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Interview: Iraqi Official Mourns Sons, Vows To Fight 'The Ghosts Of Death'

Mithal al-Alusi, whose sons were killed by gunmen on 8 February (file photo) A prominent Iraqi politician and the longtime head of the De-Ba'athification Committee, Mithal al-Alusi, survived an apparent attempt on his life --> when armed men fired on his car on the morning of 8 February. Two of al-Alusi's sons -- Ayman and Jamal -- and a bodyguard who were inside his vehicle were killed, however, when the assailants struck just outside al-Alusi's Baghdad home. Radio Free Iraq (RFI) spoke with al-Alusi, who is secretary of Iraq's Democratic Umma Party [Hizb al-Umma al-'Iraqi al-Dimuqrati], after the incident. The following is an edited transcript of that interview.

Al-Alusi: Again, the ghosts of death are going out. They are ready to kill a person, ready to kill the peace, ready to kill the victory of Iraqis and their right to life. Again, henchmen of the Ba'ath [Party] and dirty terrorist gangs, Al-Qaeda and others, are going out convinced that they can determine life and death as they desire. Iraq will not die.

My children, three people [in all] -- one of my bodyguards and two of my children -- died as heroes, no differently from other people who find their heroic deaths. But we will not, [I swear] by God, hand Iraq over to murderers and terrorists.

We will pave the road for peace. If [the attackers] thought that by attempting to kill Mithal al-Alusi, the advocates of peace in Iraq will be stopped, then they have made a grave mistake. We will be calling for peace. We will be calling for peace with all neighboring countries [of Iraq]. We will be calling for peace with all countries of the region. And we will be calling for fighting terrorism by any means [and] against all forms [of terror].

They claim that Islam is a message of killing, while Islam is a message of peace. They claim that the principles [of Islam] encourage killing, while the only principles that encourage killing are the principles of the Ba'ath [Party] and of the heathens from Al-Qaeda groupings.
The Sunni areas groan under the hands of murderers and criminals who are neither Sunnis nor Iraqis. They are intruders in Iraq from among Al-Qaeda groupings and Ba'ath [Party] henchmen. They are the ghosts of death.

We will be building Iraq. We will be building Iraq despite all that has happened. May God help us.

RFI: How long [do you expect] some political circles to continue speaking the language of violence and terror? Do they have any political program? Do they have any clear goals? Do they have any slogan on which they might bring forward, discuss, and lead a dialogue?

Al-Alusi: That would not excuse them. If they have a slogan, a goal, a language, and an activity, it is killing. They [Ba'athists] were killing us for more than three decades. They want to kill us and enslave us, over and over again. That is why I have always urged politicians to avoid trying to lead a dialogue with terrorists. Any kind of inviting murderers to dialogue means giving them a little bit of legitimacy, which they do not have. They do not have the right to play with us.

Consequently, I [ask] my friends and colleagues in the political leadership inside or outside the [Iraqi] take a clear, frank, and firm position to enforce the law over all, whoever it is -- be it a religious or non-religious party. There should be no debate or dialogue with a murderer who calls for killing. This cannot be the [right] way. The [right] way is the way of law, the way of dialogue, the way of building, and the way of leading the Sunni areas [in Iraq] out of confusion. I would like to focus on that very clearly: The Sunni areas groan under the hands of murderers and criminals who are neither Sunnis nor Iraqis. They are intruders in Iraq from among Al-Qaeda groupings and Ba'ath [Party] henchmen. They are the ghosts of death.

RFI: You have been the target of repeated assassination attempts. Do you believe the reason is your opinions and political attitudes, or is there another factor that has made you such a target?

Al-Alusi: They do not exclude anyone [from violence]. They target a [normal] citizen on the way to do shopping in the market; they target hospitals and schools; they target everyone. On the fact that I have been targeted personally, I have kept saying, "There is no way for Iraq but the way of peace," and, "There is no way for Iraq but the way of dialogue and institutions," and, "Nothing should exist in Iraq except according to the will of the Iraqi people." As for the advocates of religious intolerance willing to kill the [Iraqi] identity, or those who now imagine they might establish a [new] state in Iraq, be it religious or non-religious, I tell them, "Brothers, verily you have made a grave mistake." I tell them, "There can be no state in Iraq except for one founded on institutions and law." Mithal al-Alusi says from his unshaken positions, "I was calling for peace, and I will continue to call for peace -- even [for peace] with Israel." And may all the world hear that there will be no war if the Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians, and Jordanians do not want war. I am not prepared to allow Iraqis to be turned into kindling for the flames of terrorists and ghosts of death.

We want to build Iraq; there has been enough destruction. We want to build schools for Iraqis, hospitals for Iraqis, and state institutions. We will not allow Iraq to become a tool in the hands of others.

(Translated by Petr Kubalek.)

[For more on recent events in Iraq, see RFE/RL's dedicated "Iraq Votes 2005" webpage.]