Good(?) News from Iraq
Australian blogger Arthur Chrenkoff has attracted a lot of attention for his “Good news from Iraq” posts. Not only has he had a piece in the New York Times, but he’s been at the centre of a lengthy debate between Media Watch and the Australian (covered here by Tim Dunlop)
One problem with good news, though, is that it tends to be announced, reannounced and then re-reannounced for good measure. During the Boer War, Lloyd George caused a stir in Parliament when he did the sums and found that, according to the body counts announced by the British Government, they had killed more Boers than the entire Boer nation contained. According to Orwell, Arthur Balfour rose to his feet and shouted “Cad!”
Tim Lambert applies the same metric to electricity, finding that, despite nearly continuous good news, electricity generation is lower now than in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, and far below the level prevailing in 1991.
That’s the time-series approach. I thought I’d take a different tack, and look at the bits of bad news that can’t be concealed, even when, like Chrenkoff, you are looking exclusively for good news. That is, I’m doing what Chrenkoff does, but in reverse, using his news stories as the source.
Here’s a selection from Chrenkoff’s April 25 edition. Remember this is all supposed to be “good news”:
“The State Department has ordered a major reevaluation of the troubled $18.4 billion Iraqi reconstruction effort, blaming problems on early decisions to hire US companies for major infrastructure projects.”
“In a report to Congress last week, the State Department said reconstruction officials will cancel several planned water and electricity plants”
“The three-story hospital in downtown Fallujah sits empty and abandoned”
“Most of Iraq’s schools are still run down and out of date. According to the Ministry of Education, 5,000 additional schools are needed, and repairs are required at 80 percent of existing ones.”
” The Baghdad Police College says it has no shortage of recruits. In a country with unemployment well over 50 percent, a police paycheck â€” about $200 a month â€” is simply too tempting.”
“The stock exchange may be one of post-war Iraq’s few success stories”
” Production from the southern oil fields has recently reached 1.1 million barrels … The rate is close to what the company produced before the war …”
Why bother hammering the bad news? The obvious reason is that, until the failure of existing policies is recognised, there’s no chance of any better policies being adopted. The whole history of the occupation has seen the US persisting with policies long after they were obviously doomed, from radical economic reform, to the “regional caucuses” plan, from Chalabhi to Allawi, from Najaf to Fallujah and beyond.