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Old 10-17-2007   #1
Jesse9252
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Default NY Times Video Op-Ed: "Meeting Resistance"

The NY Times website is running a 6-minute video op-ed composed of interviews with insurgents interspersed with polling data. The interviews are taken from a new documentary movie which purports to lift "the veil of anonymity surrounding the Iraqi insurgency by meeting face to face with individuals who are passionately engaged in the struggle, and documenting for the very first time, the sentiments experienced and actions taken by a nation's citizens when their homeland is occupied."

The NY Times video can be found here. The film's website is here.

A cursory viewing makes it seem as if the filmmakers have bought into the insurgent narrative hook, line, and sinker. They present the insurgency as a purely nationalist response to an invading power, discount the role of sectarianism as a motivator for the violence we are seeing in Iraq right now (and even present data that supposedly indicates the vast majority of attacks in Iraq are against US and coalition troops), and basically conclude that the sooner foreign forces are pulled out the sooner Iraqis can go back to the peace they truly desire. Basically, it looks like the kind of video I'd expect to find on a jihadi website--except it's front and center on the NY Times and the documentary has garnered awards from all manner of international film festivals.

I'm curious what others think.
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Old 10-17-2007   #2
tequila
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The DoD data regarding the number of attacks on CF vs. that on civilians is here (pg 26). According to DoD, attacks on CF have always far outnumbered attacks on civilians and ISF - the difference in casualty rates is that attacks on CF are often unsuccessful due to armor, TTPs, etc.

IMO the DoD stats are probably missing an enormous number of attacks on civilians --- how many victims of such attacks are going to take the trouble to report these to CF or police, especially given that most Iraqis have no confidence in CF and the police are often either complicit, corrupt, or intimidated? But unfortunately that is the best data we have.

The video provides a valuable window to the Sunni nationalist insurgent narrative and shows what these men believe they are defending: a unified nation called Iraq, ruled by men like themselves ("engineers, officers, teachers ... normal people, cultured people ... who follow the prescribed rites of Islam"). That the particular definition of such encompasses a mostly Sunni population and excludes religious Shi'i, Kurds, Christians, etc. is elided. The possibility of a democratic election is rejected out of hand while the occupation is present, and the importance of national and personal honor is emphasized. It is interesting to see the illusions these men have or at least present, and how they match up with similar illusions held or propagated by the Coalition.

The filmmakers have clearly bought into this position and are openly advocating it. It is notable that the latest interview they got in Iraq is from 2004. I wonder how many of these people are still alive and in Iraq.

Last edited by tequila; 10-17-2007 at 09:53 AM.
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Old 10-17-2007   #3
Nils Banér
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I beg you pardon if my English is not all that 100 percent, but what I want to say is the following:

It is rather obvious that both these films are more or less "historical" documents. As Mr Tequila pointed out, the last interview in "Meeting Resistance" is from May 2004, and depicts a sunni, "post-baathist" view of people that held some authority during Saddam's regime (the officers, engineers, teachers, etc). That kind of position has been largly overplayed in the course of events. The film-makers, who I have never heard about, are then using statistics polled during this Summer in order to make the statements made by the "interviewees" seem more universal, than they actually are.

One should always treat polls in a country under insurgency with a grain of salt, I beleive. In a text called Pacification in Algeria (written by the French Colonel David Galula, in 1963) he says that he didn't gave a brass farthing for general polls. The only important thing was the interrelation between his soldiers and the actual population in Cabylia... An invitation to tea, a kind wave, an imam speaking about the harvest, instead of rebellion at the Friday sermon in the mosque were the important "polls" that was taken by the soldiers every day (it is a sort of parallell to the attitude of the old German general staff, who always said that it is better if operations are reconnaisance driven, rather than intelligence driven...)

The bombmaker film is also dated in my opinion. It describes the experiences of one of these foreign AQ "operators" that had been the main reason why the local population has joined forces with the MNF in places such as al-Anbar (mentioned in the film).

If these films are presented as recent by this American newspaper, I would rather sack the editors if I was the publisher. Perhaps the journalists ought to be sacked as well, since they treat the statements of their objects in a most uncritical way, buying into some kind of heroic "narrative" that should not be unscrutinised by a real professional.

If the intention of this newspaper was to "lift the veil of anonymity surrounding the Iraqi insurrection", it failed miserably, as I see it.
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Old 10-17-2007   #4
tequila
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Quote:
The only important thing was the interrelation between his soldiers and the actual population in Cabylia... An invitation to tea, a kind wave, an imam speaking about the harvest, instead of rebellion at the Friday sermon in the mosque were the important "polls" that was taken by the soldiers every day (it is a sort of parallell to the attitude of the old German general staff, who always said that it is better if operations are reconnaisance driven, rather than intelligence driven...)
It should be noted that the French lost the war in Algeria, and they lost it because they lost (or never had) the Muslim Algerian population. Tolerance or acceptance of armed soldiers enforcing the peace should not be confused with movement towards what those soldiers view as an acceptable political settlement. The same goes for a population's tolerance or acceptance of an insurgent force in their midst as well.
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Old 10-17-2007   #5
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I was actually in the process of making a tedious and pretentious reply about the war in Algeria, and what the French did and didn't do; what worked and didn't work, etc. But what it actually comes down to, is this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by tequila View Post
It should be noted that the French lost the war in Algeria
I have to rest my case, I'm afraid...
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