Monday, April 11, 2005

President Talabani

From today's WSJ, this commentary from the recently appointed President Jalal Talabani. Remember, as you read this, that this man is a Kurd whose people was stomped on by Saddam. Remember that his political ascendancy was opposed by our CIA (who didn't consider him the "right kind" of opposition to Saddam). Remember that he's been widely dismissed by the liberal press as the illiterate, unqualified lackey of G. W. Bush and Karl Rove. Then remember that his party was freely elected to about 1/3 of the parlimentary seats, and that the Iraqis in negotiations purely amongst themselves chose Talabani as their president. I think this commentary demonstrates some of the reasons they did that:

Through their democratically elected representatives, the people of Iraq have entrusted me with the office of the presidency of the republic. After 50 years of political struggle against discrimination and dictatorship, this is a grand honor and a humbling moment. As we look ahead to a new Iraq based on tolerance and equality, federalism and unity, democracy and freedom, we remember those whose sacrifice made this possible -- Iraqis, Americans, Britons, Poles, Italians, Czechs and so many others from around the world.

As president of Iraq, I shall strive to represent the diversity of a country that has too often in the past denied difference. I shall stand for freedom of thought and expression in a place where it has been trampled and penalized. I will work with the prime minister to ensure that our government's finances are transparent and that our citizens have access to government records; above all, I shall pursue the politics of reconciliation in opposition to the politics of hatred and incitement.

My door will always be open to those who genuinely renounce violence and seek peaceful accommodation into our nascent democracy. That is why I proposed, in my first speech as head of state, an amnesty for those who have been led astray by terrorism.

But while the new Iraq is open to all, there must be no underestimating our determination to vanquish terrorism. Conciliation is not capitulation, nor is compromise to be deemed equivalent to imbalanced concession. Rather, it is through conciliation and compromise that we are building a fair Iraq, a just state for all its peoples. Democracies, unlike dictatorships, are forgiving and generous, but they cannot survive unless they fight. And fight we shall.

The choice of peace or war lies not with the Iraqis who ignored terrorism and intimidation to vote in their millions, the Iraqis to whom I am accountable. No, that decision lies with the terrorist minority that despises freedom and spurns every offered opportunity to enter the political process. The attacks on election officials, the suicide bombings of voters, and the cowardly attacks on brave Iraqis waiting in line to join our fledgling security forces are not the tactics of "resistance" or "freedom fighters" but of murderers and criminals.

Nor are the terrorists by any stretch of the imagination the repressed or the disadvantaged. They chose violence despite consistent exhortations to contribute to the new Iraq. They are, for the most part, representatives of the old regime, Baathists who gorged themselves on their compatriots' riches. They are not the dispossessed of the earth but those who have been deprived of their palaces.

Slaying terrorism, and the extremist nationalism and perversion of religion that breeds it, will require our greatest effort, both as Iraqis and as new members of the alliance of democracies. We will again and again ask and work with our neighbors to assist us by controlling their borders, intercepting the transmission of funds to the terrorists and by handing over Baathist fugitives. We, in turn, will work with our neighbors to ensure that Iraq is never again a haven for terrorists. All such foreign-armed groups in Iraq must be neutralized and rendered harmless in a manner that is just and legal. Iraqis, the victims of the vilest stratagems and subterfuges, will not fight a "dirty war."

Our commitment to human rights, primarily of the individual, but also of our diverse ethnic and religious heritage for which we suffered, must be absolute. The justice of our cause must be reflected in the manner in which we rectify the crimes of the past.

The rehabilitation of Basra, the refloating of the ancient marshes of southern Iraq, the return of the ethnically cleansed to Kirkuk, the renaissance of the holy cities as centers of learning and piety, all these are acts of justice. They must be accompanied by the trials of the major Baathist criminals. Justice for the major perpetrators cannot be separated from the vindication of the rights of the individual victim.

Nor is justice independent of constitutionalism. Here the progress in Iraq has been remarkable, in place of the provisional Baathist constitution of 1970 we now have the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), a progressive liberal interim constitution. The TAL represents the highest achievement of the new Iraq. The result of intense argument between the legitimate representatives of all of Iraq's communities, the TAL embodies the virtues of compromise. By sensibly sharing power under the TAL we all acquire more rights and security than if we were to each selfishly pursue our maximal objectives.

The TAL governs all politics in Iraq until the adoption of a final constitution. There can be no government, no elections, and no politics of any kind outside of the framework of the TAL. Any attempt to circumvent the TAL would not only be illegal, and an affront to the rule of the law, but an implicit rejection of the justice of the liberation of Iraq from the outlaw Baathist regime.

For all the talk of Iraq as a "model" for the Middle East, we know that there are unique factors at play in building our federal, multi-ethnic democracy. Indeed, we do not seek to export our political ideas or experiences, a practice that has too often led to instability in the Middle East. Rather, we ask that the uniqueness of the Iraqi experience be recognized and our newly restored sovereignty respected. We will not allow the naysayers (who predict disaster awaiting us around every corner) and their companions in despondency, the apologists for despotism, to distract us with their uninformed comment from our vision of a democratic and equitable society: The rectification of past crimes and the binding up of the many wounds inflicted upon us by the Baathist regime -- these are matters for Iraqis alone.

We seek foreign assistance to help us develop our security forces and to partner with us as we try to further sustainable economic growth in our shattered country. We hope that the United Nations will live up to its ideals. The assistance provided by the U.N. during the recent elections was invaluable and an important step toward the return of this organization to Iraq. A continued and consistent U.N. engagement, which bolsters the new Iraq, will convince Iraqis to put aside their qualms about an organization that many of them identify with the previous Baathist regime.

A greater international role is important to lift some of the burden from the shoulders of the United States. Our gratitude to the American people is immense and we should never be embarrassed to express it. Time and again the U.S. has given the world its most precious resource in the cause of freedom, the lives of its most talented and courageous young men and women.

Now, the time has come for the rest of the world to recognize that a federal, democratic Iraq that can defend itself against terrorism is a goal worthy of broad international support. The victory of the new Iraq will be the triumph of freedom over hate, of decency over intolerance. Who would not want to share in such a worthy campaign?

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