Ellison Returns From Iraq
Rep. Keith Ellison returned from Iraq seemingly impressed by progress in Ramadi.
Rep. Keith Ellison made a weekend trip to Iraq, where a pair of sheiks urged Congress' only Muslim lawmaker to help in countering al-Qaeda's vision of Islam. Ellison, D-Minn., said he met in Ramadi in Anbar province with the two sheiks, who oversee several hundred thousand congregants.
"They were very upset and concerned that al-Qaeda is misrepresenting Islam," Ellison told reporters on a conference call Monday from Germany, on his way back to the U.S. "And they were talking to me about what I can possibly do to work with them to give a clearer, more accurate picture of what Islam is all about."...
"But there are 150,000 American soldiers there now, and I care very deeply about them," said Ellison, one of six members on the all-freshman trip led by Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif. "I also care about the Iraqi people. I don't want to see them suffer." ...
Ellison said that local leaders in Ramadi told him of how they partnered with U.S. and Iraqi military officials to virtually rid al-Qaeda from the city. Although the lawmakers had to travel in flak vests and helmets, "we did see people walking around the streets of Ramadi, going back and forth to the market."
There have been fewer anti-U.S. sermons as the violence has been reduced, Ellison said, and religious leaders meet regularly with U.S. military officials. "The success in Ramadi is not just because of bombs and bullets, but because the U.S. and Iraqi military and the Iraqi police are partnering with the tribal leadership and the religious leadership," he said. "So they're not trying to just bomb people into submission. What they're doing is respecting the people, giving the people some control over their own lives."
Ellison said he was particularly impressed watching Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin, U.S. commander in the Anbar province, greeting people with "as-salama aleikum," meaning peace be upon you.
And they would respond back with smiles and waves," Ellison said. "I don't want to overplay it. There were no flowers. There was no clapping. There was no parade. But there was a general level of respect and calm that I thought was good."
Now let's see if I understand this. Al-Qaeda, nuts be unto them, has really hijacked Islam, according to Rep. Ellison. When did the world find this out? When did Ellison start worrying about this? Right after it attacked Manhattan? Maybe. But certainly when it started torturing people wholesale in Iraq. Started killing Muslims.
But not even then. Al-Qaeda has been killing Muslims in Iraq from at least the date of the attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra. This can't be news. But what is news is that al-Qaeda can be beaten. This is the something else; the elephant in the room that people are just starting to notice.
In any fight against terrorism, it is not enough for ordinary people to inwardly realize that terrorists are bad people. They know that already because the first goal of terrorism is to impress on the public mind -- and politicians -- that it is absolutely, positively, irremediably and mercilessly bad. That's why it's called terrorism, because it terrorizes. And the consequence of terror is that the average man praises it publicly or risks a visit from its representatives in the dead of night far from the protection of Amnesty International, far from the tender attentions of the International Criminal Court. Far from all the instruments of protection we are told to rely on. As long as terrorism is feared a large percentage of the public, many politicians and not a few media outlets will unendingly praise it. Many of the Ramadi sheiks must have secretly harbored reservations about whether al-Qaeda was fit representative of Islam before now. What made them blurt out their doubts now? Confidence that US and Iraqi forces in the neighborhood Joint Security Station down the street will drop ordnance down on al-Qaeda's sorry head if it shows up again, that's what.
It's a story that history tells again and again. Did you imagine that all those Frenchmen cheering LeClerc's Free French into Paris in 1944 were unaffected by the knowledge that behind the lead Free French Shermans there was a vast Allied Army? Everybody loves a winner. Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone.
Now we know that al-Qaeda doesn't represent Islam and how concerned Rep. Ellison is that people might believe that it does. Now that it's down and crawling in the dirt. I remember walking the tumultuous streets on the night in 1986 when Ferdinand Marcos was driven from his palace. The hated symbols of his government were being ripped down everywhere. Literally millions of people were celebrating where, ten days before you couldn't get a handful together to say a bad thing about him. And I thought of all the guys who had died fighting Marcos over the years and how few there were at their funerals. What did they feel if they were aware of that moment? I realized that if they felt anything at all it would be happiness. They lifted the fear because they were who they were. And they did it full willing. Say on, Congressman Ellison; it is not grudged.