The Truth About Iraq: We Say Karate, Iran Says Crowbar

Over a year and a half ago, Mithal al-Alusi, a courageous Iraqi politician about whom I have written for The Wall Street Journal, who has lost more than his life in the struggle to build a democratic Iraq, told me that Iran had infiltrated the Iraqi political process.

Last week in his Washington Post column, David Ignatius reported that, indeed, the December, 2005 Iraqi elections were heavily influenced by Iran. Ignatius also reports that, in advance of that election, the CIA proposed a covert-action program to counter Iranian meddling and to promote moderate candidates – a plan that was scrapped at the insistence of Nancy Pelosi—at the time house minority leader–and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Ignatius’s sources are unnamed, but the information jibes with what I’ve heard from al-Alusi for the past two years: that Iran was infiltrating Iraq’s political system by pouring huge amounts of money into the coffers of non-governmental organizations that were giving the money to Islamist candidates. With that money, Islamist candidates mounted huge campaigns of propaganda and intimidation against any candidates that could be described as moderate, liberal or secular.

Is it any wonder, then, the Islamists carried the day in the December, 2005 Iraqi Parliamentary elections? How might the utterly dysfunctional Iraqi government be different today had we not been so high-minded?

According to al-Alusi, the fact that about a dozen liberal candidates like him were elected to the Iraqi Parliament is testament to many Iraqi people’s commitment to progressive ideas, for these liberals were elected despite campaigns of propaganda and intimidation against them and their supporters.

In the case of al-Alusi, so-called “insurgents”—terrorists—murdered his two sons.

Then Iraqi television labeled him a “Zionist agent.”

And yet the fact that, as he put it, “Even with this label I am winning thousands of votes in Iraq” is testimony to Iraqi people’s courage and desire for “realpolitik”—or politics that will put food on their tables and provide opportunities for their kids, as opposed to serving up a rotten stew of fanaticism with terror on the side.

Worse than media campaigns smearing progressives, Iran has supplied Islamist militias with weapons, money, and intelligence for years, according to al-Alusi. Iran’s goal, of course, is to undermine U.S. interests, as well as to ruin Iraq’s prospects for independence and democracy.

“The Islamists here have finance, weapons, and intelligence from Iran,” al-Alusi told me last July. “The Islamists have over 100,000 militia men. I would like to know, who’s going to pay the salaries for those 100,000 militia men? Who’s paying their costs—the cars, the helicopters, the TV station? We [the secular liberals] have nothing, nobody’s supporting us. The U.S. is just watching, neutral. It cannot be…the U.S. must not be ashamed to say, ‘We are asking for reforms, not closing our eyes and saying, ‘Nothing here is good.’”

In other words, Americans should not lose sight of the basic reality that most Iraqis want to live in peace, and some are even able to see through the haze of extremism that’s been foisted upon them. And the U.S. must not shy away from supporting these people—the liberals, if you will–who are championing the values we hope will define the new Iraq.

So far, those progressives like al-Alusi—who has forged ahead despite unthinkable horror–have done so, miraculously, with very little help from the U.S., and despite the mountain of terror, propaganda and corruption Iran has dumped all over the new nation.

While on one level, I do understand Rice’s and Pelosi’s thinking (we cannot at once promote Iraqi democracy and in any way influence the electoral process), I do believe there were surely ways we could have actively supported candidates like al-Alusi and others who support human rights, a free press, free markets, and religious pluralism. I believe that to do so would have been far more ethical than letting the most decent, the best, and the brightest in Iraq twist in the wind and become prey for murderers and thugs.

I believe there is still time to bolster the silent majority of Iraqis by offering real progressives in Iraq all we can– money, special protection, and media, for starters.

As al-Alusi puts it, “American politicians must not be ashamed to say, ‘We are going to support reformers, we are not going to leave them alone, against well-organized fascists and fascist regimes.”

In addition to supporting liberal candidates for office and non-governmental organizations with progressive agendas (such as women’s groups), some of the Iraqi institutions that need support are the Iraqi oil and banking industries.

But evidently we have principles to protect, which include allowing others—like Iran–to steal the show, and doing little to counter them.

Perhaps the problem in Iraq is not that we “can’t impose democracy” as so many in the West who call themselves “liberals” incessantly cry, but that we have not even really tried–to nurture and support it, that is. We have not taken off the gloves to fight for liberal values.

They are worth fighting for.

Fighting to win does NOT mean sinking as low as our enemies. We can fight a tougher, more aggressive fight than we have without compromising our values. To the contrary, we can forcefully champion those values and, in doing so, be more humane, because we will be standing up for people who deserve our aid instead of pussyfooting around to avoid offending anyone or avoid hurting a hair on a terrorist’s head.

War is war. That doesn’t mean being willing to do anything to anyone, such as terrorists behave. But it does mean pinpointing the terrorists and giving them everything they have coming, which our troops are finally being given the latitude to do. And it means defending, with every means at our disposal, the Iraqis who want to fight for their country and for liberal values.

I am reminded of an old cartoon.

In it, a wizened Asian master does a series of complicated gymnastic moves and poses, making esoteric sounds and saying “karate!” before arriving calmly at a pose in which his arms are perpendicular as he faces his adversary, a common street thug, who pulls out a weapon, cracks the noble master over the head, and shouts, “Crowbar!”

Guess who won?

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1 response to The Truth About Iraq: We Say Karate, Iran Says Crowbar
  • 1.


    September 16, 2007 at 10:08 am

    I say crowbar won---and it is a very good comparison. Timey Von