Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Taste of the New Iraq

Outside Iraq, this great American experiment in pushing the Middle East in some new direction is debated only in terms of utter conviction. A hopeless debacle, the critics proclaim. A victory for freedom, supporters insist. Nuance is shunned; the cacophony rises.
Roger Cohen gives us a taste of the new Iraq. But the cacophony in itself ought to be significant, even to those who proclaim a hopeless debacle.
Noori al-Rawi … a Sunni from an influential tribe in restive Anbar Province, learned patience long ago. He never liked Saddam Hussein. For saying the wrong things he spent seven years in jail, including 18 months of solitary confinement in a lightless cell, fed only on dates. Saddam was an equal-opportunity torturer: he massacred the Shiites and Kurds but nursed vestigial venom for his own Sunni Arabs if they failed to fall into line.

The lights go out again. The minister drums his fingers on the desk. It's not warm in his office. Nothing, he says abruptly, is better than freedom. At 61, having lived through the monarchy, coups, the Baathist terror, several wars, the economic collapse of the 1990s and finally America's intrusion, he has a reasonable claim to know.

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