Reporters on the Job

An Iraqi Light Goes Out: Gailan Ramiz, an Iraqi political analyst who offered some of the most reliable and insightful thinking to be found in Baghdad, was killed Monday when a chemical storehouse near his home exploded in what appears to have been an ambush of US forces.

I met Dr. Ramiz a year ago, just days after he had joined the crowd toppling Saddam's statue in Firdos Square. I needed a thoughtful Iraqi, someone to explain the end-of-war chaos, and he was endlessly helpful.

Tall, thin, kindly, and erudite, Ramiz wore his learning lightly, though his impeccable spoken English betrayed an Oxford education (he had studied at Harvard and Princeton, too). And as I think now about our conversations during my visits to his elegant, if down-at-heel, home, I realize how prescient he was.

He was critical of the Americans in Iraq from the start, but he hoped his comments would be taken as constructive criticism - he wanted the US to succeed in setting up a modern, liberal democracy in Iraq. But as time wore on, he complained that the few coalition officials he met did not seem to listen to him.

Foreign journalists did, though, and Ramiz became a popular source of sensible, informed analysis. He was especially happy to talk to reporters from this newspaper, for which he never stopped expressing his respect whenever we met. (Staff writer Dan Murphy, in Baghdad now, will pay our respects to Ramiz at a mourning ceremony Friday.)

Ramiz and I often talked when I was on deadline, so I never got much detail about his past. I gathered from our chats that he had taught in Malaysia and in Jordan as well as at Baghdad University, and that he had worked at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. I heard later that he had served six months in jail for refusing to join the Baath Party, but it was not the sort of thing he would bring up.

I particularly recall two of his comments. Looking back over 35 years of Baathist rule and explaining the lack of popular resistance, he said, "There is no greater spell than the imprisonment of the human soul when liberty is lost."

Looking forward, more than a year ago now, he warned, "If civil society's hope is ascending, moderation and compromise may prevail. But if hope is lost because of the Americans' poor management of Iraqi affairs, they will face total revolution in Iraq. And Iraqis can be sophisticated revolutionaries."

Peter Ford
Chief European Correspondent

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