We lost one of our own yesterday. Dr. Hisham al-Hashemi was shot to death outside his house, gunned down by assassins who fled on motorcycles.
You won’t see his face on CNN, or any major outlet in America. It took some serious digging to find the wire service reports, which were thoroughly buried. Nobody on this side of the world seems to care.
There are a few of us, people who followed him, who watched for him to make sense of the apparently incomprehensible. For that was his gift: he was the expert on the various factions that make up the armed militias that really control the Middle East. His passion was the truth: not just the truth we see, or that which is reported or commonly understood, but the truth that gets hidden behind the truth, the strings on the puppets, the causes driving the people supplying the money that buys the power.
He was a researcher for IFPMC’s projects, a director in the Iraq Advisory Council, and a fellow at the Center for Global Policy, but we knew him best as the voice of reason who could explain the intricate structure of power players continually striving for advantage in Iraq. He was a prolific Tweeter; his last messages explain how the dominant religious factions in his country fight to maintain control by sowing division among their rivals. Not long before, he described the Peshmerga’s remarkable willingness to pursue joint operations with Iraqi forces against the remnants of ISIL despite having no firm post-war agreements in place for administering their own territories. Whatever the faction, he could describe how it fit in the structure and how it would react.
A month ago, when America was at a loss to explain who exactly it was that had fired missiles at our military bases, it was Dr. Hisham who weighed in with the explanation: In order to avoid the inevitable retribution, existing Iranian-backed militia groups established false online identities through which they published their rhetoric, threats, and bold claims. Not long after, Iraqi forces raided one of these groups, arresting fourteen — and almost immediately capitulating before corruption and outside pressure, releasing all but one.
Prime Minister al-Khadimi released a statement condemning the unknown killers. “We promise the killers that we will pursue them, so they may be served their just punishment.” He also asserted that he would not permit assassination to return to the streets of Baghdad. Khadimi is new at his job but has already taken bolder steps than his predecessors to rid the government of some of the most egregious corruption and foreign control. To do this, he’s been relying heavily on academic advisors, and Dr. Hisham was not the least among them.
His colleagues are united in their shock and sadness. The loss is tremendous; his was one of the sanest and most reasoned voices, and his passion for peace and against the rule of the militias was an inspiration. But they too have their own drives; they pursue truth relentlessly. I doubt they will give in to fear; the compulsion to know and to explain is too strong. The militias have misjudged their target, I think.
When I said we lost one of our own, I’m not putting on airs; Lord knows I’m not in his league. He was an international expert. But he gave his insights freely, feeding the online community with his tips and commentary; in that way, he was also one of us, and as such his voice will be sorely missed.