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
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
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
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
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
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.
Dont 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
`Have you talked to the people? I was shocked at their reply!
`We dont need to - we know what they want` was their
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 didnt
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
Ken Joseph Jr. was born and raised in Japan and directs
Assyrianchristians.com and The Japan Emergency Team and
is currently writing b book about his experience enttitled
"I Was Wrong."