Friday, August 24, 2007

Money for Love

I heard this NPR report yesterday on efforts to win hearts and minds in Iraq:

The idea is to pay Iraqis a huge amount of money to cleanup garbage in their village - $10/bag, which is an entire day’s wage for a government worker. It is a quintessentially American way to solve a problem - shower someone with money and expect love and devotion in return. Or, perhaps more charitably, we offer them the thing we most value to get the thing we most want.

And yet, even then, we go about it all wrong. American soldiers arrive in town “perched warily behind 50 caliber machine guns” while they negotiate with the locals. When a villager balks because he doesn’t feel he has the authority to make a deal (after he is mistranslated), the soldier in charge get impatient and says “I want to show him the money before we leave. I want to show him what a dumbass he is.”

They finally get arrangements made, but the soldiers are offended when the Iraqis then make their kids collect the trash, while the Iraqi men complain to the soldiers about their lack of health care, fuel and clean drinking water. When it is time to be paid, the soldiers tell them to line up. When they don’t, they tell them to move back unless they want to be shot.

What I found most ironic was the soldiers’ offense at making the kids pick up the trash. And yet, isn't this a perfect metaphor for the plight of the American soldier in Iraq? They are stuck grunting it out and picking up the trash for the neocons and oil interests that started this whole mess, and continue to profit from it.

Corey Flintoff’s commentary is quite apt:

“Soldiers do what soldiers do. They are trained to be forceful to get results. Villagers do what villagers do. They try to get maximum advantage from an unpredictable source of bounty and they try to do it within the structures they understand – the family, the tribe. In terms of numbers, hundreds of bags of trash, dozens of villagers paid, the patrol’s mission seems to have been accomplished. The village is slightly cleaner but it seems unlikely that civic pride will keep it that way. The residents have some very easy money and while that may promote cooperation, it’s unclear whether hearts or minds have been won on either side.”


Fingtree said...

(For the Love of Money) I think it's fantanstic! We are teaching the Iraqi people the importance of recycleling. We first gained their respect through "Shock and Awe",in return we were greeted as Liberators. Halliburton has shipped over Aristocracy armored (as opposed to Hillbilly armor) garbage collection trucks. The money collected from trash and recycling,along with oil revenues will be plenty to pay for our occupation there for years to come. Allah bless the USA!

Dan S said...

snark, you seem to be as obsessed with nprcheck as they are with NPR. My suggestion is go to their website and argue with them.

Dan S said...

Your support of the idea that NPR is right-wing propaganda...

Hmmm, ironic that you would accuse me of this on a post where I praise an NPR report. In fact, I've quoted NPR a few times on this blog, all positively.

I believe the point I've been trying to make to you in person is that NPR is not as liberal as its reputation, and suffers from conservative bias on occasion, just like the rest of the media. It drives me nuts when, in their effort to be fair and balanced, I hear them interview someone who is spinning propaganda and they do not challenge it. This is a far cry from believing NPR is right-wing propaganda.

I brought up nprcheck because they point out conservative bias on NPR, not because I believe they are fair in their criticism. You can't seem to get past their unfair and unnecessary attacks ("NPR lacks integrity") to determine whether their data points have any merit (in this instance, that the narrative by the administration that the security situation in Iraq is going well may not be terribly accurate). In your repeated criticism of me on this, you seem to be saying that I can't believe the security situation in Iraq is oversold without also believing NPR is filled with hucksters.

I still believe NPR is the best news source available, and I've told you that multiple times. That doesn't mean I blindly follow everything they say, or believe that criticism of them is akin to believing in intelligent design. Again, go argue with nprcheck if you feel the honor of NPR needs defended.

Robert Sievers said...

as any discussion on that blog would be as fruitless and unbalanced as arguing evolution on a fundamentalist Christian blog.

Or as any argument of evolution on a site with those people who understand science.

Dan S said...

Bob, are you referring to the pope? :)

brownie said...

On a related subject...

I find it fascinating that the most favored scientific theory for the start of the universe (the big bang theory) is essentially in agreement with the creationist idea. Some of the greateset scientific minds (including Stephen Hawking) have stated that there is no way to prove or disprove what CAUSED the big bang, or that time itself exisisted before the big bang. Sounds a lot like the Judeo-Christian idea of God saying: "Let there be light."

The inablity of science to properly explain what exisisted before the universe, or it's nature before the big bang, sounds like utter befuddlement (or as the personage of God is often referred to: a mystery). So one might come to the conclusion that this "scientific" explanation lends itself nicely to the "creationist" ideal.


Robert Sievers said...

Bob, are you referring to the pope? :)

No Dan, I don't consider the pope a scientist of any caliber. And I know you don't either.