What Fresh Hell Is This?

October 21, 2007

Jack Kelly Sunday

It's Sunday. There's a Jack Kelly column in the Post-Gazette. I know what to do. My name's Dayvoe. I have a blog.

Jack's starting point, this week, is the usual "the media isn't reporting the truth - the good news" song the rest of the right-wing has been trying to sing at us for years.

Even in the good news, they spin it as bad, he's saying. Take a look at his opening:

It's getting harder to write negative stories about the situation in Iraq, but Jay Price and Qasim Zein of the McClatchy Newspapers did their best:

"A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery (in Najaf) by at least one third in the past six months, and that's cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds," they wrote Oct. 16.

But let's take a look at what he's quoting from. Jack must have read what he's quoting, right? Or else he wouldn't be quoting it, right?

Here's the article from Price and Zein. The second paragraph of the article is, in fact, the paragraph he quotes. But what of the first paragragh? Here it is:
At what’s believed to be the world’s largest cemetery, where Shiite Muslims aspire to be buried and millions already have been, business isn't good. [emphasis added]
The article later points out that:

Najaf, a city of about 600,000 people, is built around the gold-covered Imam Ali Mosque, a shrine to one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam who grew up in the home of the prophet Muhammad and later became his son-in-law.

The city, with the shrine and graveyard, is considered the third-most important holy site for Shiite Muslims, after Mecca and Medina. It attracts millions of pilgrims each year — and tens of thousands of funeral parties.

So it's a Shiite cemetery in a city that's the third most important holy site for Shiite Muslims, containing as it does an important Shiite Mosque. Now, I have a question or two.

  • Isn't there a civil war raging in Iraq right now?
  • One pitting (among other things) Shiite against Sunni?
So I am guessing that this huge Shiite cemetery, during a civil war pitting Shiites against Sunnis, probably doesn't have very many Sunni graves. That alone should tell you somethings off with the article.

Anyway, it's something Jack Kelly didn't tell you. But perhaps the error lies with Price and Zein. They could have been clearer because there's something off with their numbers.

Here's what Price and Zein wrote:
Dhurgham Majed al Malik, 48, whose family has arranged burial services for generations, said that this spring, private cars and taxis with caskets lashed to their roofs arrived at a rate of 6,500 a month. Now it’s 4,000 or less, he said.
That's the only thing in the article even closely resembling "a third." But let's do the math anyway. The article says there's about 4,000 cars arriving a day carrying caskets to the cemetery. In a week that's about 28,000. A month 120,000. Six months its 720,000.

So even during the surge, there were seven hundred thousand Shiite deaths in Iraq? Can't be. Something's off. Immediately after, however, there's this:

Malik said that the daily tide of cars bearing coffins has been a barometer of Iraq’s violence for years. The number of burials rose and fell several times during Saddam Hussein’s persecution of Shiites, and it soared again during the eight years of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Then in the 1990s, the daily average fell to 150 or less, Malik said. With the current war, the burials again reached 300 daily.

No idea whether that's pre-surge or post-surge or an average or a one time spike. Again some math.

I doubt it's an average. Here's why. Today is October 21. That's the 294th day of the year. If the average number of burials is 300 per day, there would have been 88,200 burials already this year. Either the vast majority of burials in the cemetery aren't war related (and that's certainly a possibility) or numbers are merely anecdotal and that would make it all less than trust worthy.

And yet, that's what Jack leads with. He should have known better.

He then moves on to this Washington Post column. It was the one written by 12 former Army Captains. But let's take a look at what they actually wrote. Here's a snippet:

What does Iraq look like on the ground? It's certainly far from being a modern, self-sustaining country. Many roads, bridges, schools and hospitals are in deplorable condition. Fewer people have access to drinking water or sewage systems than before the war. And Baghdad is averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day.

Iraq's institutional infrastructure, too, is sorely wanting. Even if the Iraqis wanted to work together and accept the national identity foisted upon them in 1920s, the ministries do not have enough trained administrators or technicians to coordinate themselves. At the local level, most communities are still controlled by the same autocratic sheiks that ruled under Saddam. There is no reliable postal system. No effective banking system. No registration system to monitor the population and its needs.

Lotsa statements of fact. Statements of fact that could be checked. How does our Jack respond? Jack criticizes it with this:
I don't doubt the former soldiers are reflecting honestly what they saw when they were in Iraq. But of the 12, only two were in Iraq in 2006. Five others served in 2005. Three served in 2004. Two served last in 2003. None have been in Iraq since Gen. David Petraeus took command and the troop surge began.
So, obviously, everything they wrote is wrong. As a counter argument, he quotes an anonymous e-mail sent to a military blogger named Blackfive. Here's the text in its entirety:
Sir, E-mailing from wonder Camp Fallujah. All is well out here. Peace is breaking out all over the place and nobody knows what to do. I spent the day with the RCT-6 CO and his PSD. We rode straight through Fallujah without incident and down to Amiriyah to check up on a Police Transition team. The TTs are quickly becoming the main effort. I rode in a new MRAP and they are pretty awesome. The A/C was down right cold and the turret system was top notch. The vehicles are rather huge, but they actually seem very nimble for their size. Not to mention they may save some lives. The Marines liked it. Things are going well and it should be a very interesting deployment for First Marines. You can't help but get the feeling that we'll be wrapping up the AO for the USMC. Which is probably appropriate considering the history that First Marines and its battalions have in the AO....especially 3/1.That's about all for now. I will be back in CONUS in a little over a week and deploy for the year in January. Hope all is well on your end.Semper Fi[name redacted]
So things are going well in Fallujah. Great news, of course. But here's what the Chicago Tribune had to say a few days ago about Fallujah:

The last car bomb in Fallujah exploded in May.

On that warm evening, insurgents drove a vehicle packed with explosives into mourners for a slain local tribal leader as they wound through a ramshackle corner of the city, killing 20. The next day, Fallujah's mayor banned all vehicles from city streets.

If there were no cars, reasoned Mayor Saad Awad Rashid, there could be no car bombs.

"It stopped," said Lt. Col. William Mullen, commander of a shrinking force of U.S. Marines in the city who have watched the insurgency melt into the encircling countryside. "The 'significant events' in the city stopped. I think a lot of [the insurgents] left."

The Americans are not far behind: After surrounding the city with walls and improving security on its streets, the Marines are pulling back from the one-time insurgent bastion of Fallujah. They are redeploying to surrounding areas as the U.S. troop "surge" allows them to consolidate progress made largely by tribal leaders and local officials in security and civil works.

Again, great news. The city walled in and less violent than it once was. But the article goes on:

Things are better but ...

It is a place under 24-hour lockdown, surrounded by berms and barbed wire. But that's a price Fallujah's war-weary residents say they are willing to pay for now.

"The last four months, things have been going better," said Khamis Auda Najim, a 38-year-old cabinet-maker in Fallujah's Andalus neighborhood. "But the changes are just on the security side. The street surfaces, the sewage, the electricity, the water? Those aren't as good."


Still Jack Kelly says we're winning in Iraq.

Fine. Can we bring the troops home then?


Matt H said...

I can't believe they still let that guy write for them.

Does he ever write to you?

Schmuck Shitrock said...

I like the hard-boiled first 'graph, Dayvoe. The rest of it, too.

dayvoe said...


No he's never (EVER!) written to me. Each week I blog on his column I do send him a courtesy FYI to make sure he knows I'm here.

So far not even a thank you.

And Schmuck;

Actually I was aiming towards Joe Friday, but I'll take "hard-boiled" hahaha!


Sherry said...

i liked your post. how that man still as a job is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

John K. says: Yep, winning in Iraq. Did you notice we killed 49 of those terrorists you lefties said Bush recruited and suffered not one of our casualties? Also did you notice no car bombs? Of course not, your still steeming over the Gen Petreaus ad and the drubbing you got from Limbaugh on Friday.
We are bringing the troops home. One combat brigade will return by Christmas and not be replaced. Bush is keeping his word. As for permanent troops presence, just ask Hillary Clinton. She said we would be there till at least 2013. Oh you lefties are so lost in the real world. LMAO

Anonymous said...

John K. says: yes you lefties are lost in the real world while I am safe in the imaginary wonderland that is Rush's underpants.

Anonymous said...

That's better, Chickenhawk. The rants are much more entertaining than that manic-depressive you were doing for a while.

Keep laughin' while your soldiers are dyin'!

Schmuck Shitrock said...

That's better, Chickenhawk. The crazy rants are much better than that manic-depressive thing you were doing for a while.

Keep laughin' while our troops are dyin'!

Anonymous said...

John K. says: You're invested in defeat. You have to ignore any good thing to emerge from Iraq. Which is truly a sad state to be in. We should feel sorry for your state of mind....there got over it. LMAO You lefties are really funny. Waving white flags in the midst of victory.

Schmuck Shitrock said...

I don't know about this "the surge is working" stuff, Chickenhawk. Bush has only killed 748 Americans since it started. Last year during the same Feb-Oct time period, the number was 578. So the surge has killed only 170 more GIs than before the month. That's only about 19 more a month.

Is 19 brave young Americans really enough to satisfy you and Bush? Don't we need a super-surge so that we can kill 50 or 100 more a month? Then you could really laugh!