Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Iraqis matter

Rough Rider, still guest-blogging for the loose Moose, notes that Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the Washington Post, got it right on Monday when he built his argument for the Iraq enterprise around the views of an Iraqi. The Iraqi was vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi, who argued passionately for Iraq's "tremendous achievements." "Turnout was high in Iraq's first election, higher for its constitutional referendum and will be higher still, [Mahdi] said, in the December vote -- all despite death threats to anyone who votes. In the face of terror, Iraq's progress toward democracy is unprecedented in the Middle East."

Okay, Mahdi has an interest in saying these things. He's part of the current establishment and hopes to be prime minister after the Dec. 15 elections. But the Iraqi vice president surely has a better on-the-ground view than any deskbound American commentator or, for that matter, any American in Iraq, journalistic or diplomatic. It's his country. And what he is saying is the simple truth. It's so simple, in fact, that too many of our compatriots simply overlook it.

The Rough Rider is always amazed that so many Americans tend to debate the Iraq war purely from an American point of view. Doesn't it matter what Iraqis think? If they believe the invasion was right, if they think democracy is worth fighting really hard for despite bitter losses (like, say, Valley Forge, Belleau Wood, Normandy, and Inchon), if they think they still have a chance to become the Arab world's first fully functioning democracy (with apologies to semi-democratic Lebanon), then shouldn't that significantly influence our debate?

The notion that Iraqi views matter most was put forth in an important new book, A Matter Of Principle: Humanitarian Arguments for War in Iraq, edited by Wellesley College's Thomas Cushman. Rough Rider reviewed it in the current Blueprint magazine and was led to the "inescapable observation that anti-war-ism is primarily about us, not them. Many war opponents, often still traumatized by Vietnam, are preoccupied with what invading Iraq says about America rather than what it does for the Iraqis."

The Rough Rider questions his belief in the Iraq enterprise with every report of U.S. deaths and, for that matter, Iraqi deaths, which are far higher. But his rage against the insurgents -- and his belief that America has, inescapably, a unique and positive role to play in the world -- makes him all the more determined to support the fight against people who bomb wedding parties and children's schools.

Absent the violent insurgency, in fact, Iraq would not be a half-bad place: a country recovering from a long dictatorship, a brief war followed by a confused occupation, now in the throes of redevelopment and democratization, making progress every day, with divisive fights over regional and sectarian power-sharing. What's not to like about that -- except for the confused occupation? The main problem, really, is the bad guys, and the phenomenal success of the world's leading mass murderer, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, The Jordanian former village drunk turned ├╝ber-terrorist is now considered a bigger deal than Osama bin Laden. He has figured out how to destroy a country, if we let him. (The best article to date on Zarqawi is a new three-part report by the German weekly Die Weltwoche -- with a just-released English translation by signandsight.de.)

You gotta see this, Rough Rider thinks, from an Iraqi point of view. That's what serves, ultimately, the American interest. Yet Daily Kos published a puerile attack on Fred Hiatt by Armando that, in its self-referential argument, only proves Rough Rider's point. To Armando, this is not about Iraq, it's about America. He's got the telescope on backwards. He's looking at himself; a mirror will do for that.

P.S. -- Rough Rider didn't know President Bush read BullMooseblog.com. But he must have, since he did the right thing Wednesday in Kyoto.
-- Posted at 7:31 AM | Link to this post | Email this post