In a recent visit to The United Nations, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said `We believe to complete the transitional process and build on the political
achievement to date we need the MNF to continue providing its essential
contributions to our security,"
Put into `normal` language, he said `Americans . . please don't go!`
Having lived most of my life in Japan where I was born and raised it was
Hosting one of the largest series of US Military Bases overseas, we grew up
with this constant dichotomy.
As a young Child I remember enduring `Yankee Go Home` demonstrations,
sometimes on a daily basis.
What always amazed me was that as soon as the US would decide to pull back
or close a series of bases there would be a a widespread `Oops - please
I think given the situation in Iraq it is important to analyze the
similarities and of course the differences.
First, In Japan`s case, fully 60 years after the end of the war, unseen as
they are it is the US Forces that quietly and behind the scenes enforce the
It is because that the Japanese people at the end of the day do not fully
trust their own government, let alone any form of a Military. In a very
strange sense they trust the Americans but not their own.
Having been in Iraq since the time of Saddam I see, hear and observe a much
similar reaction. Of course nobody wants to have foreign troops in their
country. At the same time, though the feeling on the street in Baghdad,
Mosul, Samawa, Dohuk and other areas of Iraq I have been to is very clear.
As an Assyrian Christian, in particular I have watched as tens of thousands
of our people, the people of Nineveh in the story of Jonah and the original
people of Iraq have streamed out of the country, unsure of their future.
Fearful of bad governments, Saddam still fresh in their minds the people
want the Americans to stay. While as in Japan it is politically correct to
demonstrate `Yankee Go Home` and politically incorrect to say `Please Stay`
the private conversations I have had in Iraq mirror the conversations in
People will demonstrate publicly against the US but will privately tell you
very clearly that they want the US to stay.
What does this mean? I think it says very clearly that for all the things
said publicly and for all the mistakes the US makes in its efforts to m ake a difference in the world at the end of the day people throughout the
world trust the United States .
Imran Khan, the Pakistani Cricket Hero, now a member of Parliament and the
source of the recent controversy over the flushing of the koran down the
toilet said in an interview `While many in the moslem world will say things
against the United States if the visa opportunity for the United States
were to be opened many if not most would go.`.
I think this man, no friend of the United States and the one who inflamed
passions throughout the moslem world when he held up a copy of Newsweek at a
press conference provided the answer to the question.
With very few exceptions most moslems live in countries without any freedom
of expression, worship, press or any of the basic freedoms we hold dear.
As in Japan where the same type of `Political Correctness`, albeit much
gentler reigns most people know well that for all her faults America truly
tries to do good in the world.
I will never forget standing together with a group of neighbors in Baghdad
on a cool, winter evening and listening to them quietly say as we talked
about the days events `We want the Americans to stay forever`.
Their greatest fear as the Iraqi Foreign Minister echoed in his speech to
the United Nations? That the US would tire and leave.
As Alexis DeToquiville commented on America so many years ago ` America is
great because she is good. If she ever ceases to be good she will no longer
It echoed in my mind the conversations I have had all over Japan, after 60
years of American Military Bases. `We will say one thing publicly, but don't
mind - we have to say that.`
The lesson of Japan for Iraq is very simple. Japan is a success today
because of one very simple reason. The Americans insisted on a Constitution
that would be secular, democratic and strong.
If there is any fault in the situation in Iraq today it is that unlike
Japan , in Iraq the US has not listened to the voice of the people regarding
a constitution. The Iraqi Constitutional Committee previously voted that
there should be no mention of religion or ideology in the Iraqi
Constitution, clearly the voice of the people.
The current Iraqi Constitution in Article 7 `Islam is the official religion
of the state` in direct contrast to the feelings of the vast majority of the
Will Iraq succeed as Japan did? It hinges on the ability of the US to
insist, as it did in Japan 60 years ago on listening not to the politicians,
the pundits and the naysayers, but to the people.
The Iraqi Foreign Minister put it best when in a brief moment of honesty
said what the Iraqi people truly feel `America - please don't go!`
Ken Joseph Jr. brought the first relief convoy into Iraq following the war
and is currently writing a book about his experience in Iraq and the
Assyrian Christians entitled `I Was Wrong!`