THE Times Cold War nostalgia, expressed in three-column Week in Review section front-pagers, continues with this feature on Moktada al-Sadr that reads like one of those "Who Are The Young Turks?" bits you used to get whenever Khrushchev or Mao caught a cold. It comes complete with Commie Ideology Is Just Intended To Confound Us:
For the last month, from a secret location, the young Shiite cleric has fanned the flames of Iraqi nationalism and anti-American sentiment, a sure path to popularity in his frightened, frustrated land.
and the But For All That They're Really Pragmatists twisteroo:
But press his aides for concrete details of a timetable to present to the Americans, and the picture becomes murkier. They say they want the Americans out. But not just yet.
“In order to drive out the occupation, we need to build up the security forces; then we can have a timetable,” said Abdul Mehdi Mutairi, one of Mr. Sadr’s top political officials, as he smoked at his desk inside the main Sadr office in Baghdad, his television tuned to an Iranian-financed satellite network. He was referring to the Iraqi government’s largely Shiite army and police, which by all accounts could not yet control Iraqi violence on their own.
If you'll wait while I go get a hat I'd like to tip it to that "as he smoked at his desk", a breathtaking 21st Century update of the jokes we used to make about Politburo fashions, which ran to the Harry Truman look, twenty-years out of date.
Which is why it's so unfortunate Wong flashes a tell in the very next sentence. The Iraqi military and police "by all accounts" could not "yet" control the violence "on their own"? Sorry, that's not one tell, it's a tic infestation. Has the American military "yet" controlled the violence "on its own"? By any account? Call me an incurable optimist, or old and confused, but when it became obvious to the public at large that our little Mideast adventure was turning irretrievably to shit I thought that would be enough to convince people that the idea was hopelessly wrong in the first place, and that, perhaps, it was in our own best interests to stop believing in a Manichean political universe (whenever that suited us, of course). I didn't expect such soul-searching to include much of the mass media, mind you, which sank so deep (none deeper than the Times) in attempting to prove it was no long that pack of Vietnam-era traitors that it had only the Right's way out of that jungle disaster: find some fifth columnists. Funny how this time that turned out to be the Administration.
So I can't for the life of me understand why the reader interested enough in world events to wade back to the Week in Review could be convinced that al-Sadr's "Iraqi nationalism and anti-American sentiment" is partly staged to woo the crowds, or that his desire to continue to strengthen Shi'a control of Iraq at American expense represents some sort of Bushian bafflement on his part. What's it take to make people face facts if five years of fucking up in Iraq won't do it? Al-Sadr has more reasons to be anti-American than John Kennedy had to be anti-Communist, unless Cuban gunboats turned up outside Hyannisport once and I'm just forgetting.
We might also point out that it's in that established Western democracy the US of A where the leader tromps around in cowboy boots, and reporters tell us how good a cold beer would taste in his convivial presence.