Friday, August 20, 2004

Ontological Deficit part IV: What Are The Journalists Smoking in Iraq?

Because whatever it is that is that strong, I want some of that. One report of the otherwise shamefully pathetic National Assembly you can tell is really searching for good news. They're really scraping the bottom of the barrell. How bad is it? Because the story leads that the good news is that they didn't all just kill each other. At least right away.

BAGHDAD - They yelled and cursed, waving their hands in angry gestures. Surrounded by heavily armed American troops, they were holed up for days, with Iraq’s future in the balance.

But no one got killed.

In scenes unimaginable under Saddam Hussein, and in sharp contrast to bloody battles in the holy city of Najaf, Iraqis this week formed the country’s first representative council in three decades.

The National Assembly, a 100-member body that will serve as the first measure of checks-and-balances in Iraq’s transition to democracy, will have the power to veto legislation by the country’s interim government serving until national elections in January. [emphasis added]

Why does the news reporter have to scrape the bottom of the barrel in order to grasp at straws (yes a mixed metaphor, I know)? Because politically the "National Assembly" was a disaster. What happened is that the situation was a mess. They had an open floor vote with people dropping their responses into open boxes in front of everyone, and assembly "representatives" not bothering to vote in order to que up for their $100 / day compensation payouts instead. That may seem cynical but why bother to vote when the delegates had already been decided upon in advance in behind the door haggling between the five major parties that already were the basis for the "interim government"?
BAGHDAD A political conference has selected a National Assembly, putting Iraq on the road to becoming a constitutional democracy in a jumbled process that never included a formal vote.

The political jockeying grew intense in its final hours on Wednesday, with some delegates climbing on a stage to protest what they said was a process monopolized by large political parties. In a final dramatic moment, some of the delegates withdrew their candidacies in protest. But they ultimately remained in the conference, giving the assembly legitimacy.

But most of the actual decision-making took place far from the cameras - in several rooms around the building, including one large one on the ground floor, delegates said. In those rooms, delegates from the major political and religious groups haggled over lists of names, trying to fulfill the assembly's task of putting forward 81 assembly members. (The final 19 spots had already been reserved for members of the former Governing Council set up by the U.S. occupation.)

The final revolt came less than an hour before the conference concluded at 9 p.m., when a delegate from a small party, Ismail Zayer, took the stage to say that his group had not had time to prepare and in protest was withdrawing the 81 names it had proposed. He accused the larger groups of sending about three dozen people to infiltrate his list and then withdraw at the last minute, so that he would not have time to redraw a proposal.

The final revolt came less than an hour before the conference concluded at 9 p.m., when a delegate from a small party, Ismail Zayer, took the stage to say that his group had not had time to prepare and in protest was withdrawing the 81 names it had proposed. He accused the larger groups of sending about three dozen people to infiltrate his list and then withdraw at the last minute, so that he would not have time to redraw a proposal.

"They had no shame," he said in an exasperated voice. Still, his group did not quit the conference, and the assembly - chosen by the large parties - was legitimate, according to the four judges.

Yes well if they had quit the conference, perhaps their compensation packages would have been withheld and for most of these people $400 American in Iraq is a lot of money for their families. In other words, they were bribed to give the process a veneer of legitimacy. As for the Iraqi "National Assembly" vetoing Allawi's proposals, the five parties that already comprise his backers in the interim government conspired behind closed doors and manipulated the process in order to completely scoop the slate. The chances of the National Assembly therefore providing an independent check on executive policies is ridiculous. It's like imagining a Duma packed with Putin supporters is an independent branch of government in Russia.

However this is the trend in the world, what we are making at home and what we've been exporting overseas recently: psuedo-democracies. In reality they're authoritarian oligarchies with manipulated ballot and political process results, but the underlying system is decidedly undemocratic. Yet this reporter calls the result hopeful?

The main idea of a National Assembly is to broaden the political support for the interim government by giving representation to political forces in Iraq other than those already hand-picked by us to be in power. This was manifestly not the case. The Iraqis being pragmatic decided not to complain about it. They could see the way the wind was blowing.

However their participation does not in any way mean acquiesence. Many of these tribal sheikhs are going to "support" the National Assembly publicly while privately either turning a blind eye or actively supporting the insurgency against Americans. If this conference was meant to bring security and order to Iraq in exchange for more inclusive political representation, then it completely failed.

Yet for the most part the Western coverage I've read is flattering. Ontological deficits indeed.

America itself therefore is rightly expected to be confused. The extent of how misleading all of this is, and how willing people are to believe it, can be measured by the shocking results of a new poll.
Fewer believe in weapons program, al-Qaida link
The Associated Press
Updated: 12:39 p.m. ET Aug. 20, 2004

WASHINGTON - Fifty-four percent of Americans surveyed in a poll released Friday continue to believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or a program to develop them before the United States invaded last year.

Evidence of such weapons has not been found.

Half believe Iraq was either closely linked with al-Qaida before the war (35 percent) or was directly involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on this country (15 percent).

The poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found the numbers on both questions have dropped in the face of evidence that both pre-war claims may have been false.

"Since the 9/11 Commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee reports, more Americans have doubts and support for the decision to go to war has eroded," PIPA director Steven Kull said in a statement accompanying the poll results.

President Bush consistently equates the war on terrorism with the war in Iraq, though he has replaced his claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction with claims that Iraq had the “capability” of building such weapons.

The title should have read "Despite Failure to Find Evidence For Iraqi WMD, Like Pink Unicorns, a Majority of the Public Still Believes,". How clueless can you get? Now there is no way to prove a negative. We cannot prove definitively that Saddam never did have nuclear WMD at the time of the invasion. However we can say that in retrospect, there is no good evidence or reason to believe that he did have any significant amounts of these.

Now forget for a moment about the run up to the war. I knew people of goodwill who earnestly believed that Saddam was dirty and had them. I didn't think that a careful look at the evidence supported that, but certainly it was one possible position with a viable argument for its validity. But what about afterwards? More than a year afterwards, in the clear hard cold light of day with 20/20 hindsight shouldn't we at least be able to admit the obvious?

That it was never likely that Saddam did have such weapons or a serious Alqueda link, and that we were mistaken if we thought so? As it turns out, the ontological deficit is so huge that over half of Americans still believe that despite 20/20 hindsight that the unsupportable is in fact fact.

Scary isn't it? When I talk about ontological deficit, what I'm talking about is that I'm starting to doubt if a great deal of people in the USA are sane including most of all the ones in power.

They can't count. They don't read. They seem incapable of learning from the most obvious clear cut cases of hindsight, which is supposed to be the ultimate arbiter of all mysteries. They just can't grasp or are unwilling to grasp reality.

We could blame it all on just the Republicans, but I intend by examining California and its budget mess to asset that this is a trend that infects even liberal America though perhaps to a lesser extent. When we ask, why don't people wake up to the facts and make necessary changes the answer has to be that they are so out of touch with reality through denial or ignorance they have no clue that change is even necessary.

5 Comments:

At August 22, 2004 at 7:52 PM, Blogger Oldman said...

This is oldman, posting as to test the system.

 
At September 22, 2004 at 1:53 AM, Blogger calmo said...

this is the counter-ontological calmo cancelling that meta-ontological test.
Sorry, but that one puts a hurt on my ears. Point and match to Chomsky, no?
Is this part of the participation problem in our democracy? More than 1/2 are mis(un?)informed causing/leading a different half to disengage?
Why bother voting with these dummies? With that stat, all of a sudden that privilege of voting just became a burden that may even terminate the desire to participate.
If that stat were 95%, would you be more likely to vote? Me neither.
Thank you for that insight with the 54% statistic.

 
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