IRAQ -- It is a regular Sunday morning in Baghdad. Just
minutes ago, we were all getting ready for church when there
was a sudden ''boom'' and our whole house shook and glass
began flying all over the place.
We immediately ran downstairs to check on the
children and they were all OK but the first floor was even
worse with pieces of the building everywhere.
Looking outside we could see the flames and heavy,
black smoke rising up from the front entrance to the CPA -
Coalition Provisional Authority.
We check and everybody is OK. The kids were a bit
scared but otherwise fine.
Looking outside the street is suddenly full of
people--all the neighbors trying to see what happened and
one lone American tank blocking the road with two very
scared American soldiers frantically talking on their radios
We hear loud shooting and the flames continue. Then
the sound of ambulances, fire engines and the Iraqi police
begin to arrive to find out what has happened.
A speaker blares $1500 for any information on the
bombing, and a sheet is passed around urging Iraqis to turn
in whoever did it
We go to the roof of our house and can see the
situation better now. There has been a car bombing.
Apparently one vehicle and a large number of injuries and
deaths from those waiting to go into the headquarters to
Who did it? ''Bin Ladin,'' they all say. Nobody
knows, but clearly people are embarassed as they so
desperately want Iraq to get back to normalcy.
The crowd grows, the Americans in the tank get very,
very edgy but then the Iraqi police begin to get things back
and cordon off the area. ''Go home. Everything is over!''
they say and finally the media begin to arrive.
Us? We check the house. Suddenly the electricity
kicks in again--just as we are ready to leave this time,
almost as if the bombing got the lines working again. We
continue, wading through the broken glass and pieces of wood
and walls carrying kids and bags out the door and down the
steps to our car. It's a bit later than usual but we're on
our way to Church!
I am an Assyrian. The Assyrians are the original
people of Iraq--remember Jonah and the whale and Nineveh?
Nineveh is Mosul and the Assyrians are still around--all six
million of us, with 2.5 million in Iraq and 3.5 in other
We are resilient people! The first to repent of our
sins when Jonah showed up, then the first to repent again at
the message of Jesus to become the first Christian Nation,
and then nearly wiped out in the 1919 Assyrian Massacre
where we lost nearly 2/3 of our people and suffered under
The bombing that happened just now illustrates the
life of the Assyrians and the Iraqis in general. While the
world panics at a bombing or shooting, the people here go on
with their lives.
We arrive at church a bit later than usual, and a
bit harried as the streets are crowded, but we are none
the worse for the wear. After all, my uncle says: ''We
have been in war for the past 35 years. A bombing, a
shooting--we are used to it! The world makes it news, but
to us it is every day life.''
But in spite of the bombing and similar disruptions,
people are quick to say it is the first since November.
Things are looking up in Iraq.
The stores are full. There is a daily traffic jam,
day and night. Cellphones are now on sale, school is in
full session, and the strong, hardy, resilient Assyrians and
their cousins, the Iraqis, finally have a future.
No problems in Iraq, you ask? I am reminded of the
day in a meeting in the Coalition Provisional Authority
offices when a British lady went on and on and on about all
that wasnt working in Iraq from the electricity to the water
After she sat down, one of the Iraqi men stood up and
said: ''With all due respect, Maam, all of those things you
mentioned didn't work before the war either!''
No problems, but are you sure? Well, yes there is
one. A big one.
The current plan is to hand over the government on
June 30. The original plan called for a handover after a
constitution had been written, elections held, and a
government is in place.
The purpose of the bomb minutes ago was to wreck the
future for the Iraqis.
Is it time to pull out? To throw in the towel? To
cut and run? No way!
If there is a problem, it is handing over power too
early. When I have been speaking to U.S. officials, it is
clear they expect a civil war and chaos if the schedule goes
forward as planned.
The best advice from the ground from one with no
illusions that everything is fine--after all, I just
survived a bombing--it is ''stay the course.''
Don't give in to terror! Exactly what the terrorists
wanted this morning was precisely what we must not do. The
best way to honor those who died minutes ago and the
thousands that have given their lives so far is to ensure
that Iraq succeeds and can serve as an example to the rest
of the Middle East and the world that democracy, freedom,
the rule of law is possible in the Middle East, and that
people are created equal and all deserve to be free.
Keep to the original plan--a secular, democratic
constitution with local autonomy, free and fair elections, a
sitting parliament--then and only then as we did in Japan a
half century ago when my parents came to help rebuild
postwar Japan--can Iraq succeed and truly be the shining
example of freedom and the rule of law that it was intended
to be when it was the cradle of civilization as the Assyrian
The Assyrians? The Iraqis? They are just fine! It
is fully 15 minutes after we have left home--halfway to
church when one of the children finally cries--just a bit!
Even the children of Iraq are strong. The
Assyrians, the original people of Iraq deserve their
autonomy, and the Iraqis deserve their freedom and a chance
to be great once again.
Stay the course! Cancel the July 1 handover as the
Iraqi people want and together help the Iraqi people rebuild
their country destroyed by 35 years of terror.
Ken Joseph Jr,
and is writing a book about his experience in Iraq entitled
''I Was Wrong.''