Mithal al-Alusi is a hero of the Iraqi people. What a shame they don't treat him as one.
A member of a prominent Sunni family, he was sentenced to death in abstentia in 1976 for plotting to overthrow Saddam Hussein while studying in Cairo. Exiled to Germany, he took part in the 2002 takeover the Iraqi embassy in Berlin. Soon after the American-led liberation, he returned to Iraq and was elected to parliament in 2005. His politics are democratic and secular, and he stands for close ties with the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey and Israel. The basis of this alliance, he says, is to form a coalition of countries victimized by the machinations of Iran. He is, in other words, the very model of the Iraqi democrat whom the Bush administration promised us there would be so many of throwing candy and flowers at our soldiers.
Mr. al-Alusi is in serious trouble now, precisely because he is our friend. He recently returned from a regional conference in Israel on the subject of counterterrorism - expertise of which the Iraqi government is certainly deficient. "In Israel, there is no occupation, there is liberalism," he said. This was the fourth time he has attended the annual conference, and upon returning every year he faces the outrage and reprimand of many of his countrymen. In 2004 he was expelled from the Iraqi National Congress. He has survived repeated assassination attempts and his two sons died in a plot hatched to kill him. Now, the Iraqi government wants to revoke his parliamentary immunity and ban him from traveling abroad.
The American government's response? "It is an issue for the Iraqi parliament, not the U.S. Mission to Iraq," says the oh-so bureaucratically precise State Department spokesman in Baghdad. If the United States cannot protect al-Alusi from his own government, then our whole venture in Iraq has been a sham. It's purposes too.