February 18, 2003


A Long Journey From Iraq Leads to Backing for War: Nation craves liberation, says one who escaped. (Zainab Al-Suwaij, February 18, 2003, LA Times)
I lived through war almost my entire childhood in Iraq. When I was in fourth grade in 1980, Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. For the next eight years, my hometown of Basra suffered daily Iranian bombing raids.

Outside our school, my friends and I used to wave at passing military cars with young soldiers in the back, heading off to the front. We would flash them victory signs, but they would shake their fingers at us and make an upside down V -- the opposite of victory. With hundreds dying every week on the front lines and capital punishment the penalty for deserters, these young men were bitter because they knew their lives had been stolen from them for no reason other than Hussein's deadly ambition.

Throughout the war with Iran, students were forced to attend staged rallies praising Hussein and our "martyrs" dying for a holy cause at the front. Teachers would end school early, and police carrying whips would force us out into the streets and hand us signs to hold up for the cameras. The government propaganda made me sick, and I always tried to run away, but the police prevented it. In the late 1980s, the war with Iran (Iraqis call it the first Gulf War) ended, but Hussein's war against his own people continued. Iraq was a dead end, so after graduating from high school in 1990, I left for Kuwait. But Hussein followed me south a few weeks later, with his invasion of Kuwait and terror campaign against its civilians. [...]

As Hussein's forces withdrew from Kuwait, the Iraqi people, encouraged by U.S. leaders, rose up. With very few weapons, thousands desperate for freedom suddenly took to the streets and confronted Hussein's forces. Although I was only 20 years old and a woman, I joined in the fighting. American help never came, and Hussein's forces regrouped and killed thousands to regain control of Iraq. Those of us who survived scattered across Iraq and around the world. Our hopes crushed, we tried to forget what it was like to taste freedom for a few days.

Today in the U.S., as I watch soldiers shipping off, I see protesters chanting against American ambition and greed. Having lived through wars that were all about one man's ambition and greed, I am pained to see how these protesters have missed the mark. On behalf of Iraqis who cannot speak openly with reporters or who have given their lives trying to free Iraq from Hussein's brutal rule, let me say clearly: American, British and other allied soldiers are a sign of hope and liberation.

Heard on of the protest organizers on NPR yesterday and she said that there is no circumstance under which it would be appropriate to remove Saddam Hussein by violence, that the Iraqi people have to do it themselves, and only by democratic means. It's impossible to take such a view seriously. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 18, 2003 9:31 AM
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