Richard Miniter’s “Made in Iran: A Traitor’s Tale” is the story of a sad, bitter and not very competent 21-year-old, who was still able to spread death & chaos. This small and empty man is used by powers larger but no less empty. His petty grudge is put to the service of evil. From the beginning, many of us here saw a pattern (and purpose), first in Afghanistan and then Iraq. Thinking globally does not come easily to me – but Miniter captures the drama of a place where the unconscious and heartless are sent out to kill and maim, used by those who understand how big the game is as they move these pawns on the great board of which Iraq & Afghanistan are but small parts. And if Henry Reid smugly believes this game is lost, I doubt he sees how big the game is and how much and how many that loss will affect. Of course, he should resign in shame, but he won’t; if he felt shame, he could not feel the smugness he so casually embodies. But that seems to be because his imagination can not conceive of the fierce battles and death that will follow loss.
This isn’t about our elections. That he (and Pelosi & Murtha who can’t attend a briefing by Petraeus, and Schumer who chortles over the polls that may sweep Democrats into power if they can only pin an Iraqi defeat upon the Republicans) are so near sighted shames us as Americans. At least, when we read Miniter, who shows us who that loss empowers. Iran, of course, and those like Osman Ali Mustafa; perhaps a theocracy knows best the to use nihilism. Miniter tells us:
Mustafa smirks when he tells me he is a “secularist” who does not pray and boasts about enjoying whiskey, drugs and prostitutes. He is a sunni who does not mind working for shia, provided the pay is good. And far from being a patriot, he betrayed his country to work for Iran. Finally, his story shows that the terrorists are not supermen who are able to walk like ghosts through layers of security. At the street-level they are petty criminals who can be caught. What makes Mustafa’s story important is that it reveals the human side of the insurgency. It’s a tale of dirty cops, rivalry, revenge, recruitment and control that climaxes in a fireball in Halabja, Iraq in June 2005.
Miniter contrasts this chaos with the world of the Kurds, slowly but firmly undertaking the compromises and respect necessary for open government.
One of the things that sets the Kurdish apart from other Iraqi groups is the political maturity of their leaders, especially Talabani. The Kurdish leaders show an unusual willingness to compromise and to reach a goal by patient increments. This leads many ordinary Kurds to put photos of Iraq President Jalal Talabani every where, out of respect not command. This is like the Thai who put pictures of their king in restaurants in Los Angeles and London. Of course, Talabani does not get this treatment in Baghdad.
Mustafa knows no respect for others, for himself. Without that, open government can not stand. But, then, Mustafa is no freedom fighter. Nor are those who sought him out, used his weakness; his cynicism is adolescent, but reflects older men’s dreams of death & chaos. Miniter concludes with what he describes as a “chilling postscript” by the chief intelligence analyst he interviewed:
He begins by explaining that they have interrogated a number of al Qaeda operatives from Saudi Arabia, who entered Iraq through Iran. He asked one: “What will you do if the U.S. leaves Iraq?”
“We will never leave,” the terrorist told him. “We will make this our base to fight America. It [Iraq] is very strategic for us. It is close to Turkey and Europe. Through Syria, we can reach the Levant [and Israel]. In the south, it is close to Saudi Arabia.”
And it shares a long, open border with Iran, the world’s largest financier of international terrorism.
Too bad we do not have the same strategic clarity.
Today, John McCain enters the primary, understanding well that if elected he will be president of America. Presidents come and go. Parties come and go. America lives on. And his belief that he’d rather lose an election than a war would seem a minimal requirement when campaigning for that position. It may be for the Republicans. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure it is for the Democrats. I’ve moved Lacombe, Lucien up to the head of our Netflix list; perhaps it is not as I remembered, seeing it over thirty years ago. But that chill remains and that I remember as I read Miniter’s post.