Friday, November 04, 2005

Mithal al-Alusi, Iraqi

A poignant piece about a brave Iraqi from the National Review today. Mithal al-Alusi is a Sunni who escaped a death sentence from Saddam.

In his German exile, he became active in the Iraqi opposition party led by Ahmed Chalabi. After Iraq was liberated by Coalition forces, he returned to his homeland.

Then he performed a truly courageous act: He went to Israel — the first Iraqi politician to do so — and spoke there about peace between all nations of the Middle East.

Nothing could have prepared him for what was to come. First, he was expelled from the Iraqi National Congress. Chalabi and the party deserted him after the backlash of threats started coming in. His party broke ties with him, and he was now a prime target for terrorists — who saw his remarks in Israel as the ultimate betrayal of Baathism and pan-Arab nationalism. Attempts were made on his life. He had every reason to leave Iraq — but he would not leave. And, to the dismay of some in the government, he would not be quiet either.

What he did instead was found the Iraqi Nation party. The premise of this party, says al-Alusi, is that "Iraqis must consider themselves Iraqis first" — before they consider themselves Muslims, Sunni, Shia, or anything else.

"Iraqis must consider themselves Iraqis first" strikes a chord in this American who believes fervently in American values. Folks who embrace a larger, national identity rather than consider themselves first a member of a religious group are more likely to want to build a nation than bomb someone who prays to the same God, albeit a bit differently.

What Westerners might consider trite is considered such dangerous heresy in Iraq that al-Alusi's views cost him two sons in a bombing designed to kill him.

His words, after the deaths of his sons:

Again, the ghosts of death are going out. They are ready to kill a person, ready to kill the peace, ready to kill the victory of Iraqis and their right to life. Again, henchmen of the Ba’ath [party] and dirty terrorist gangs, al-Qaeda and others, are going out convinced that they can determine life and death as they desire. Iraq will not die. My children, three people [in all] — one of my bodyguards and two of my children — died as heroes, no differently from other people who find their heroic deaths. But we will not, [I swear] by God, hand Iraq over to murderers and terrorists.
As for the advocates of religious intolerance willing to kill the [Iraqi] identity, or those who now imagine they might establish a [new] state in Iraq, be it religious or non-religious, I tell them, "Brothers, verily you have made a grave mistake." I tell them, "There can be no state in Iraq except for one founded on institutions and law. . . . I will continue to call for peace — even [for peace] with Israel. And may all the world hear that there will be no war if the Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians, and Jordanians do not want war. I am not prepared to allow Iraqis to be turned into kindling for the flames of terrorists and ghosts of death.

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