needs to be a little more flexible about admitting mistakes, and a little less certain and unequivocal when passing judgment.

I'm sorry that this effort of mine seems to be ruffling your feathers. I'd stop if you like. Just say so. But then the record would remain skewed. That wouldn't be very academic of you, would it now? Is that what you want?

Martin K/ Fnord

What the fck is going on in the usually very interesting blogosphere on foreign policy? Both here and over at Abu Muqawama is being flooded with grumpy gits going after the person(s) of the blog instead of the subjects. Is this the last charge of Roves Keyboard Warriors/ First memetic republican brigade? Do the trolls come out at summer? Argh.

ANd hey, y`all got facebook profiles. lol. Time to chek out the book ;-)


Corrections: "See, I've found that those who measure themselves up on "class" and "intellect" are usually insecure about their reserves of both.
I'm more interested in honesty, intellectual honesty to be precise. The theatrics and rituals of academia and what counts as "good behavior" are boring subjects to me."

Can you spell narcisist? Noone cares what you are interested in. Nobody cares about your feelings. You are a utterly insignificant anonymous drop in the ocean of trolls. You are confusing your own ego and your own thoughts on other people with interesting substance. You are a troll. Soon warts will grow on your chin, you will post long rants about why certain bloggers are bad & evil for not listening to you and you will feel a certain longing for living under a bridge.

The good news is that this can be cured! Just follow this easy three step program:
1) Cease from posting on the internet for a whole week! Do not respond to any comment, even this, no matter how much you feel that your unique viewpoint would enrichen the discussion.
2) Now post carefully, for the next week, one post a week without using the word I, me, or I feel/think.
3) Make a sacred wow to not confuse discussions of a blogs content with discussing the blogowners personal integrity/intelligence/motives ever ever ever again. Flamewars are for children, not adults.

VOila, youre detrolled!


From a distance--I'm sure 'one the ground things look different--but from a distance, this situation is starting to resemble Lebanon, super sized. Endless factions, endless shifts, endless quarrels, many violent, endless negotiations, concluded--some times--by some last minute 'compromise' that few understand, or can adequately explain and that has the shelf life of milk in an unrefrigerated truck parked in Baghdad, in Aug. Endless appeals to outsiders to take sides. Endless clumsy, aggressive and colonial moves BY outsides to exploit the tension. And a good (great?) bit of money to be made by all that are 'in the know', connected to people with 'juice', at the expense of the vast majority of poor souls caught in the middle.


It may strike others too that Al-Sharq al-’Awsat should borrow copy from the invasion-language Washington Post .

Arabophones presumably knew best when they changed the surname of the Salvific Awakener hero of the tale, who is -- or, as the legal case may be, is not -- Chief of Police at al-Ramádí. So it will be Táriq Yúsuf al-‘Asílí -- not "al-Asaal" -- who "returned to his spacious office, where U.S. military officers and Iraq's power brokers have sought his advice" &c. &c. (Who the dubya counts as "Iraq's power brokers" nowadays, I wonder?)

In a Twelver organ the same gentleman turns up as "Major General Táriq Yúsuf al-Dhiyábí." The Posties published a picture of him in uniform but preferred not to mention his rank.

They did not quite mention his job title either: he is (or isn't) in command of ALL the native auxiliary policemen of al-’Anbár governate, not just the Ramadi Metropolitan PD.

Happy days.


Last comment on blogging meta issues, hopefully for a long time: I guess I'm just old fashioned in placing a certain value on civility and reasoned discourse. I don't think that general norms of civility detract from rigorous argument. Quite the contrary. Here's how I would rank it:

(1) "I think you are wrong because of X." Strong, welcome, desirable in every way.

(2) "I think you are wrong because of X, poopyhead." Weaker. There might be value there, but it's less likely to be seen.

(3) "I think you're wrong, poopyhead." No value, because no reasons are offered - just an opinion, expressed poorly.

(4) "You're a poopyhead." High negative value, detracts and distracts while adding nothing.

I doubt that most ordinary people have a hard time telling the difference.

Now, different people are obviously going to differ as to their tolerance for (2). I would like to see lots of (1) and I can live with (2). Others might prefer blogs with lots of (2) and find (1) boring. My outreach to Nibras was based on the fact that I saw more (2) - substantive content - in his posts than (3) and (4). But that's not what these arguments are about - they are about (3) and (4). But does anyone really think that (3) and (4) actually make a positive contribution to anything?

So questions about al-Jazeera coverage of Iraq, or about what's really going on in Anbar, or about anything substantive, are totally legitimate and I'll try to answer them as best I can. "You're a poopyhead, poopyhead" are not and I'll ignore them.

And now, really, that's it from me on all of this. Common sense should really be good enough.

Newsdesk Helsinki Finland (NDHF) Net

Thanks for 2 good laughs

§1. Everyone knows the IAF/IIP return to government won't do a thing since now the Badr Party (SCIRI = Iran Team)has (unofficially) stepped out of the Maliki puppet set-up.

§2. It was also "touching" to read Mr Tariq Yousef al-Asaal telling WaPo that he reports only to Iraq's central government.

"The interior minister himself appointed me for this position, and the prime minister knows about all of this," Asaal said.

That won't help Mr al-Asaal much when the Iran Team orders al-Maliki cancel off the Awakenings program - the U.S. blow-jobbing Iran as always accepting that - does it?

§3. Let's face it: Maliki has to choose between the US Team (Al-Qaida) and the Iran Team (Sistani, Badr) and is therefore dead meat, isn't he?

United Nations (Finland)



There you go again misrepresenting my views: I would never call you a "poopyhead".

Had you been reading carefully then you'd find that my word of choice for you is "peepeehead".



Here's an update on the Aljazeera scandal:

Iraqi Government to Sue Aljazeera

Are you ever going to get around to re-addressing that Daniel Kimmage report from 2007?


Heavens Marc you can be so childish sometimes. You have always injected your person into the narrative of Abu Aardvard so why do you act all surprised and hurt when others take issue with your person?

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