Information operations

Baghdad – Ten Years Ago: 10 DEC 06

This week’s essay is what I call the signature essay: Leftover Waffles and Ice Cream. I once tried to publish, albeit unsuccessfully, the essays under the same title.  The above photo was my first attempt while still deployed at the book’s conceptual cover – cheeky, I know. While I didn’t publish them in a book, I thought it was about time to share them.  I like the title as I like the metaphor; don’t give people something they didn’t request or you’ll be cleaning up the mess you didn’t expect.  Week 3 ended with, “In a land where the enemy of my enemy is my friend, waffling is not uncommon.  Right now, Baghdad is a hot waffle iron and sometimes waffles get burned.” 

WEEK 4 – 10 Dec 06


Growing up in New Jersey, my favorite snack was waffles and ice cream:  a slice of Neapolitan ice cream served between two toasted waffles.  You could make it at home, but you could only buy it on the Jersey boardwalk.  It was great refreshment while strolling along the boardwalk on a hot summer evening, but you had to eat it fairly quickly or you would be wearing a mess. 

For my fortieth birthday last year, I decided to make home made waffles and ice cream instead of having my wife and kids make birthday cake.  The short version is that my children really didn’t eat theirs and my wife and sister in-law weren’t too crazy about them either.  I love waffles and ice cream and couldn’t let some of this go to waste so I proceeded to consume the uneaten portions which had ice cream melting into a waffle morass. 

I had served the dessert on paper plates in order to cut down on post party cleaning so the paper had become soggy and flimsy.  Birthday or not, my wife wasn’t going to cut me slack for serving up ice cream all over the kitchen and living room.  Lessons learned.  Next time I make waffles and ice cream, ensure the guests want it and serve it properly, like in a bowl.

This week in our information realm, the situation hasn’t changed much but the conditions are slowly melting into an undistinguishable mess of a democracy.  The Sadrists boycott of the government continues and the Council of Representatives cannot summon a quorum.  The Sunnis who had joined Sadr in criticizing Prime Minister Maliki haven’t followed through on their threat to boycott the government, but they haven’t had to do that.  The Sadrists have stifled the parliamentary procedures for the Sunnis without the Sunnis having to isolate themselves.

The Tawafuq Coalition can align itself with the Sadrists and form a nationalist bloc, but that comes at a great risk as Jaysh al Mahdi poses the greatest threat to Sunni security.  The two sides would have to come together quite a ways to form an alliance and it won’t happen overnight.

Last night, meanwhile, a government representative took quick action in response to a car bomb in Karbala.  The Karbala governor quickly held a press conference and showcased the efforts of the Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army in stopping the vehicle and forcing it to detonate before it arrived at the Al-Abbas shrine.  He was near perfect.  Governor Aqeel touched on the security response, the failed terrorist mission, the undetonated ammunition, the intended terrorist media exploitation and his perceived failure of Multi National Forces to assist in the terrorist problem.  Four out of five isn’t bad.

Actually, this is success because it is an indication the government can defend and address the citizens.  This is essential to any successful democracy.  In the end, this is not about the Multi National Forces or the United States. It is about the Iraqi future.  When they can better provide for their citizens, we can leave.

Whether or not the Sadr bloc can be involved in a true security solution remains to be seen, but their political maneuvering is legitimate.  Despite our preferences, the Sadrists and Governor Aqeel are practicing democracy. It doesn’t look like ours or even taste much like ours, but we need to continue assisting the Iraqis in keeping their fledgling democracy from looking like my birthday waffles.