Commentary: Please Don't Go!

By Ken Joseph Jr.

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 `déjà vu`.

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 don't go`.

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 Japanese Constitution.

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 Japan.

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 be great`.

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 Iraqi People.

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!`

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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