Commentary: Time for the "S" Word for Iraq! STOP the Handover!

By Ken Joseph Jr.

May 14, 2004 - The Abu Ghraib Prison has a personal meaning to me. As an Assyrian Christian who was in Iraq before the war the Abu Gharib Prison was the most feared place in Iraq. People who went to Abu Ghraib `disappeared` never to be heard from again.

My Uncle worked at the prison as a clerical worker. In November of 2002 Sadaam Hussein freed all the prisoners - estimates of up to 100,000 people - and the most hardened prisoners of a generation were put out on the streets.

I used to ask my Uncle why he would continue to go to work every day at the Prison, even though he hadn't been paid in months and there was no longer any paperwork to fill out as the Prison was empty.

He said `You know, if I did not get up each morning, take a shower, eat breakfast, go to work - even thought there is nothing to do there and I never get paid - I would go mad! Just look at our family - already two of them are `mad`. I must do this every day to survive as a human being.`

I looked around the room and quickly saw my two cousins - one staring off into space with a blank look on her face and the other constantly screaming . .

Little by little I began to understand the nightmare that was Sadaam Hussein and how he had not only destroyed a country but destroyed a people. He had broken them and in so doing caused them all to collectively go `mad`.

Another relative puts it more simply - `The Americans might wonder why we do not rise up now that we have been liberated. First, we are all still afraid - after 35 years of terror and 1 1/2 million killed we cannot actually believe Sadaam is gone. Once the Americans are gone `they` will come after us and kill us for anything we say and do now.

Second, though, it is as if we all have lost our minds. It takes time to recover. After 35 years of terror our minds need time to heal, to become normal and free again. But recover we will if just given the time.`

With the wave of incidents from the Abu Ghraib Prison situation to the murder of a young man in Iraq and the situation in Fallujah I think it has finally come time, as late as it may be - better late than too late - to discuss `plan B` - the `S` word - Stop!

The handover of Iraq, barely a year after liberation when things are going so well on the ground for the average Iraqi must be stopped.

According to Governing Council Member, Kanna, `The violence against the US comes from a small minority of former Sadaam Hussein people, terrorists and just common criminals who desperately want to see democracy fail in Iraq and throughout the Middle east`.

Kanna blamed the violence against U.S. troops on a small minority of Saddam Hussein loyalists, criminals and international terrorists who are determined to derail the U.S.-led efforts to bring democracy to Iraq and the Middle East.

It for a long time had been abundantly clear to those of us who are in Iraq that it is not realistic to handover power on June 30. It seems to have finally come to a point where the situation is beginning to be understood outside of Iraq. The June 30 handover is just not realistic and should be `stopped`.

There are three main reasons for this.

First, it is just too soon - just when things are going so well! After 35 years of a terror state the basics cannot be put together in a little over a year. From infrastructure to politics to security, 35 years of neglect and abuse cannot be undone in a year. In Japan for example it took 7 years in a similar situation.

Second, the UN cannot take over the responsibilities of the US. In a very unique situation in the world the UN is an absolutely hated institution by all Iraqis. During the time of Sadaam Hussein, instead of supporting them, the Iraqis watch as the UN not only did not stand up to Sadaam Hussein but abused the `Oil for Food` program - their oil funds to enrich itself while doing little to help them. The UN does not have the ability to lead Iraq.

Third, with such a short and arbitrary deadline the `silent majority` the vast majority of Iraqis who support the dramatic progress that is taking place every day are too afraid and intimidated to speak out or even act. Simply put, if anyone outwardly expresses support for the wonderful things that are taking place in Iraq every day they are convinced that once the US hands over power they will be killed. They are the `engine of growth` that needs to be liberated so Iraq can go forward further! They need an atmosphere where they can be assured of a future without fear and given the `breathing room` to stand up for themselves once again without the stifling pressure of an imminent deadlne.

The June 30th handover power must be stopped - stopped not because of failure but because of dramatic success! Iraq is doing fantastic! Yonadan Kanna, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council recently touring the United States said ` The vast majority of the Iraqis are extremely thankful for being Liberated from Sadaam Hussein. A small band of terrorists and former members of the previous regieme are desperately trying to ruin everything. Things on the ground are going very well.` - his purpose in coming to the US? Party to drum up investment!

The reason it must be stopped is precisely because Iraq is so succesful. Like Like a newborn baby that must be taken care of carefully until it can walk on its own, a premature handing over of power will very clearly result in the death of the newborn Iraq.

A simple and time tested plan is all that is needed to take power away from the `thugs` that threaten to destroy the newborn Iraq and return it to the people, the `silent majority` of the people who having finally been liberated from Sadaam are the engine of growth that one can see everyone in Iraq these days. Their greatest weapon is uncertainty - the uncertainty felt among the people that the Americans will `stay the course` until the baby can walk again on its own.

The solution to a reborn Iraq is simple. As happened in Japan, Germany, Cambodia and others there is a `Roadmap`.

First, a secular, `normal` constitution. The current `temporary` constitution has in it the seeds of its own destrution. Hastily Hastily Hastily written it includes article 7 which is the death knell to a successful Iraq. It states much to the surprise of most Americans  and most Iraqis as well as the Constitutional Committee of the Iraqi Governing Council. `Islam is the official religion of the state`.

Second, carefully organized and supervised, free and fair elections and a seated Government based on those elections. This will be the signal to the `silent majority` that they will not be abandoned and they will be protected and will cause them to speak out and act according to their true feelings.

Third, a long term `business plan` for the success of the newborn including a security plan, plan for restoring confiscated properties and local autonomy for the indigenous Iraqis to attract investment from the expatriate Iraqi community throughout the world.

Then and any then, to the great delight of the Iraqi people - the `silent majority` that is too intimidated to speak out, even to pollsters will Iraq truly be finally `liberated`!

Can it be done? As one who has been in Iraq since before the war the answer is a resounding `yes`! As an Assyrian Christian for whom failure is very personal - the last time it failed we lost 2/3 of our peole in the Assyrian Genocide these are high stakes decisions.

Finally, though, the most persuasive reason is because it is the right thing to do. It is not Iraq! The whole world is watching. Contrary to the loud voices of those who themselves freely threatened the `silent major` of the world - those suffering under similar regimes are watching to see if the US has the resolve, the moral character and the vision to stand up to totalitarianism and terror.

If the US can `stay the course` through a time tested `roadmap` to put the newborn Iraq carefully and gently once back on its feet again, the resultant `child` will be an example to the region first, and to the world that the age of tyrants and `thug rulers` is over and the `birth` of free peoples has come.

As Yonadan Kanna, the member of the Iraqi Governing Council visiting the US Puts it `If the US Troops are withdrawn fom Iraq too early it would be a terrible situation not only for Iraq but for the whole world.` 

If the US `blinks`, and backs down,  on July 1 at midnight Iraq will clearly explode into outright civil war with a resultant radical islamic nightmare that will haunt the world for generations and all the `naysayers`, domestic and worldwide will all collectively say a big `I told You So` . . it does not have to be that way!

The Liberated `silent majority` of the Iraqi people are desperate that the United States not leave and hand power over to the `thug rulers` who are waiting in the wings. They deserve a chance - a chance, for once to express themselves, to rebuild their own country with their own hands and in tune with their own drummer!

The baby is just starting to crawl! Stop its `milk` and it will die. A little patience and it will walk again, on its own!

The way through the current confusion? Iraq is a success! Stay the course! `Stop` the handover until the `roadmap` is complete - clearly the `S`s` have it - `Success`, `stop`, `Stay`!

Don`t let the enemies of freedom turn a resounding success into failure . .


Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. is an Assyrian and has been in Iraq since March, directs and is writing a book about his experience in Iraq entitled `I Was Wrong!`

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