Key Iraqi leader questions cut and run

Today, columnist Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post reports important leaders in the new  Iraqi democracy want assurances that the U.S.will not cut and run. Given the gravity of this request, of course the Post reported this on the front page above the fold. Oh, my mistake, it ran on the Op—Ed page A19. Despite this rather quixotic editorial placement this meeting will soon be recognized as an important development on the Iraqi front.

Diehl's report came out of a meeting he and several other journalists held with Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi  in Washington prior to Labor Day. Mahdi is one of the Iraqis whove have laid their lives on the line, working tirelessly to get this fledgling democracy off the ground.

According to Diehl, Mahdi called his meetings with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and key senators and congressmen a "private visit." His principal purpose was to deliver a message, and ask a question, on behalf of influential Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Mahdi recounted Sistani's message at the reporter's meeting that "Iraqis are sticking to the principles of the constitution and democracy."

But the ayatollah wanted to know if the United States is still on board as well?

"It's a critical moment. We want to be sure that we understand perfectly what's going on, and what is the real strategy of the United States in Iraq,"  Diehl indicated that  Mahdi got Bush's commitment to stand by the government. Mahdi expressed a real sense of uncertainty on behalf of Sistani. "When I read the [American] press, I'm confused"

Confused reading the American press? Brother, I know how you feel. Do I ever. The American press have so twisted and distorted their reporting on the war in Iraq it is difficult to know where to begin unraveling this mess. Compounding this problem for a guy like Vice President Mahdi is the natural mistake of equating American popular opinion to the reporting coming out of the most prominent mainstream media outlets. President Bush needs to remind the Vice President that he won a decisive majority of the popular vote with the entire mainstream media aligned against him.

Perhaps the President should send Mahdi a tape of the joint press conference President Bush held with Prime Minister Singh of India from July of 2005.
This exchange with the press illuminates the current state of affairs. All the American Press wanted to talk about was Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. When an exasperated Indian reporter was given the chance to ask a pertinent question he wryly highlighted the ridiculous focus on Joe and Valerie on this historic occasion.

Diehl reports Mahdi, Sistani and other Shiite leaders in the government don't share Washington's perception of a downward spiral. He says that the many ideas for silver bullets tossed around in the U.S. debate by the likes of Joe Biden and John Murtha mostly don't interest them.

Diehl then launches into a first person account of the Q & A session. He describes the journalists as "peppering" Mahdi with questions like: why has the formation of a unity government had failed to reduce the violence? What about all the options usually talked about in Washington —— from a rewrite of the constitution to a partition of the country; from an international conference to the dispatch of more U.S. troops?

Diehl said he and the other reporter's queries were politely dismissed. Here's what else Mahdi said:

Iraq is not in a civil war.

Iraq doesn't need more U.S. troops.

It has a constitution and elected government, and thus there is no need for an international conference.

On constitutional reform: the Shiite and Kurd parties that wrote the charter last year are waiting for proposals from Sunni dissidents. "So far we have heard nothing."

Fortunately one of the crack reporters thought to ask the $64 billion question: "What is the solution?"

"Time —— that is it," Mahdi replied. "A nation like Iraq needs time. The elections for a permanent government happened eight months ago. We have been in office a few weeks. The people who we have in office have never governed. These people come from oppression and a bad political system. We can't import ministers to Iraq."

"Our options as Iraqis are that we don't have an exit strategy or any withdrawal timetable," Mahdi said, somewhat bitterly. "We simply go on. . . . It is a process, and brick by brick we are working on it."

Brick by Brick. Yes, that's how it's done. Notably, Mahdi is not the first Iraqi to blow away the press with such sensible, realistic and responsible leadership. Former interim Prime Minister Allawi was doing the rounds of the Sunday shows in Washington shortly after his election. This was in the midst of the media's Abu Garib Prison scandal orgy. Russert asked him if he would be tearing down the notorious prison to rid Iraq of this terrible trauma inflicted on these poor people by the great satan. Allawi  answered Russert to this effect: are you out your mind? Why in the world we do that? Faced with that dud, Russert sat their like a plant that needs water. Then they cut to the Weedeater commercial or something.

Finally, Diehl did a little editorializing himself. He'd better change his email address, this is really going stir up the lefty bloggers. This seems to be a fair assessment of the current situation. And his conclusion asks all the right questions.

"Mahdi is a brave man, with nerves of steel. Two years ago, while meeting with another group of journalists, he learned that his brother had been killed in an insurgent ambush; he stoically continued to answer questions. Though it's not clear that the government to which he belongs is capable of transcending the sectarian passions of its various parties —— who battle each other in the streets more than they bargain in the cabinet —— there's no question that Mahdi himself, and many other Iraqi politicians, remain deeply committed to the goal of Iraqi democracy.

"Whether they can reach it will depend in large part on whether the political skills of leaders such as Sistani will be enough to stop the sectarian warfare before it destroys the political system they created. But it will also matter whether Americans are willing to go on believing in that project, and provide the time for which Mahdi asked."

This is one of the more informative pieces I have read recently. Mahdi's assessment reflects the stark realities while holding out hope Iraq will eventually succeed. This seems about right to me. The Democrats will blithely dismiss this call and their media allies will probably spin it to death or bury it. The War in Iraq is far too important for this kind of partisan hackery.

Diehl is a card carrying member of the MSM. He is usually reflexively critical of the Bush administration. Based on the way Diehl reported this story, it appears Mahdi had a profound impact on him. We can only hope that this message makes its way to the American people.
 
H/T The Strata—Sphere

Christopher Alleva   9 0506

Today, columnist Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post reports important leaders in the new  Iraqi democracy want assurances that the U.S.will not cut and run. Given the gravity of this request, of course the Post reported this on the front page above the fold. Oh, my mistake, it ran on the Op—Ed page A19. Despite this rather quixotic editorial placement this meeting will soon be recognized as an important development on the Iraqi front.

Diehl's report came out of a meeting he and several other journalists held with Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi  in Washington prior to Labor Day. Mahdi is one of the Iraqis whove have laid their lives on the line, working tirelessly to get this fledgling democracy off the ground.

According to Diehl, Mahdi called his meetings with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and key senators and congressmen a "private visit." His principal purpose was to deliver a message, and ask a question, on behalf of influential Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Mahdi recounted Sistani's message at the reporter's meeting that "Iraqis are sticking to the principles of the constitution and democracy."

But the ayatollah wanted to know if the United States is still on board as well?

"It's a critical moment. We want to be sure that we understand perfectly what's going on, and what is the real strategy of the United States in Iraq,"  Diehl indicated that  Mahdi got Bush's commitment to stand by the government. Mahdi expressed a real sense of uncertainty on behalf of Sistani. "When I read the [American] press, I'm confused"

Confused reading the American press? Brother, I know how you feel. Do I ever. The American press have so twisted and distorted their reporting on the war in Iraq it is difficult to know where to begin unraveling this mess. Compounding this problem for a guy like Vice President Mahdi is the natural mistake of equating American popular opinion to the reporting coming out of the most prominent mainstream media outlets. President Bush needs to remind the Vice President that he won a decisive majority of the popular vote with the entire mainstream media aligned against him.

Perhaps the President should send Mahdi a tape of the joint press conference President Bush held with Prime Minister Singh of India from July of 2005.
This exchange with the press illuminates the current state of affairs. All the American Press wanted to talk about was Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. When an exasperated Indian reporter was given the chance to ask a pertinent question he wryly highlighted the ridiculous focus on Joe and Valerie on this historic occasion.

Diehl reports Mahdi, Sistani and other Shiite leaders in the government don't share Washington's perception of a downward spiral. He says that the many ideas for silver bullets tossed around in the U.S. debate by the likes of Joe Biden and John Murtha mostly don't interest them.

Diehl then launches into a first person account of the Q & A session. He describes the journalists as "peppering" Mahdi with questions like: why has the formation of a unity government had failed to reduce the violence? What about all the options usually talked about in Washington —— from a rewrite of the constitution to a partition of the country; from an international conference to the dispatch of more U.S. troops?

Diehl said he and the other reporter's queries were politely dismissed. Here's what else Mahdi said:

Iraq is not in a civil war.

Iraq doesn't need more U.S. troops.

It has a constitution and elected government, and thus there is no need for an international conference.

On constitutional reform: the Shiite and Kurd parties that wrote the charter last year are waiting for proposals from Sunni dissidents. "So far we have heard nothing."

Fortunately one of the crack reporters thought to ask the $64 billion question: "What is the solution?"

"Time —— that is it," Mahdi replied. "A nation like Iraq needs time. The elections for a permanent government happened eight months ago. We have been in office a few weeks. The people who we have in office have never governed. These people come from oppression and a bad political system. We can't import ministers to Iraq."

"Our options as Iraqis are that we don't have an exit strategy or any withdrawal timetable," Mahdi said, somewhat bitterly. "We simply go on. . . . It is a process, and brick by brick we are working on it."

Brick by Brick. Yes, that's how it's done. Notably, Mahdi is not the first Iraqi to blow away the press with such sensible, realistic and responsible leadership. Former interim Prime Minister Allawi was doing the rounds of the Sunday shows in Washington shortly after his election. This was in the midst of the media's Abu Garib Prison scandal orgy. Russert asked him if he would be tearing down the notorious prison to rid Iraq of this terrible trauma inflicted on these poor people by the great satan. Allawi  answered Russert to this effect: are you out your mind? Why in the world we do that? Faced with that dud, Russert sat their like a plant that needs water. Then they cut to the Weedeater commercial or something.

Finally, Diehl did a little editorializing himself. He'd better change his email address, this is really going stir up the lefty bloggers. This seems to be a fair assessment of the current situation. And his conclusion asks all the right questions.

"Mahdi is a brave man, with nerves of steel. Two years ago, while meeting with another group of journalists, he learned that his brother had been killed in an insurgent ambush; he stoically continued to answer questions. Though it's not clear that the government to which he belongs is capable of transcending the sectarian passions of its various parties —— who battle each other in the streets more than they bargain in the cabinet —— there's no question that Mahdi himself, and many other Iraqi politicians, remain deeply committed to the goal of Iraqi democracy.

"Whether they can reach it will depend in large part on whether the political skills of leaders such as Sistani will be enough to stop the sectarian warfare before it destroys the political system they created. But it will also matter whether Americans are willing to go on believing in that project, and provide the time for which Mahdi asked."

This is one of the more informative pieces I have read recently. Mahdi's assessment reflects the stark realities while holding out hope Iraq will eventually succeed. This seems about right to me. The Democrats will blithely dismiss this call and their media allies will probably spin it to death or bury it. The War in Iraq is far too important for this kind of partisan hackery.

Diehl is a card carrying member of the MSM. He is usually reflexively critical of the Bush administration. Based on the way Diehl reported this story, it appears Mahdi had a profound impact on him. We can only hope that this message makes its way to the American people.
 
H/T The Strata—Sphere

Christopher Alleva   9 0506