Matt spent weeks embedded with troops, a bit of time with contractors (carpetbaggers) and a few days with an independent agent called Commando and 3 days in a cell in Abu Ghraib (very surreal). Par for the course, this is the best thing I have read coming from Iraq, walking the line between respect for the people there and anger at how poorly run this debacle is (from D.C.). He understands his role as a journalist (anyone anti-press will love his observations) and is wickedly funny.
In this long article there is much to commend it. However, there is one section that sums up the US role in Iraq and why this is not going as well as we thought it would. Here is a a section of Fort Apache, Iraq.
Abu Ghraib is the symbol of American mistakes in Iraq, the place where the weird criminal perversions of bored, porn-surfing American teenagers clashed spectacularly with fastidious, sexually inviolate Islamic culture. It was also a most powerful symbol of our misguided perception of ourselves and our place in the world.
We came into this war expecting to be treated like the GIs who went into France a half-century ago -- worshipped, instantly excused for the occasional excess or foible and handed the keys to both the castle wine cellar and the nurses' dormitory. Instead we were treated like unclean monsters by the people we liberated, and around the world our every move was viciously scrutinized not only by those same Europeans we rescued ages ago, but by our own press.
The failure of Abu Ghraib was the failure to accept the role we had created for ourselves as new masters of subject peoples. We wanted to rule absolutely and also to be liked, which was why our first reaction after the scandal broke was to issue profuse apologies, call for a self-flagellating round of investigations and demand the prison's closure. A hegemonic power more comfortable with ruling would have just shot the reporter who broke the story and moved on.
But America has never been able to stomach that kind of thing, which is why, incidentally, this occupation of Iraq is probably not going to work. We are too civilized to make ourselves truly feared in public, but not civilized enough to properly restrain our power in private.