combat. The phrase is “happy horseshit,” and it grieves me to use it, but it grieves me even more every time I hear it….facile, easy re-assurance that everything’s going to be alright (or better!).
A recent news story about the ongoing battle for the city of Mosul, Iraq contained a truly classic iteration of the 2H concept. The statement, from one of the US Government’s top policy-makers on the Middle East and the war against the Islamic State was so “out-of-this-world,” the reporter taking it down seems not to have believed his ears, and indeed may have misunderstood what was being said. For sure, though, you can hear him muttering, “What!!!” in disbelief, as he took down his quote.
Here’s the AP story as it appeared in the NY Times: “A U.S. official says the nearly three-week offensive against Islamic State extremists in Mosul is “ahead of schedule.” Brett McGurk, the White House envoy to the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition, spoke Sunday to reporters in Jordan.”
Note that McGurk is assessing the Battle for Mosul from a safe distance: it’s 512 miles from Amman, Jordan to Mosul. And AP notes, the view from closer is different: “The push to drive IS out of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, slowed in recent days. Iraqi forces have entered more densely populated areas, where they cannot rely as much on airstrikes and shelling because of the risk posed to civilians.”
But maybe McGurk wasn’t talking about Mosul at all. No, it appears he actually meant to apply that “happy horse-stuff” with a broader brush. As AP has it later in the story: “McGurk says the campaign to degrade the group and break up its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq was expected to take about three years. The envoy says two years into the campaign, “in many ways we are ahead of where we thought we would be.”
So, actually the claim is that the war against the Islamic State is ahead of schedule…or something…
I mean can you come up with a more hedged, more meaningless declaration than “in many ways we are ahead of where we thought we would be?”
So let’s get real about the Battle for Mosul. Our guest, reporter Christopher Livesay was very recently on one of the front lines of a massive campaign that is meant first to encircle this city of a million people, then slowly capture it and free its citizens from 2 years of the most horrifying violence and cruelty at the hands of the Islamic State.
Christopher Livesay is a freelance journalist based in Rome and recently, Iraqi Kurdistan. He has reported on the war in Iraq for PBS NewsHour.