Isn't there any good news in Iraq?
I was going to write about something dull this week — probably arms exports.
Then I received a terrific letter from a reader named Norman Glassman.
Norm (can I call you Norm?) wrote to tell me he didn't appreciate my column last week about Khaled el-Masri. El-Masri is the German man of Lebanese descent who was kidnapped, raped and tortured by the CIA. In October, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear about his suit against several CIA officials.
"Why would you dig back to a three-year-old case of mistaken identity and choose to ignore today's highly relevant good news? Would your friends desert you and your job be lost if you dared to write some good news from Iraq? Be courageous, write the good and the bad."
Norm makes a terrific point.
It's downright cowardly to look at Iraq week after week and not acknowledge all the good news. It takes courage and a keen intellect to see "good news" where everyone else sees destruction.
I sure could have used a pal like Norm on 9/11.
While I was staring at the TV, horrified at the loss of life and destruction, and wondering if my two friends who worked in the Pentagon at the time were dead, he probably would have courageously stood and reminded everyone within earshot that the attacks weren't so bad.
"Think of all of the skyscrapers in New York that weren't toppled this morning!" Norm would have said. "And the Pentagon? It's a five-sided building. Why are you so focused on the one side of it in flames, instead of the four sides that aren't?"
I could have used Norm's cool courage last week while I was writing about Khaled el-Masri. Instead of using my column to "dig back to a three-year-old case of mistaken identity," I might have used last week's column to emphasize this important fact: More than 82 million Germans have NOT been sodomized by the CIA.
And the list of good news I could find in Iraq with Norm's help is endless.
Thanks to Norm, I no longer see Iraq's 4 million displaced persons as a humanitarian and political crisis that threatens to destabilize the Middle East for generations, in much the same way the Palestinian refugee crisis that followed the creation of Israel and the Arab-Israeli wars.
Instead, I see it as an opportunity for Iraqis to get out and see parts of the world they've never visited. Perhaps the 1.4 million Iraqis who've fled to Syria will like it there. Syria's president used to be an eye doctor! Cool! And the 500,000 Iraqis now living in Jordan. They're now that much closer to Jordan's Queen Rania, who is way hot.
As for the surge — thanks to Norm, I see it differently.
Before him, I might have said something about how violence in Iraq is still higher than it was in 2003, 2004 and 2005. I probably would have noted that many of the neighborhoods the Bush administration touts as less violent now are only less violent because they've been ethnically cleansed. I might have also noted that Iraq's politicians haven't moved one inch in the direction of national reconciliation.
Post-Norm, however, I'm keen to emphasize that violence in Iraq is way down — down to early 2006 levels.
And pre-Norm, I might have looked at the Turkish parliament's recent vote to authorize military action in Iraqi Kurdistan as a bad thing.
Iraqi Kurdistan is the only part of Iraq that's even moderately peaceful and prosperous. A Turkish invasion might ruin that and, in the process, require the United States to step up its military operations in a part of Iraq that has, thus far, been relatively undemanding of overstretched American resources.
I also might have pointed out that "Turkish invasion of Iraq" and "regional war to fight over a divided, post-dictatorship Iraq" were among the worst-case scenarios bandied about in 2002 by opponents of the invasion.
Post-Norm, however, I look at Turkey fighting Kurds with new eyes.
"Turkey and Kurds together," Norm might say. "Add some cranberry sauce and potatoes, and you've got yourself a banquet!
"The good news is there, brother Andisheh. You just need to be courageous enough to look for it."