It's time to stick up for journalism.
July 26, 2006
The speech of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sounded like it came right out of the White House Communications Office. I didn’t know anyone over there knew Arabic.
Time and time again, he parroted Bush’s lines and used Bush’s tropes.
Like Bush often does, Maliki made early reference to 9/11 and compared Iraq’s situation to America’s.
“Thousands more continue to die in Iraq today at the hands of the same terrorists who show complete disregard for human life,” he said.
But even the U.S. military now admits that the insurgency (of which Al Qaeda affiliates are only a small part) pales in comparison to the sectarian violence that is embroiling Baghdad and other parts of Iraq.
Those taking part in the civil war, for the most part, are not Osama’s minions. They are indigenous Sunni militias on the one side, and Shiite militias on the other.
Like Bush, Maliki made extravagant claims about the importance of winning the war in Iraq, saying that “Iraq is the front line” in the war against terror. Sound familiar?
And like Bush, Maliki stressed the speed of change in Iraq. “In a short space of time, Iraq has gone from a dictatorship, to a transitional administration, and now to a fully fledged democracy,” he said. That’s Bush boilerplate.
Another clue that the White House had its hand in the speechwriting was Maliki’s amazing invitation to foreign companies to take over his country’s economy: “In keeping with our economic visions of creating a free market economy we will be presenting to parliament legislation which will lift current restrictions on foreign companies and investors who wish to come to Iraq.” Of course that one got applause.
Two other lines from his speech stood out. First was the astonishing statement that the new government is helping to “consolidate the role of women in public life as equals to men.” Iraq right now actually is a “living hell” for women, according to Houzahn Mahmoud of the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq. As Ruth Rosen recently noted, “The invasion and occupation of Iraq has had the effect of humiliating, endangering, and repressing Iraqi women in ways that have not been widely publicized in the mainstream media: As detainees in prisons run by Americans, they have been sexually abused and raped; as civilians, they have been kidnapped, raped, and then sometimes sold for prostitution; and as women -- and, in particular, as among the more liberated women in the Arab world -- they have increasingly disappeared from public life, many becoming shut-ins in their own homes.”
Last, but perhaps most telling of all, Maliki gave a one-word timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq: “eventually.”
That just doesn’t cut it, not after 2,554 deaths of U.S. soldiers and the wounding of more than 18,000. Here is the passage, in its depressing entirety: “The completion of Iraq’s forces forms the necessary basis for the withdrawal of multinational forces, but only then, only when Iraq’s forces are fully capable will the job of the multinational forces be complete. Our Iraqi forces have accomplished much, and have gained a great deal of field experience to eventually enable them to triumph over the terrorists and to take over the security portfolio and extend peace through the country.”
“Eventually” is much too long a time to wait.