Rise up like mountains

Posted: Jun 29, 2004 12:00 AM

 "Iraq is now at a setback, but it is temporary. We will rise up like mountains, standing firm, and we will protect all people regardless of religion, color and every other consideration. Pluralism should be a factor of progress, not divisiveness," said Iraq's new interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi as he took office Monday morning.

 Difficult and bloody days are ahead, but this small victory provides a moment to pause and marvel at what U.S. troops, coalition troops and freedom-minded Iraqis were able to achieve -- despite the many factions that toiled so desperately for the new Iraq to fail.

 Physician Hamoudi al-Bander of Orinda, Calif., who fled Iraq with his family in 1973, was ecstatic. Finally, al-Bander said over the phone, "there's the prospect of equal rights and equal opportunity for all" in Iraq. Al-Bander doesn't approve of everything that has happened in Iraq during the war, but he sees hope that Iraq can be better for it -- if America stays the course.

 Former U.S. arms inspector David Kay became a darling of the left when he told Congress in January that "we were almost all wrong" -- "we" meaning the international intelligence community, and "almost all wrong" meaning wrong in the conviction that Saddam Hussein commanded large caches of weapons of mass destruction.

 When asked Monday if he thought the "pre-emptive strike" against Iraq was justified, Kay told the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco that while he re-evaluates the equation daily, "I think we did a tremendous good in ridding the world of Saddam (Hussein) and his sons." Kay believes that if America had not acted, Iraq could have provided the hot spot for weapons sellers and terrorists to hook up -- with the West none the wiser. Thus, Hussein's Iraq "was a more dangerous place than we realized."

 While Americans prefer to look at what happens in Iraq simply on the basis of how it directly affects America -- I certainly have been guilty of that -- Kay remembers the desert in Iraq in July heat and watching Iraqi families digging with their hands for some sign that would tell them if Hussein had killed a husband, son or daughter.

 Alas, where Kay sees humanitarian gains, peaceniks prefer to see "occupation" -- even as the coalition hands authority over to the Iraqis early.

 The anti-war and quasi-anti-war left should be applauding the peaceful turnover of sovereignty. Instead, the anti-war group International ANSWER has been organizing new rallies to protest the "fake sovereignty." America is moving closer to the day when U.S. troops can go home -- yet the anti-war crowd is furious.

 For his part, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., looked none too happy as he stood before cameras Monday warning about security on the ground. For months now, Americans have been hearing Kerry say that he voted for the war but feels betrayed because Bush has been so inept in the Persian Gulf.

 This week, the good guys pulled off a coup -- in devising a handover that robbed terrorists of the pretext of murdering people to prevent the big change. The bad guys, who kill civilians randomly to stop self-governance, were unable to stop this move to push Iraq toward representative democracy -- and Kerry's all long-faced.

 The senator should take lessons from Michael Nacht, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. Nacht clearly approved of the handover and how it was done. "It takes the American face off the Iraqi mess," he said, and that should boost Iraqi popular support for the new government.

 Kerry's not the only Bush critic who couldn't look pleased. Former terrorism czar Richard Clarke told "Good Morning America,'' "If you went back a year ago and asked the White House or the people in the U.S. headquarters in Iraq what would today look like, they would have painted a very different picture. They would have said this would have been a large public ceremony. Instead, it looks like Jerry Bremer is sort of skulking out in the middle of the night -- the secret ceremony -- because the security situation is so bad that we can't even guarantee the security of a handover.''

 Such is the state of discourse on the war with Iraq: There is no victory that cannot be painted as a defeat.

 And this worries al-Bander, who desperately wants to see his homeland thrive. "I think it's all politics to say this is a failure of George W. Bush," said al-Bander. "Give it a chance."

 "They gave the time to Saddam Hussein," said al-Bander. (Try two-plus decades, including 11 years during which Hussein violated a peace agreement with the United Nations and shot at U.S. and British planes daily.) "Let's give this government a chance."