Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ambiguous Wars

The Iraq war has lasted longer than World War II.

The U.S. casualty toll for the Iraq war is half what the U.S. Army lost in World War II in traffic accidents.

Which fact matters, and which one doesn't? Depends what side you've already staked out in regards to Iraq in the domestic political game, I suppose. Unless you've got the perspective of the Marine sergeant who recently gave Michael J. Totten a tour of a notorious Fallujah prison:

“I prefer these small and morally ambiguous wars to the big morally black-and-white wars,” he said to me later. “It would be nice if we had more support back home like we did during World War II. But look at how many people were killed in World War II. If a bunch of unpopular small wars prevent another popular big war, I'll take ’em.”

And from the same piece, more evidence that "progress," like "lack of progress" is a slippery fish. Something that eludes press and punditry alike:

Every single person in that “cell” was a man. Was one of the six cells for women?

“They don’t arrest women,” said Sergeant Dehaan. “Ever. That just is not done in this country.”

That seemed right to me. Women are treated badly overall in Iraq. Their social roles are strictly proscribed. There are so many things they aren’t allowed to do in this culture. Crime is one of them.

Iraqi Arab culture is slowly reverting back to itself now that the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein has been replaced. His government arrested women every day. They were often raped and viciously tortured by his mukhabarat agents.

The good news is the bad news.