Friday, March 23, 2007

On Walberg, Iraq, and "Under Control"

I've refrained from commenting on my own thoughts on Congressman Walberg's latest media gaffe. It's gotten him national attention, which is what every politician is constantly looking for, but somehow, I don't think even the whole-hearted support of Rush Limbaugh will help him turn this into a positive. Honestly, for a politician as experienced as Tim Walberg, it seemed politically tone-deaf.

Surely he knew, as soon as the radio host said, "I've never heard Iraq compared to Detroit before," that he would get some negative attention from this. He must have known that comparing the largest city in Michigan to a warzone-- regardless of his intent-- would send the wrong message.

But afterwards, he didn't say, "Yeah, it was a dumb comparison, an entire Middle Eastern nation experiencing significant violence can never be compared to Detroit or any other single city. It's a complex situation, and there are a lot of factors at play, we're watching something totally new and unpredictable unfold and, while I'm optimistic about the future, I recognize that there are serious issues. Similarly, I recognize the hard work of people in Detroit and elsewhere in confronting their problems with crime, and applaud their efforts to change the perception that the city is a blemish on our state. Above all, I'm sorry for having said something dumb."

That's what he should have said. But he didn't.

Instead, he has defended his comments, reasserting that 80 to 85 percent of Iraq is comparable to life in Detroit. (For those interested, listen to his interview with WJR, where he made many of the same points.) If anything, this shows a disgusting lack of respect for the opinions of others.

All right, Congressman Walberg. If you're going to stand by your words, so be it. Let's talk about this.

Just for a reminder, here's what he said:
Walberg: "In talking with people who have been on the ground over
there (Iraq) and have returned in just recent days, as I will talk
coming up Wednesday when I'm over at Walter Reed Hospital again
talking to our troops as well as some of the officers who have
returned, they indicate to me that 80 to 85% in a conservative
fashion, of the country is reasonably under control at least as well
as Detroit or Chicago or any of our other big cites. That's an
encouraging sign."

Radio Host: "I've never heard Iraq compared to Detroit before."

Walberg: "Well in fact in many places it's as safe and cared for as
Detroit or Harvey, Illinois or some other places that have trouble
with armed violence that takes place on occasion."
"Reasonably under control" is what he says. What is "reasonably under control"?

Is somewhere between 59,408 and 65,246 civilian deaths as a result of military action "under control"? Is 654,965 Iraqi deaths (according to the Lancet survey) "under control"?

Is 3,234 American servicemembers killed "under control"?

Is a place that requires 180,000 US troops really "under control"?

When the capital and largest city of a country (though, perhaps not part of Walberg's 85 percent) had an average of only 2.4 hours of electricity each day in October 2006, is it really "under control"?

When the Secretary-General of the United Nations is interrupted by a rocket attack during a press conference, is that "under control"? And how often does that happen in Detroit?

When thousands of Iraqis who helped the United States early in the war are begging for a chance to come to America, because they're afraid they'll be killed if they stay in Iraq, is it really "under control"?

When two million Iraqis have already fled their country to neighboring countries, and another 1.8 million have left their homes and sought safer places in Iraq, is it "under control"?

And what is this 80 to 85 percent Walberg speaks of? From listening to him, one might think that the violence is entirely concentrated in Baghdad and a few other trouble spots. But, while Baghdad sees considerable violence, bombings and attacks are present throughout the country. Is that "under control"?

And what if it all were limited to, say, Baghdad, the destination of troops in President Bush's escalation. Is it okay to exclude Baghdad as part of that 15 percent that isn't as safe as Detroit? The Baghdad metropolitan area has 8 million residents, which is roughly 30 percent of the country's 26.7 million population. A city of that relative size in the United States would have a metro area with 90 million people (based on a rough estimate of 300 million total). In case you're curious, 2005 estimates of the populations of the top ten metropolitan areas in the United States (including Detroit-Warren-Flint at #9) added together totals only a bit more than 87 million.

So is it okay to exclude hot-spots like Baghdad, and say everywhere else is "under control"?

Look, Congressman Walberg, we get it. You support the war, you support President Bush, and you think that people like me are hoping for defeat because we hate freedom and love the terrorists or whatever. That's fine, you're entitled to your opinion.

And if you want to compare the conditions in a complicated country to a couple of American cities, go right ahead, and look foolish. (Though, I've got to say, picking cities with high African American populations and suggesting that their crime rate is comparable to Iraq isn't the way to reach out to African American voters.)

But calling Iraq-- any part of it-- "under control" on a level comparable to any city in America is a sign of how out-of-touch you really are.

Oh, and on another note, he says repeatedly that he's simply relaying a message from the troops he has spoken with. For all I know, that may be true. But don't think that all Iraq veterans are supportive of Walberg's position regarding Iraq (here, for instance, or here).

(By the way, Tim Walberg's hometown paper-- and mine-- the Adrian Daily Telegram got it wrong in today's editorial when they defended Walberg. Sad.)

That's my rant for today. Now that you've gotten through it, would you consider contributing to ActBlue's MI-07 General Election Fund? All money donated goes toward the eventual Democratic nominee.

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He's a real piece of cake, isn't he? We all know that he is nothing but a republicunt puppet, faithfully chanting the talking points that are dictated to him by his masters. I really thought he was too extreme to win the general election, I was wrong, and I am ashamed to live in his district.
Things being as safe as he says, although he set the bar pretty low, I anticipate that he will be giving a press conference from a public square in Sadr city very soon.
Check out this satire on Walberg:
Of course the Daily Telegram defended Walberg. They're a bunch of hacks. Over 150 media outlets around the world now know Walberg's true colors.

By the way, what war did Walberg serve in, anyway? Seems to me he should have been a true patriot and spent time in Vietnam.
Personally, I hope he keeps up the media blitz, the more outlets he gets his face in front of the more it revels his true incompetence. This guy is an embarrassment to the Michigan delegation. 2008 can't come soon enough!
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