Hearts and Minds and Robo Calls

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While it can't be called a sign of progress, it is a sign that at least one familiar aspect of American life is taking hold in Iraq. According to Paul Kiel at TPMmucker.com,

Not long after Republicans harrassed tens of thousands of Americans with automated phone messages in November's election, news comes that the robo call, that staple of American democracy, is being deployed in Iraq. And it's literally terrorizing city residents.

Nir Rosen of the new blog Iraqslogger reports, calling it a "mysterious psychological operations campaign," that Baghdad residents have reported "receiving phone calls that the caller ID shows to be originating from outside Iraq." What follows is a "recorded message from an anonymous man speaking formal Arabic" who goes on to condemn the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia headed by the powerful cleric Muqtada al Sadr that's been a continual thorn in the U.S.'s side.

The Mahdi Army has also infiltrated police ranks, and run assassination squads. Fearing that the militia's inside men have access to wiretapping technology, ordinary Iraqis live in fear that their robocall will be picked up and intepreted as proof they are anti-Mahdi -- and face execution at the militia's hands. The call reportedly left one Iraqi woman in tears.

Like the non-lethal American variety of robo call, the source of the Iraqi calls has been cloaked, and no one has figured out where they're coming from. Or how to stop them.

A political tactic that's merely obnoxious in the United States might prove deadly for its unwilling targets in Iraq. There' s a metaphor in that, I'm sure.

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