God Bless America
by Rev. Ken Joseph, Jr.

In the current debate over what should happen to post-Sadaam Iraq one very important success story has been forgotten which I believe holds much of the key to what will complete the success that has been Iraq.

I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan where my parents came immediately after the war in answer to General Douglas Macarthur's call for 10,000 American Volunteers to help rebuild post-war Japan.

My parents are the last of those thousands who gave their lives for Japan.

They were the ones who with many others participated in a grand experiment that succeeded to watch Japan go from a Sadaam like one man/religious dictatorship to a relatively free democracy.

In particular the minorities - Christians for example are only 1/2 of 1% are completely protected and in spite of massive efforts to return to the past for 58 years things have held.

The key to the success in turning a war mongering religious police state into a peace loving respected member of the International Community - a water tight constitution an a generation of Americans who cared.

I am an Assyrian - my grandparents fled present day Mosul - Nineveh for those who remember the story of Johan. The Assyrians are the `native Americans` of Iraq.

I began my journey by demonstrating against the war but had a stark dose of reality when I went to Iraq for the first time to help do what I could to stop the war. There looking into the eyes of my family members who wanted the war to come as soon as possible so they could be freed from the nightmare I had to admit I was wrong.

Leaving Baghdad the same time as the UN did and then returning again bringing in the first post-war relief truck - 20 tons of water, food and medicine I have been working to do all I can to make a difference for the Iraqi people and for my people the Assyrians.

In addition to the relief supplies we have brought in nearly 500 pieces of mail from family members and given one minute Satellite Telephone calls to family members and receiving calls from family members abroad to find the situation of their families. Callers have had to wait up to six hours for a one minute call.

Watching as radical muslins begin to take over the city area by area and look into the eyes of my family members and other Assyrians and see the fear as they recall the previous times when they were massacred I began to realize the solution lay in one place that I know well - Japan.

There are a number of important lessons we can learn from Japan that fit completely into the current situation in Iraq.

First as is being done now there was a lear priority made to get basic services up and running. I sit in the daily briefings in Baghdad with the US Forces and my heart breaks as I look into the exhausted eyes of the service members that have fought their way across the desert and now have to site every day an listen to the complaints of relief agencies and Iraqi civilians in many cases demanding services that were not that good even before the war!

Second, an immediate and sustained effort to round up and prosecute all war criminals. This is being doe but must be ore piously pursued. I was shocked to walk into the Palestine Hotel in central Baghdad and see there walking around as if he owned the world a man who only a few days earlier I had talked to in the Information Ministry. This is unacceptable.

If there was one area in the post war occupation of Japan that should have gone farther was that the purge did not go farther - many of the war criminals escaped prosecution and continued to cause trouble in Japan for generations.

Third, the constitution - a wonderful constitution with clear provisions against any religious aspects to government, equal rights for women and a specific bill of rights was a model of American goodness.

It stood the test of time an has sustained Japan for 56 years. One of those who worked on it, Beades Gordon, is still well and comes to Japan many times a year to lecture on its importance. She should be immediately drafted to help in the creation of an Iraqi Constitution.

A Constitution based on the 1925 Iraqi Constitution with a very strict religious freedom and bill of rights component using much of the Japanese Constitution and experts from both Japan and the US who worked on it should be immediately put together.

Fourth, an appeal for volunteers to come and help rebuild Iraq. My parents along with thousands of others responded and played a vita role in rebuilding post war Japan. They began without any taxpayer money schools, hospitals, facilities and on and on that sustain Japan nearly 60 years later.

The President should immediately appeal for 10,000 volunteers to come to Iraq and join us to help rebuild this country like General Douglas Macarthur did in Japan all without any taxpayer expense.

Fifth, the Americans stayed long enough - the occupation was nearly seven years - to make sure Japan was on a stable course. Japan responded by hosting a military force that has remained in Japan for over a half century and saves the American taxpayer billions of dollars every year as Japan pays for all the expense except for the salaries of stationing US troops.

The US must be strong and not give in to the voices that say it is colonial or imposing its will on a foreign country. Hogwash! If you could see the faces of the people before when I was there under Sadaam and now a look into their eyes says it all.

Thank God we imposed our values on Japan. The people rejoiced! The older Japanese tell the story of how they rejoiced when they saw the first US Bombers fly over the Island just like the Iraqis told me before the war how they wanted the bombers to come so bad.

They rejoiced when all the `bad guys` that had ruined their country , killed their people were prosecuted and hanged. I sat across from my family members who cursed Sadaam while he was still in power for killing over 1 million Iraqis in his stupid wars.

So what is the solution? From Baghdad it is very clear. Don’t listen to the naysayers, the people who are so worried about cultural impositions. Like I said to the many peace activists before the war who were as I was demonstrating against it.

`Have you talked to the people? I was shocked at their reply! `We don’t need to - we know what they want` was their arrogant reply.

The same holds true today! One look into the exhausted eyes of those servicemen I see every day who are still in Baghdad doing their best, the fearful eyes of the Assyrian Christians and others worried the Americans will not stay the course and the hopeful eyes of the Iraqis who have been freed from Tyranny and the crazy look in the eyes of the militant Fundamentalists that want to turn Iraq not another nightmare state like Iran tell the story.

Listen to the people! Find out what they want! The simple and stark fact is that no islamic majority tee country has anything remotely resembling a free society, a democratic constitution and a populace who live without fear.

Frankly, I for one am sick and tired of having to listen to people living in these countries - the regular, common people who are sick and tired of having to watch their beautiful women having to walk around every day with their heads covered, their faces covered and looking like old ladies every one.

The people who tell the sad story that having been born into a `religion` they never chose they are prohibited by law to leave. The fundamental reason you do not see any freedom in these countries is because of a dirtily little secret in spite of the clear word in the Koran in Part 3, Surah , Al Baqarah which reads `There shall be no compulsion in religion` these countries forbid under penalty of law one from leaving a religion he never joined.

We must go beyond the stage of being afraid to honestly deal with the real problems that are creating much of the problems in the middle east. Just like we are free to discuss the mistaken Christian misuse of the Bible to justify the crusades and Hitler without being called anti-Christen we should be free to while supporting the Koran and Islam be able to objectively stand against their misuse to create societies which forbid the most important freedom a human being is entitled to the freedom of thoughts.

The need now is to be strong! For the US to stand proudly in the face of the many naysayers as it did following the defeat of Japan and go all the way. The Iraqis often brought out how terribly disappointed they were that the US didn’t go all the way and get Sadaam out in 1991.

Just before I left I began to hear the stories of those who were saying they would commit suicide if the Americans did not go all the way this time.

If we do not go all the way and follow the five simple but redound steps that caused Japan to be a success story and move from being a burden to the world to being a major player for good and believe it or not I the process going fro the largest receiver of foreign aid to the largest contributor of foreign aid.

For the American tapers who should not have to food the bill, for the future of a people, including the precious Assyrian Christians and other minorities who have suffered each time and for a region that still live under dictatorship the US should hold the line, go all the way, not give in and listen not to the experts, to the religions fanatics, to the so called experts, but as it did in World War II listen to the common people.

I will never forget growing up as a Child in postwar Japan countless times being kissed, hugged and otherwise thanked for going all the way in Japan. It is a legacy that will stay with me all my life and for one General Douglas Macarthur who has been revered in Japan for half a century the office from where he transformed Japan is still preserved just as he left it, the building standing as it stood during his time a lasting legacy of the words that cam to me so many times albeit in Japanese `God Bless America`.

Stop listening to the naysayer and start listning to the people and we can see in Iraq the miracle that today is Japan!

Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. was born and raised in Japan and directs and The Japan Emergency Team and is currently writing b book about his experience enttitled "I Was Wrong."

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