Friday, July 09, 2004

Iraqis say goodbye to CPA head Paul Bremer

Last week the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority handed over power to the free nation of Iraq. From what is being reported by Iraqi blogs, Paul Bremer gave an incredible speech on the day the U.S. transferred sovereignty to Iraq, which stirred many a soul and moved many of those who heard it to tears. It went unreported by the mainstream press -- no doubt because it didn't involve Iraqi insurgents and the loss of American lives. Writing for "Iraq The Model", Mohammed expresses thanks to Bremer on behalf of the Iraqi people, and, later, discusses the negligent coverage of the U.S. press. Ali, another Iraqi blogger, posts his thoughts:

The speech was impressive and you could hear the sound of a needle if one had dropped it at that time. The most sensational moment was the end of the speech when Mr. Bremer used a famous Arab emotional poem. The poem was for a famous Arab poet who said it while leaving Baghdad. Al-Jazeera had put an interpreter who tried to translate even the Arabic poem which Mr. Bremer was telling in a fair Arabic! "Let this damned interpreter shut up. We want to hear what the man is saying" One of my colloquies shouted. The scene was very touching that the guy sitting next to me (who used to sympathize with Muqtada) said "He's going to make me cry!"

Then he finished his speech by saying in Arabic,"A'ash Al-Iraq, A'ash Al-Iraq, A'ash Al-Iraq"! (Long live Iraq, Long live Iraq, long live Iraq).

I was deeply moved by this great man's words but I couldn't prevent myself from watching the effect of his words on my friends who some of them were anti-Americans and some were skeptic, although some of them have always shared my optimism. I found that they were touched even more deeply than I was. I turned to one friend who was a committed She'at and who distrusted America all the way. He looked as if he was bewitched, and I asked him, "So, what do you think of this man? Do you still consider him an invader?" My friend smiled, still touched and said, "Absolutely not! He brought tears to my eyes. God bless him."

Another friend approached me. This one was not religious but he was one of the conspiracy theory believers. He put his hands on my shoulders and said smiling, "I must admit that I'm beginning to believe in what you've been telling us for months and I'm beginning to have faith in America. I never thought that they will hand us sovereignty in time. These people have shown that they keep their promises."

Dr. Foad Ajami (author of the excellent Dream Palaces of the Arabs), writes of the transfer of power, and responsibility:

America is not to stay long in Iraq. No scheme is being hatched for the subjugation of Iraq's people. No giant American air bases on their soil are in the offing. In their modern history, Iraqis witnessed direct British control over their country (from 1921 to 1932), followed by a quarter-century of a subtle British role in their politics, hidden behind a fa├žade of national independence. Ours is a different world, and this new "imperium" is the imperium of a truly reluctant Western power.

What shall stick of America's truth on the soil of Iraq is an open, unknowable question. But the leaders who waged this war--those "architects" of it who have been thrown on the defensive by its difficulties and surprises--should be forgiven the sense that things broke their way during that five-minute surprise ceremony yesterday morning. They haven't created a "new" Iraq, and sure enough, they have not tackled the malignancies of the Arab world which lay at the roots, and the very origins, of this war. America isn't acquitted yet of its burdens in Mesopotamia. Our heartbreaking losses are a daily affair, and our soldiers there remain in harm's way.

But we now stay under new terms--a power that vacated sovereignty 48 hours ahead of schedule, and an Iraqi population that can glimpse, just a horizon away, the possibility of a society free from both native tyranny and foreign control. There is nervousness in Iraq: the nervousness of a people soon to be put to the test by the promise--and the hazards--of freedom.

["Iraq's New History" Wall Street Journal June 29, 2004]

Related Links & Updates:

  • "Blogging the watchdogs", by John Leo. U.S. News and World Report July 19, 2004. Mr. Leo covers the lapses (and deliberate maliciousness) of the mainstream press:

    The Washington Post said Bremer left without giving a talk. The Los Angeles Times did worse. It missed the speech, then insulted Bremer for not giving it. A July 4 Times "news analysis" said: "L. Paul Bremer III, the civilian administrator for Iraq, left without even giving a final speech to the country--almost as if he were afraid to look in the eye the people he had ruled for more than a year." This is a good one-sentence example of what readers object to in much Iraq reporting--dubious or wrong information combined with a heavy load of attitude from the reporter.