Tuesday, January 11, 2005

postings from Nabil (sorry about links not working)

Now back from 3 week vacation, including visits to
Ukraine, Amsterdam, New Orleans, and Seattle.

1) Smells like Negroponte (and Algeria, Israel, El
Salvador, Vietnam, and several other dirty wars of the
past). This would go part of the way to explaining
why the insurgents are killing so many Iraqi Police
recruits. In addition, considering that Special
Forces frequently operate in civilian clothing and
conduct humanitarian operations as well as military
operations, one can see why all Westerners are now
under suspicion in certain conflict zones. In one
sense, the assassination of several Western
non-combatants and humanitarian workers can be
connected to the use of Special Forces for such
operations discussed below. If (or perhaps when)
these tactics are implemented, dirty tactics will grow
far more abusive than they have up until now:

Newsweek magazine
09 January 2005

'The Salvador Option'

The Pentagon May Put Special-Forces-led Assassination
or Kidnapping Teams in Iraq

by Michael Hirsh and John Barry

What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The
Pentagon's latest approach is being called "the
Salvador option"-and the fact that it is being
discussed at all is a measure of just how worried
Donald Rumsfeld really is. "What everyone agrees is
that we can't just go on as we are," one senior
military officer told NEWSWEEK. "We have to find a way
to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right
now, we are playing defense. And we are losing." Last
November's operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree,
succeeded less in breaking "the back" of the
insurgency-as Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically
declared at the time-than in spreading it out.

Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively
debating an option that dates back to a still-secret
strategy in the Reagan administration's battle against
the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El
Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing
war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government
funded or supported "nationalist" forces that
allegedly included so-called death squads directed to
hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers.
Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S.
conservatives consider the policy to have been a
success-despite the deaths of innocent civilians and
the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal.
(Among the current administration officials who dealt
with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who
is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he
was ambassador to Honduras.)

Following that model, one Pentagon proposal would
send Special Forces teams to advise, support and
possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to
target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even
across the border into Syria, according to military
insiders familiar with the discussions. It remains
unclear, however, whether this would be a policy of
assassination or so-called "snatch" operations, in
which the targets are sent to secret facilities for
interrogation. The current thinking is that while U.S.
Special Forces would lead operations in, say, Syria,
activities inside Iraq itself would be carried out by
Iraqi paramilitaries, officials tell NEWSWEEK.

Also being debated is which agency within the U.S.
government-the Defense department or CIA-would take
responsibility for such an operation. Rumsfeld's
Pentagon has aggressively sought to build up its own
intelligence-gathering and clandestine capability with
an operation run by Defense Undersecretary Stephen
Cambone. But since the Abu Ghraib interrogations
scandal, some military officials are ultra-wary of any
operations that could run afoul of the ethics codified
in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That, they
argue, is the reason why such
covert operations have always been run by the CIA and
authorized by a special presidential finding. (In
"covert" activity, U.S. personnel operate under cover
and the U.S. government will not confirm that it
instigated or ordered them into action if they are
captured or killed.)

Meanwhile, intensive discussions are taking place
inside the Senate Intelligence Committee over the
Defense department's efforts to expand the involvement
of U.S. Special Forces personnel in
intelligence-gathering missions. Historically, Special
Forces' intelligence gathering has been limited to
objectives directly related to upcoming military
operations-"preparation of the battlefield," in
military lingo. But, according to intelligence and
defense officials, some Pentagon civilians for years
have sought to expand the use of Special Forces for
other intelligence missions.

Pentagon civilians and some Special Forces personnel
believe CIA civilian managers have traditionally been
too conservative in planning and executing the kind of
undercover missions that Special Forces soldiers
believe they can effectively conduct. CIA
traditionalists are believed to be adamantly opposed
to ceding any authority to the Pentagon. Until now,
Pentagon proposals for a capability to send soldiers
out on intelligence missions without direct CIA
approval or participation have been shot down. But
counter-terrorist strike squads, even operating
covertly, could be deemed to fall within the Defense
department's orbit.

The interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi
is said to be among the most forthright proponents of
the Salvador option. Maj. Gen.Muhammad Abdallah
al-Shahwani, director of Iraq's National Intelligence
Service, may have been laying the groundwork for the
idea with a series of interviews during the past ten
days. Shahwani told the London-based Arabic daily
Al-Sharq al-Awsat that the insurgent leadership-he
named three former senior figures in the Saddam
regime,
including Saddam Hussein's half-brother-were
essentially safe across the border in a Syrian
sanctuary. "We are certain that they are in Syria and
move easily between Syrian and Iraqi territories," he
said, adding that efforts to extradite them "have not
borne fruit so far."

Shahwani also said that the U.S. occupation has failed
to crack the problem of broad support for the
insurgency. The insurgents, he said, "are mostly in
the Sunni areas where the population there, almost
200,000, is sympathetic to them." He said most Iraqi
people do not actively support the insurgents or
provide them with material or logistical help, but at
the same time they won't turn them in. One military
source involved in the Pentagon debate agrees that
this is the crux of the problem, and he suggests that
new offensive operations are needed that would create
a fear of aiding the insurgency. "The Sunni population
is paying no price for the support it is giving to the
terrorists," he said. "From their point of view, it is
cost-free. We have to change that equation."

Pentagon sources emphasize there has been no decision
yet to launch the Salvador option. Last week, Rumsfeld
decided to send a retired four-star general, Gary
Luck, to Iraq on an open-ended mission to review the
entire military strategy there. But with the U.S. Army
strained to the breaking point, military strategists
note that a dramatic new approach might be
needed-perhaps one as potentially explosive as the
Salvador option.

With Mark Hosenball
© Copyright 2005 Newsweek


2) Notice where the following sermon took place --
before being too hasty about red state / blue state
conclusions:

Oklahoman Minister Speaks Out
Dr. Robin Meyers Oklahoma University Peace Rally
November 14,2004

As some of you know, I am minister of Mayflower
Congregational Church in Oklahoma City, an Open and
Affirming, Peace and Justice church in northwest
Oklahoma City, and professor of Rhetoric at Oklahoma
City University. But you would most likely have
encountered me on the pages of the Oklahoma Gazette,
where I have been a columnist for six years, and hold
the record for the most number of angry letters to the
editor.

Tonight, I join ranks of those who are angry, because
I have watched as the faith I love has been taken over
by fundamentalists who claim to speak for Jesus, but
whose actions are anything but Christian. We've heard
a lot lately about so-called "moral values" as having
swung the election to President Bush. Well, I'm a
great believer in moral values, but we need to have a
discussion, all over this country, about exactly what
constitutes a moral value. I mean what are we talking
about?

Because we don't get to make them up as we go along,
especially not if we are people of faith. We have an
inherited tradition of what is right and wrong, and
moral is as moral does. Let me give you just a few of
the reasons why I take issue with those in power who
claim moral values are on their side:

When you start a war on false pretenses, and then act
as if your deceptions are justified because you are
doing God's will, and that your critics are either
unpatriotic or lacking in faith, there are some of us
who have given our lives to teaching and preaching the
faith who believe that this is not only not moral, but
immoral.

When you live in a country that has established
international rules for waging a just war, build the
United Nations on your own soil to enforce them, and
then arrogantly break the very rules you set down for
the rest of the world, you are doing something
immoral.

When you claim that Jesus is the Lord of your life,
and yet fail to acknowledge that your policies ignore
his essential teaching, or turn them on their head
(you know, Sermon on the Mount stuff like that we must
never return violence for violence and that those who
live by the sword will die by the sword), you are
doing something immoral.

When you act as if the lives of Iraqi civilians are
not as important as the lives of American soldiers,
and refuse to even count them, you are doing something
immoral.

When you find a way to avoid combat in Vietnam, and
then question the patriotism of someone who
volunteered to fight, and came home a hero, you are
doing something immoral.

When you ignore the fundamental teachings of the
gospel, which says that the way the strong treat the
weak is the ultimate ethical test, by giving tax
breaks to the wealthiest among us so the strong will
get stronger and the weak will get weaker, you are
doing something immoral.

When you wink at the torture of prisoners, and deprive
so-called "enemy combatants" of the rules of the
Geneva Convention, which your own country helped to
establish and insists that other countries follow, you
are doing something immoral.

When you claim that the world can be divided up into
the good guys and the evil doers, slice up your own
nation into those who are with you, (or with the
terrorists?), and then launch a war which enriches
your own friends and seizes control of the oil to
which we are addicted, instead of helping us to kick
the habit, you are doing something immoral.

When you fail to veto a single spending bill, but ask
us to pay for a war with no exit strategy and no end
in sight, creating an enormous deficit that hangs like
a great millstone around the necks of our children,
you are doing something immoral.

When you cause most of the rest of the world to hate a
country that was once the most loved country in the
world, and act like it doesn't matter what others
think of us, only what God thinks of you, you have
done something immoral.

When you use hatred of homosexuals as a wedge issue to
turn out record numbers of evangelical voters, and use
the Constitution as a tool of discrimination, you are
doing something immoral.

When you favor the death penalty, and yet claim to be
a follower of Jesus, who said an eye for an eye was
the old way, not the way of the kingdom, you are doing
something immoral.

When you dismantle countless environmental laws
designed to protect the earth which is God?s gift to
us all, so that the corporations that bought you and
paid for your favors will make higher profits while
our children breathe dirty air and live in a toxic
world, you have done something immoral. The earth
belongs to the Lord, not Halliburton.

When you claim that our God is bigger than their God,
and that our killing is righteous, while theirs is
evil, we have begun to resemble the enemy we claim to
be fighting, and that is immoral. We have met the
enemy, and the enemy is us.

When you tell people that you intend to run and govern
as a "compassionate conservative", using the word
which is the essence of all religious
faith-compassion, and then show no compassion for
anyone who disagrees with you, and no patience with
those who cry to you for help, you are doing something
immoral.

When you talk about Jesus constantly, who was a healer
of the sick, but do nothing to make sure that anyone
who is sick can go to see a doctor, even if she
doesn't have a penny in her pocket, you are doing
something immoral.

When you put judges on the bench who are racist, and
will set women back a hundred years, and when you
surround yourself with preachers who say gays ought to
be killed, you are doing something immoral.

I'm tired of people thinking that because I'm a
Christian, I must be a supporter of President Bush, or
that because I favor civil rights and gay rights I
must not be a person of faith. I'm tired of people
saying that I can't support the troops but oppose the
war?

I heard that when I was your age, when the Vietnam War
was raging. We knew that that war was wrong, and you
know that this war is wrong, the only question is how
many people are going to die before these make-believe
Christians are removed from power?

This country is bankrupt. The war is morally bankrupt.
The claim of this administration to be Christian is
bankrupt. And the only people who can turn things
around are people like you, young people who are just
beginning to wake up to what is happening to them.
It's your country to take back. It's your faith to
take back. It's your future to take back.

Don't be afraid to speak out. Don't back down when
your friends begin to tell you that the cause is
righteous and that the flag should be wrapped around
the cross, while the rest of us keep our mouths shut.
Real Christians take chances for peace. So do real
Jews, and real Muslims, and real Hindus, and real
Buddhists, so do all the faith traditions of the world
at their heart believe one thing: life is precious.
Every human being is precious.

Arrogance is the opposite of faith. Greed is the
opposite of charity. And believing that one has never
made a mistake is the mark of a deluded man, not a man
of faith. And "war is the greatest failure of the
human race" and thus the greatest failure of faith.

There's an old rock and roll song, whose lyrics say it
all: War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. And
what is the dream of the prophets? That we should
study war no more, that we should beat our swords into
plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. Who
would Jesus bomb, indeed? How many wars does it take
to know that too many people have died? What if they
gave a war and nobody came? Maybe one day we will find
out.

Time to march again my friends. Time to commit acts of
civil disobedience. Time to sing, and to pray, and
refuse to participate in the madness. My generation
finally stopped a tragic war. You can, too!

3) Initiative to rescue Iraqi art:

For Interviews, Contact
Nada Shabout, Ph. D.
Assistant Professor of Art History
P.O. Box 305100
University of North Texas
Denton, Texas 76203
shabout@unt.edu

** Dr. Shabout will maintain her email while in Amman
and Hawaii ** See below her January Schedule in
Amman, Jordan and in Hawaii ]
//////////

Reading Time: Less than 10 minutes

IRAQ's Stolen Art and Project to Retrieve it
By Nada Shabout

The Iraqi Museum of Modern Art was one of the
buildings severely damaged during the US bombing raids
over Baghdad in 2003. The museums' collection of over
7,000 works of art was viciously looted as the Baath
regime collapsed and the occupying power took control.

Based on the information I collected, a number of the
works were smuggled outside the country while others
are still being traded on the black market in Baghdad.
Many have petitioned the various offices of the
Coalition Provisional Authority and the US State
departments for help in stopping the pillaging of the
museums and the recovery of the stolen works of art,
but the official position of the occupying power has
always been insistent on the voluntary return of the
stolen works and, thus, nothing was done. Only
recently did the new Iraqi government authorize the
repossession of the works by force through the aid of
the recently formed Iraqi police. About 1,700 works
have been recovered and are in the custody of the
Ministry of Culture. The majority of these works are
severely damaged and are in desperate need of
restoration. Furthermore, it is not certain whether
they will succeed or fail to retrieve the majority of
the stolen works. Luckily, however, a number of
successful individual efforts were taken by concerned
Iraqi citizens and are helping in locating, acquiring
and protecting the missing pieces.

Successful examples, limited as they may be, abound.
Almost immediately after the looting of museums, some
works were purchased at personal cost by Iraqi gallery
owners with the publicly stated intension of
preserving them until they could be returned to a new
Iraqi Art Museum. A wider and more efficient effort
was organized by the renowned Iraqi sculptor Mohammed
Ghani. Returning to Baghdad weeks after the collapse
of the former regime, Ghani found the Iraqi Museum of
Modern Arts in ruins with mounds of shattered
sculptures and broken or empty frames where canvases
were hastily cut out. With the help of his colleagues
and students, he initiated and funded a campaign of
buying back some of the stolen works in the
neighborhood surrounding the museum. They were able
to recover important works by renowned artists, such
as Jawad Salim's wooden statue of "Motherhood," for
the mere price of $100.

Failing to secure any aid from the CPA, Ghani
approached and solicited funds from friends, personal
acquaintances, and other concerned individuals within
the Iraqi community. His plan was simple. His eager
students were to locate and purchase the stolen works.
The individuals who donated the funds for the effort
signed an agreement, retained by Ghani, establishing
them as the temporary custodians of the specific works
purchased with their money until the Museum is
reinstituted. In return, these individuals will be
publicly acknowledged as donors for the arts. He has
been able to retrieve a considerable number of works
in various conditions and they are currently stored in
private Iraqi houses. Mr. Ghani's effort persist,
but, unfortunately, the price of the stolen works
continues to rise while his limited funds are being
depleted, making his task slower and much harder to
complete.

In addition to the Museum of Modern Art, there are a
considerable number of artworks that were housed in
other structures. At the moment, their fate is
unknown. Below is a partial list:

1. Saddam International Airport contains 50 artworks,
mostly murals executed by prominent Iraqi artists in
early 1980's.
2. The Al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad contains over 20
monumental works (painting and sculpture) and some 900
original prints distributed in the luxurious bedrooms
and suites of that hotel.
3. The Republic Palace (Saddam's Residence) contains a
museum with unknown numbers of artworks, craft, gifts,
and documents. It is a well known fact among Iraqi
artists that a special joint committee from the
ministry of information and the palace used to acquire
artworks from major exhibitions in Baghdad for that
museum. This tradition continued for many years
(1980-1990). There is no published official record for
the art collection at the palace, but it is a sizable
one.
4. Conference Palace, Baghdad with uncertain number of
artworks.

Your assistance is needed to save the collection of
work that was housed at the Iraqi Museum of Modern
Art. YOUR DONATION TO BUY-BACK THE STOLEN WORKS IS
TAX-DEDUCTIBLE.

The Institute of Near Eastern & African Studies
(INEAS), an independent and tax-exempt [ 501 (C) (3) ]
organization is collecting donations for the purpose
of buying-back the stolen art works. Please make your
contribution payable to INEAS and mail it to:

Institute of Near Eastern & African Studies (INEAS)
P.O. Box 425125
Cambridge, MA 02142 USA

Visa and Master Card are Accepted

More detailed article about Iraqi modern arts and the
recent
stolen arts by Nada Shabout can be found by accessing
INEAS's website at http://www.ineas.org/projects.htm
////////////


4) This comes from www.abutamam.blogspot.com, which
appears to be a mouthpiece of the Iraqi Resistance.
The source is not entirely credible, but then neither
is the mainstream US media for that matter. There are
more items, including pictures, but I don't want to
lengthen the message unnecessarily:

"A number of Clerics from Anbar Governorate, in
western Iraq, have issued a “Fatwa” (legal opinion)
prohibiting the practice of fishing in the Euphrates
river where it passes the cities of Fallujah, Ramadi,
Hait, and Al-Qaim. The Fatwa was distributed in a form
of a statement to several Mosques in Anbar province.
According to the statement, the reason for the Fatwa
was the dumping of dead mercenary soldiers in the
river by the Americans. The practice of dumping dead
bodies has been going on for a while but when the fish
size became larger than normal, it became clear that
fish in the areas of dumping were feeding on the flesh
of the dead bodies which prompted the clerics to rule
that these fish should not be consumed by Muslims....
JUS has long been reporting the dumping of the bodies
of American soldiers and hired mercenaries into rivers
and bury them in mass graves in the desert. We have
made an open call to humanitarian agencies to
investigate, which has so far gone unanswered. Like
Abu Ghraib, sooner or later the truth will come out.
If there are any mainstream news agencies that are
have enough courage to stand up to American
censorship, we will do our best to facilitate exposing
this tragedy, providing an unbiased humanitarian
groups also assist in this endeavor."


5) This link to a quote by Bill Frist pretty much sums
up his personality:

http://politicalwire.com/archives/2005/01/07/bonus_quote_of_the_day.html


6) "Not One Damn Dime Day" Protest:

Not One Damn Dime Day - Jan 20, 2005.

Since our religious leaders will not speak out against
the war in Iraq, since our political leaders don't
have the moral courage to oppose it, since Bush is
wasting 40 MILLION dollars on his inauguration
party...while the soldiers have inadequate armor and
too few of them to create or maintain peace in
Iraq...

Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is
"Not One Damn Dime Day" in America.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day" those who oppose what is
happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a
24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer
spending.

During "Not One! Damn Dime Day" please don't spend
any money. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one
damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases.
Not one damn dime for nothing for 24 hours.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day," please boycott Wal-Mart,
Kmart, and Target... Please don't go to the mall or
the local convenience store. Please don't buy any fast
food (or any groceries at all for that matter).

For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the
retail economy down.

The object is simple. Remind the people in power that
the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are
responsible for starting it and that it is their
responsibility to stop it.

"Not One Damn Dime Day" is to remind them, too, that
they work for the people of the United States of
America, not for the international corporations and K
Street lobbyists who represent the corporations and
funnel cash into American politics.

"Not One Damn Dime Day" is about supporting the
troops. The politicians put the troops in harm's way.

Now 1,300 brave young Americans and (some estimate)
100,000 Iraqis have died. The politicians owe our
troops a plan - a way to come home.

There's no rally to attend. No marching to do. No left
or rightwing agenda to rant about. On "Not One Damn
Dime Day" you take action by doing nothing. You open
your mouth by keeping your wallet closed.

For 24 hours, nothing gets spent, not one damn dime,
to remind our religious leaders and our politicians
of their moral responsibility to end the war in Iraq
and give America back to the people.

Please share this email with as many people as
possible.


7) Iraqi Christians Appeal for Aid:

Christian Crisis
ChaldoAssyrian Christians may soon leave Iraq en
masse.

by Nina Shea & James Y. Rayis

Iraq's Christian minority is being driven out of its
ancestral homeland by a wave of persecution as
devastating as any tsunami. In less than four weeks, a
pivotal election will take place in Iraq that
represents this community's best hope for finding a
secure home there, yet they find themselves
marginalized and pushed aside in the electoral process
÷ not only by their tormentors but, perhaps
inadvertently, by the U.S. government. These
Christians, who are both pro-Western and
pro-democracy, need our help so that they can build a
future in their native land with a modicum of security
and freedom. Without it, they will leave, and U.S.
Iraq policy will be dealt a setback so severe it may
never recover.

Tens of thousands of Iraq's nearly one million
ChaldoAssyrians, as this indigenous cultural and
linguistic ethnic group is called under Iraq's
Transitional Administrative Law, have fled into exile
over the past few months. Their leaders fear that,
like the Iraqi Jews ÷ who accounted for a third of
Iraq's population until facing relentless persecution
in the middle of the last century ÷ they may leave en
masse. Though many Iraqis, particularly moderates,
suffer violence, the ChaldoAssyrians, along with the
smaller non-Muslim minorities of Sabean Mandeans and
Yizidis, may be as a group all but eradicated from
Iraq. Their exodus began in earnest in August after
the start of a terrorist bombing campaign against
their churches. With additional church bombings right
before Christmas, hundreds more Christian families
escaped in fear to Jordan and Syria.

In the run up to elections, Sunni terrorists and
insurgents have targeted the ChaldoAssyrians with
particular ferocity, linking them to the West. The
main Assyrian Christian news agency
AINA.org reported last week that the
kidnapping tally for Christians now ranges in the
thousands, with ransom payments averaging $100,000
each. One who could not afford the payment,
29-year-old Laith Antar Khanno, was found beheaded in
Mosul on December 2, two weeks after his kidnapping.
Cold-blooded assassinations of Christians are also on
the rise. Prominent Assyrian surgeon and professor
Ra'aad Augustine Qoryaqos was shot dead by three
terrorists while making his rounds in a Ramadi clinic
on December 8. That same week two other Christian
businessmen from Baghdad, Fawzi Luqa and Haitham Saka,
were abducted from work and murdered.


Both Sunni and Shiite extremists who seek to impose
their codes of behavior have been ruthless toward the
Christians, throwing acid in the faces of women
without the hijab (veil) and gunning down the
salesclerks at video and liquor stores. In the north,
Kurdish administrators have withheld U.S.
reconstruction funds from ChaldoAssyrian areas, and,
together with local peshmerga forces, have confiscated
some Christian farms and villages. Of the $20 billion
that American taxpayers generously provided for the
reconstruction of Iraq two years ago, none so far has
gone to rebuild ChaldoAssyrian communities. The State
Department is distributing these funds exclusively to
the Arab- and Kurdish-run governorates ÷ the old
Saddam Hussein power structure ÷ who fail to pass on
the ChaldoAssyrian share.

Though Iraq's president, prime minister, and Grand
Ayatollah Sistani have all denounced the attacks
against the Christians, the persecution has not
abated. The ChaldoAssyrians have endured much
throughout the last century in Iraq, including brutal
Arabization and Islamization campaigns. But this
current period may see their last stand as a cohesive
community.

Should the ChaldoAssyrian community disappear from
Iraq, it would mean the end of their Aramaic language
(spoken by Jesus), and their customs, rites, and
culture. A unique part of Christian patrimony would
disappear along with this first-century church. The
United States would have presided over the destruction
of one of the world's oldest Christian communities.
Its reverberations would be keenly felt just beyond
Iraq's borders. As Christian scholar Habib Malik wrote
last month in the daily press of his native Lebanon,
if the democratic project of Iraq ends in dismal
failure for the ChaldoAssyrians, the future will be
bleak for all the historic churches of the Middle
East. No wonder Pope John Paul II used his public
appearances on both Christmas and New Year's to
express "great apprehension" and "profound regret"
about the situation in Iraq.

Further loss of ChaldoAssyrian influence in Iraq would
also have dire implications for Iraq itself and for
American policy. The ChaldoAssyrians are a
disproportionately skilled and educated group, and
they also possess that increasingly scarce trait in
the Middle East: the virtue of toleration. They are a
natural political bloc for building a democracy with
minority protections and individual rights. Their
presence bolsters Muslim moderates who claim religious
pluralism as a rationale for staving off governance by
Islamic sharia law.

The ChaldoAssyrians who continue to tough it out in
Iraq do so desperately clinging to the hope that
liberal democracy will take root there. They and their
communities in the American diaspora, numbering around
450,000, are stirring with activity in preparation for
the elections at the end of January. These elections
will choose a National Assembly that will draft the
country's permanent constitution. They are eager to
see individual rights to religious freedom and all
fundamental freedoms carried over from the interim
constitution into the permanent government.

It is in the direct political interest of the United
States to keep the ChaldoAssyrians in Iraq and ensure
they have a voice in the political process unfolding
over the next year. Yet U.S. policy toward Iraq's
valuable ChaldoAssyrian allies seems to be one of
utter indifference.

While Iraq's hard-line Shiite parties are heavily
financed by Iran, Kurdish leaders have long been
bankrolled by the U.S., and Sunni insurgents are
funded by Syria, the pro-democracy ChaldoAssyrians
have no sponsors. The U.S. policy of providing
democracy-building funds to political parties in
emerging democracies, made legendary with Solidarity
in Poland, ended a decade ago. The U.S. government is
taking steps to compensate one religious minority that
might fare poorly in the election. According to press
reports, the U.S. administration has called for
assembly seats to be set aside for the Sunni minority,
which is boycotting the elections after warnings by
extremist Sunni leaders. But no provisions have been
made for ChaldoAssyrian Christians, who, unlike many
insurgent Sunnis, work for the Coalition rather than
build roadside bombs against it.

In short, ChaldoAssyrian candidates and parties are
alone and without funds. If these Christians fail to
win seats in the assembly, they will have no direct
say in the critical drafting of the country's
permanent constitution. Don't expect the United States
to speak up for them ÷ or for other moderates.

The same lackadaisical approach to individual and
minority rights is shown in America's approach to the
drafting of Iraq's permanent constitution, where it
has adopted de facto a policy of strict neutrality.
The State Department and the U.S. Agency for
International Development are funding programs to
provide outside legal and expert advice to assist in
this drafting. These "independent" contractors are not
supposed to exert any influence to ensure
constitutional protections for individual rights to
religious freedom, women's equality, or any other
basic human right. As one such U.S.-funded advisor
explained in an L.A. Times op-ed last month:
"Outsiders should not... seek to prevent Shiite
parties from advancing models for an Islamic
republic." The only such existent model, of course, is
the Islamic Republic of Iran ÷ a country so devoid of
individual human rights that its dissidents are
sentenced to death for blasphemy, the "crime of
thinking," and whose governing ideology is explicitly
hostile to American interests.

The rationale for this is that the focus should be on
"process," not on "imposing values" ÷ that is they are
not concerned about the outcome, only how it is
achieved. A lesson of apartheid South Africa is that
the rule of law only goes so far in providing for a
fair and humane society. The U.S. Commission on
International Religious Freedom, an independent
federal agency, wrote an urgent letter on Iraq's
religious minorities to President Bush last month,
protesting this approach and recommending that the
administration "give clear directives to American
officials and recipients of U.S. democracy-building
grants" to advocate the inclusion of religious freedom
and other fundamental human rights in the permanent
constitution.

Over 1,300 American soldiers have given their lives so
far in Iraq. We owe it to them and to Iraqis ÷ many of
whom have also paid with their lives supporting the
Coalition ÷ to take our policy goal of democratizing
Iraq seriously. One way is to level the playing field
in the political arena for the ChaldoAssyrian
community. We should be helping all candidates whose
political ideology is based on an acceptance of
liberal democracy and individual religious freedom and
other fundamental human rights ÷ even if they are
Christian.

There is an urgent need for immediate private funding
to help pro-democracy ChaldoAssyrian candidates and
voters in the January 30 elections. The private
response to southeast Asia's tsunami victims proves
that concerned individuals can make a critical
difference. Only a small fraction of that generous
outpouring is needed to keep the ChaldoAssyrians
politically competitive ÷ through voter education,
candidate spots on television and radio, campaign
literature, get-out-the-vote efforts, and other
election essentials. Tax-deductible donations for this
purpose can be sent to: Iraq Freedom Account,
Assyrian American National
Federation, 5550 North Ashland, Chicago, IL 60640.

÷ Nina Shea is the director of Freedom House's
Center for
Religious Freedom. James Y. Rayis, an Atlanta lawyer,
is vice chair of the Chicago-based ChaldoAssyrian
American Advocacy Council.

This article appeared in NRO on Jan. 6, 2005





Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?