Iraqi First Lady at Museum of Tolerance: I remember the Jews of Kurdistan

The wife of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani paid a visit to the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Friday, toured its Museum of Tolerance, and recalled her friendship with the Jews of her Kurdish hometown.

Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, the petite first lady of Iraq, briefly recalled the killings and tortures the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein had inflicted on her fellow Kurds.

She added, “In every person’s mind there is a small Saddam. Killing Saddam is nothing, but killing the Saddam in our minds is everything.”

The Journal, the only media outlet admitted to the event, asked whether the Iraqi government had approved her visit to the high-profile Jewish and ardently pro-Israel institution, which plans to build a Center for Human Dignity in Jerusalem.

Ahmed, owner of an Iraqi media group and a strong advocate for children’s rights, answered quickly, “I don’t ask for permission. I go where I want to go.”
residents of the Jewish quarter suddenly started to build and eat in outdoor huts — which the American visitors quickly recognized as the celebration of Sukkot.

When the guests said goodbye, they invited their hostess to tour the Museum of Tolerance, if she were ever in Los Angeles. Two weeks later, she called to say that she was on her way.

A Scream Looking for a Mouth

The anti-war forces in America have blundered, and it’smaking them lose the war — for our hearts and minds.

The problem is the demonstrations. By their very nature,public rallies of this sort tend to reduce issues to black-and-whiteoversimplifications, fueled by a need to dramatize and emotionalize for maximumeffect.

Unfortunately for the demonstrators, this issue is hardlyblack and white. Anyone who has scanned editorials over the past few months cantell you that this is a heart-wrenching subject, with strong arguments on bothsides. But angry demonstrators who yell, scream and demonize President GeorgeW. Bush with signs like “Bush is the real terrorist” end up undermining theircredibility and, ultimately, their cause.

For anti-war demonstrations to be effective, they need aclear bad guy, no strings attached. Bush is not that guy. You can criticize himall you want — for failing to make his case for war, not giving sanctionsenough time, being arrogant, etc. — but you can’t look like you hate him morethan an evil tyrant who has murdered and tortured thousands of his own people.

Therein lies the blunder. The anti-war demonstrators seem tohave forgotten the one person who would have made a fabulous target for an”anti” rally: Saddam Hussein. Against that kind of evil, it would be perfectlyacceptable to simplify and dramatize. I can’t imagine ever accusing someone ofexaggerating a critique of Saddam Hussein.

I can even see the signs: “Saddam Must Go,” “Free the 30Million Iraqis,” “Iraqi Women’s rights,” “We don’t need another Hitler,” “Nonegotiating with Evil” and so on. You can disagree with the decision to go towar, but you can’t disagree that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who must go.

By choosing to demonize Bush, the anti-war forces have lettheir hearts rule their minds. They have forgotten what the majority ofAmericans intuitively understand: that there is another, more vicious war goingon — the war that Saddam Hussein has waged on his own people for decades. Thatwar may not be as visible on CNN, but it’s real, and it’s disingenuous to looklike you ignore it.

All this makes me wonder if there are other factors behindthis seemingly blind and single-minded hatred of Bush. We live in aconsumer-based society where we are used to being pandered to and seduced,where we judge personalities more than we judge issues. But Bush doesn’tseduce. It’s quite possible that his morally righteous, cowboy personality is atotal turnoff to these anti-war demonstrators, and they can’t see past thatunpleasant veneer to give him any credit for noble intentions.

It’s also true that public demonstrations have always had aromantic pull for those looking for a more meaningful and dramatic life. Andgoing against war is as romantic and dramatic as it gets. Who cares if we areexaggerating or simplifying or demonizing? In a feel-good culture, yellingagainst war can feel really good.

The side effect of all this yelling is that it kills honestdebate. It’s easier to yell than to think. Thinking, balancing and debating maybe the more appropriate course, but it won’t get you on the evening news. Theresult is the appearance of a polarized world, where you are either for oragainst, no questions asked. That’s not democracy at its best.

I have a suggestion for demonstration-seekers. If you’regoing to yell against something in three-second sound bites, pick a true evilto yell against that requires little or no nuance. Otherwise, if you’regenuinely against the war and you’re a scream looking for a mouth, scream for somethingpositive like peace. It may be superficial and naive — especially now that thewar is well underway — but at least you won’t lose the credibility that comesfrom demonizing the wrong demon.

David Suissa is founder and CEO of Suissa MillerAdvertising, and founder/editor of OLAM magazine and the activist site He can bereached at

Send Troops

As the weather warmed this week, the yard signs protesting NO WAR pushed up like crocuses through lawns from Santa Monica to Hollywood.

Not many, mind you — but enough to signal that quite a few Americans are having second and third thoughts about a war against Saddam.

Nobody likes Saddam, but the Bush administration has failed to present incontrovertible evidence, or even very convincing arguments, as to why we must fight now.

The most enticing reason seems to be that by deposing Saddam, America will send a clear message that tyranny will not stand in the Middle East, and that regime change in Iraq will blow the winds of democracy through Iran, Syria, Libya — maybe even Saudi Arabia.

Critics wonder whether such a war is one of choice or of necessity, and, beyond that, what happens if the best-laid war plans go awry. "Both logic and historical evidence suggest a policy of vigilant containment would work" against Saddam, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt write in the current issue of Foreign Policy.

The authors accuse the Bush administration of deliberately exaggerating the Iraqi threat in order to sell a preventive war. The CIA’s own risk assessment revealed that Saddam would not use weapons of mass destruction against the United States.

Meanwhile, North Korea, which has nuclear weapons and threatened war this week, seems much more frightening than Saddam. The same goes for Al Qaeda, which the Bush administration, despite numerous attempts, has yet to tie to Saddam.

The whiff of colonialism accompanying the administration’s attempt to bring democracy through conquest carries with it all the dangers of colonialism’s unintended consequences. What if Islamists in nuclear-armed Pakistan decide to toss a missile toward Israel in Iraq’s defense? What if Iraqi and American casualties mount precipitously? Where is that post-victory plan that even the war’s supporters have been clamoring for?

The president sent tens of thousands of troops to the Gulf this week to signal his readiness for war. Taking the president at his word — that his intent in confronting Saddam is to help create a new, more peaceful Middle East — I have a suggestion for the president: Send those troops to Israel instead.

The twin suicide bombings that ripped through Tel Aviv last Sunday, leaving 23 people dead and more than 100 seriously wounded, underscores the failure of Palestinian terror and Israeli force to achieve either party’s aim.

The attack proves once again that Yasser Arafat will not bring peace to his people. Whether he can control the acts of his Fatah-associated militias anymore or not, he certainly unleashed them. And their continued operation, in this case, thwarted his hopes of appearing at a planned London conference, at which he was to show off his government’s economic and political reforms, and thus secure more European aid. Instead, Israel barred him from attending.

Furthermore, each additional terror attack ensures that Israeli voters will reject the more dovish parties in the upcoming elections, pushing hopes of compromise with Palestinians further out to sea.

But the attack also proves that Israel’s anti-terrorism policies aren’t working. Despite a massive, sometimes brilliant and sometimes cruel retaliation against devastating terror, the attacks continue.

There may be lulls (during which attacks are attempted but thwarted), but there will be no end. "What once took months takes a few hours," former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon told David Margolick of Vanity Fair magazine, "instead of a few [bombers], we shall see tens and hundreds."

The long-term diplomatic solution may well be something along the lines of the proposal outlined in the "road map" developed by the United States in conjunction with the European Union, United Nations and Russia — the Madrid Quartet. But that plan won’t move an inch until after the Israeli elections this month. A lot of blood, a devastating and needless amount, may be shed by then.

That’s why Bush should consider using U.S. and allied troops to serve as a buffer between the warring parties, to act, in the words of UCLA Middle East expert Steven Spiegel, as a monitoring presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "American control of the force, coupled with Israel’s rock-solid relationship with the Bush administration, should go a long way toward alleviating" Israel’s concern over international interference, Spiegel has written.

The idea isn’t new, but it has gained urgency. Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seems to be out of ideas when it comes to confronting terror, but there’s no indication the Israeli public will trust anyone else at the helm.

"In retrospect, what was missing from Oslo all along was a stronger international [in effect, NATO-led] presence to contain outbreaks of violence and manage their aftermath in the context of continuing negotiations," wrote Bernard Avishai in his prescient epilogue to "The Tragedy of Zionism" (Allworth Press, 2002). "Without the hope of an American-sponsored peace process, or the fear of American opposition to Israel’s status quo, Israeli democratic forces cannot get traction."

And without traction, the slide quickens. Send troops.