Maliki's Move

    The vehemence of the denunciation of the conduct of American troops in Iraq by the new Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is a big deal, is it not? There are several ways to look at it. One is how the NYT spun it, which is that it is one more rivet in the coffin of the Iraq venture, another sign of the centrifugal chaos and loss of morale that has now become routine in this war. It seems to me more interesting than that. Maliki just went to Basra to brow-beat local tribes and militias into holding fire and giving the new government a chance. The next day, he harnesses pent-up Iraqi anger and distress at the way in which understandably jumpy coalition soldiers sometimes interact with an Iraqi public among whom murderers and terrorists hide. It seems to me that Maliki believes he has more to gain by attacking the Americans than by defending or ignoring them. Why? Maybe because if a national Iraqi leader emerges who can express frustration at American soldiers, he can leverage that and build the popular support to face down local militias or even recalcitrant factions in the new parliament. It's just a theory. But for the first time, I've read a story in which an Iraqi politician seems to be expressing national Iraqi sentiment, and distancing himself from the occupation. In some ways, isn't that what we want?

    The patient has been on life support for three years. Removing the dictatorship and allowing anarchy to spread essentially killed off the Iraqi nation for a while. Did we just see the first spasm of an entity coming back to life? And could Maliki be its spokesman? I can hope, can't I? It seems to me we should not forget the vast scale of the challenge in Iraq. We have made it worse than it might have been, but it would never have been easy. And the simple achievement of an actual political process, however painfully slow, and now the emergence of a leader who seems capable of articulating a nation's own feelings are good things. Omar reminds us of this today as well:

    The important point here which should be taken into consideration is that we are not forming a government but we are forming a state and a system from scratch so naturally the difficulties we'll face during each stage will be much bigger than the difficulties that would face other states that are already democratic during similar stages, say after elections.

    Patience and hard work are the key to victory and in the same time obstacles, violence and disputes are no excuse for quitting; just like al-Qaeda and its allies concentrate on Iraq and consider it the nucleus for their Islamic state, we and the whole world must unite to rescue Iraq and present our model of freedom and justice.

    Iraq is the key to the change and the terrorists realize this so we must show how determined we are if we want to defeat them.

    I couldn't agree more. Iraq is still everything. And we still have everything to win or to lose. Patience. Courage. Criticism. They're a useful triad.