... ending with a fable

Les anecdotes les plus utiles et les plus précieuses sont les écrits secrets que laissent les grands princes, quand la candeur de leur âme se manifeste dans ces monuments – Voltaire

Well, LI has no access to the secret history of Ibrahim Jafari – we are definitely lacking the crucial anecdotes. But we thought, what the hell, we’d trail the semi-invisible man through Factiva. Surely some major newspaper or magazine profiled the man who was the first Interim Council president and has been the prime minister for a year and a half. But … though you can find profiles of Chalabi and Allawi galore, though you can find all kinds of pics and interviews with Kenan Makiya, you will find Jafari quoted, entering the newstory picture, sometimes referenced (especially by Jim Hoagland, Chalabi’s agent on the Washington Post), a full profile of him, even some account of what he was doing in London for twenty years as the head of the Da’wa branch there is simply impossible to find. However, one thing is clear – Jafari is used to feeding pablum to a patron. For twenty years, the pablum was fed to Iran, but the strategy was not to be a total Iranian pawn. Feeding pablum to the U.S. is much easier. These grafs in the Washington Post essay by Jafari, My Vision for Iraq, are to be washed down with warm koolaid at the next Heritage foundation meeting:

“The other major challenge my government will face is reviving Iraq's economy. Iraq has been drowned by decades of Baathist socialist policies that have made millions reliant on government handouts. We must encourage entrepreneurship and enterprise, while establishing adequate safety nets for the less privileged.
Economic rehabilitation also requires some tough and unpopular changes, such as the reduction in government subsidies for gasoline that my administration began a few months ago. Such steps can be made only by a popular government that has the trust of the people. My administration has the political capital to be able to bring about these necessary changes.”

Political capital – hmm, an old and venerated Arabic term. LI has been trying to figure out how to make this point in a simple manner. Because criticism of the media is so often about the bias in the reporting of this or that story, instead of the accumulative omissions around which a mass of stories are built, to point to a blind spot, a gap, a motivated absence, sets up a different critical dynamic -- one that is vaguely psychoanalytical. That is always the hardest of criticisms to explain.

So, take a look at Edward Wong's interview with Jafari in the NYTtoday. Again, we get a very sketchy sense of who Jafari is or where he comes from. In fact, in a desperate attempt to keep your NYT reader on the page, Wong feels compelled to mention an Iraqi we have heard of:

"In the first two years of the war, Mr. Jaafari emerged as one of the most popular politicians in Iraq, especially compared with other exiles like Ahmad Chalabi, the former Pentagon favorite. A doctor by training and well-versed in the Koran, Mr. Jaafari comes from a prominent family in Karbala, the Shiite holy city. But since taking power last spring, Mr. Jaafari has come under widespread criticism for failing to stamp out the insurgency and promoting hard-line pro-Shiite policies."

Yes, we hang onto that former Pentagon (not to mention NYT foreign correspondent) favorite, just so we know where we are. And so the fogmachines of war keep blasting out their product -- cooled hot air.

Oh well. I planned to provide such a nice two poster of info about Da’wa, and I’m afraid I was underestimating how little there is in English out there. So instead, here is a fable.

I found this nice Kurdish fable while hunting for information about Jafari. I came upon Incoherent Thoughts, a blog I’d recommend. Sandrine Alexie, the blogger, translated it into French, and I’m going to translate it into English.

“They say that when Belkîs [the queen of Sheba] came to visit the prophet Solomon, she wished for bird feathers in order to make a bed. The prophet Solomon called together all the birds and told them: you have to tear out your feathers to make a bed for the Queen of Sheba! When the bat understood what was going on, it quickly tore out all its feathers and fled. But the birds did not follow this command and said: prophet Solomon, what a sin it is to ask us to strip ourselves of plumage for your wife! Without a feather, how will we pass the winter? These feathers protect our lives from the cold.

The prophet Solomon recognized the justice of these words and let them go. But the bat had plucked itself: since that time, it blushes to come out in the daylight, in the midst of its friends, and only comes out at night.”
Osman Sabrî in Recueil de textes kourmandji, publié par Stig Wikander, 1959.

I can think of several political applications for this tale ... but I prefer to remain artistically silent about them.