Roger L. Simon

Omar and Mohammed Come Calling

Omar and Mohammed-two of the three brothers who make up Iraq the Model-came to Sheryl’s and my house last night for a small party of some bloggers and other interested folks. I would have invited everyone I knew… in some ways I wish I had… but I was selfish. I wanted a small enough group so we could all talk with them (okay, so I could talk with them).

One thing I would like to say at the outset is that they were terrific people and I was instantly comfortable with them in the way you are with old friends. This is one of the miracles of the blogosphere. We all know each other to an extraordinary degree before we meet.

But it was more than that in this is case. I think I can speak for the others present when I say both brothers exuded a unique combination of calm, warmth and intelligence. They are also deep lovers of freedom in a way it is difficult to be for those of us who grow up with it. If many Iraqis are like these two young Baghdad dentists, I am quite anxious to go to Iraq.

I was relieved by what they were like on a deeper level as well. They don’t know this, but on the darkest days of the war, at the times the media were at their gloomiest and I was racked with guilt that I had so adamantly supported our actions, I almost always turned first to them. I didn’t look to them for unbiased opinions. There is no such thing. I looked to them to see how real Iraqis were reacting to a situation that affected them more directly than it could ever affect me or the prognosticators of doom in our media. They were the ones who bucked me up-not the other way around, as it should be. In a certain sense they helped my sanity. And I suspect I am not alone in that. Few writers in or out of the blogosphere can say as much.

After we ate and imbibed, Mohammed and Omar fielded our questions and told amusing anecdotes about their visit here, including to the White House. (Bush evidently joked about having his teeth examined.) Mickey Kaus asked if Sunnis would participate in the election. Omar and Mohammed, who are Sunnis themselves, said that many would, that the impression we get of the Sunni Triangle is skewed by reporting. I hope they’re right. These people are incredibly courageous. When you meet them it’s hard to understand why some of us could be rooting against them, but the not-so-sub subtext of many of the war’s opponents is just that. You see, they keep saying, look how bad it is-it’s our fault. I wish they could talk to Mohammed and Omar. I think even the Michael Moores of the world would have trouble saying it to them face-to-face. These men are the hope of democracy. I hope some day to meet their brother Ali… in Baghdad.

UPDATE: I meant to mention that Omar and Mohammed are working with Jim Hake… and others back in Iraq, of course… to set up a system of reporting on the forthcoming elections via blogs and streaming video. I will post about this on here as I learn more.

BTW: Omar and Mohammed are here on behalf of the Friends of Democracy and the fascinating Arabic Blogging Tool Project.