Thursday, April 10, 2008

The more things change...

The official news organization of the old Soviet Union was called Pravda - Truth.

When I first joined the military, at the height of the Cold War, we used to get the international edition of Pravda and I read it religiously each week. We used to laugh at how the Pravda editors could turn any disaster into a great victory. Chernobyl? Not a horrifying nuclear meltdown, but rather a demonstration of the heroic resolve of the Soviet people, who willingly gave their lives mopping up plutonium fallout with their bare hands while singing Gimn Sovetskogo Soyuza. Fifty years of failed collective agriculture? No worries, the next five-year plan would certainly leave the people with a surplus - Hero of the Soviet Union, Comrade Chairman Chernanko said so. Afghanistan? Not the disaster portrayed in the decadent western press, but rather a great victory for the Soviet military. Pravda always had great slogans too, things like Peace, Liberty, and Bread! or Brotherhood and Freedom! Hey, what better way to pass the time when you're standing in line for shoes, toilet paper, and bread than to chant inspiring slogans?

One thing I learned from reading Pravda, truth depends entirely on your point view.

It was a valuable lesson, and one I've never forgotten.

I was reminded of Pravda this morning. watching the President's speech on the war in Iraq.

A few highlights.

Surge, working. There's certainly a grain of truth to this and it would appear on the face of things that the surge has had at least some of its intended effects in Baghdad and Al Anbar province, elsewhere maybe not so much, especial Basrah (or Basra, depending on which translation you prefer).

Sectarian Violence, down. Hmmm, that would depend on whether or not you're a Kurd, or a Sunni, or a Shia, now wouldn't it? Or a member of the Sons of Iraq.

Iraqi and American Deaths, down. Again, it does appear that this is a largely true statement. Between January, 2007 and January, 2008 Iraqi civilian deaths have dropped steadily, from around 3500 per month to about 500 per month (according to the Brookings Institute). American troops casualties have also fallen from around 700 per month in January, 2007 to about 200 in March, 2008.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, on the ropes. Sorry, I've heard this one before, not buying it. We've made some progress against the riff-raff, but they're just the cannon fodder. Bankrolling, planning, intelligence, recruiting, and etc are all still in full operation and expanding. And the real brains and heart of the operation is still making TV broadcasts and free in the mountains of Pakistan, or Afghanistan, or the Congo, or wherever the CIA thinks he is this week.

The Iraqi economy, recovering and paying for the reconstruction. Sorry, I've also heard this one before, and the numbers simply don't support it. According to Senator Harry Reid (is that a porn star name or what?), the current price tag for Iraq alone is running about $5000 per second, and those dollars are buying less and less as each second passes due to our deflating economy.

The Iraqi Government, making real progress towards democracy. Well, I can sort of see this one. As a previous President once said, it depends on what your definition of 'it' is. Nouri Kamel Mohammed Hassan al-Maliki and his policies are hated almost as thoroughly by his people as George Bush and his policies are hated here in the United States. So, by that yardstick I guess it's safe to say that the Iraqi Government is making real progress towards an American style democracy.

American troops, coming home as promised fifteen months ago, just as soon as the surge ends. The President said that force levels in Iraq will be down by 25% come July. Then he mentioned that he had also ordered an indefinite halt to the troop returns after June, based on the recommendations of General Petraeus. He also said that deployments would be shortened from 15 months to 12 months. Then he he gave us the new Heroic Peoples Slogan - Return on Success!

And here we have a true Pravda moment, with slogans and everything. Things are good and getting better, but more heroic sacrifice is needed. Just a few more bushels of plutonium fallout, just one more five year plan, one more victory. Either the troops succeed as the President defines success, or stay indefinitely. And if you do the math, you find that there's only so many troops to go around, so while you may get a shorter deployment, you get more of them in order to maintain the number of boots on the ground that Petraeus needs for "success".

Pravda, indeed.


  1. As an aside (ok, hijack. Sorry,), in my story I have a middle eastern news company named Truth.

    It started small and no one told them about Pravda until they hit Afghanistan, and by that time it was too late.

    Which reminds me I still need to find an Arabic transliteration of the word truth.

  2. Jim,

    I feel bad for you that you're still waiting for this administration to say anything true. I gave up on that long ago and I'm just riding it out til next January.

  3. Well, see, Nathan my logic goes something like this:

    GWB: OK, the plan is working about as well as Dick's pacemaker - which is to say it's got about as much chance of successification as me givin' decent pay and benefits to the illegals working on my ranch. We need something new.

    Advisor: Well, we could always try telling the truth...

  4. You really need to stop beating your head against that wall.

  5. I'm just cute that way. Everybody says so.

  6. And yesterday Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake told two Democratic senators that his department will not help injured veterans at VA facilities to register to vote before the 2008 election, or help veterans get to registration places since it’s considered “partisan political activity” (from the Veterans Today website.

    So our injured troops don't have the right to participate in the democracy for which they have placed their lives on the line.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

  7. Michele, there are several Arabic words for truth, depending on what you want to say. Arabic nouns, including those for inanimate objects and concepts, are either masculine or feminine. When referring to a male, a masculine noun is usually used and when referring to a female, a feminine noun is used. In addition, since the Arabic alphabet consists of 29 consonants and 11 vocalization marks, latinizing Arabic words is problematic.

    The male form of the word for truth is "hak" or "haq" or sometimes "haqq." The female form of the word is "hakeeka" or "haqeeqah." You could also use the word "sedq" or "sedqq," which is usually translated as truth, honesty or sincerity.

    As with trying to convey a concept in any foriegn language, it's a bit more complex than I've described, but hopefully this will do for your purpose.

  8. Okay, Vince, now I'm pissed.

    Gnash, gnash, gnash...

  9. Well, at least Condi Rice is getting mileage out of her doctorate in Soviet Studies.

  10. Oooh! Vince! Thank you!

    So would "al Sedq" be "the Truth" connoting, "what we say is the unbiased truth, we're not Fox News"?

  11. SQUEE!!!!




  12. If you want to read that segment, I'll post it on my blog.

  13. Incidentally my last name means "one who speaks the truth"

    I try to live up to that standard...most of the time ;)

  14. Saqib,

    We'll be holding you to that.

    From now on, you may right only non-fiction. And your progress reports for work? Well, we'll be keeping an eye on them!

  15. Warrant,

    We said!

    (Still) ServingPatriot

  16. non-fiction, what's that?

  17. It means no fibbing! You give the truth, the whole truth, and nuttin' but the truth!

  18. You forget to mention "so help me God"!

  19. Around here it's actually "so help me Jim!"


  20. Michelle, well around here there's usually a comma in that sentence, as in: "So help me, Jim, if I have to tell you one more time..."


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