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December 8, 2006

Just When Things Were Going So Well


(The Real Deal)

Could The Economist have been any clearer in its opinion of the Iraq Study Group Report?  In an unorthodox move, the magazine even converted its cover into an editorial.

The publication might have had an allergic reaction to the ISG, but the graphic symbolism employed is incredibly cynical, suggesting that America has been moving forward and up in Iraq, and that almost any correction (of force, commitment, heavy breathing) would necessarily involve a retreat and descent.

(Re-Revised 12/11/06)

(image: The Economist.  December 7, 2006.  Cover.

  • nezua limón xolografik-jonez

    impotence vs. virility. what manly arrows they wield.

  • weisseharre

    “An old chronicle.To seek out the upright.No fall but preceded by a declination.” -Cormac Mccarthy

  • Darryl Pearce

    …well, at the risk of running afoul of Godwin’s Law, we already know what happens when people depend on the “triumph of will” despite the nature of reality.
    Of course, we also know that those things that can’t last forever, won’t. But they can last a lot longer than you think they would, even after taking into consideration they’ll last a lot longer than you thought they could.
    Hmph! Time for me to go listen to Barrett’s Privateers again….

  • MonsieurGonzo

    UP is downism : imho our BAGman’s version is just as woefully wrought.
    to me, the endearing images of Mr. Bush’s illegal invasion and your AngloAmerican forces’ failed occupation of IRAQ is not somewhere Over There where the War that never was, was; but : Americans…
    …gorging themselves on real estate; roaring, war-economy based Bull Market profiteering; and gasoline at any price ~ while stupendously naive troops either stumble around as so much bait or torture with intent to teach, and outrageously disingenuous media demagogues mock reality as “un-patriotic” and dissent as “treason”.
    James Baker as Moses comes down from the mountain with G_d’s Commandments = remedy to a collective yawn…
    …rescue the troops? now? {sigh} maybe mañana.

  • thirdeyepushpin

    but we would never ever have the flag on the bottom of a soldiers foot. In short this country does not have the political wiring to apologize; so we will stumble into the grave of our empire making stupid mistakes…with a small hum of don’t do it as mantra of pride

  • Lightkeeper

    This is a bit much for even The Economist, no? We know how much demagoguery (sp?) comes out of these pages, including most of the time the covers as well, but this is just disgusting/
    I can’t believe this is what passes for serious reading for the business class and the elites.

  • mdhatter

    “what if the opening of the political process and the introduction of a bipartisan group of reasoned and seasoned political players into the fray represents the first, best and only hope for escaping the sinkhole? ”
    And what if monkey’s on ponies flew out of Dick Cheney’s…..?

  • mdhatter

    As for the economist cover…. if the axis of the arrow is a timeline, then we’ve been going down hill since about mid 2004, and that seems pretty accurate.

  • oliviacw

    “On it” what? That doesn’t make any sense to me, sorry. “Sit On It”?

  • donna

    Economist? Why don’t they just change the name to “Elitist Oil Baron Porn”, already?

  • Rafael

    Take a detour on the road to Empire?
    Regadless of how many brick walls, dead end alleys and dead cararys you find along the way.

  • Ballard Fremont Edmonds

    The revised cover looks much like a J-bend or “trap” in sink plumbing. The occupation is heading down the drain? A bit on-the-nose, I think. But that doesn’t make it untrue.

  • Mad_nVT

    Or you could see BagMan’s revision as a fish hook. And then play off that line.
    Looks like the American public took Bush’s bait and swallowed it whole. Taken them over three years to spit it out.
    Fell for the fraud: . . . hook, line and sinker.
    Now Bush is trying to get off the hook by blaming the Iraqis.
    But really, isn’t this all because our nation is hooked on its oil addiction.
    And we got hookers for the oil industry in the White House.

  • Keir

    Sorry, I can’t make much sense of the Economist story. Neither version of the cover makes much sense to me.
    I liked what Monsieur Gonzo was at, until the last line. Rescue the troops? This whole thing is in their hands. There is no dearth of information out there for the 18-35 set that has volunteered to get itself killed and maimed. Of course Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and the rest lied through their teeth. But somebody volunteered to destroy Iraq. “Rescuing the troops” puts too much secret blame on Iraqis defending themselves. We need to stop blaming the Iraqis. We need to start rescuing them from our troops.

  • GeorgeF

    The entire image is wrong. There is no wa tu return, neither up, nor down. There is a situation, which needs a future-oriented solution, which will be something entire different to the situation before the invasion of Iraq. This is a question of political strateg, which leads far ahead of just the withdrawal of the us-forces.
    And to begin with: At the general staff academy we have learned that the most demanding type of operations is the withdrawal. to keep it in order needs much more flexibility in command and in-situ decisions of subordinate commanders than any other type of operation. Is the US-Army, the USMC, USAF really prepared for an operation, which is aimed at the retreat?
    If such demanding task should be performed “successfully”, it has to be accompanied by well synchronized political moves, unless which the retreat will end in disaster, militarily as well as politically.
    Good luck!

  • Lightkeeper

    Keir, I can understand your anger at killing machines (ie, soldiers), but it would be useful to remember that most of the soldiers who are on the front lines do NOT have a dearth of information as you put. Most of them probably come from extremely poor backgrounds with little or no prospects to better themselves than what the military may be offering them.
    Its like, the poor suffering abroad and the poor of America being forced to wage war whose profits they will NEVER see…

  • Keir

    Lightkeeper, I know there is something like an economic draft in the US. Still. At what price does one become willing to kill innocent people, open fire on peoples’ homes, trample through their villages, lay seige to their cities, torture, rape, and laugh at it?
    I know many of the American soldiers in Iraq may be poor. With their fancy videocameras and digital cameras some of them post horrific images (with pride) to this same internet we are communicating with. Here’s a classic (albeit tame) example. I’m guessing that if they can access youtube they can probably access news, information, and commentary sites as well.
    The US military is not offering American poor “prospects to better themselves” by any means.
    Lastly, Kucinich is right to say that the US Congress should stop writing the cheques to pay for the occupation of Iraq. People in Congress cannot say one (anti-war) thing, and sign off on another. Similiarly (I think), American soldiers should stop talking about wanting to return home, while agreeing to go on patrols and do their killing and occupying thing in Iraq. The only correct thing for them to do is refuse to follow orders. (And I don’t think there is any excuse for them not to know this.)

  • Lightkeeper

    Yes, but what about all the indoctrination the soldier takes in while being “trained” how best to kill people? I am just starting reading Gwynne Dyer’s classic “WAR” and it is simply astonishing how much social re-conditioning goes into training a man (or woman) to become a soldier. Soldiers are, in my mind, killing machines, because they are able – they must – detach themselves from the reality of what they are doing – otherwise they simply wouldn’t be able to do it. They are trained how not to see the other person as human beings – because otherwise most of us would either be unable to commit mass murder or because it would haunt us for the rest of our lives if we did.
    Here’s an excerpt from the book:
    The problem of persuading soldiers to kill is now recognized as a centrally important part of the training process. That an infantry company in WWII could wreak such havoc with only about one-seventh of the soldiers willing to use their weaposn is a testimony to the lethal effects of modern firepower, but once armies realized what was actually going on, they at once set about to raise the average. Part of the job can be done by weapons training that actually lays down reflex pathways that bypass the moral censor. The long, grassy fields with bull’s eyes propped up at the end give way to combat simulators with pop-up human silhouettes that stay in sight only briefly: fire instantly and accurately and they drop; hesitate and they disappear in a couple of seconds anyway [Is this what American soldiers "see" when they look at Iraqi's?]. But conditioning the reflexes only does half the job; it is also necessary to address the psychological reluctance to kill directly. There days soldiers are taught, very specifically, to kill.
    Almost all this work is done in basic training. The reshaping of the recruits’ attitudes towards violence begins quite early in the training…Later, the recruits spend much of their time practising with the weapons that will really be the tools of their trade: rifles, bayonets (“cut on the dotted line”), grenades, and the like. With those weapons, of course, there is no dividing recruits into teams and letting them behave as they would in real combat. But if you can’t actually blow your enemy up in basic training, you can certainly be encouraged to relish the prospect of his demise, and even the gory manner of it:
    Instructor: ‘Well, first off, what is a mine? A mine is nothing more, privates, than an explosive or chemical substance made to destroy and kill the enemy…You want to rip his eyeballs out, you want to tear apart his love machine, you want to destroy him, privates, you don’t want to have nothing left of him. You want to send him home in a Glad Bag to his mommy! Hey, show no mercy to the enemy, they are not going to show it on you. Marines are born and trained killers; you’ve got to prove that every day. Do you understand?’
    And the recruits grunt loudly with enthusiasm, as they have been taught, although most of them would vomit or faint if they were suddenly confronted with someone whose genitals had been blown off by a mine. Most of the language used to describe the joys of killing people is bloodthirsty but meaningless hyperbole, and the recruits realize that even as they enjoy it. Nevertheless, it does help to desensitize them to the suffering of an “enemy,” and at the same time they are being indoctrinated in the most explicit fashion (as previous generations were not) with the notion that their purpose is not just to be brave or to fight well; it is to kill people.
    Wow that was a long excerpt!
    In any case, if we look at the events at Abu Ghraib in this context, it is not only no longer shocking to see what they did, but indeed, it should even be expected. And in America, where ardent nationalism is constantly mistaken for fervent patriotism, the events at Abu Ghraib make even more sense.
    Now I know all of this still doesn’t address the point of soldiers having access to techonologies like youtube etc. But it does help explain why these technologies – and everything it may enable the soldiers to see that they have not seen before (or are not seeing now) – do not alter soldiers’ behaviour one bit. Their social reconditioning has been so finely ingrained in them, it doesn’t matter how many videos they see or how much they even try to learn about how power functions. They simply have a very different conception of what it means to be a human after being trained to see only some as humans, while others remain enemies forever and always- because that is fundamentally what they have been taught to believe.
    jt, I think you said once you were in the army/marine/navy (sorry – all engines of war are one and the same to me…) – is there any insight you might have into why it is so impossible for soldiers to be human? Or perhaps that is not how you see it at all…It would be interesting to hear what you have to say about all this.

  • ummabdulla

    I think it would be interesting for someone to study the effects on soldiers of having technologies like youtube, e-mail, and the Internet in general. Traditionally, they wouldn’t have had access to much news, and would have received letters or care packages from home – but maybe weeks after they had been sent. The military culture is such that you can’t even complain about something without going through your chain of command, so if your problem is coming from someone in your chain of command (which is likely) you’re out of luck. And any complaint labels you a traitor anyway; you’re expected to back each other up, which is understandable, but even when your buddies are doing something wrong. (I went through this in trying to deal with sexual harassment issues.)
    So the fact that soldiers can break out of that chain of command to contact others easily, and can access all kinds of information, must have quite an impact.
    Also, soldiers – at least some of them – can have frequent contact with family members back home. While that sounds good, I wonder if that has negative impacts, too; maybe the wife (or husband) back home is constantly worried and waiting to get in touch, while the soldier is under pressure not only in the war zone, but hearing about day-to-day problems at home, and having to decide what to tell and not to tell about what’s going on in Iraq so as not to upset the family, etc.

  • mdhåtter

    What hapenned to the two alternate images??

  • blammo

    The Economist is an opinion magazine. I don’t see what’s so unusual about this. The story was fairly balanced – more in favor of the Iraq study group report than the cover suggests.
    Even The Economist needs to sell magazines. Covers are often intended to be controversial in order to provoke interest.
    Judging by the post and reactions above, it works …

  • noen

    I don’t know, to me I see this cover as a reaction to the ISG report rather than a comment on it. Seems like they found it rather “deflating”, one might even call their response “flaccid”. I’m surprised no one picked up on that way of looking at it.

  • Noah Flower

    Echoing what a few others have already said: this really isn’t unusual. The Economist is always a mix of fact and opinion, and they love to use their cover as a place for provocative editorializing. There’s plenty to argue over as far as whether they’re right, but the way they’re presenting their ideas is entirely unsurprising.

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