>Many foreign policy analysts, mostly on the left but also a few on the right, see the Iraq war as the worst US foreign policy mistake since at least World War Two.
Don Surber provides anice analysis.
Now that the war in Iraq is won – it was in pretty good shape when President Bush left office – and a new era dawns over Baghdad, it is worth reviewing the claims by liberals that this was an unnecessary war.
Suppose there had been no war in Iraq.
Saddam Hussein would still be in charge. Abu Ghraib would still exist. Instead of placing hoods on inmates and making them stand on chairs and otherwise humiliating them, as a few disgraced troops did, inmates would be tortured, bodies mutilated and people executed by Hussein’s henchmen.
Headless torsos would still be thrown on lawns in the dead of night, the Hussein equivalent of burning a cross.
And families would still be billed for the bullets that killed their loved ones
Hussein’s insane sons, Oday and Qusay, would still be alive. Women would still be raped on their wedding days. Olympic teams would still be physically punished for losing a game.
Maybe Hussein would have invaded another country or two. He tried Iran and then Kuwait. Would Saudi Arabia have been next on his list?
Crooks would still be trading oil for bribes under the Oil for Food program operated by the United Nations. Billions would still be going into the wrong hands. And those German contractors would still be building bunkers for Hussein.
When it comes to bunkers, no one builds them better than the Germans.
And of course, Israel would continue to be terrorized by suicide-bombers financed by Saddam Hussein.
CNN’s bureau in Baghdad would still be ignoring all this for fear of losing its bragging rights to having the only bureau in Baghdad. It was only after America liberated Iraq that Eason Jordan, then president of CNN, admitted to CNN’s complicity.
The average Iraqi would still be living in fear and poverty.
But liberals would call this peace. They would still be standing up for Hussein because, after all, he is an enemy of George W. Bush, and liberals figure the enemy of mine enemy is my friend.
Look at the support Joe Stalin got from the left
I doubted all along (and my columns in 2002 reflect this) the existence of weapons of mass destruction. I had two reasons.
The first was when Sen. Robert C. Byrd said Hussein had WMD and they were supplied by American companies.
The second reason is that if Hussein had them, he would have used them.
I sided with the invasion simply because Iraqis deserved better than Saddam Hussein, a known sponsor of terrorism.
I believe in a free people.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal, he did not limit his definition to all the white male property owners in a skinny sliver of land along the Atlantic.
He meant all men. Everywhere.
The hanging of Saddam Hussein ended a reign of terror in one small nation, because his sons Oday and Qusay were sent packing long before that. Unlike Kim Jong-Il in North Korea, he had no heir.
To insist today that we should never have gone to Iraq is to say that Iraq should be like North Korea. That is stubborn, that is ignorant, and that is not liberal.
I leave readers with this thought from the Dalai Lama, as reported by the Times of India on Sunday: “I love George W. Bush.”
So do I.
So should all freedom-loving people.
>Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi from Al-Baghdadia television network achieved glory throughout the Ummah and from their left wing soulmates in the rest of the world when he undertook the time honoured Arab tradition of throwing one’s shoes at an opponent.
Check out Dailykos, Firedoglake, HuffPo etc etc and you’ll see many posts supporting al-Zaidi and sliming President Bush.
Parenthetically, when has a mainstream right wing blog or news outlet been anything other than outraged when a Democratic president is treated so shabbily?
By working for an organisation that didn’t exist under Saddam and attending a press conference that would never take place under Saddam hosted by a democratically elected leader that didn’t exist under Saddam and enjoying the newly minted freedom that didn’t exist under Saddam and shouting “It is the farewell kiss, you dog” showing he did not feel the threat to his personal safety that existed under Saddam and throwing his shoes at a world leader that under Saddam would have seen him fed feet first into a tree shredder, Muntazer al-Zaidi – journalist, nascent pin up boy of the Muslim world and hero of the world’s left – confirmed Bush’s greatness.
That is the irony that the left has missed in its pathological hatred of George W Bush.
Freedom reigns in Iraq.
Bush made it happen.
It would never have happened under a President Gore.
The old feller has pretty good reflexes, too, don’t you think?
That’s impressive stuff.
The fact that he kept his composure and gave his response within the framework of the legitimacy of dissent in a free society probably taught the Iraqis a valuable lesson.
>A brilliant article from IBDeditorials that profoundly demonstrates the deep lack of patriotism of most major US papers.
What would happen if the U.S. won a war but the media didn’t tell the American public? Apparently, we have to rely on a British newspaper for the news that we’ve defeated the last remnants of al-Qaida in Iraq.
London’s Sunday Times called it “the culmination of one of the most spectacular victories of the war on terror.” A terrorist force that once numbered more than 12,000, with strongholds in the west and central regions of Iraq, has over two years been reduced to a mere 1,200 fighters, backed against the wall in the northern city of Mosul.
Al Qaeda has been smashed in Iraq. A mopping up operation is now effectively under way. Does the media mention Iraq? No, it now talks about a resurgence in Afghanistan or the Taliban controlled areas in remote northern Pakistan.
The destruction of al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) is one of the most unlikely and unforeseen events in the long history of American warfare. We can thank President Bush’s surge strategy, in which he bucked both Republican and Democratic leaders in Washington by increasing our forces there instead of surrendering.
This, for no other reason, is why George W Bush will be remembered as a great President.
We can also thank the leadership of the new general he placed in charge there, David Petraeus, who may be the foremost expert in the world on counter-insurgency warfare. And we can thank those serving in our military in Iraq who engaged local Iraqi tribal leaders and convinced them America was their friend and AQI their enemy.
Al-Qaida’s loss of the hearts and minds of ordinary Iraqis began in Anbar Province, which had been written off as a basket case, and spread out from there.
Remember all of the noise about Anbar? Where is the NYT now? Reduced to publishing pathetic stories on Iraq combat veterans who now struggle with alcoholism. These people are scum.
Now, in Operation Lion’s Roar the Iraqi army and the U.S. 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment is destroying the fraction of terrorists who are left. More than 1,000 AQI operatives have already been apprehended.
Be vewy, vewy, qwiet. We’re hunting tewwowists…
Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin, traveling with Iraqi forces in Mosul, found little AQI presence even in bullet-ridden residential areas that were once insurgency strongholds, and reported that the terrorists have lost control of its Mosul urban base, with what is left of the organization having fled south into the countryside.
Meanwhile, the State Department reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government has achieved “satisfactory” progress on 15 of the 18 political benchmarks — a big change for the better from a year ago.
Whoops! The media had better go quiet on that, as well…though someone should tell the Democratic Party leadership.
Things are going so well that Maliki has even for the first time floated the idea of a timetable for withdrawal of American forces. He did so while visiting the United Arab Emirates, which over the weekend announced that it was forgiving almost $7 billion of debt owed by Baghdad — an impressive vote of confidence from a fellow Arab state in the future of a free Iraq.
But where are the headlines and the front-page stories about all this good news? As the Media Research Center pointed out last week, “the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 were silent Tuesday night about the benchmarks” that signaled political progress.
The war in Iraq has been turned around 180 degrees both militarily and politically because the president stuck to his guns. Yet apart from IBD, Fox News Channel and parts of the foreign press, the media don’t seem to consider this historic event a big story.
Which all goes to show what a poor decision it was by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to bring home our combat troops when they had been such terrific contributors to achieving this positive situation by the training the Iraqi military to be able to stand up for themselves. At least he left the navy and our protection forces in place.
What is really amazing, even to people like me who thought that Iraq would be alright and be able to stand on her own two feet at some point in the future, is just how quickly the Iraqi government has come into its own once they managed to get a handle on Al Qaeda.
The surge made it all possible. Well done to David Petraeus, a man who the left pilloried as a puppet of Bush and a man who “betrayed us”.
Does the left realise that if Petraues is Bush’s puppet and doing his bidding then Bush really must be a smart man.
And who has betrayed whom now? Does the left not want Iraq to be a successful and free nation?
>From MEMRI comes an article quoting a number of Arab liberals on the situation in Iraq.
It’s ironic that Western liberals – and especially the Democratic Party – disagree with their Middle Eastern ideological counterparts.
In the days preceding the fifth anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom, on April 9, 2008, the Arab liberal e-journal Elaph published a number of articles and interviews with leading Arab liberals on the Iraq war and its aftermath.
The following are excerpts:
Iraqi Journalist ‘Abd Al-Jabbar Al-‘Atabi: Despite It All, April 9 is a National Holiday
In an April 9, 2008 article in Elaph, Iraqi journalist ‘Abd Al-Jabbar Al-‘Atabi wrote: “Here is Baghdad, still smelling the odor of smoke, hearing the sounds of fright, seeing the tongues of flame, and tasting the bitterness of violence. And nonetheless, with our fingers we feel the face of hope – with the voices of the birds who have not left the city and still chirp and grow in number; with the winds that carry the pollen of the palm trees to the orchards to produce fresh dates; with the glimmer of the predawn, whose appearance gladdens the city’s residents and moves their spirit to rebuild and renew what has been destroyed…
“Yesterday – one day before the anniversary of April 9  – I spent the early morning hours devoting all my attention to what has been and what will be. I jumped up, eager to visit the places, to walk in the streets and on the sidewalks, allowing my gaze to take in what it may. Oddly enough, as I was doing so I found myself reciting a poem by Nazar Qabbani from 1962:
“Baghdad, oh rhythm of anklets and adornments,
“Oh store of lights and fragrances,
“Do not do me wrong, as you see the rebab in my hand.
“The desire is greater than my hand and my rebab.
“Before the sweet meeting you were my beloved,
“And my beloved you will remain after I leave.”
“I walked in the public street and observed the faces of the people I passed by – those sprawled on the sidewalks, selling goods, those who make their livelihood in the souks and the parking lots, and the beggars. I imagined them five years ago. I might not see a great change in their appearance, but there was something written in their facial features that showed that these people have their freedom to deal with things. As one of them said to me, no one comes and scatters their wares, or chases them away, or demands bribes. They come when they will and leave when they will.
“At the start of my journey I stopped by the newspaper seller to ask how he was after five years of change. He said: I will sum up what you ask in a few words. Despite everything that happened and is happening, I feel pride in the fact that the years of dictatorship are gone. There were no worse years than those, when we were afraid of our own shadows and our own children. I won’t claim that the situation now is ideal, but compared to the past, it is much better, without any comparison… Despite the sorrows I find in our present situation, I feel relieved. In the days [of the dictatorship] I didn’t feel optimistic. Now, I am optimistic about what is to come. What is happening now is passing; while it has gone on long, it will end – it could end in the twinkle of an eye.
“The residents of Baghdad, who recall the days from before April 9, 2003 and up to today – 1,727 days and nights, one after the other, together with all that has befallen and befalls their city – profess nothing but fidelity to it, even though it is engulfed in dangers. They reject those who say ‘Baghdad fell,’ and will answer you sternly if you say this, saying ‘it was the regime that fell’…
“I called a friend who lives in Sadr City and asked him how things were under the traffic ban in force now for a week. He said: I feel love, and then laughed, and continued: There are some things I fear, but I do not fear the coming days. People [here] are in a lamentable state and are afraid of evils that may befall them, but they are not despondent. They are awaiting a change for the better.
“Five years of Baghdad’s new life have passed… and there has been much talk of Baghdad. This is because it is not a city like other cities; it is exceptional, as is everything in it…
“You see that people, despite their proud grief, are talking about hope, and optimism, and the happiness to come. Despite the confusion, the anarchy, and the unconceivable occurrences, you hear the words: the breakthrough is at hand. They speak of the democracy that they had misunderstood, and they emphasize that these five years have taught them a lot and enriched their experience. They have come to know the true from the false and to distinguish between the good and the evil. You hear people saying: April 9 is a national holiday, despite the imported terrorism, or that concocted by the former regime, that came in its wake.”
Egyptian Journalist Ashraf Radi: “Progress, Liberty, and Democracy Demand a Price”
Liberal Egyptian journalist and Reuters correspondent in Cairo Ashraf Radi told Elaph: “No one in the Arab world wrote a single word about [Saddam’s] tyrannical crimes, for which he was brought down, whereas the [Arab] pens unceasingly criticize the Iraqi governments that came afterwards… I find no answer to those who willfully ignore the causes behind the violence and the bloody conflicts in Iraq today other than that progress, liberty, and democracy demand a price, and this price must be paid by the current generations, so that the coming generations will not have to pay double.
“There is no doubt but that Operation Iraqi Freedom has many enemies, both within Iraq and in the neighboring countries… There is no future for Iraq without democracy. Those who sacrificed, and continue to sacrifice, are worthy of liberty, and they will never accept any prize less than this…”
Palestinian Liberal Ahmad Abu Matar: Iraq Needs to Learn from Germany and Japan, Which Were Also Under American Occupation
The prominent Palestinian liberal Ahmad Abu Matar, who resides in Oslo, said: “There are some who completely turn a blind eye to the crimes of the Saddam regime, which included the killing, torturing, and ‘disappearance’ of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, of all ethnicities and sects. These people focus on the period after the fall of the regime and place all of the responsibility for the killing and destruction on the American occupation. And there are others who focus exclusively on the crimes of the former regime, skipping over what has gone on in the last five years, as though Iraq has become an oasis of security, liberty, and democracy superior even to Plato’s ideal republic…
“I think that the international coalition forces, under the leadership of the U.S., did a great and important service to the Iraqi people, with all its ethnicities and sects, by bringing down the criminal dictatorial regime. After that, the U.N. declared Iraq an occupied country, and the Iraqi issue, in all its dimensions, became an international one.
“How should the Iraqis deal with this new situation? The objective answer to this question must draw on similar experiences from recent history. Two countries, Japan and Germany, were also placed under American occupation. How did these two countries deal with the new situation, which was entirely analogous with the situation in Iraq? They both considered the occupation an opportunity to reorder their own affairs [and get rid of] all the negative sides and errors that invited this occupation – from rewriting the school curricula in Japan to putting an end to Nazi ideology and practice in Germany. And look how far Germany and Japan have come.
“The ball is now in the Iraqis’ court…”
Khudayr Taher: An Apology to the Valiant American Soldier
In an April 8, 2008 article titled “Apology to the Valiant American Soldier,” Iraqi liberal Khudayr Taher bemoaned the ill treatment the U.S. army received from those it liberated:
“We forsook you and betrayed you – we, whose history is an expression of massacres, conflagrations, and ruin. We killed you, and we killed our dream and aspiration of reaching the sun, the moon, and the stars – [we killed our dream] of availing ourselves of the opportunity to live as true humans, thanks to your presence.
“My dear, brave American soldier, you noble individual who traversed land and sea in order to write the story of Iraqi freedom for the first time in its modern history – you believed, in accordance with logic, self-evident truths, and rational thought, that a people who had been subjected to repression, starvation, and killing would dance for joy, and would thank Allah who sent you to them as a liberating angel. [You believed that] they would strew flowers and break out in songs of joy that would smash the chains of slavery, ignominy, and humiliation.
“Not even a writer of surrealistic [literature] or [theater of] the absurd would have imagined that the Iraqi people would revolt against their liberator and would rush ardently back to a new bondage of a different kind – that of the religious cleric, the tribal sheikh, and the gang leader. It was unthinkable that the people would go against logic, rational thought, and self-evident truths, in a mad rush towards the abyss and total ruin.
“My beloved, brave American soldier, we apologize to you, and we are saddened at our wretched and miserable selves. Since we are a people that slaughters itself, and kills one another, cutting off heads, what can you expect from us other than ingratitude, perfidy, and stabbing you in the back for the benefit of Iranian and Syrian intelligence and Al-Qaeda?…”
Shaker Al-Nabulsi: The War Has Come To Be One Between Liberalism and Fundamentalism
The Jordanian author and researcher Shaker Al-Nabulsi, one of the leading thinkers of the Arab liberal movement, told Elaph: “Despite all the colossal efforts of the Arabs and others to abort and destroy the new ‘Baghdad 2003’ and to strangle the festival of liberty and democracy that was born on the morning of April 9, 2003; and despite the [efforts of] the Arab and Western media to pin all of the crimes committed in Iraq, from the dawn of that day up to now, on the occupation forces that invaded Iraq – none of that can erase the obvious truth.
“The new ‘Baghdad 2003’ has transformed the war between [the Iraq of] the Saddam Hussein era and America into a war between liberalism and fundamentalism, between modernity and reaction, between dictatorship and democracy…
“It is inevitable that every country and every people, after liberation, pass through a stage of corruption, thievery, and lack of security; but this stage will be the womb that begets the stage of modernity, creation, and the new liberal thought. The best examples of this are Japan, [South] Korea, Germany, and Eastern Europe.”
In an earlier article in Elaph, Shaker Al-Nabulsi wrote about the salutary effects that the removal of the Saddam regime has had on the progress of liberalism in the Arab world on the whole:
“This reckoning should have appeared a year or two ago, so that we liberals could see whether we had lost or gained in the past few years, which have been a critical juncture in the path of Arab liberalism.
“There is no doubt but that our senses and perceptions, and the readers’ responses that are published or that we receive by mail, tell us that we are gaining ground, even if the pace of this advance is very slow and not perceptible on a day-to-day basis.
“We are like blossoming flowers whose blossoming is imperceptible. Yet they do blossom – and the evidence is that with the advent of spring they were just buds…
“The best evidence of the advance of Arab liberalism in the past five years is the fact that so many liberal writers have appeared on the stage of the Arab media and have expressed their views on various Arab issues and problems. This is one of the many kindnesses that the new ‘Baghdad 2003’ has bestowed on us.
“This shows that as time passes Arab liberalism is gaining for itself more and more writers and intellectuals…
“[More] evidence for the advance of Arab liberalism over the past five years is the great number of liberal websites that host the writings of liberal authors, and the huge number of reader responses to these articles. None of this existed in the years before ‘Baghdad 2003’.
“True, these numbers cannot compare with the quantity of fundamentalist websites. But we should understand that what is important is not the quantity, but the scope of influence. Most of the fundamentalist websites repeat themselves incessantly, and reiterate the words of dead people and moldy books, whereas the liberal websites try to present something new every day. They are a mirror that reflects reality in all its details and problems.
“Liberal discourse is not an arousing ballad that excites the emotions and intoxicates; and it is not a populist discourse that gratifies the impulses of the masses, rubbing their wounds with [the balsam of] a jealous and deep-seated narcissism. It is [a discourse] addressed first and foremost to a discerning elite, as it is the discerning elite that makes history…
“Nonetheless, the liberal political, religious, cultural, and social discourse has won great and abundant [support] among the masses. Liberal discourse did not come to them; they came to it, despite the fact that the liberals constantly emphasize that they are not singers at a nightclub, dancers at a wedding, or pulpit preachers who enflame the emotions, the instincts, and narcissistic wounds.
“[More] evidence of the advance of Arab liberalism in the past five years is the appearance of many liberals – men and women – in the Arabian desert and the Arab Gulf region. Those who think that this part of the Arab world is the exclusive staging ground of fundamentalists are in error. [In fact,] it may be that the liberals of this region of the Arab world are the most ardent, courageous, and audacious of them all. Anyone who reads the Gulf press today sees that 90% of it has liberal leanings. It and its writers – and they are the majority – proclaim the need for self-criticism, the filtering of tradition, respect for human rights, gender equality, and the freedom to differ…”
>According to one of my favourite Turkish opinion writers from the Turkish Daily News, Mustafa Akyol, “Iraq is not doing really badly these days”.
Like those who blather on about an immediate troop withdrawal being the right ‘strategy’, Akyol did not agree with the US decision to go into Iraq. Unlike those people, who care little about the slaughter that would follow, Akyol believes that the US should stay until the job is done and that the surge has played a significant role in improving things on the ground in Iraq.
When U.S. President George W. Bush announced his surge strategy in Iraq, which was based on an increase in the number of American troops deployed in Baghdad and Anbar provinces, on January 10, 2007, very few people were optimistic about its success. Well, I was among that minority. I had never been a supporter of the war, but had also believed that, once it started, the United States should not go home without leaving behind a stable Iraq. In my piece dated January 13, 2007, published in the Turkish daily Referans, I wrote that the surge could well be helpful to stabilize Iraq and thus it should not be dismissed out of hand. The best thing for Turkey right now, I concluded, is to pray that Bush’s new strategy works, and helps bridging the bitter division between Sunnis and Shiites.
I don’t think that the Turkish Foreign Ministry gets, or even needs, advice from me, but apparently, as the Turkish saying goes, the way of reason is one. Ankara indeed has worked for the reconciliation of Iraq’s rival groups, and has seen that its prayers came true: Iraq is not doing really badly these days.
Davutoğlu on Iraq:
The other day, I had the chance to get comments on this from the two key architects of Ankara’s Iraq policy: Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu, the chief foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Ambassador Oğuz Çelikkol, Turkey’s special envoy to Iraq. They both noted that Iraq is in a much more hopeful situation then it was two years ago. Then, we used to worry that the country was on the brink of a civil war and dismemberment, reminded Ambassador Çelikkol. Today, although there are still problems, the violence decreased dramatically and the belief that Iraq will remain united is strong.
Prof. Davutoğlu added to those comments, but first me remind who he is. Until 2002, he used to be an erudite scholar of foreign policy, and perhaps the most respected one in the conservative camp. When the AKP (Justice and Development Party) came to power in that year, he was appointed as the top policy advisor to the prime minister, a post which gave him the chance to implement his academic vision to actual policy. He believes in a Turkey which has a strategic depth, a one that will be a regional power, with zero problem with neighbors, and through economic inter-dependency in the former Ottoman lands. And since 2002, that is Turkish foreign policy in a nutshell.
Some have accused Prof. Davutoğlu to be an Islamist and to try to turn Turkey’s orientation toward the Middle East, rather the West. The Hamas meeting he organized right after the Islamic group’s winning of Palestinian elections was shown as the evidence. But as Dr. Davutoğlu told to the Economist, which described him the visionary behind Turkey’s newly assertive foreign policy, Turkey’s aim was to persuade Hamas to recognize Israel. It apparently didn’t work, but intentions are as important as results.
Since Prof. Davutoğlu is labeled by some as an Islamist, I was careful to see what he would say about Iraq and its insurgents. And I found a very anti-Al Qaeda stance. The Al Qaeda is the major source of violence in Iraq, said Dr. Davutoğlu, and emphasized the terrorist group’s Wahhabi and Salafi base, which he carefully distinguished from the peaceful Sunni tradition of the country. He also noted that the stance taken by Iraq’s Sunni tribes against Al Qaeda terrorists has been a very positive step toward minimizing this foreign intrusion. Ambassador Çelikkol added that Turkey has played a role in the settling of the Shiites and Sunnis of Iraq. Both sides trust us, he said, and we have done our best.
What about Turkey’s biggest question vis-à-vis Iraq, i.e., the Kurds? On this matter, the two Turkish policy makers sounded optimistic, too. The Kurdish authority in Iraq is more realistic today than it was two years ago, said Ambassador Çelikkol. They realize that their future is in Iraq, and that have to give up some of their maximalist demands. Both him and Dr. Davutoğlu also noted that there are steps taken toward reconciliation between Kurds or Turkmens over Kirkuk, which Turkey is pleased to support. If Iraqi President Jalal Talabani comes to Turkey soon, as news suggest, the Turko-Kurdish rapprochement will be vindicated.
All this suggests that the critically low point in Turkey’s relationship with its southern neighbor, and the United States which still has a role in the latter’s destiny, has passed. Since the surge Iraq is doing better, and Turkey is happy about it — something that the next U.S. president, whomever he or she will be, must be aware of.
Turkey has a huge vested interest, obviously, in the success of Iraq. Therefore, their analysis is much more fact-based than the opinion-based drivel posted at DailyKos, HuffPo and in comments at The Guardian and BBC.
>Following on from news from trustworthy sources such as Michael Yon about the success of the surge and the fact that the US is now starting to draw down its troop levels in Iraq comes this short and revealing piece about former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
If you haven’t worked it out yet, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq is as good as won. Shiite militia are joining with Iraq’s military and police forces and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia has been routed with the help of the Iraqis themselves.
It’s all good news.
After confessing to slaughtering 180,000 Kurds and plotting to build a doomsday nuke, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was so upset when his FBI interrogator left for home that he cried like a baby.
FBI Special Agent George Piro whipped out two Cuban Cohibas – Saddam’s favorite cigar – and they smoked on the patio behind his cell at Baghdad’s airport.
“When we were saying bye, he started to tear up,” Piro recalled in the new book “The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack.”
The self-effacing G-man was hardly surprised – he had spent nearly a year carefully becoming Saddam’s best friend in a successful ploy to extract confessions from the notorious brute.
Piro’s inside account of spending up to seven hours a day, every day, for eight months with Saddam is revealed in the new book by journalist Ronald Kessler.
Piro, then 36, began grilling Saddam in early 2004.
Instead of bright lights, loud music or waterboarding, the Beirut-born Arabic speaker – who immigrated to the U.S. as a teen – built a rapport with the dictator nabbed in a spider hole. He treated him with respect and took care of his every need.
On his birthday, Piro showed Saddam news clippings showing that Iraqis no longer celebrated the date. But then the agent gave him baklava Piro’s Lebanese mother sent him in Baghdad.
They talked about sports and Saddam’s pulp novels, and soon the despot was spilling his guts over thick cups of Folger’s.
Saddam never used body doubles – as was widely believed – because no one could “play” him, Piro quoted Saddam as saying.
He admired Americans, particularly ex-Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan – but loathed the two Bushes he fought wars with.
The “Butcher of Baghdad” also confessed he ordered Kurdish civilians gassed and slaughtered thousands more, their remains left in mass graves.
Until 9/11, Saddam thought UN sanctions would go away and he could make a nuclear bomb. His prewar weapons of mass destruction deceptions were a ruse to convince Iran – whom he feared – that he had an arsenal.
Kessler said Saddam trusted Piro more than his own monstrous sons Uday and Qusay, for whom he had little love before G.I.s gunned them down.
In more human moments, Saddam tried to hit on a “cute” American nurse. And despite praying and reading the Koran, he had a fondness for whiskey and cigars.
>Fouad Ajami has been an Iraqi voice in America speaking truth about what is happening in Iraq and the progress being made at a macro level.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Varney: Welcome to “The Journal Editorial Report.” I’m Stuart Varney, in for Paul Gigot.
As the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, prepares to deliver a much-anticipated progress report to Congress next week, many fear that military successes is some provinces are being overshadowed by political turmoil in Baghdad.
Fouad Ajami is a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Johns Hopkins University and the author of the book “The Foreigner’s Gift: The Americans, the Arabs and the Iraqis in Iraq.” And he just returned from a three-week visit to Iraq, where he met with top U.S. and Iraqi officials.
Professor, welcome to the program.
Ajami: Thank you very much, Stuart, for having me.
Varney: Iraq is portrayed as a political failure. No accommodation between Sunni and Shia, a government that has not brought together all of the warring factions. Your opinion on that?
Ajami: This is the American perception of Iraq. We think that this is a hopeless land. We think that this is, all our sacrifices have been in vain. There’s a kind of consensus, this is the shape of the Iraqi order of things. And Prime Minister Maliki is someone Americans don’t know. He speaks not a word of English. He has no access to the United States. So we exaggerate the failure in Iraq.
Here is, if you will, the general sweep of things. For one, the Sunni Arabs have turned away from the insurgency, have turned away from al Qaeda, and we can talk about this. There have been gains in the Anbar province, which was a lost province; now it’s been retrieved. So there is a turning away from the insurgency by the Sunni Arabs. And there’s a change in the Shia order of things, where the young brigand Moqtada al-Sadr is really on the fringe of things.
Varney: But are Sunni and Shia getting together politically? Is there any form of consensus between them we can claim as a political success in Baghdad?
Ajami: That’s a hard one, because in fact, as the prime minister of Iraq himself said at one point something really, I think, very descriptive and very telling. He said Iraqis are not living in the same time period in some way. For the Kurds, it’s a time of taking. For the Shia Arabs it’s a time of restitution, for the things they were due. For the Sunni Arabs it’s a sense of loss and a time of loss.
But by and large we should not really exaggerate the impasse between the Sunnis and Shiites. Sunnis are part of the government. Sunnis are part of the political game. And money from the central government is going to these Sunni provinces. And the Sunnis are beginning to understand that al Qaeda and the insurgency and the armed–and the carrying of guns has really brought them no gains.
Varney: The Sunnis are always going to be a minority–
Varney: –in Iraq in terms of just numbers.
Varney: They used to be in power–
Varney: –exercising majority power, in fact.
Varney: Have they gotten used to the fact that they are a permanent minority?
Ajami: That’s a good question. I think it’s–they’re beginning to accept it. See, because the Sunnis have a legend. The Sunni Arabs in Iraq have a legend that they are 42% of the population. And like all legends, it has to be precise. It can’t be 40%; it has to be 42%. But gradually it’s dawning on them that they are a minority in the country, that the age of Sunni supremacy is gone, and that the Arabs beyond Iraq–this is really of tremendous importance–that the Arabs beyond Iraq, the Jordanians, the Egyptian, the Saudis, the Gulf Arabs, will not ride to their rescue. That no cavalry is coming from the Arab world.
Varney: Is your position that there is political progress in Baghdad? We must give it time to come to fruition?
Ajami: As the man said, it’s my story; I’m sticking to it. There is a sense of Iraqi nationalism. That great soccer victory by the Iraqis over the Saudis told the story. There is really a sense of Iraqi nationalism, and even in Kurdistan. People tell you that the Kurds want out of Iraq. They really don’t want out of Iraq. They want a fair measure of autonomy. They want claims on the central treasury. So here is Iraq–it’s held by the sense of nationalism, and it’s held by the fact that this is a country that lives off oil income.
Varney: Yeah, but how long do we have to wait in America? There’s a sense of frustration. Get on with it. Make an agreement about the division of oil revenues.
Ajami: Of course.
Varney: How long do we have to wait?
Ajami: Well, I think this is it. There has been–you know, America is not a terribly patient country.
Ajami: I mean, we are not we are used to all things being fast, from food to other things in life. And the Iraqi clock, the Iraqi calendar, is very different. We are rightly impatient with the Iraqis. We are rightly disappointed in the political progress and the pace of the political progress, but we should grant them the credit for what they have done.
We should also understand that they have been trying to run this country, they have been trying to build a political order in the midst of an insurgency and in the midst of a hostile Arab setting, when Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians, Yemenis, people as far away as North Africa cross to Iraq bearing guns, bearing money, to commit deeds of suicide against both the Iraqis and the Americans. It’s not easy.
Varney: I have heard talk a fatwa is going to be issued by leading Sunni and Shia clerics, including Ali Sistani, that that fatwa would be against violence, against terrorism, which would be an enormous political and theological step forward. Is that going to happen?
Ajami: No, you’re absolutely right. At any rate, Sistani has always issued fatwas against violence. I mean, I happen to be, maybe, perhaps–I don’t want to say I am the only American citizen who’s seen them. I may be–
Varney: But he’s not been joined by Sunni clerics, has he?
Ajami: They are coming around. They are beginning to understand. For example, during that bombing of the Golden Dome in Samarra in February of 2006, the Sunni clerics refused to condemn the bombing and insisted that it was an Iranian plot. Now they understand that they have carried violence too far and they have begun to step back from the brink. I talk to many Sunni clerics who understand that religion has been sullied there and has become an instrument for violence.
Varney: If I may, I would like to conclude with a personal question, if you don’t mind, professor.
Varney: You’re a Middle Easterner. You’re a professor at a major university. You are vigorously pro-American. You take the American position in Iraq.
What’s the reaction of your colleagues and friends and acquaintances personally to you as a pro-American Middle Easterner?
Ajami: I am not only pro American but I also have this odd, if you will, background. I am also a Shia. And in fact, when you go to Iraq, people are very, very pro-American. A university went up recently in Kurdistan, in Sulaymaniyah. I am on the board of trustees of this university. It’s an American university with an American curriculum, and guess what the selling point is? The word American University of Iraq in Sulaymaniyah.
Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq, was asked, he said, What’s the secret of the success in Kurdistan? He was asked by people in Anbar. And his answer was alliance with the United States. America is immensely popular in Iraq.
A man we bumped into on the streets of Baghdad looking at his car–dirty, dusty, old–he said, “Perhaps the Americans can get me a new car, because they can do everything.”
Varney: That, sir, is breaking news.
Varney: Prof. Fouad Ajami, thanks very much for joining us.
Ajami: Thank you very much.
Now, when do you ever hear a voice like that in the mainstream media? The New York Times et al are busily making sure to dampen the positive impact of the Petraeus report in order to maintain the “all is lost” position of the Democratic Party.
The fact is that remarkable achievements are taking place. Finally. There’s no doubt that the United States prosecuted a successful war to remove Saddam Hussein. Job done. The huge mistake, which will have consequences for generations to come, was the “light footprint” approach to dealing with the aftermath of the war. It was clearly a mistake, as it allowed nations in the region, and especially Iran, to build significant influence that is now shown to be the major source of deaths of coalition forces.
Is there political progress? Of course there is – particularly in the Sunni regions such as Anbar (the largest region of Iraq) where tribal leaders have turned against Al Qaeda, with whom they were formerly aligned, and joined forces with the United States.
Is the fact that there’s less political progress in Baghdad than desired less than ideal? Probably. It’s a bad analogy but it’s worth remembering that even countries like Italy have a chequered history in that regard. Chalk the positives up in the plus column and work on fixing the negatives. That’s how progress is made.
How long will it take for Iraq to emerge as a solid, stable nation on the world’s stage? Probably twenty years.