New Column: Human Torpedo
Hi everyone, I would like you all to meet Mahmoud.
Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.
Hi everyone, I would like you all to meet Mahmoud.
There is news from Iraq saying that Muqtada Al-Sadr has recently issued a fatwa barring his followers from becoming members of an underground esoteric movement called the Sulukiyya or Al-Salikeen—literally, the Path Takers.
In his column today, Thomas Friedman says that as long as there are people like Mithal Al-Alousi (I spell it Alusi) in Iraq then he won’t give up on the country. I often gauge the seriousness of those who support liberal democracy in Iraq and the wider Middle East by the case of Mr. Alusi.
The New York Times
May 26, 2006 Friday
Late Edition - Final
HEADLINE: Standing By Stand-Up Iraqis
BYLINE: By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
I am often asked why I don't just give up on Iraq and pronounce it a lost cause. It would certainly make my job (and marriage) easier.
What holds me back are scenes like the one related in last Sunday's Times story from Baghdad about the Iraqi Parliament's vote to approve the country's new cabinet. Our story noted that during the Iraqi parliamentary session, the Sunni party leader Saleh Mutlaq, a former Baathist, stood up and started denouncing the decision by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to have Parliament vote on the new cabinet even though he hadn't yet filled the key security posts.
At that point, another Sunni politician, Mithal al-Alousi, told Mr. Mutlaq to sit down. ''Iraqi blood is being spilled every day,'' Mr. Alousi said. It was time to move forward. When Mr. Mutlaq pressed on with his denunciations, Mr. Alousi ''pulled him down into his chair,'' The Times reported. That was a gutsy move -- live on Iraqi TV. Many Sunni insurgents may not like what Mr. Alousi did, but he did it anyway.
As long as I see Iraqis ready to take a stand like that, I think we have to stand with them. When we don't see Iraqis taking the risk to build a progressive Iraq, then it is indeed time to pack and go. That moment may come soon. It's hard to tell. I won't hesitate to say so -- but not yet.
I have a new paper out about the jihadists and their probable designs on Jordan. You can view it here at the Jerusalem Center for Public Policy.
Anyone casting doubts on Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s efforts to run Iraq will be labeled as “embittered”, “unfair” or “hasty”; for the man rightly deserves a grace period. But I am increasingly troubled by what I hear and see.
For many who supported going to war in Iraq, the nature of the regime was important, even paramount. It is disappointing that this no longer gets mentioned. I suppose the handwriting was on the wall when Michael Moore failed to mention Hussein's crimes at all in his movie "Fahrenheit 9/11." Years from now, someone coming across the film could conclude that the United States picked on the Middle Eastern version of Switzerland. Now, all the weight is on one side of the moral scale.
But what would have happened if the war had actually ended back when George Bush stood under that "Mission Accomplished" banner? The U.S. combat death toll then was 139. (It's now approaching 2,500.) Would it have been worth 139 American lives to put an end to a regime that had murdered many thousands of its own people and had been responsible for two major wars? After all, aren't some of the people who want Washington to do something in Darfur the same people who so rigorously opposed the Iraq war on moral grounds? What if we could pacify Darfur -- immense, arid and without population centers -- at the cost of 139 American lives? What is the morality of that? Two hundred thousand have already died there. Should we intervene?
Pardon me for raising the question without answering it. I do so only to discomfort, if I can, some of the people who are so certain of their moral righteousness when it comes to the Iraq war. I want to know why the crimes of Saddam Hussein never figure into their thinking and why it was morally wrong -- not merely unwise -- to topple him. Raising this question in no way excuses the Bush administration's incompetence, fibbing and exaggerations, and the way it has abused American democracy. All that remains -- but so does the lingering question about morality.
This is why the trial of Saddam Hussein is such a calamity. The only redeeming element of this wretched war is its moral component -- the desire of some people to do good by ridding the world of a thug and his regime -- and that story, once so simple, has been obfuscated by delays and antics. We have somehow turned a criminal into a clown. It's a metaphor, it's a commentary, but mostly, like everything else about this war, it's just a damn shame.
There is a prominent Iraqi politician who has risen to even more prominence as a member of the newly unfurled Maliki cabinet, and who had served in the near past as a straight up asset of the Central Intelligence Agency. His present involvement with the CIA is unknown, but he played a very prominent role in advising current US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad as to how to go about thwarting Ja’afari’s bid for the PM slot and staffing the Maliki government.
Take a look at my latest column, Niche vs. Mainstream. In it, I deal with the latest propaganda material from Bin Laden, Zawahiri and Zarqawi. But I wrote it up last week before the US military released its captured outtakes of the Zarqawi video, where he is seen fumbling with an American-made heavy machinegun.