“We Want The Americans To Stay Forever”

United Press International: Commentary: Hoping Americans stay forever
I’ve pulled a very long excerpt — even by my standards — but you should still read the whole thing. On the ground, among the Iraqi people, the power is starting to coalesce around the clerics in the absence of Saddam Hussein. We have a long slog ahead of us if we wish to do this right. When we turn that country over to civilian rule, people shouldn’t have to look over there shoulders and around corners to speak their minds.

Before we came they were terrified of Saddam and now that fear is being transferred to the clerics. Those who would oppose another form of tyranny — who want to live free — are afraid to speak. Right now is the absolute worst time for the people of Iraq to be muzzled. Now is the time they should be demanding liberty, the right to self-government, the right to free speech, the right to free association — basically everything we take for granted in America.

The use of force should be outlawed, except in self-defense. That’s how government works: it has a monopoly on the use of force which is why it has to be controlled through a system of checks-and-balances and a constitution.

Based on the letter in circulation I’ve quoted below, it appears that the clerics are taking it upon themselves to mete out justice and due process is not in their vocabulary. We not only need to build things in Iraq, but also need to destroy a few things as well: deBa’athification has to continue, of course, and the clerics have to be told explicitly that they may counsel their followers but not punish.

Ultimately, by breaking this tradition we will not only destroy a form of tyranny but we will build religious liberty and we should stay there however long it takes to accomplish it.

It is dusk in Baghdad and I am talking to the regular group of men who gather near the house I am staying in to talk about the day’s events.

“What do you think about the Americans? How long do you think they should stay? Are they doing a good job?” I ask.

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 different.

As usually happens throughout Iraq, people look around before they tell their true feelings. Simply put they are still afraid to speak the truth. Before it was Saddam, now it is the Shiites and others who frighten them.

“The Americans are doing wonderfully. We want them to stay forever,” I hear.

I am not surprised. It is exactly like I thought. When I was in Iraq before the war, the reported feelings were that while the people of Iraq did not like Saddam, they would fight for their country and were against the war.

As I said then, the people wanted the war to come so they could be liberated from Saddam 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 percent Shiite 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 Saddam, they want the United States 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.

“‘In the name of God the most merciful and compassionate’

“Do not adorn yourselves as illiterate women before Islam (From the Koran)

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 possessing 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 any mistakes.

If not, and this message will be final, we will take the following actions:

1. Doing what one cannot endure (believed to be rape)

2. Killing

3. Kidnapping

4. Burning the house with its dwellers in it or exploding it.

This message is directed to the women of this family.

Signed.”

This message from a Shiite Islamic organization says it all and explains in a nutshell why, though finally liberated, the Iraqi people still live in fear.

We need to leave a free country behind or we’ll be going back there at some future time to deal with a different form of tyranny and Iran should be warned that they risk dramatic repercussions if they interfere with the situation in Iraq.

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