Ayad Allawi sure talks oddly for a puppet. One expects puppets to stick to the party line, not deviating or criticizing, to jerk their knees in the correct directions as dictated by the tyrannical strings tugged by their master.
But when Allawi took questions from the Washington Post editors and reporters, he wasn't shy about criticizing agents of the Bush administration. It was nuanced in that he never said Bush's name, he stuck to the acronym "CPA," but the provional authority was authority derived from Preisdent Bush's administration. When answering questions on the situation in the troublespot of Fallujah, he said:
No, no. They formed this militia, it's a militia like in Fallujah a brigade, in Fallujah to take over Fallujah. And we advised against it. I was the head of the so-called then the governing council, the security committee, and I said to the CPA I said oh what are you doing? What ? this brigade? This is going to backfire. You can't get ex, some of them were ex-officers in Saddam's inner circles, special Republican Guards and so forth. What are you doing?I can't say I disagree with his analysis either. I had the same reaction to the CPA's decision.
So that's what went wrong in Fallujah.
That's not to say, by any means, that all he did was criticize. In fact, he mostly talked about what his interim government was doing, what are its strategies, not about what the U.S. did or plans to do. His answers to their questions focused mainly on Iraq and the situation there. He spoke of successes and remaining challenges. And he mentioned some failures of the recent past. He sounded to me like a pragmatic national leader.
I was not immediately impressed with Allawi, and I still have some reservations. I don't think the handling of Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress was all that deft. That said, I can't say that Allawi was behind it, though he has permitted it to persist longer than it should have. Also in the news today we hear that the Judge has dropped the conterfeiting charges that can only be described as trumped up. That suggests the judicial system isn't badly broken. Politics is probably still exerting more influence than it should in judicial matters, but the trend is in the right direction if that's any indication. Chalabi returned to Iraq and faced his accusers and they admitted they had no case, rather than insisting their evidence was true, even if it was fabricated.
But seeing Allawi handle what cannot be described as a friendly press has raised him several notches in my esteem. I'd judge there's a thread of exasperation in his replies, but it never overwhelmes the obvious consideration he gives to making his points. His less-than-perfect English adds some ambiguity, but if one reads for context, rather than isolating clauses where he misspeaks slighty, there isn't left reasonable doubt as to his meaning.
Early on he was prodded about whether his trip now wasn't just to serve a political purpose for the Bush campaign. He made it very clear that he had decided when to come. He said he was invited to come two months ago, but he decided to wait until now based partly on the need to meet with local regional leaders first, then come to visit London and D.C. to give his thanks to each country for our aid to his, and at the same time to catch the U.N. General Assembly in session. Part of his reason was to avoid going too far from Baghdad at what he saw as a critical time. The Sadr episode was still in progress then also.
You know, frankly let me tell you, I was asked, invited to come here and to go to London by Prime Minister Blair and others about two months ago. But I frankly suggested to them that I would rather prefer to visit the region as a first step and then come to see you and to thank you for whatever you have done for Iraq.The Wapo follks also prodded him a lot about the upcoming Iraqi elections, whether they would indeed happen on schedule and whether the whole country would vote, or whether certain troubled areas would be excluded. This was one set of questions that sparked that hint of exasperation when he replied.
My first trip was really to the region, to meet the Arab leaders of the Arab states, and to explain to them that what happened in Iraq and to get Iraq back into the fold of the Arab world and the Muslim nations.
It so happened that the General Assembly is being held now of the United Nations and I thought it is a good time to come to London and Washington and see how their leaders who really have stood and helped Iraq and liberated Iraq and to thank the people of the United States and the president for their attitude and helping Iraq both before liberation, during liberation and after liberation. And this is why I am here. Unfortunately, it seems it coincided with the heat of the elections here and I don't want to be dragged into internal politics of the United States.
No, no, no I'm not suggesting that, no. You are saying that there are parts based on the statement of the Secretary of Defense, that there would be probably parts of Iraq who are not going to be part of the elections. Isn't that what your question?The plan is to hold the elections in January. Allawi refuses to play prediction games about exactly how that will unfold. Doesn't WaPo understand that this is a puppet, not a prophet, they're questioning? Since he's a puppet he's going to hold to the Bush administration line, right? That means agreeing with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Wait, he didn't do that. Well, maybe the questioner misquoted Rummy and he really is agreeing with Rummy. That must be it.
I don't want to comment on theoretical issues, that may be or maybe not. What I am saying is that we will have the elections, all Iraqis eligible to be part of the elections, will be part of the elections. The elections should take place in all the country. I don't want to really go into theories whether a village in Basra is not able to cast their votes or a village, I don't know, these are all theories.
Then there was the everpresent question of exactly who it is that's causing all the trouble in Iraq. Allawi maintains that many are foreigners. In fact:
The day I left Iraq, as I was boarding the plane, we had big operation the night before which lasted till dawn and our section of Baghdad called Haifa Street and they arrested and killed I don't know how much but they arrested 60 or 62 people. The 62 people were not Iraqis and they were caught red handed in their houses a lot of explosives in their safe houses, Syrians, Yemenis, Saudis, Palestinians, mostly were Palestinians. Maybe 50 percent were Palestinians.Aside from the report of a successful anti-terrorist op by the Iraqis themselves, what's interesting here is all the peaceful Palestinians that somehow got mixed up in the net. Such a high percentage of Palestinians started me wondering if this is because of the wall the Israelis built. Perhaps these budding young lovers (of death and mythical virgins) have decided their chances of successful self-immolation in a manner consistent with martyrdom are higher in Iraq than in ramming against an Israeli wall. Or maybe I have that backwards. Maybe Iraq is a more enticing honey for these swarming bombjackets. But that doesn't seem right. Pass up the chance to kill Jews for one to kill Iraqis or Americans? That seems out of character.
Or maybe the situation in Iraq poses, in their perception, a greater threat to the longterm success of their mission. Considering their mission seems most often to be martydom, that doesn't make sense either. I think I've gotten off track trying to make sense of the motives of Islamic terrorists. That's a rathole for a reasoning person if there ever was one.
If there's an equivalent western rathole it is trying to understand the reason why the Western major media so often appears complicit with those terrorists. This too has Allawi expressing disbelief:
It's unbelievable. We are fighting and yet we see in the media you are this, you are that, you are not having elections. This is a time when really everybody they need to help, need to be part of fighting these evil forces. Even the media. You should not give them oxygen, you should not give them the luxury of presenting their case in the press, we should be hard on them, as hard as we can, all of us whether we are in the media, whether we are in running countries, whether we are in the armies -- because they are ultimately, it's not fair, they are not only after us, they know that once they are through with Iraq, they'll come after you here in Washington and New York and Cairo and everywhere.If this man is a puppet of the Bush administration, I'm impressed. The puppeteer is amazingly adroit, for this is a very believable performance. If I hadn't been told by the Kerry campaign that this was a puppet, I'd have thought it was a tough, pragmatic politician who's doing his best to wrestle his country through a delicate and difficult time. He may not be Abraham Lincoln, but he finds himself in a place and time where Old Abe would be rolling up his sleeves and getting down to some serious work.
If he wasn't a puppet, I'd be wishing him luck and hoping for him and his newly liberated country all the best.
But since Joe Lockhart says that Allawi is a puppet, I just don't see why Joe and company don't go fishing or do something else productive. Do they think they stand a guppy's chance in a school of piranha facing a puppetmaster the likes of the one behind Allawi?
Best of luck, Prime Minister Allawi, to you and to all of Iraq. I pray that you succeed in achieving a fair and just system of government, and that the Iraqi people learn to live together in peace.
Allah has a brief post that put me onto this article. There's a hint of exasperation there too.
A lot of people have commented on the Kerry campaign reaction to Allawi's visit, including Joe Lockhart's statement on Allawi being a puppet of the Bush administration:
"The last thing you want to be seen as is a puppet of the United States, and you can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips," said Joe Lockhart, a senior Kerry adviser."
See the following for more:
Instapundit: FROM THE I-THOUGHT-KERRY-WAS-A-DIPLOMAT DEPARTMENT
Charles Krauthammer: The Art Of Losing Friends
The Belgravia Dispatch: Allawi's Speech
Roger L. Simon: September 24, 2004: Profiles in Courage - The Sequel
In DC Journal: Surprising Takes on Allawi
Kerry Haters: Kerry Campaign Scum Lockhart
and don't miss Ali at Iraq the Model on Allawi's speech: Who's Lying?
Posted by dan at September 27, 2004 08:05 PM