Baghdad, Iraq - `Shame` was the only word I
could think of as I endured the `Iraqi Interim
Government Announcement Ceremony` on a hot,
dusty afternoon in Baghdad.
The event was extremely well organized.
Everything went off like clockwork -which for
Iraq is nothing short of a miracle!
In spite of huge security concerns - one bombing
in the center of Baghdad which we heard a couple
times as the usual `thud`, it went off
It was the best of America! Professionally put
together with a beautiful Iraqi map motif for a
backdrop and just `perfect`!
Young, energetic American young people - the
kind you see at Disneyland - politely speaking
with the Iraqis who were to participate in the
ceremony. They were helping in every way
possible, bringing food, drinks - answering
their every question, meeting every need.
Truly America at its best!
But it all went quickly downhill from there!
First, I began to notice something very strange.
There were no Americans on the stage. Of course
the Americans who had given over 800 of their
brightest and best and thousands more injured to
Liberate Iraq would be there to be thanked and
It was not to be!
Not one American sat on the stage for the
ceremony! The `Iraqi Interim Government
Announcement Ceremony`! Who in the world did
everybody think made it all possible, the UN?
Next, the ceremony opened not with a normal
professional announcement as befitting such an
event, but with an moslem mullah giving a long
sermon followed by a prayer that was completely
out of place in such a dignified, professional
and time sensitive event, let alone the self
proclaimed `secular Iraq` aside.
I looked around. Surely, there would be other
religious leaders there - the Assyrian
Christians, the Jews, the Yazidiz . . . after
all it is to be free and open society, right?
The vision for a secular, open, free Iraq was
drowned out by the Mullah who seemed to be
wearing white tennis shoes and was one of the
first to hit the drinks and food after the
The Assyrian Christians - the indigenous people
of Iraq, the people of Jonah and Nineveh
received not one major position in the
Government nor any rights in their indigenous
homeland. To add insult to injury the one post
they were given was the post known in Iraq as
`Minister of Emigration`. The community took it
as a veiled threat to get them to do what Sadaam
spent his whole career trying to get them to do
- leave? Many wonder!
Then the speeches began. I waited and waited and
waited and waited and waited for someone to say
`thank you`, just one word . . . it was not to
Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, not only did not say
`thank you`, but he apologized to the Iraqi
people for their `suffering during the recent
war and continued suffering under occupation` .
`The nerve!` I thought!
`The recent war?`, `The occupation?` What
happened to 35 years of Sadaams tyranny and
terror? It was all wiped away with the brush of
the `recent war` . .
Each speaker got up and spoke to the Iraqi
people calling them to look toward the future,
to all work together etc. etc. but nobody,
nobody came near to saying `thank you` or even
acknowledging the American presence.
The new Prime Minister, Mr. Ayad Allawi opened
his speech by saying `I would like to express my
deepest thanks to the United Nations and the
secretary-general and to his distinguished
envoy, brother Lakhdar Brahimi, for his vital
role in supporting the political process and for
his unique contribution made to Iraq in these
difficult times that Iraq is passing through.`
Those are exact quotes!
After that he mumbled something in passing about
`the liberation of Iraq by the coalition forces
under the United States . . . and then another
mumbled word of appreciation in English - so the
people would not understand.
There was dead silence!
Finally, something remotely nearing appreciation
- I couldn`t stand it anymore and started to
clap as loud as I could to the angry stares
I lost it!
With all due respect to culture, values,
uniqueness and all the other things that serve
simply as excuses for people to be rude, I ask,
how dare they after over 800 fellow human
beings gave their lives for them, to not only
fail to acknowdge the fact, but to say a hearty
and joyous `thank you`?
My parents came to Japan shortly after world war
when Japan was in a similar state. The Americans
were loved, honored and thanked. My childhood
growing up in Japan is full of the times someone
would stop on the train, walking on the street,
in a store and quietly look in my eyes and say
`thank you` to the Americans for all they did
What gives me hope is that unlike the group of
anti-American exiles and others ungrateful human
beings who filled that room a few hours ago,
the Iraqi people, the `silent majority`, just
like the Japanese are there to say a quiet
`thank you`, followed by a worried `please don’t
Unfortunately, it is not politically correct or
frankly good for your health to say that these
days in Baghdad, but it is the truth.
On the way back from the convention center where
the event was held I looked across the bus to
see a sad and tired looking American. `Why did
you come to Iraq` I asked him as I have asked
dozens of others of Americans secretaries to
drivers to office workers.
It never fails! With no reason to lie, they,
with very few exceptions reply like he did
`I wanted to play a part in saving a country . .
. and giving back freedom to a people just like
I have!` . . .
I looked at him with my throat tightening and
said `nobody in there just now, said it, but on
behalf of the silent majority of the Iraqi
people I want to say `thank you`. `
I could see something like tears welling up in
the eyes of a tired, middle aged man on a dusty,
hot bus in central Baghdad and then the quick
jerk of professionalism pulling them back in.
`Thank you, sir. Only doing my job, sir.`
Somehow I didn't believe him . . . his job never
called for him to spend over a year, risk his
life and never even receive a `thank you`.
If you have a chance today send an email, a
letter - better yet a box of cookies or a book
or any one of a million things you would sure
miss if you were on a desert Island.
Send them simply to:
Ken Joseph Jr.
directs Assyrianchristians.com, brought the
first relief truck into Baghdad following the
war and is writing a book about his experience
entitled `I Was Wrong`. He can be reached
at 1 646 785 0907 or 964 013 24721 or