Saturday, 2 June 2007

First Installment of What I Will Be Calling "The United States of Amnesia" (as coined by Gore Vidal among others)

First Installment of What I Will Be Calling "The United States of Amnesia" (as coined by Gore Vidal among others)

From "Then End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End" by Peter W. Galbraith.

Three days after Saddam's tanks rolled into Kuwait, Jalal Talabani called me from Damascus. Would it be a good time, he asked, for him to visit the United States? I thought the answer was obvious. Overnight, Iraq had become Washington's top priority. If there was ever interest in the Kurds, it was now. Not only did Talabani have insights into Saddam's regime, the Kurds were potential allies in the event of a war. Of course you should come, I told him.

Talabani flew into Washington on August 10 and we met for lunch at La Brasserie, a small French restaurant two blocks from the Senate. It was a beautiful summer day and we had a table outside not far from a shady mulberry tree. Talabani, a man with an evident appreciation for good food and a comparably large appetite for knowledge, greeted me with a big hug. He was accompanied by Dr. Najmaldin Karim, a Washington-area neurosurgeon who had been the personal physical to Kurdish leader Mulla Mustafa Barazni in the mountains of Kurdistan before redoing his medical training as a refugee in the United States, and Latif Rashid, Talabani's brother-in-law, who represented the PUK in London. We discussed whom Talabani should see and what message he should deliver. Karim, who had become a one-man lobby for the Kurds (and a very effective one), offered suggestions. I emphasized that the story of the Kurds was largely unknown and that he should consider his mission an educational one. Karim and I arranged meetings with key members of Congress, including Senator Pell, Senator Edward Kennedy, and Senator John Kerry - who took time out from his senate reelection campaign to join Pell in Rhode Island, where he was in the midst of his own reelection campaign. Talabani met with the editorial boards of the major American newspapers, and received speaking invitations from Washington think tanks.

No one in the Bush Administration would see Talabani.

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