November 14, 2005


The Politics of War (Fred Hiatt, November 14, 2005, Washington Post)

Adel Abdul Mahdi, Iraq's vice president, may seem a bit unfeeling as he assesses the ongoing violence in his country. It is very hard, he says -- but better than during Saddam Hussein's day, when, Mahdi says, each year 30,000 Iraqis were executed or assassinated by the regime or killed in the dictator's wars.

It may sound unfeeling, that is, until you remember that, just days before Mahdi's visit to Washington last week, his older brother was killed in a drive-by shooting.

This he does not speak about quite so matter-of-factly. But Mahdi, who was imprisoned and then exiled by Hussein, puts even this fresh murder in historical context. "My brother always suffered," Mahdi said. "Whenever they had a problem with me, they would detain him, they would torture him . . .

"They waged terrorism from within the government," Mahdi added. "Now they are waging the same attacks, as an opposition, from the streets. . . . These are the same methods, practiced by the same people."

A Shiite political leader with a good chance of becoming prime minister after next month's elections, Mahdi brought to Washington a familiar complaint: that the U.S. media and their audience focus exclusively on the bad news, ignoring Iraq's "tremendous achievements." Turnout was high in Iraq's first election, higher for its constitutional referendum and will be higher still, he 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.

But, he says, Iraq and the United States are "victims of different agendas."

"Iraq's is a life-or-death agenda -- how to build a democracy," Mahdi said. "Others' are political agendas."

His is an existential struggle, the Demcratic Party's is for cheap partisan political points.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 14, 2005 3:06 PM
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