Friday, September 16, 2005

"All Iraq is not Fallujah and Tal Afar"

"Two weeks ago I was in Najaf," [Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq] says of the holy city (population 560,000) in the Shiite south. "I went into the streets and into the people and it was calm." He claims that 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces are calm: "All Iraq is not Fallujah and Tal Afar."
writes Daniel Henninger about the president of the “the world's youngest democracy”.
He acknowledged that Iraq's transition poses a challenge in the region: "All Arab states are afraid of a democracy. A democratic Iraq with different nationalities--Kurds, Arabs Turkomen, Shiites, Sunnis--will inspire all the Middle East. The Sunnis of Saudi Arabia, the Kurds of Iran, Syria, Turkey--when they see this, it will inspire all of them. For that reason none in the Middle East is helpful in having a democratic Iraq."
Speaking to Abu Bush (as the U.S. president is known in Kurdistan) after a closed-door meeting in the White House (merci à RV), Talabani reiterated that
"We will never forget what you have done for our people"
And why would Talabani say such a thing? Simply to be polite? To butter up the arrogant Americans? Because he is an American puppet? No, replies Clifford D May:
Talabani recalled Iraq's history of “violence, brutality and instability.”

In the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, he said, “infants were surrounded as much by fear as by their mothers' arms. …The mass graves contain many remains of children who paid the ultimate price for the imaginary crimes of their parents.”

He added: “In the mind of every Iraqi, Saddam tried to install a torturer. Saddam wanted Iraqis to fear even thinking freely, to not dare forming words to express their desire for freedom.”

Talabani called this regime by its correct name: fascist. “Baathist Iraq,” he said, “was the longest lived fascist state in history.” And today, because of the “continued virulence of Baathist fascism, we must defend our democracy while we build it; we must fight even as we vote.”

On Jan. 30, 2005, eight million Iraqis proved that they could do both at once. They risked their lives to go to the polls where they decisively rejected “the minority supremacists, the racists who believe that they have the right to rule.”

Talabani added sardonically: “Unusually for an election in the Middle East, the result in Iraq was not known in advance.”

Regarding ongoing efforts to give Iraq a constitution that would guarantee fundamental human rights, Talabani also doesn't know the outcome. Negotiations and compromises have produced a document that, he says, is “not perfect.” No one, he said, is “wildly enthusiastic about it.”

But that is “the good news,” he added, because it demonstrates that the negotiations were real and the compromises serious. “A document that the few cannot hold up as a banner of victory,” he said, “is a success for the many.”

Talabani is effusive in his gratitude for the sacrifices Americans have made in Iraq. The young American men and women on the front lines in places like Fallujah and Tall Afar, he says, are “fighting fascism with the same dignity and courage as the Great Generation of Americans who fought in World War II.”

He understands that Americans want to go home. He wants them to go home. But he hopes they will not leave until Iraqis have the means to defend themselves from “the home-grown fascists and traveling terrorists who afflict the Middle East.”

… The Iraqi president grasps what many Europeans and Americans do not: that in this century, as much in the last, it is the duty of revolutionaries to fight fascists and other enemies of freedom. “Democracy,” Talabani explained, “needs to be defended.”

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