Sitting here in the hinterlands of America it's hard to know where to go for straight news and informed commentary on the situation in Iraq. The political pundits and journalistic talking heads are great at explaining why Neocons are evil or why Iraq is vital to our strategic interests, but they don't have the experience, the contacts or the political neutrality to present the situation from the Iraqi perspective. The answer is to go to the source and find people who have spent significant time in Iraq or even actual Iraqis. Their first-hand experience seems a lot more valuable, so for a while I've been reading Iraqi blogs.
For a long time my favorite Iraqi blog has been the legendary Iraq the Model where the Fadhil brothers hold forth on all aspects of Iraqi society and politics from within the walls of Baghdad, providing personal insights and inside information you can't get anywhere else.
I'm not going to abandon them, because no one can beat them as a source from inside Iraq, but I have now added Iraq Pundit to my list of must-reads. The blog is written by an Iraqi expatriate, so it can't be as strong on news direct from Iraq as ITM is. It makes up for this with incisive wit and informed, sensible commentary. It's well written, sarcastic and often quite funny, skewering the pompous punditry of self-proclaimed experts like Juan Cole and rabid anti-war leftist Helena Cobban.
Of Cobban he says:
If you're not following the analyses of Iraq offered regularly by war critic Helena Cobban, then you're missing a chance to become hopelessly lost in a labyrinth of analytic lunacy. Why should you want to? Well, look at it from my point of view. Cobban's work is a tonic for me. As a Middle Easterner, I have to put up with regular deluge of lame conspiracy theories from other Middle Easterners who perceive the world as one big knot that only they can untie. That can be tiresome. Thus, I welcome lame, stupid conspiracy theories of the West, if only for the relief. True, it's mostly comic relief, but I'll take what I can get.
He then goes on to very effectively dissect the logical fallacies in one of her rambling musings about the multifarious evil deeds performed by the US in Iraq. He expertly counters her questionable logic and exposes Cobban for the half-informed partisan hack she clearly is.
In analyzing a comment by Juan Cole he says:
Speaking of morally challenged hectoring, the inimitable Juan Cole has this to say about Iraqi support for the insurgents:
“Too many Sunni Iraqis support them by now, and hate the US and its Iraqi allies. And, the new Iraqi military is too listless and sectarianized to make something like this work over the long term.”
Izzatso? Where did Prof. Cole get these insights? Do they show up along with his bill at his Ann Arbor kabob house? The central issue about insurgents is this: The terrorists kill Iraqi civilians. They kill Sunnis. They kill Shiites. They kill Christians. They kill Sabeans. They kill Kurds. They kill everybody. Bombs and bullets don't check lineage. If Iraqis who know of terrorist hideouts aren't telling the authorities, it's because they are afraid. Fear ruled us for decades and it's hard to recover from that mind-set. So my informed comment is that no, most Sunnis don't support the killing of their fellow Iraqis. And most Shiites don't support the killing of their fellow Iraqis. Most Iraqi civilians want to live normal lives without the imminent threat of random slaughter.
Once again he cuts through the rhetoric and gets to the point that terror apologists like Cole prefer to softpedal, making very clear how Cole's viewpoints are generated by his agenda, not any particular interest in facts.
He gets another great shot in at Cole when he writes:
But back to Jaafari. He has his defenders, most of whom share his dreadful judgment. One of them is the notoriously misinformed Juan Cole, who today wrote this:
He maintains he was elected fair and square by his party. Hard to argue with.
Hard for Cole, perhaps, but quite easy for anyone who knows what he's talking about. Jaafari hasn't been “elected.” He's been nominated to the office (by a single vote). Iraqs parliament still has to vote on his nomination.
These are just a couple of examples of what has been showing up on his blog regularly since July of 2004. It's well worth a long, deep read. He is consistently perceptive and rational and willing to apply the hammer of truth to the sacred cow statues erected on the altars of the media and partisan politics. He also isn't hesitant about criticizing the Iraqi leadership, especially Interim President Ibrahim al-Jaafari who he sees as venal, inept and opportunistic.
What's particularly refreshing is that while he's certainly not a leftist, he doesn't really have a right-wing or pro-Bush viewpoint either. It's more of a common sense, pro-Iraq perspective. He combines wit, good analytical writing and enough of a connection to Iraq to have some real understanding. The result is much more informative and enjoyable to read than the endless partisan spin being spewed out by so many bloggers and in the major media. One day reading Iraq Pundit will do more to give you an informed understanding of the situation in Iraq than you're likely to get in a year of reading the New York Times or the Washington Post, fine papers though they are in many ways.