Charles Krauthammer

     A moderate Shiite is appointed prime minister, and the headlines prominently mention that he was supported by the CIA, thus implicitly encouraging the notion that the man is illegitimate.

     First of all, from where was an Iraqi exile, hunted by Saddam, to get help, if not from the CIA and MI6? From France? Germany? Russia? Kofi Annan? George Soros?

     Secondly, Ayad Allawi cooperated with the CIA in a mission that was entirely honorable (though terribly bungled by the CIA): a coup to overthrow the Saddam dictatorship.

     Then it is said that this new Iraqi government is illegitimate because it consists of just the old, discredited interim Iraqi Governing Council reappointing itself. In fact, the new government of 36 ministers contains just four from the Governing Council.

     Then comes my favorite: the new government has no legitimacy because it is composed of so many exiles. What kind of political leadership does one expect in a country that endured three decades of Stalinist tyranny in which any expression of opposition met with torture and death?

     Strange. I do not remember any of these critics complaining about the universally hailed Oslo peace accords that imposed upon the Palestinians a PLO government flown in from Tunisia composed nearly entirely of political exiles.

     Ah, but Yasser Arafat, thug and terrorist, instantly wins legitimacy in the eyes of Western intelligentsia because he is a self-proclaimed revolutionary, while Iraq's interim prime minister, who was nearly axed to death by Saddam's agents in London, is dismissed as an ``exile.''

     Who better than these exiles -- some rather heroic, many of whom created and sustained organized political opposition for decades -- to run a transitional government? Note: Transitional. Unlike the Palestinian Authority, a tyrannous kleptocracy that grabbed power and has not relinquished it for 10 years, this new Iraqi government will be out of business in seven months. Its major function is to prepare elections, which will ratify the rise of new indigenous leaders who have emerged in the (by then) year and a half since the fall of Saddam.

     Yes, Iraq is a mess. Postwar settlements almost invariably are. Particularly in a country where the removal of a totalitarian dictator leaves a total political vacuum. Of course there are difficulties and dangers ahead, and no guarantee of success. But the transition to Iraqi rule is under way. The first critical step has just been taken.

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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