Friday, February 25, 2005
An Iraqi Hero
It's pretty startling when you see the same name come up in different contexts.
Recently, many of us have read with horror about the car bombing of an Iraqi politician. He survived the attack, but his two sons did not; also dead is the man's bodyguard and longtime friend. As if this was not enough, he was recently attacked again. This would have convinced many of us to call it quits and go home; but this man is determined to see Iraqi democracy through, come what may:
Shortly after the attack, in his shock and grief, al-Alusi refused to give any ground. In an interview with Radio Free Iraq, he said, "If (the attackers) thought that by attempting to kill Mithal al-Alusi, the advocates of peace in Iraq will be stopped, then they have made a grave mistake...I remember reading, a while back, about a different sort of courage -- in this case, an Iraqi who travelled to Israel to participate in an anti-terrorism conference. In a reasonable world, this would make perfect sense -- a man in a country plagued by terrorism, travelling to participate in a Middle Eastern conference on terrorism. But Israel is not treated the same way as other countries, and this man, upon his return to Iraq, was relieved of his post in Allawi's interim government and threatened with imprisonment by the authorities.
Yes, you guessed it -- they're the same man.
Mithal al-Alusi did not lick his wounds after returning from Israel in September 2004. As Iraqis geared up for the January 2005 elections, he formed his own party, the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation, and prepared a slate of candidates for the elections. His message, of secularism and peace and tolerance, must have struck a chord; his list got 29,000 votes and 16 seats in Parliament.
At the risk of sounding cliched, this is the sort of man Iraq desperately needs. A man of courage and vision, who understands the importance of Iraqi democracy and freedom -- even in the face of great personal tragedy -- and knows that his friends and allies can come in all forms, including Americans and even Israelis.
(There's a great article about the man in today's Metro West Daily, written by Ilana Freedman. Please read the whole thing. Full disclosure: Mrs. Freedman is my mother, and I'm damned proud to be her son.)
I will pray for Mr. al-Alusi's continued good health and clear-headed wisdom. If you have not seen his story elsewhere, please do spread the word -- this is a story that people need to hear.