Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Today’s double, and the paradox

Because some readers have told me that they click on the "Robert Alt in Iraq" link on the left, and have missed articles published elsewhere or mentioned by others on the blog, I just wanted to bring to your attention that my "Like Mike" piece was published today on NRO, and my piece on The Al-Jazeera Effect was published in The Weekly Standard.


One astute reader noted the apparent paradox: the locals like us, but they are quick to think the worst. Here is my brief response, which I thought was worth reprinting:

Like most paradoxes, there is an explanation. They like us, but because of news like Al-Jazeera, they are souring. While it would have taken another article to explain why they are willing to believe the worst, I’ll try to give you something of a partial explanation. There is a very strong belief among Iraqis that an Iraqi will not commit these kinds of grave acts against other Iraqis. One Christian leader in Baghdad went so far as to say that it was contrary to the nature of an Iraqi to do so. Because of this, when something bad happens, they are very quick to believe that someone else did it. Therefore, they will quickly attach themselves to the theory that there are many, many foreign fighters here causing mayhem. And, unfortunately, they are willing to believe that the Coalition is responsible for events that are clearly caused by terrorism. Because this sentiment appears to be culturally-based, it is very hard to overcome. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, they will tend to believe the outrageous in order to avoid believing that some of their fellow countrymen are causing problems. Add outlets like Al-Jazeera to the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster.


Well, perhaps disaster overstates it, but it is at least a recipe for increasing distrust.

Discussions - 14 Comments

i came across your article on cbs news online and i found your opinion uninformed and myopic. statements like "there is substantial evidence that the insurgents are taking deliberate steps to increase the number of women and children killed by Coalition forces" offer evidence of how small a grasp you have on understanding the nature of peace and conflict. civilian deaths alienate iraqis regardless of the cause of their death. bad publicity will stop when these deaths stop and it is ridiculous to expect sympathy for either side.

This comment shows a genuine lack of knowledge of the situation. The insurgents know that they cannot win against the Coalition, so they are looking to win the support of the media, and those who sheepishly follow it. Mr. Cadet, whose shift key appears to be broken, also failed to grasp the point of the piece: that the terrorists are succesfully shifting blame for the civilian deaths. His prescription, which fails to keep in mind that it is the terrorists who are causing these deaths, is what is myopic.

Sure, we’ve got the same thing here in the US. When you’ve got video of a jet with some kind of "pod" under it, and it fires some kind of missle just before impact, US citizens agree that it must be terrorists, Americans would never attack Americans. So what we have is the MSNBC-effect.

What I found stunning about this piece is the parallel between the way the media report on Iraq, and the way the Israeli/Palestinian dispute is covered by such venerable news outlets as the Washington Post, BBC, the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, etc. (Do the words "Jenin massacre" ring a bell.) It’s no surprise that AlJazeera and many others are now skewing the news to help the insurgents in Iraq and criticize the Coalition. They’ve been doing the same thing in support of Palestinian terrorists (they would call them "militants") for years. The problem (as the Coalition is now finding out in Iraq) is that so many news consumers have been willing to accept slanted descriptions of events in the disputed territories without question.

So the Iraqis won’t believe that other Iraqis do bad things to fellow Iraqis, and want to blame the Coalition for terrorist attacks on those grounds? Just who do they think was doing all those bad things to them over 35 years of Ba’athist rule, and 24 of Saddam’s rule,little green men from Mars?

Najwa Saied has a good idea, kicking Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya out of Iraq. This will not prevent them from running lies about the situation in Iraq. They can invent lies just as easily in Qatar or Riyadh as in Baghdad. It would still be a good step. Then we’d only have to worry about Paris-Match cooperating with the terrorists by sending photo teams to cover terrorist strikes, getting them into position before the attacks happen.

I really liked very much the reply of Michael Lonie when he was talking about the 35 years of suffer from the previous authority in Iraq as if it is a good reason to give the americans the right to attack any country in case the governor is treating the community in a bad way!!! he wants to kick both Aljazeera and Alarabeya out of Iraq so that the occupation will have all the time and space to proceed in what they are doing in the prisons....shame on you and your governor!!!
I can see that people now are following blindly the so called Terrorism Theory which was invented by a guy just to Legalize any act of non-democracy!! and people are just repeating this word blindly while i am quite sure that they dont know what they are talking about a group or country or religion or race or attitude or what??!!! they dont know they are just repeating it while taking TO DEFEND THE ATTACKERS...

whoa whoa whoa Wally. And you’re stating that it’s ok for a man and his regime to terrorize, slaaughter and kill his own people using the most absolute inhumane ways because of their religious faith? I too know arab americans that have come over here and embraced what America has to offer and recognize what we stand for. You sure as hell would be taking a different approach to this if you or your family had been affected by saddam during his reign. Shame on us for liberating millions of people? Oh come on. And another thing, quit bitching about the abu ghraib scandal; the contributors to these acts are being dealt with. Mr. Alt is experiencing the events of a new iraq first hand. He sees every day what our boys are doing and how they are risking their lives just so the people that DO WANT A FREE IRAQ can have that chance. Take a look at the pictures for yourself. Those people sure don’t look very mad that we’re there, judging by the hugs, kisses and smiles im seeing. hmm, maybe i need glasses.
While, it seems that I’ve apparently jumped on the bandwagon of this so called "terrorist theory", you have jumped on your own mindless theory of "death to america". But its ok its not your fault, you probably grew up in an atmosphere, where you were taught anti-americanism. You were bred to hate people like me. I just hope you’re not writing this from inside the borders of my country. I have confidence that in 5 years, 20 years, 50 years, that the arab world will look at iraq and see what America is all about. Think about this Wally, those remarks you made are posted and accepted as you own opinion. In a democratic society, you can feel free to say just about anything you wish (just dont yell "fire" in a movie theater). Now had you said this bad mouthing Iraq, from inside Iraq during saddam’s reign, you wouldn’t be alive to read my own reply. America is a beautiful thing Wally. If you’re inside my country, get out! Not embracing it means you’re only wasting my oxygen. STAY WRONG.

Well dear Frank, i am happy that you read my article..so please waste some more of your precious time to read more about my reply.. well i am not against the American People at all my friend or the Europeans as a matter of Fact i studied in a french school then i was gratuated from an American University which was a great experience for me...i visited the stated only once when i was doing a summer course in UCLA so dont worry i am not wasting your oxygen!!:)) i am very happy living in my home land and i do encourge others to stay in their home lands too....now i am working for a worldwide Petroluem Italian company..so it’s obvious that i have alot of friends like italians, British, americans..etc and i can guarantee for you that all of them do not share with you you ideas. We do encourage them to come to visit our countries and work with us but as visitors not invadors!!! You know i dont have so much to say cause i know that it will be a dead end discussion and definitely i will not use similar expressions or words like the ones that you used although i can easily do it in five different languages!! if i start to talk about your history, wars, racism (go to Harlm and have a discussion with the people there about the human rights in the states) you know we suffered from Terrorism too in the 90ths exactly like you on the 9/11...you see this one i called it a terrorist act but not everytime that something happens we will call it terrorism.. otherwise we will call Vietnam Terrorist Act!!!! or the 1/2 million children who died in iraq due to the american Embargo Terrorist act!!! it seems that you forgot that we have international rules that we have to follow..fellow you cannot go to kill people because we have some doubts that they are terrorit or they have weapons of mass destruction!! do you remember it or you forgot the real reason behind the war:))
you beleive that your soldiers went to Iraq to LIBERATE IT not to steal anything like oil or something...they just went there for the freedom of the human being race!!! Also regarding the Abu ghraib Scandal if you dont want to beleive that all soldiers there are dealing with iraqis the same way so again it’s your point of view.. but please put yourself in the position of one of the prisoner father or brother or mother then tell me about your point of view about the americans troop which i doubt that you will do cause probably you would have been already shot in the street by one of your soldires or killed or slaughtered using the most absolute inhumane ways because you are against the occupation. By the way do you know who was the investor of El Qaeda to attack the russian troops, or do you know who was paying and giving weapons to the iraqis during the war with Iran, oohh i’ve seen a french TV program you know statistics say that more than 85% of the american do not know where is iraq on the map. They are just following blindly the speeches of the "freedom fighter" on fox or cnn chanels where he’s defending his terrorism theory..Friend you are too good .. get this piece of advise from me it was said by my philosophy doctor in the university " Dont You Ever Follow The Majority Cause They Are Always Wrong"... look in the history and have o look on the reasons behind the wars and how the people remember now the leaders of these wars..
By the way if you are planning to reply using the same expressions that you have used dont for the sake of american reputation..it’s already badly damaged so dont make it worst ..we lost faith and credibility in your goverment..please dont make us loose it too in your society..

Keep up the good work Walid to educate people. You seems to be very knowledge and i admire that.

my new dear friend wally, it’s sad that you think that ALL of the american soldiers mistreat the iraqi people. My twin brother is in Iraq. I can assure you that he is a man of morals, ethics and values. Inappropriate treatment of Iraqi prisoners were done by an immoral few. I agree that those people having done this are a sick group, But to believe that an entire mass of 135,ooo plus troops are guilty of the same is obsurd. I can assure you that I am not an uneducated ignorant fool that does nothing but follow a majority. each american has his/her own voice and is welcome to use it. We are are the most educated and wealthiest nation in the history of man kind. I find it hard to beleive that 85% of Americans are unable to find Iraq on a map. Also, you cannot say that the media is nothing but a propoganda machine aiding the Gov’t’s will to encourage war when it is ,in fact this war’s deadliest enemy. The soldiers in Iraq wish nothing more than to get the job done and come home to their families. We took out Saddam not just because of what he was doing to his own people, but also what danger he possessed to the rest of the world. The american military only fires when fired upon. Strictly retaliatory. what explanations do you have for the attacks on american contracters? these people don’t want trouble. they just want to do their jobs. how about the use of religious shrines as fortifications? Are these the innocent people you speak of being killed? Iraq should be a place where in ’x’ amount of years people from all around the world can come and view the thousands of years heritage and culture. Get past the point of the U.S. invading Iraq. Whether you agree with it or not is irrelevant. Now look at it from a present perspective. Iraq has the opportunity to be a free nation. Invaders stay, we will not. We’ll leave as soon as the iraqi people are strong enough to protect themselves. Im glad you have been given the opportunity to educate yourself abroad, including here in the U.S. But to come here, use our resources and then trash talk us after using them is rather immature. You should not segregate american society and american government. As a society, we choose who governs us. If you view that the american gov’t has failed you, then perhaps it is us that has. No one american thinks alike but that’s the beauty of it. We wouldn’t have any other way. As a patriotic american I beleive and have trust in my elected officials. If a new iraq means a safer America, then that is all the justification I need. I can assure you, this leaves the rest of the world that much safer as well.

Dear Frank, unfortunetly this time i really do not have time to reply cause i have my flight within few hours..i am happy that you said "dear friend wally" that makes me feel much better... in our country our way to say good morning is to say "Salam" which means peace on you... Frank i will write to you within a couple of weeks but first i am happy that i have a discussion with someone from the other side (i mean from the states cause in my office i have american, british , italians as i told you)but still you are completely missing my point but In Two short sentences.. if i feel that american government is a huge threaten to my nations now so what shall i do attack you in the most dramatic way just to have a safer world after killing thousands of innocent americans who just want to live in peace!!!! you said saddam is bad that’s why you kicked him out!!!!! now he is a bad guy!!! and in the 80th when he was the best friend of your governor during the war of iran he was not bad!!! killing others is ok to keep you strong but killing you is bad cause it goes under terrorism right??!!!;)) Frank as i told you you are too good this a dirty political game that they are just trying to convince you with!!!
remember that to have oil you have either to work or pay there is no other legal way to get it.. you know you should start to see the rest of the world opinion in deep not just your chanels... Frank the united states is wondelful country i do agree with you completely..i am writing on a pc made in usa..when i have time i go to the cinema as well..ohh by the way i really like Cameron Diaz;)))
by the way, you did reply to none of my questions fellow!!!!
beleive me get your Bro out of this shit right now and just out of curiosity with no offense at all..do you Bro went to Irap cause he wanted to or because he’s paid!?? the first time that you call him please tell him that a guy from the arab world saw all what your friends did in the prisons and he saw the massacres that your F16 are doing in our lands but as my religion say if they go for peace.. go for peace you too.. so we are ready to forget everything if they go home now and we can start again to live together as human being brothers..please pass this message for him...
now i really have to go take care and have a nice day..

Ridwan take care friend...

wally, i simply cannot comprehend what specific threat the united states gov’t has on you. As for your statements on the iran-iraq war, check out this site for alittle history. it explains the united states position on the war. http://www.zmag.org/zmag/articles/ShalomIranIraq.html
And when you say innocent people being killed by us, what innocent people specifically? are you referring to iraqi civilians? In any war there are unfortunate contingencies like friendly-fire or civilian casualties. these certainly are accidental. like i said before the united states military fires only when fired upon. example: fallujah. this is a practice that increases the danger for our troops but also prevents civilian deaths. We only wish to dispose of iraqi warlords(Sadr) and terrorists. Even if you wouldnt label Saddam a terrorist, he still was harboring them(Zarqawi). now as for my brother, he is in Iraq on a volunteer basis. All military personel in Iraq are volunteers. its a volunteer army. Since you have not said exactly what country you are from, im going to guess Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, because of your occupation, and ability to travel abroad. pardon me if im wrong. The united states doesn’t offer any threat to any arab nation. we simply seek to destroy terrorists. Specifically Alqaeda. these are the people causing these deaths to the innocent people in Iraq you speak of. Its very apparent we have a different definition of what a terrorist is. Feel free to ask what questions i have not answered yet. On a different note, if you like cameron Diaz, watch "the Mask". she looks real good in that flick.

i have seen it already frank, it’s really good one. now it seems that you completely missed my point again, i am not trying to hide anything fellow.. and THE UNITED STATES do not cause any danger for me at all for the time being!! iam talkind to you now from Milano due to business travel.. i am from the 7000 years of history i am egyptian coming from Cairo. and i am a project Manager in an iutalian company...see i ahve nothing to hide at all.. the states causing danger to everybofy for the time being in general look at the world now killing eveywhere because of you...the terrorism increased ALOT!!! everybody is afraid from everybody!!! you are driving us to hell beleive me..i hope that people like Reagan or Clinton or Rabin(Israel) come back to authority so that we can speak with them again!!!
i have problems to go to work driving my car because of the traffic problem arounf the american and british embassy!!! we have a problem in tourism due to your war in iraq!!! i was saying danger from the states as an example i mean IF only IF there is a danger from the states how should i reply??!! from the name of the site my dear dear friend, i can imagine what will be inside and now i realize from where you get all these distorted information!!!! Shalom means Peace but i will not tell you in what language go to check by yourself and you will then know why i am saying so:))
my friend i am dame sure cause i have proven doc that not most but some of the us army there are not americans but people seeking the us Passport.. so it is clear for you now what was the deal between your Gov. and them!!!! My friend i really liked this Phrase "In any war there are unfortunate contingencies like friendly-fire or civilian casualties. these certainly are accidental" ACCIDENT my Friend!!!!!!!!!!!!! it seems that you did not see Bagdad in the first day of the war!!!! it was all on fire.. where were coming all these bombs from Allien attacks like independence day or maybe from Syria thats why you should attack them cause they are all terrorist!!! by the way saddam for me was bad go to check which country was the front line in the war of Kuwait (Year 91) to kick the iraqi out of Kuwait BUT ONLY out of kuwait without passing the borders!!! he was a bad guy i agree with you but he was your friend body!!! we were all against him but the west was supporting him!!! you know we gave a list of Terrorist from whom we suffered in the 90th in Egypt to Europe and to the States (they were hidding there) you know what was the reply a big ZERO nothing Bin laden has a castle in your country by the way!!! now when this problem started to come to you you staerted to wake up.. my friend there is no way out of this discussion but let me tell you this i am coming from the most moderate and West-Friend country. i learned in afrench school then american university in cairo (i didnt go abroad)We dont have ANY OCCUPATION in our land but we have friends from US UK Italy France all over the world seeking work with us then having a wonderful dinner together on one of the nile boat..we dont have problem of religion although we have 10 millions Christian Egyptian..the first time that i was asked about my religion was in Europe and i was shocked why he’s asking to??!!! here we are all united we dont have problem of Shool Child holding Guns or White against Black..pardon me but it seems tha you are forgetting the reality!! by the way about your bro ethics morals all that stuff...you know what ..i beleive you he’s a good guy tell him that an egyptian friend is telling you that we are not in paradise all countries have good and bad people..and the majority are in between cause we are not angels!!!otherwise we would have been inside a Cowboy wetern movie!!!!if we start to call everybody who’s not good terrorist so we will end up saying that 70% of the states and egypt are terrorist.. ohh by the way from which state are you coming from??? if you dont want to answer do not no prob friend:))

You know wally, it seems that what common grounds we do have are that of the common sense of right & wrong. As you said before, there are good and people in every nation around the world. But the small portion of these "bad" people are the people that wish to hurt the rest of us. these are the terrorists. the fact that yes, terrorist attacks do occur more now than when they did 10years ago. But this whole thing can be compared to a pot waiting to boil over; it was only a matter of time. If we had stopped at the kuwaiti-iraq border during the gulf war, saddam simply wouldve waited for us to leave and reinvade kuwait. His military (which was the third largest in the world at the time)needed to be controlled and bringing him to his knees was the only way to ensure a lasting treaty. that’s why we invaded iraq. Had he simply realized that he had pissed off the rest of the world, he should’ve pulled out unconditonally. Wally, perhaps we did not act on this list egypt gave because of who was in office at the time. You say that you travelled to UCLA. I know that on that campus specifically, there is a graduation class that wishes to pay honor to Hamas. Do you view Hamas as a terrorist group? I certainly hope that you were not there when some 2000 arab students walked the streets burning denouncing the jewish faith and burning their flag. That is the arab world’s own version of the black vs. white conflict. By the way, Milano is a beautiful place, i know people in Palermo. I am from Detroit.

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