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Shame and Glory in Iraq

Posted: Friday, June 11, 2004 at 06:26 PM CT


Baghdad, Iraq - `Shame` was the only word I could think of as I endured the `Iraqi Interim Government Announcement Ceremony` on a hot, dusty afternoon in Baghdad.

The event was extremely well organized. In spite of huge security concerns - one bombing in the center of Baghdad which we heard a couple times as the usual `thud`, it went off like clockwork.

It was the best of America! Professionally put together with a beautiful Iraqi map motif for a backdrop and just `perfect`!

Young, energetic American young people - the kind you see at Disneyland - kindly speaking with the Iraqis who were to participate in the ceremony, helping in every way possible. Bringing them food, drinks - answering their every question, meeting every need.

Truly the best of America!

But it all went downhill from there!

First, I began to notice something very strange. There were no Americans on the podium. Of course the Americans who had given over 800 of their brightest and best and thousands more injured to Liberate Iraq would be there to be thanked and honored?

It was not to be!

Not one American sat on the Podium for the ceremony! The `Iraqi Interim Government Announcement Ceremony`! Who in the world did everybody think made it all possible?

Next, the ceremony opened not with a normal professional announcement as befitting such an event, but with an Islamic Mullah giving a sermon followed by a prayer that took an awfully long time in a time sensitive program.

I looked around. Surely, there would be other religious leaders there - the Assyrian Christians, the Jews, the Yazidiz . . . after all it is to be free and open society, right?

The vision for a secular, open, free Iraq was drowned out by the Mullah who seemed to be wearing white tennis shoes and was one of the first to hit the drinks and food . . .

The Assyrian Christians - the indigenous people of Iraq, the people of Jonah and Nineveh received not one major position in the Government nor any rights in their indigenous homeland. To add insult to injury one post they were given was the post known in Iraq as `Minister of Immigration`. A veiled threat to get them to do what Sadaam spent his whole career trying to get them to do, leave? Many wonder!

When the speeches began. I waited and waited and waited and waited and waited for someone to say `thank you`, just one word . . . it was not to be!

Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, not only did not say `thank you`, but he apologized to the Iraqi people for their `suffering during the recent war and continued suffering under occupation` . . .

'The nerve!` I thought!

'The recent war?`, `The occupation?` What happened to 35 years of Sadaam's tyranny and terror? It was all wiped away with the brush of the `recent war` . . .

Each speaker got up and spoke to the Iraqi people calling them to look toward the future, to all work together etc. etc. but nobody, nobody came near to saying `thank you` or even acknowledging the American presence.

The new Prime Minister, Mr. Ayad Allawi opened his speech by saying `I would like to express my deepest thanks to the United Nations and the secretary-general and to his distinguished envoy, brother Lakhdar Brahimi, for his vital role in supporting the political process and for his unique contribution made to Iraq in these difficult times that Iraq is passing through.`

Those are exact quotes!

After that he mumbled something in passing about `the liberation of Iraq by the coalition forces under the United States.

There was dead silence!

That was it! I started to clap as loud as I could to the angry stares of those around me!

I lost it!

With all due respect to culture, values, uniqueness and all the other things that serve simply as excuses for people to be rude, I ask, how dare they after over 800 fellow human beings gave their lives for them, to not only fail to acknowledge the fact, but to say a hearty and joyous `thank you`?

My parents came to Japan shortly after world war when Japan was in a similar state. The Americans were loved, honored and thanked. My childhood growing up in Japan is full of the times someone would stop on the train, walking on the street, in a store and quietly look in my eyes and say `thank you` to the Americans for all they did for Japan.

What gives me hope is that unlike the group of anti-American exiles and others ungrateful human beings who filled that room a few hours ago, the Iraqi people, the `silent majority`, just like the Japanese are there to say a quiet `thank you`, followed by a worried `please don't leave`.

Unfortunately, it is not politically correct or frankly good for your health to say that these days in Baghdad, but it is the truth.

On the way back from the convention center where the event was held I looked across the bus to see a sad and tired looking American soldier. `Why did you come to Iraq` I asked him as I have asked dozens of others from soldiers to secretaries to drivers to office workers.

It never fails! With no reason to lie, they, with very few exceptions reply like this. `I wanted to play a part in saving a country . . and giving back freedom to a people just like I have!` . . .

I looked at him with my throat tightening and said `nobody in there just now, said it, but on behalf of the silent majority of the Iraqi people I want to say `thank you`. `

I could see something like tears welling up in the eyes of a tired, middle aged man on a dusty, hot bus in central Baghdad and then the quick jerk of professionalism pulling them back in.

`Thank you, sir. Its my job, sir.`

Somehow I didn't believe him . . . his job never called for him to spend over a year, risk his life and never even receive a `thank you`.

If you have a chance today send an email, a letter - better yet a box of cookies or a book or any one of a million things you would sure miss if you were on a desert Island.

Send them simply to:

Thank You
Baghdad, Iraq

I know somebody here will make sure it gets to someone that could use it and there will be a lot of lonely soldiers, cooks, drivers, security guards, Pastors, Chaplains, volunteers, and just about everyone in between that will have to hold back the tears, grab the package and then suddenly catch themselves and say `Thank you, Sir, only doing my job, Sir . . .

God bless the Americans for doing what nobody would do - rid a nation of the terror of Sadaam Hussein and do it without a word of `thank you` and higher gas prices!

Alexis De Touqville, the great Frenchman mused in answer to the question of why the Americans were so successful said `America is great because she is good `

What he observed in America in the 19th century is alive and well in a dirty tent in hot, dusty Baghdad as I call out in the darkness to two, young, scared Americans - `God bless you. Lots of people are praying for you!`

`Thank you, Sir. Just doing my job, sir , just doing my job ...`

It`s dark so I cant see their tears . . .

God bless America . . . she is still Good and with all her faults and problems and mistakes that everybody just cant seem to get enough of, she has still not forgotten God and His love and His call to make a difference as the `salt of the earth` in the world for good!

As Tiny Tim said in A Christmas Carol, “God Bless them every one... and God bless America... He never forgets...

Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. directs https://www.AssyrianChristians.com, brought the first relief truck into Baghdad following the war and is writing a book about his experience entitled `I Was Wrong`. He can be reached at 1 646 785 0907 or 964 013 24721 or team@assyrianchristians.com

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