Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saddam: Sign That Dirty Shiite Option in Play?

Abu Ardvaark has a disturbing analysis of the ramifications and details of the Saddam Hussein execution: the Shiite option may actually be on the table as a strategy in Iraq. This would entail siding with the Shia in order to crush the Sunni insurgency.

As mentioned earlier in the "Dirty Shiite Option" the crucial element to be on the lookout for is what the intended end-state is -- simply siding with Shia is going to come back and bite us eventually. We have to deliver some kind of brokered compromise. Abu Aardvark has done the thinking, and Eric Umansky backs it up with details from the exeution (hat tip Defense Tech).

Aside from the Iraqi perspective of the execution, WashPost also has a good article on the "
The first great Shakespearean death scene of the YouTube generation" with some obvious ramifications for the information side conduct of counterinsurgency in the Long War:
For as long as he was alive, Hussein was useful for an important American argument about the war. He was a bad guy; we captured him; he would face justice. This miniature narrative, contained within the broader one of a war gone terribly wrong, is losing its force. And with Hussein dead it will likely become almost entirely inert. Another video clip, easily found on the Web, showed Hussein dead, wrapped in a white cloth, with his face clearly visible. The camera lingered over the image for a strangely long time, as if to say, yes, he's still dead.

Saddam Hussein Is Still Dead is not a rallying cry. But the images of his execution and his body seem to point to a new era in the way images are used politically, what might be called a post-propaganda era. So many images that were supposed to have such profound impact on public perception -- the now infamous "Mission Accomplished" photo op or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's bloody head tastefully framed for the cameras -- have failed to connect with the reality of either public opinion, or the facts on the ground. This image means progress, we're told, but there isn't any progress. This image is a final chapter, but the blood still flows. For a public media campaign to work, at least some of the politically calculated captions placed on images must, in the end, turn out to be true.

The current administration has attempted to construct a classic media argument in support of the war at a time when "the media" are dissolving and re-forming into something new, something in which the images we wish to see are more important than the images we are forced to see. Even before the execution video arrived, television people were publicly clucking about what they would or wouldn't show. It will be tasteful, they assured us. But their efforts at gatekeeping are now almost entirely irrelevant. The public will find exactly as much of the death of Hussein as it wants, and people will watch for as long as it holds any novelty or fascination.

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