Tuesday, June 29, 2004
There is still a decent chance we can make Iraq work. A major reason being the exemplary quality and dedication of our armed forces, doing two and three jobs at a time to help the Iraqis build a new country.
But another piece that could make it work is the amazing speech Paul Bremer apparently gave when he left Iraq. I read about this at Andrew Sullivan's excellent site (link on the left), but wanted to include it here. It comes from a blog written by an Iraqi in Iraq named Omar. The address is http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/:
The hall was busy and everyone was chatting and laughing loud. They had Al-Jazeera on (something I never managed to convince them to stop doing). Then suddenly Mr. Bremer appeared on TV reading his last speech before he left Iraq. I approached the TV to listen carefully to the speech, as I expected it to be difficult in the midst of all that noise. To my surprise everyone stopped what they were doing and started watching as attentively as I was.
The speech was impressive and you could hear the sound of a needle if one had dropped it at that time. The most sensational moment was the end of the speech when Mr. Bremer used a famous Arab emotional poem. The poem was for a famous Arab poet who said it while leaving Baghdad. Al-Jazeera had put an interpreter who tried to translate even the Arabic poem which Mr. Bremer was telling in a fair Arabic! "Let this damned interpreter shut up. We want to hear what the man is saying." One of my colloquies shouted. The scene was very touching that the guy sitting next to me (who used to sympathize with Muqtada) said "He's going to make me cry!"
Then he finished his speech by saying in Arabic, "A'ash Al-Iraq, A'ash Al-Iraq, A'ash Al-Iraq"! (Long live Iraq, Long live Iraq, long live Iraq).
I was deeply moved by this great man’s words but I couldn't prevent myself from watching the effect of his words on my friends who some of them were anti-Americans and some were skeptic, although some of them have always shared my optimism. I found that they were touched even more deeply than I was. I turned to one friend who was a committed She'at and who distrusted America all the way. He looked as if he was bewitched, and I asked him, "So, what do you think of this man? Do you still consider him an invader?" My friend smiled, still touched and said, "Absolutely not! He brought tears to my eyes. God bless him."
Another friend approached me. This one was not religious but he was one of the conspiracy theory believers. He put his hands on my shoulders and said smiling, "I must admit that I'm beginning to believe in what you've been telling us for months and I’m beginning to have faith in America. I never thought that they will hand us sovereignty in time. These people have shown that they keep their promises."
Now, what Bremer did was amazing. The Arab culture places immense weight on actions like this. And as you can read from the reactions in the room, it had its intended effect. The more cynical among us may think it was purely done for political reasons. I'll believe it was done from respect until I am shown otherwise.
A'ash Al-Iraq, Omar. Your dream of a free country is slowly becoming reality.
PS - Why wasn't this speech even remotely covered in the US press? I'm not asking for front-page coverage. But if Nick Berg's dad ranting about the falsity of the turnover gets press, so should this speech.