Take this war and love it

Iraqi exiles see a U.S. invasion as something to celebrate, not protest.

Published March 20, 2003 12:07AM (EST)

So now we know what the American and European antiwar activists are planning for the first day of the war: sit-ins, insurgencies and shutdowns. While they are busy planning their acts of defiance, we Iraqis living in exile won't be joining them.

In fact, Iraqis who live outside the control of Saddam's brutal regime are overwhelmingly in favor of a war. (A poll last year on the Iraqi exile site Iraq.net showed 1,762 Iraqi exiles out of 2,709 participating in the poll supported American military action against Saddam.) From our perspective, the imminent U.S-led military action is the long-awaited liberation of our homeland, and not an invasion.

Virtually all Iraqis living in exile, and in liberated Iraqi Kurdistan, endorse this war of liberation. It should be noted that this is not a small number of people: there are 4 million Iraqis living in exile and 3 million in the liberated area of Iraqi Kurdistan. If the flight of over 4 million Iraqis from their beloved and wealthy homeland -- out of a total population of 24 million -- does not count as an expression of strong disapproval of the regime of Saddam Hussein, then what really does?

Ironically, the antiwar protesters continue to base their argument on the assumption that the war will have adverse consequences for the Iraqi people. Certainly, Iraqis aren't happy to see their own country bombed. But sadly, the cancer of Saddam is deep-seated, and today only radical surgery can treat Iraq's ailing body. Those who feel that a war led by the U.S. is not worth the price in Iraqi casualties overlook the fact that Iraqis are already losing their lives daily in their defiance to the regime. The only way to end this tragedy is by ending the regime once and for all. In any case, this war is unlikely to involve many casualties: The Iraqi army is likely to revolt, and we believe that the Iraqi people themselves will finish the regime in a mighty uprising, even before the U.S troops enter the Iraqi cities.

Iraqis are not waiting passively for the Americans to come and liberate them. Iraqis have fought Saddam bravely for over three decades. Sometimes our resistance was shrouded in secrecy, and other times our martyrs fell fighting in Iraq's narrow streets.

Just last Friday thousands of Shia Muslims congregated in the holy city of Karbala, south of Baghdad, to commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein Ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, who died fighting a Saddam-esque dictator close to 1,400 years ago. They assembled to pay homage to his sacrifice and tribute to his staunch opposition to tyranny.

Given the background and atmosphere of the gathering, the crowd built its own momentum, and the assembled masses began to chant anti-Saddam slogans. According to reports from the area, Saddam's security forces opened fire on the crowd, and dozens of them lost their lives.

This wasn't the distant past -- this was just last week. Yet while the streets of the holy city of Karbala bled, the streets of American and European cities resonated with chants in indirect support of Saddam.

One of the coauthors of this article served in the Iraqi army from 1994 till 1996, and as a doctor was assigned to the 4th Army in Southern Iraq. His colleagues, ranking officers of the Iraqi army, were terrified of the Shia rebels. Saddam had managed to suppress their heroic 1991 uprising and reoccupy the 14 provinces they liberated in the wake of his defeat in Kuwait, but he was unsuccessful in wiping them out. Ill-equipped, malnourished and without external support, these rebels still manage to control a territory the size of Lebanon in Southern Iraq. No supporter of Saddam dares to walk that land after sunset.

In coordination with U.S. forces, the Iraqi opposition forces in Iraqi Kurdistan and some southern parts of Iraq are joining forces to topple the regime as quickly as possible. Already, under the provisions of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, passed with bipartisan congressional support and signed into law by President Clinton, thousands of Iraqis living in the U.S. have signed up for training in Hungary.

Iraq under the totalitarian regime of Saddam is not a country, it is a vast suffocating prison run by a sectarian maniac. It is a place where the goons of Saddam roam free, where mothers witness their young sons being dragged off in the dark of the night, never to be seen or heard of again.

We personally know one such Iraqi mother: She still cries when she looks at the worn-out pictures of her four missing sons. All four, young men in their late teens and early 20s, were arrested from their home by Saddam's security forces in 1983.

The remaining members of this family were loaded on the back of a truck and unloaded at the Iranian border. It was a heartbreaking sight: a broken father, three daughters, two small boys and a mother without four of her young sons, standing at the Iranian border in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, this family was not alone in suffering this horrible ordeal, for over 200,000 Iraqis remain missing and unaccounted for. The arrests and deportations are part of the regime's policy of ethnically cleansing Iraq.

Ask the mother of this family, now a refugee in the U.S. and still waiting for the return of her four missing sons, does she want the American army to fight Saddam? Her answer without hesitation is an enthusiastic and passionate yes, and deep in her voice you can sense the rising hope of reuniting with her missing sons after 20 years.

Instead of opposing Iraqis' hopes for liberation, U.S. peace activists could contribute more positively to the cause of the Iraqi people by helping them heal, recover and build anew the country they lost to the scourge of Saddam. Such efforts should be made in the spirit of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which mandates that the United States "support efforts to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein ... and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace it." After all, democracies are the best keepers of peace, for history shows that the chance of war between two democracies is next to nil.

Iraq today is a big factory of terror. In Saddam's Iraq, every Thursday schoolchildren assemble in their playgrounds to pay tribute to the Iraqi flag -- and to the sarcastically smirking picture of Saddam. At the end of each assembly, one of the schoolteachers, dressed in army fatigues, proceeds to fire an entire cache of bullets into the air. The purpose of this militant ritual is to introduce Iraqis into Saddam's culture of violence and death early in their lives. It also sends a message to the terrified children that the very same weapons will point toward them if they ever choose to disobey the regime.

Fortunately for Iraq, Saddam has failed miserably in his attempts to fully subjugate the people of Iraq. His failure was highlighted by the popularity of the Shia-led Iraqi uprising of 1991. Saddam's reaction to that uprising was the infamous order, "No more Shia and Kurd after today." As a result of that heinous presidential decree, over 300,000 Iraqi Shia and Kurds were massacred in the streets in a span of two weeks.

To give antiwar protesters a more personal example, we tell them that, although we were subjected to Saddam's system of terror, like many others before us, we prefer to ally ourselves with the oppressed rather than the oppressor. It's sad to see the antiwar protesters preparing to choose the wrong side in the days ahead.

By Adil Awadh

Dr. Adil Awadh is an Iraqi doctor who worked in a military hospital in the southern part of Iraq from 1994-1996, where he witnessed ear-cutting atrocities firsthand. He deserted the Iraqi Army because he refused to perform these atrocities. He is currently a member of the Iraqi National Congress and lives in the Washington D.C area.

MORE FROM Adil Awadh

By Sayyid Ali Al-Ridha

Sayyid Ali Al-Ridha is a member of the Iraqi National Congress.

MORE FROM Sayyid Ali Al-Ridha

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Iraq Middle East