Seemingly everyone has had something to say about the [Iraqi] prime minister's U.S. visit with the exception of one voice. That voice belongs to the Iraqis, whose very existence has been overlooked by a sneering press corps.
We've heard all kinds of reactions from the press. Bush is dishonest when he said things are getting better in Iraq. Sen. Kerry asked whether Allawi was living in some fanatasy world when he said that democracy was taking hold in Iraq. Some critics have been particularly snide. Maureen Dowd in the New York Times compared Bush and Allawi to puppets. Dowd writes "It's hilarious that the Republicans have trotted out Mr. Allawi as an objective analyst of the state of conditions in Iraq when he's the administration's handpicked guy and has as much riding on putting the chaos in a sunny light as they do."
This is a laughably parochial reaction. Does Dowd think that Allawi is only talking to her and her ilk? Iraqis know very well that Allawi was flown to the United States for U.S. election purposes. What Dowd forgets is that Allawi knew that Iraqis too were listening to his speech. As a leader, he has to sound positive for his own people about the future of the country. Morale is vitally important to the nation's future.
It's exactly that future — the Iraqis' future — that Dowd can't be bothered with. To her, it's an occasion for cheap sarcasm. "Faced with their dystopia," she writes, amusing herself. "the utopians are scaling back their grand visions for Iraq's glorious future."
Critics like Dowd see Iraq and Iraqis as beyond redemption, if not beneath contempt. Certainly, they are not worth bothering with or thinking about. Not everyone has abandoned the Iraqi future. For example, David H. Petraeus writes in the Washington Post that he sees tangible progress. The Army Lt. General, who is training Iraq's security forces, writes there is reason for optimism. One of Dowd's own colleagues writes in today's New York Times that if the U.S. were to withdraw, Iraq would only get worse.
But it's the Dowds who seem to have the floor. The vast majority of Iraqis who want to make the country succeed and are willing to take risks and work hard to achieve that goal are all fodder for her snide jokes. Rest assured, Iraqis know Allawi's history very, very well. Iraqis know about his Baathist past; they know that he is no Nelson Mandela. But for now, he's their chance. For figures like Dowd, Allawi and indeed all his fellow Iraqis are just punchlines. But if this is about sarcasm and jokes, we'll see who — the Iraqis or the sneering press — has the last laugh.
(Thanks to Richard Thompson)