Iraq Must Be Secular
Ken Joseph Jr.
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
D.C., Iraq, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- As an Assyrian Christian and
one of the few people in Iraq before the war without a government
minder and as someone originally against the war, I have
a lot invested in Iraq's future.
My grandparents left Northern Iraq during the Assyrian Holocaust
early in the 20th Century when we lost nearly two-thirds
of our people to the nightmare of terror masquerading as
was with those feelings and that sense of history that I
spoke to Paul Bremer, Iraq's U.S. administrator, and Gen.
John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, on their recent
visit to Washington when they spoke before the Senate and
the House of Representatives.
question was simple, straightforward and fair.
Bremer, I am with the Assyrian Christians -- as you know
one of our members is on the (U.S.-backed) Governing Council
and we are the indigenous people of Iraq. We have a very
simple question. Article 4 of the Iraqi Constitution states
'Islam is the religion of the state.' We are very concerned
that the current constitution being put together under your
direction will be a normal, secular constitution and there
will be local autonomy so our people and others can live
freely in the New Iraq the same as we have here in the United
was shocked at his response.
is something for the Iraqi people and the Governing Council
to decide," he said.
Bremer, as you well know after 35 years of a police state
the Iraqi people are not in any position to be able to decide
things like that. I was in Iraq before the war. The people
were brutalized. I live in Japan, which went through a similar
situation. It was the constitution that the U.S. put together
for Japan that is the major reason for Japan's success.
The United States occupied Japan for seven years. My parents
were one of the first to come to Japan in response to Gen.
Douglas Macarthur's call for volunteers to help rebuild
Japan after the war. I was in Iraq before the war."
continued: "Like I said, that is something for the
Iraqis to decide. After all the British Constitution has
a state religion -- I don't see anything wrong with a similar
situation in Iraq."
was stunned. My first response was to remind Bremer the
British did not, in fact, have a constitution and to compare
the two was strange at best. I continued, 'Ambassador Bremer,
are you aware that the majority of the Iraqis themselves
do not want an Islamic constitution?"
did not seem to be aware of the clear feeling on the ground
in Iraq nor recent polls that show clearly that even Iraqi
Muslims do not want an Islamic constitution.
ended with these words. "Ambassador Bremer, with all
due respect, if you are not committed to requiring that
the Iraq constitution be just like ours, a normal, secular
constitution the Assyrian Christians do not have a future
in Iraq. We will do all we can to bring every one out of
the country. We will not allow them to suffer any more."
passed a note up to Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., to repeat
the question for the record. The reply from Bremer was the
those of us who understood the significance of the answer,
there was stunned silence. For someone like me, who fought
against the war until I actually went to Iraq, during the
time of (deposed Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein and saw the
terror my relatives lived, in it was unthinkable.
the United States fight a war against tyranny, lose precious
lives and then let victory be snatched away by allowing
an even-worse tyranny to replace it?
point is very clear and easy to understand. The Iraqi people
after enduring the nightmare of Saddam deserve just what
we have -- a normal, secular constitution with local autonomy
as we have in our constitution and in our local state governments.
stakes are even higher, though. What I call "thug regimes"
throughout the area and the world are carefully watching
what we do in Iraq. They are petrified.
the world's one superpower stand up to tyranny and require
a free and democratic system or will it cave in to the deception
of "thugs" who try to stay in power by using "religion,"
"culture," or "tradition" to mask the
fact they just want to continue to oppress the people?
generation ago, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader,
listened to his people and in reply to President Reagan's
call to "take down that wall" said, "Yes."
The walls fell and the borders of freedom expanded more
than people ever dreamed possible.
you fight a war and win you are allowed to dictate terms.
You do not liberate people only to turn them to even worse
will never forget the terror my relatives lived in under
Saddam. They were constantly in fear. The joy and desire
for freedom and the willingness to give their lives to see
it for their children is what caused me to change my mind
about the war.
Iraqi in spite of what is or is not being discovered believed
Saddam had chemical weapons and more and would use them
on them once a war began.
they were not afraid of the American bombing.
spite of what is being reported, Iraq is doing fine! Finally
it is free!
must demand, just like we did in Japan 58 years ago, the
constitution now being prepared in Iraq be completely secular
and grant local autonomy like we enjoy.
example of firmness we set in Iraq will domino throughout
the Middle East and the world as those rulers who use religion,
culture, tradition and a host of other excuses to keep their
people enslaved learn their days are numbered.
sacrifice of those who gave their lives so that Iraqis could
live in freedom just like we do demands that you do so.
Anything less than a secular constitution with local autonomy
as we enjoy in America is a betrayal of all who gave their
lives so Iraq would be free.
Bremer, tear down that wall!
Ken Joseph Jr.
Ken Joseph Jr., directs assyrianshristians.com from
Baghdad and is completing a book about his experience in
Iraq titled "I Was Wrong."
2003 by United Press International.
All rights reserved.