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July 23, 2007

If the Iraq Panic Bubble Bursts

-Patrick S Lasswell

I was reflecting on my business partner Michael Totten's words from Baghdad when he wrote about the current media presentation of the war:

You’d think explosions and gunfire define Iraq if you look at this country from far away on the news. They do not. The media is a total distortion machine. Certain areas are still extremely violent, but the country as a whole is defined by heat, not war, at least in the summer. It is Iraq’s most singular characteristic. I dread going outside because it’s hot, not because I’m afraid I will get hurt.

Michael Totten in Iraq Snow.jpg

Michael Totten in Iraq. He really wishes he was reporting on snow-covered former Saddam Palaces right now.

One of the reasons Michael and I went into business was to prove that honest people could make a decent living without distorting facts. We both worked for Enron at one time or another and remain disgusted by the market manipulations that allowed despicable energy traders to make fortunes preying on the fears of gullible people. Even worse is that nine out of ten Enron frauds got away with their criminal behavior. Furthere, there are still people in California who think that there were rolling blackouts in 2000 because of an energy shortage, when all that happened was a critical deficit of integrity.

Much of the reporting on the war in Iraq suffers from a similar abandonment of integrity in pursuit of short-term profit. Even though it will cost the free people of the world massively if the United States abandons the Coalition and Iraq, the media continues to present distortions and outright fabrications about the conditions of the war. By maintaining a bubble of panic, they keep their sagging ratings afloat. But this panic is a bubble that may not last until a retreat occurs, and the bursting of that bubble must be terrifying to people profiting from it.

This weekend I talked with a Marine friend of mine who recently came back from a tour in Anbar province. His base was attacked (incompetently) twice while he was there, and that used to be the worst place in the whole country. He was disappointed in the level of action he saw and felt that as Marines his unit should have been rotated to the active fighting in Baghdad. When troops come back complaining that there aren't enough fights to go around, you are not losing.

If the Iraq panic bubble bursts before a retreat is forced on our otherwise undefeated military, the impact on the perpetrators of the bubble may be catastrophic. Given that the media as a profession will be caught practicing professional malpractice, it seems possible that an entity similar to the Securities and Exchange Commission might be created for journalism. Some form of voluntary standards body would be more palatable to the journalists, but this will probably be an ugly fight because declining market is already pushing most traditional media outlets against the wall. Nevertheless, it seems likely that in the next 12-18 months there will either be a commitment to professional standards in journalism or a substantial collapse of the media sector.


Excellent Post. I will definately link this one.

This is the reason I began blogging.


"Nevertheless, it seems likely that in the next 12-18 months there will either be a commitment to professional standards in journalism or a substantial collapse of the media sector."

One can only hope. The sham that is the "main stream media" needs to be held accountable for their fabrication.

I suspect that the biggest ally of the panic bubble, and the biggest handicap to keeping faith with the Iraqis, is: George W. Bush. For the simple reason that, if the most visible spokesperson for a position is someone who simply has no credibility with the people whom you want to convince, it's hard to make a case. Even if you have facts on your side.

Not that it can't be done. Not that it doesn't need to be done. But it's a hell of a handicap.


Calling W the person keeping the least faith with Iraqis is just goofy. I suppose it is easy to postulate the goofy when you don't attach a name or an email address to your post. While I do not love the goofy, I see no reason to delete it out of hand. When the best arguments the opposition has are comically inept, let the opposition destroy themselves.

Great insight Patrick.

I thought I was the only one who thought the "news industry" is long overdue for a stock market-type "correction".

Many other industries have gone through the "correction" and have emerged better and stronger (i.e., banking, insurance, etc.).

It is my hope the "correction" will come sooner rather than later.

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 07/30/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Excellent post, Patrick. It made me think of this article I just read:

Gwynne's been writing this stuff ever since our previous Liberal government was given the boot here in Canada. Thank God there's reporters like you and two Michaels.


I remember reading Gwynne Dyer's book "War" over twenty years ago. He completely missed the function of insurgency in the modern world then and I'm sorry to say he is still fairly sloppy. Ignoring the Iranian presence in Iraq that is existent, not potential, is sloppy.

You have my personal assurance that Iran has operatives all over Iraq and has for decades. Well, centuries, but the current government had some rough spots during the transition.

Five years after the rooftop denouement of the U.S. adventure in Vietnam in 1975, it had already ceased to be an issue in domestic politics, and the United States' international influence was as strong as ever.

This is one of the most delusional statements I've ever seen. The US became meaningfully influential on January 20th, 1981. Once Ronnie explained that he would cheerfully bomb the hell out of Tehran, our foreign policy became meaningful. For Gwynne Dyer to ignore the influence of military force on foreign policy is ludicrous. He has no excuse but willful self-deception.

Patrick, you paint atheists with far too broad a brush. As you seem quite pleased to point out, your shipmates were just darn lucky that your spiritual, intellectual and moral grounding saved the day.

Some non-atheists are up to the challenge, some are not. The young mens lack of belief in any given religous system did not necessarily determine their actions, and certainly not in whole.

Charles Manson was a "religous" person (o.k., it was Scientology, but let us not quibble)- I would not care to depend upon him for my well being.


In the specific instance I cited, I am certain that what was screwing these guys up was that they had adopted an atheist moral stance as an attitude and were too young and too ignorant to backfill all they threw away.

I think I have the right to pass moral judgment in this instance because when called upon to perform the duties they had agreed to, they failed because of their own moral choices.

I do want to point out that I am speaking about a specific instance in my own experience. While you are welcome to disagree with my impressions, it is a bit much to say that they don't exist. In my experience, atheists have failed in matters of importance more than religious people have for reasons to do with their own choices.

Please see my discussion regarding using psychopaths as examples here:

Here's the thing - the Bush administration's cackhanded approach to the war in the Middle East (Osama excape, unguarded armament dumps, thinskinned HumVees, not enough troops ... the list is endless) has done a huge amount to make the world a more dangerous place. They have already handed Al Qaeda numerous victories. I support the troops 100%, but I can and will not support an administration (Bush's) that is so reckless with the military.


Can you name a better executed large scale counter-insurgency in the last fifty years?

What about Chechnya? Afghanistan under the Soviets? South Vietnam under the Communists?

All of the above took brutality against the indigenous population as a desired given. We chose to risk our troops rather than make them into thugs.

As for thin-skinned HMMWV's , that is a stupid thing to bring up. Decades of Congresses more interested in unnecessary bases than warfighting equipment led to that screwup. The military doesn't get the tools it needs, but Congressman Murtha sure gets all his earmarks.

Stop using the equipment argument, it demeans the legitimacy of your other points and pisses off veterans besides. seems possible that an entity similar to the Securities and Exchange Commission might be created for journalism...

Two strikes with a noodle for even typing that. When's the last time you remember a Fed agency solving a problem without creating two more? Let the journalists hang themselves with their own rope while looking to reduce these plagues of agencies and bureaucracies that too often just represent a unique form of white collar welfare. With all your contact with the govt and military, I'm sure you know more about that than I would.

Side note: I really enjoy your commenting over at MJT.

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