Meet the New Boss

Iraq has its first temporary president, and his name is Ibrahim Jafari. (He’ll hold the job for a month: It’s a rotating presidency, handed off like a relay baton between nine “chairmen”, each of whom was in turn chosen by a USDA-approved 25-member Governing Council.) Jafari hails from the Shiite fundamentalist party Al Dawa.

Dawa? Would that be the same Dawa that carried out a series of Reagan-era bombings in Kuwait of, among other things, the American and French embassies and the residential housing of American Raytheon employees — bombings that killed five people and injured 80? The same Dawa that took inspiration from the Iranian Islamic Revolution and the Ayatollah Khomenei? The same Dawa that founded and set up Hezbollah in Lebanon? Why yes, it would. Only now, after three decades of guerrilla and terrorist violence, they’ve surfaced to demand a share of ruling post-Saddam Iraq, and claiming they now believe in democracy and rule of law. And we trust them on this because … well … who can keep track of all these guys anyway?

So meet the new boss (same as the old boss), and check out this Chicago Tribune profile of a crowd likely to rule a post-Paul Bremmer Iraq. To summarize: Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Saddam Hussein was our friend and Donald Rumsfeld, then a Reagan Administration envoy, was only too glad to shake his hand. Dawa, meanwhile, was busy killing Baath Party officials and trying to assassinate our friend Saddam. The regime fought back, and thousands of Dawa members disappeared (and died) in Saddam’s jails; thousands more fled abroad to places like Iran, Syria and Lebanon. Hezbollah soon after emerged from Dawa’s Lebanese branch. And when 17 terrorists were jailed over the suicide bombings against the US and French embassies, rage at the imprisonment of the “Dawa 17″ became a main declared motive for the Mid-East kidnappings of Americans.

Today, Dawa officials say the Dawa 17 who bombed our embassy were freelancing, and had been co-opted by Iranian intelligence. The “new” Dawa — which still operates as secretive “cells” and can’t or won’t lay out a platform, or even fully identify its leaders — is supposedly a more moderate crowd than the “old.” So, is that like dealing with the moderate wing of Al Qaeda?

To recap: When Libya was up to head the UN Human Rights Commission, it was a national outrage (and indeed it was). But when the secretive fundamentalist sect that created Hezbollah, bombed an American embassy, and kidnapped Americans is invited not just to join but to run a US-created organization, that’s just us bringing democracy.