It was, apparently, a grim session. As Michael Hirsh and Richard Wolffe report this week, President Bush asked some GOP senators to come to the White House to talk about the deployment of 21,000 more troops to Baghdad. Skeptical and worried--as is much of the country; according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll, only 26 percent approve of Bush's "surge" plan--the lawmakers told the president they were particularly concerned about Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Any resolution in Iraq--anything approaching resolution--depends on strong Iraqi leadership. There is, however, a growing fear that Maliki, a Shiite with ties to the anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, may not be able to quell the country's devastating sectarian violence.
The debate over the war is intense and heartfelt, but for those of us far removed from combat and who do not have family engaged in the conflict, Iraq can seem abstract--a source of sincere but somewhat clinical concern.
At NEWSWEEK, however, the war felt painfully personal last week when Andrea Parhamovich-- "Andi" to her friends--was killed in an ambush in Baghdad. A 28-year-old civilian consultant working for the nonprofit National Democratic Institute, she was in a convoy when gunmen opened fire; Al Qaeda-linked Sunni insurgents claimed responsibility.
For us, it was a death in the family. Mike Hastings, one of our Baghdad correspondents, had been planning a Valentine's Day trip to Paris next month to ask Andi to marry him. A native of Perry, Ohio, near Cleveland, she was a Democratic activist; in Iraq, her mission was an example of one of the noblest elements of the American experiment there: explaining the mechanics of democratic politics to people long brutalized by Saddam. In the aftermath of her death, Mike sent in these reflections on Andi, and on the place where she gave her life:
"First, I loved her, and if there is a cliché about love at first sight, this was it. Why is she so special? A blonde hair blue eyed girl from Ohio; wonderful, kind, good, bright, funny, a handful, and, as all her friends would say, she was truly 'pure of heart.' She could not stand injustice. She always believed in humanity at its best--and though she would often be let down, her belief in our goodness, in what's right and what's wrong, was unshakable. She stuck to her principles, no matter what she was up against. Stubborn as heck, too. She had a glow, and there was an ethereal, angelic quality about her.
"The last time we talked we were planning on where, after Baghdad, we wanted to live next. We discussed our plans for a Paris vacation, scheduled next month. She was on her path, and looking forward to the future. She was planning on joining a presidential campaign, probably by this summer.
"We all take risks over here, and we know the risks. It's part of the job. But killing a soldier or getting whacked as a war correspondent is one thing--still tragic yet somehow more acceptable--but killing a civilian here to help is just despicable. Shouldn't have happened. Is it worth it? Good question, don't have an answer really. I hope it is, have my doubts, but more so, I hope she isn't forgotten. She wanted to be here, to be a part of history. She loved the adventure and the romance of it all. She loved helping people, making a difference. She loved politics; her heroes were Joan of Arc and Empress SiSi of Austria. (In other words: strong independent women. Like I said, she was a handful.)
"America could not have asked for a better face, a better representative in Iraq. She's the best and the brightest of her generation, the best of what our country stands for, and she was killed by truly evil people with a bankrupt ideology. I sound like Bush, but I think we can sometimes forget how bad these guys are."