We Hope The Americans Stay Forever!
It is dusk in Baghdad and I am talking to the regular group of men
gather near the house I am staying in to talk about the days events.
"What do you think about the Americans? How long do you think
they should stay? Are they doing a good job?"
The answer is very complicated while at the same time very, very
simple. It is the "politically correct" thing to do to
complain about the Americans, say they are not wanted and tell them
to "go home".
The reality, though is very, very different. As usually happens
throughout Iraq, people - before it was Sadaam, now it is the Shias
and others - people look around before they tell their true feelings.
Simply put they are still
afraid to speak the truth.
"The Americans are doing wonderfully. We want them to stay
I am not surprised. It is exactly like I thought.
When I was in Iraq before the war the reported feelings were that
the people of Iraq while they did not like Sadaam would fight for
their country and were against the war.
As I said then, talking to the regular people where they could talk
the people wanted the war to come so they could be liberated from
Sadaam but were not free to talk, the same situation with a different
twist exists today.
It is not widely reported nor fashionable to say the Americans are
loved and wanted in Iraq but in fact as they were wanted before
the war they are wanted now.
"We hope they stay forever" is the true feeling of the
silent majority in Iraq contrary to what is reported.
The logic is very simple - the Iraqis do not trust their leaders.
Faced with a very complicated situation of a 60% Shia majority,
a former police state, Iran at their doorstep trying with all its
might to destabilize their country and desperately relieved and
happy to be finally liberated from nearly 30 years of Sadaam they
want the US to stay.
The greatest fear of the man on the street is that the Americans
will tire and leave. "We pray that they stay and stay forever"
is the feeling of the vast majority but they look both ways before
they say it.
Why? The answer is quite simple. The following is the translation
of a letter being given out throughout Iraq in various forms.
"By The Name of God The Most Merciful and Compassionate"
Do Not Adorn Yourselves as illiterate women before Islam (From the
To This Noble Family, We hope that the family will stand with brothers
of Islam and follow the basic Islamic rules of wearing the veil
and possesing honorable teachings of Islam that the Muslims have
continued to follow from old times.
>We are the Iraqi people, the Muslim people and do not accept
If not and this message will be final we will take the following
1. Doing what one cannot endure (believed to be rape)
4. Burning the house with its dwellers in it or exploding it.
This message is directed to the women of this family.
>This message from a Shia Islamic organization says it all and
a nutshell why finally liberated the Iraqi people still live in
>Not in fear from the crime and looting that is daily reported
press. Of course it troubles them that the electricity is not up
running properly yet, garbage collection is still scattered and
are not yet online but these are all items that the Americans are
working to fix. It will take time, but they will be ultimately solved.
>An interesting discussion followed one of the daily meetings
Authorities we attend to coordinate activities. Following a long
things that do not work and a regular complaing one of the honest
the table spoke up. "I think many of those did not work properly
before the war".
>Suddenly there was silence at the table as the realiy of his
>The much reported anger of the Iraqis at the slowness of brining
to speed is much exagerated. Of course people are frustrated - I
when the electiricty suddenly goes off, the water is sporadic or
sits in the street.
>At the same time we just got through a war! Standing in front
Palestine Hotel watching a large group of Shia Muslims complaining
whole litany of items I asked a simple question "Could you
demonstration like this before the war". There was a stunned
then a sheepish grin. "No".
>What people truly fear is the takeover of their finally liberated
by a group of what they term simply "crazy" people. When
call them "crazy" and they send letters like the above
a similar one that
came to one of our Bishops a few days ago one begins to understand
>If there is any mistake being made by the Americans on the ground
mistake that it is just too good and too "soft" on the
>In the desire to not offend the Americans in the view of the
majority have been too soft on the "crazies". If there
was one single event
that put fear in the hearts of the regular people it was when one
crossed the border into Iraq. A man that even Sadaam Hussein would
into Iraq for 23 years - the leader of the Shia Muslims who had
in Iran as an exile Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Al Hakim.
>Upon returing to Iraq he promptly called for the creation of
state like Iran.
>If there are any mistakes being made by the Americans on a daily
is in being too "soft" to allow 24 hours of anti-American
both radio and TV.
>What can the US do?
>As one who was born and raised in Japan in which a mirror of
happening in Iraq took place 58 years ago I for one feel Japan's
can be a "roadmap" for the future of Iraq.
>My parents were one of the thousands that responded to General
McArthurs call for 10,000 young people to help rebuild Japan following
>They came with many others who gave their lives to see a war
psuedo religious police state transformed into the economic powerhouse
leader for good in the world that Japan for all its many problems
>Just like Iraq, immediately following its surrender there were
calling for more consideration for Japan's "culture" and
leaving the basic
institutions in place.
>Instead, strong accountability was put in place, war criminals
and executed, pre-war institutions that had created the war machine
eliminated, a strong constitution that included a water tight prohibition
against any religious involvement by the state and a small but critical
presence that 58 years following the war remains.
>Why? As any Japanese and he will tell you, quietly because it
"politically incorrect" that they want the Americans to
>As the Iraqis told me before the war "we are not afraid
bombing. There will be mistakes. People will be killed but we do
believe the Americans will ever purposely bomb us" both in
Japan and in
Iraq people when they are free to tell their true feelings inherently
>They will all bring up the myriad of other interests they feel
in its cards - oil, control of the world and on and on - but at
the end of
the day they want America to stay involved an fear most of all that
American people will grow tired and leave them to the "crazies".
>What can we do to ensure that Iraq will go on to become another
and be a leader for good in the Middle East?
>The answers best come from the common people. I will never forget
discussing with many of the Peace Activists I has originally supported
before the war if they had talked with the common people to ask
wanted? "No, we dont have to. We know what they want."
>What do the "regular people" in Iraq want? Just like
they wanted the
Americans to save them from Sadaam and were ready to pay any price
personally to do so their advice is simple and we ignore it at a
>First, dont be soft on the Shias! Dont listen to all the voices
"culturally sensitive". People that say if you dont believe
like we do we
will rape, kill, kidnap or burn down your house do not deserve to
with. As the "regular people "say "they are crazy
and cannot be talked
>An important first step? Send Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer Hakim
where he spent his exile torturing Iraqis in Iranian prisons. "Cut
cancer that will destroy our country" is the feeling on the
>Second, Immediately stop the daily cacophony of speakers that
mosques across the country. This is not an issue of respecting religous
institutions. The use of massive speakers to blare out "calls
to prayer" is
a recent phenonomen.
>According to the "regular people" one of the best
things the British
troops did in 1991 in the areas they controlled was to visit with
Mosque and tell the Inman that there was complete religious freedom
could do whatever he wanted but the blaring out of speakers all
and into the night was not religious but political and as many other
"islamic" countries have done banned it.
>Even neighboring Jordan has banned all such blaring speakers
one in the city of Amman.
>This one move immediately changed the atmosphere for the "regular
and sent a strong message that there was a future and the British
time meant business about a secular Iraq with freedom and opportunity
>There will be cries to be "culturally sensitive" on
this issue but the
constant blaring is a constant political statement that says there
equality. It is the simplest but most single most important step
be taken to give Iraqis hope that things will be different in the
>In addition the Islamic headress that we saw battled in Afghanistan
now an issue on the ground in Iraq should be banned. Many other
nations have come to the simple conclusion that given the example
letter sent out and the reality of the weakess of the position of
there is no situation in which a woman can be thought to be in a
to freely choose to wear the veil, covering of the head of the full
>The only solution is to ban it completely so it does not become
and used by the "crazies" to impose their values by intimidating
weakest of the population - the women.
>Third, begin immediately 24 hour television in Arabic, Kurdish
Assyrian - the principle languages of Iraq. It is unbelievable that
it is not up and running while neighboring Iran continues to blare
unbelievable messages into Iraq.
>The "regular people" are confused and upset not at
what they see - in
of the regular homes I have stayed in the Americans tanks drive
patrolling the streets at least three or four times each night -
they do not see.
>What is most needed on the ground is information. In the absence
"crazies" get the edge. Simple, television, newspapers
and radio with
information on the progress or reconstrutcion, information on daily
and encouragement for the future.
>Fourth, dont be so overly sensitive to Islamic issues. It will
"death knell" to success in Iraq.
>As was done in Japan the "cancer" needs to be rooted
out. Virtually all
the "crazy" positions that are imposed according to a
read of the Koran and
the feeling of the "regular people" are not in the Koran
and have nothing
to do with Islam.
>The American position should be we respect the Koran as a religious
Islam as a respected religion but will never tolerate anything done
name of either that defies the moral principles of international
>According to the Koran in Part 3 Surah 2 Al Baqarah 256 Page
shall not be compulsion in religion.
>The Americans shall strenously support freedom of religion and
to openly propogate any religion but will never, never, never tolerate
form of intimidation or even implicit state support for any one
It was this singular issue that guaranteed the success of postwar
>Fifth, create a secular, non-religious constitution for Iraq.
I do not
mean ask the Iraqis to do it - after 30 years of intimidation, police
and worse they are psychologically incapable at this time of doing
>Exactly as in postwar Japan we need the best and the brightest
Americans and Iraqis together to do this. The best tool at this
time is th
1925 Iraqi constitution with the religious articles taken from the
>This is critical. On this one issue our Iraq will fail or succeed.
listen to the voices again about being "culturally sensitive".
The US Faces
a simple and stark problem - there is no "islamic" nation
constitutionally guarantees equal rights. Check it out. One will
as I was to read constitution after constitution and find out that
not allowed by either constitution or law to leave islam. This allows
situation to be created where the most important human right - the
freedom of thought is not allowed in any islamic country by virtue
fact that individuals are not allowed to legally leave the "religion"
were born into nor allowed to specify "nothing" when asked
>This is where Japan succeeded - the Americans were vicious in
complete elimination of any religious test or favortism in the Constitition
and subsequent laws.
>Creat representative government. Dont do this in long, tedious
consultations. This needs to, as in Japans case be imposed with
>Special provisions must be made to include special rights for
peoples who during Sadaams time were purposely spread thinly across
country to make sure they would never be strong enough in any one
be able to affect represenatation.
>The Assyrians, the indigenous people of Iraq - the "Native
you will of Iraq along with the Kurds and the Turkomans need to
special autonomy in their homelands so they will feel they have
and stay to build Iraq and exiles by the millions living abroad
will see a
future to return.
>Along with this representative government giving special rights
indiginous peoples in their homelands there must be a careful and
settlement of all outstanding claims for land. This was one of the
major areas that caused Postwar Japan to succeed - the Americans
vigours in breaking up the illegal land situations that had developed
the years and is mirrored in Iraq.
>Land must be returned completely to all those who had their
Sadaam and his "friends" so each Iraqi will have their
own land and "own" a
future. There must never be any perception that Sadaams "friends"
who assisted in the nightmare that was Japan before and during World
continue to benefit.
>Next to the elimination of the speakers at the Mosques this
Iraqis on a practical level that the US is creating an equal playing
for all Iraqis and they hae a future.
>Finally, get telephones for the US Military and ORHA offices
For those of us who daily interact with them it borders on the absurd.
>Imagine a whole "government in waiting" that cannot
few feet of various agency offices.
>This touches a greater issue - lets not think we can set up
an Iraq on
>I am tired of looking into the eyes of exhausted American soldiers
fought their way across the desert from Kuwait only to have to sit
offices without air conditioning in 130 degree heat, no showers,
beds and conditions that are apalling.
>They dont complain - dont misunderstood me - but they deserve
>We must not forget that it took 7 years of post war occupation
root out all the "bad guys" and set up a
>Anyone that in any ways tries to "force" by intimidation
on the ground across Iraq as we speak should be arrested and charged
exactly what it is - intimidation having absolutely nothing to do
>If you have seen those hard working, exhausted and homesick
a daily basis as I have you would be left with one thought - "lets
their numbers and supply them all they need to get the job done".
>Will it be expensive? Of course it will. Is it worth it? Yes
is a rich country. It has more than enough resources without using
US Taxpayers money to be put on the road to freedom and democracy.
>I dont want to have to look into the eyes of one exhausted,
discouraged American Serviceman.
>Will it pay off? Has Japan "paid off"? It is a simple
question. The stark question is this - do we want another "Japan"
or do we
want another "Iran".
>As I write this a "Red Crescent Curtain" is falling
across Iraq from
in the North to Basra in the south. The tide of the "crazies"
as they are
known in Iraq that intimidate the population is rising hourly and
immediately put to a stop.
>We got "Iran" by being over considerate of "cultural
forgetting the most important fact - what do the "regular people"
>I fear one problem. Talking to Jay Garner following a recent
days ago in Baghdad I was shocked to find out that he did not seem
understand some of the basic issues.
>What angered me more was the immediate rush of staff around
keep me from him. "No," he said to his staff. I want to
hear what he has to
>I trust that in the confusion that is Iraq today someone with
not trying to move things ahead while keeping key administrators
dark about the feelings and desires of the "regular people"
>Whether we will end up with another "Iran" or a "Japan"
hinges no on
United Nations or "dialogue" or "cultural sensitivity"
but on the simple
question of what the "regular people" want and what they
>It is my prayer that the United States will have the courage
course - it make take seven years of direct occupation and decades
limited basing but it will be well worth it.
>When the US decided that it needed to resort to war to rid Iraq
Hussein one of the first countries to step up to the plate to help
was . .
>58 years later our greatest enemy is now one of our greatest
the country that was the largest single reciepient of American Foreign
is now the largest giver of Foreign Aid in the world.
>It can happen in Iraq too.
>Who is agains it? The dictators throughtout the world who are
watching whether the Americans will go "all the way".
>They will fight against it will all their might - not for "islam"
"culture senstitivity" which they will use but in reality
derive their power from the abuse of the "regular people."
>Now is the time to be strong, forceful and remember the lessons
past. Japan is our greatest example. As one who was born and raised
Japan I grew up regularly having someone out of nowhere shake my
say "thank you for General Douglas McArthur and for what you
did to Japan
after the war".
>I was just a kid and didnt have the vaguest idea of what transpired
was a regular occurence and still happens today.
>It brought back memories as I stood with our neighbors on a
street at dusk and heard them reply to my question of how long should
America stay in Iraq.
>"We hope the Americans will stay in Iraq forever."
>The US - not the UN, not the Arab League, not international
but as in Japan is the greatest guarantee that Iraq will rise from
ashes of war to be a leader for good in the Middle East and begin
"dominoe" effect of toppliing dictators throughout the
world in the second
phase of the falling of the "Berlin Wall".
>The revolution of 1776 where the Americans declared independence
tyranny and freedom for the "regular people" deserves
>Rev. Ken Joseph Jr., is an Assyrian and a minister. As a lifelong
he was against the war but looking into the eyes of his family members
Baghdad, under the regieme of Sadaam Hussein had a change of heart.
Ken Joseph Jr. is an Assyrian,
a minister and was born, raised and resides in Japan where he directs
AssyrianChristians.com, the Japan Helpline and the Keikyo Institute.