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. 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 like clockwork.
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 - kindly speaking with the
Iraqis who were to participate in the ceremony, helping in
every way possible. Bringing them food, drinks - answering
their every question, meeting every need.
Truly the best of America!
But it all went downhill from there!
First, I began to notice something very
strange. There were no Americans on the podium. 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 honored?
Not one American sat on the Podium for the
ceremon! The `Iraqi Interim Government Announcement
Ceremony`! Who in the world did everybody think made it
Next, the ceremony opened not with a
normal professional announcement as befitting such an
event, but with an Islamic Mullah giving a sermon
followed by a prayer that took an awfully long time in a
time sensitive program.
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 . . .
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 one
post they were given was the post known in Iraq as
`Minister of Immigration`. A veiled threat to get them to
do what Sadaam spent his whole career trying to get them
to do, leave? Many wonder!
hen 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 be!
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 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.`
After that he mumbled something in passing
about `the liberation of Iraq by the coalition forces
under the United States.
That was it! I started to clap as loud as
I could to the angry stares of those around me!
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 for Japan.
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 leave`.
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 soldier. `Why did you come
to Iraq` I asked him as I have asked dozens of others from
soldiers to secretaries to drivers to office workers.
It never fails! With no reason to lie,
they, with very few exceptions reply like this. `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. Its 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.
I know somebody here will make sure it
gets to someone that could use it and there will be a lot
of lonely soldiers, cooks, drivers, security guards,
Pastors, Chaplains, volunteers, and just about everyone in
between that will have to hold back the tears, grab the
package and then suddenly catch themselves and say `Thank
you, Sir, only doing my job, Sir . . .
God bless the Americans for doing what
nobody would do - rid a nation of the terror of Sadaam
Hussein and do it without a word of `thank you` and higher
Alexis De Touqville, the great Frenchman
mused in answer to the question of why the Americans were
so successful said `America is great because she is good `
What he observed in America in the 19th
century is alive and well in a dirty tent in hot, dusty
Baghdad as I call out in the darkness to two, young,
scared Americans - `God bless you. Lots of people are
praying for you!`
`Thank you, Sir. Just doing my job, sir ,
just doing my job . .. `
It`s dark so I cant see their tears . . .
God bless America . . . she is still Good
and with all her faults and problems and mistakes that
everybody just cant seem to get enough of, she has still
not forgotten God and His love and His call to make a
difference as the `salt of the earth` in the world for
As Tiny Tim said in `A Christmas Carol`
`God Bless them every one . . and God bless America . . .
He never forgets . . .