2004 June 08 Tuesday
Assyrian Christians Trying To Flee Iraq To Escape Muslim Rule
Assyrian Christian Ken Joseph Jr., director of AssyrianChristians.com, reports that Iraqi Assyrian Christians are trying to escape in the face of mounting intimidiation and attacks from Iraqi Muslims.
"We thought the Americans were going to bring us freedom and democracy," said 31-year-old Robert. "Instead, they are promoting Islam. We do not understand it. ... We love the Americans! We are so grateful for them removing Saddam and giving us back our freedom. We do not want their effort to be a failure if the dictatorship of Saddam is replaced by the dictatorship of Islam."
The US-controlled radio station is broadcasting Muslim shows several times a day but no Christian shows. The Assyrians see the US policy in Iraq as one of appeasement of Muslims at the expense of native local Christians.
"We are having to take care of daily cases of harassment of Assyrians by Muslims," says one priest. "I just got back form helping one of our parishioners who was falsely accused by a neighbor and was about to be arrested. I had to go and sort it all out. ... Our women are accosted on the street and intimidated to start dressing according to Islamic tradition, our businesses are being burned, and the constant harassment is because of the attitude of appeasement toward Muslims."
This is the triumph of neoconservative folly. Let me add Assyrians to the Kurds for my list of groups that I expect the United States will eventually shaft as it hands power to the Iraqi Shia Arabs. But the Bush Administration will go through the necessary act of at least internally admitting to the scale of their error. If they can't admit they have made huge mistakes then they can't scale back their aims far enough to at least protect some groups in Iraq that we ought to see as in our interest and as our moral obligation to protect. We forced them into this precarious position. Shouldn't we break them off into a separate territory or two that we will help to protect them in from the Arabs?
If a couple of million Christian flee Iraq I doubt that the neoconservatives will admit any mistakes. They will find some other group to blame. Their theoretical vision is pure and couldn't possibly be mistaken.
I've previously made the argument for partition and relayed reports of US officers critical of official strategy. There are lots of factors working against us in Iraq. We ignore the depth of the problem at the peril of the Kurds, Assyrians, and our own national interest.
I've met a few Assyrian Christians here in Toronto. One family was booted out in the mid-sixties for being Zionist spies. They came to Canada stateless. I ran into another guy a few years ago. He told me they had a hard time with mistreatment from all of the other groups in Iraq including Kurds. The treatment of the Assyrians could, I suppose, be used in the future as a litmus test of level of Iraqi liberty.
Every nation has a history of treating some minorities less than perfectly - the United States not being immune to this by any means.
That doesn't mean that partition was the answer.
The differences between puritan Massachusetts, quaker Pennsylvania and the (mostly) anglican South should not be underestimated at the time of the American formation. Additionaly, in all States Blacks were poorly treated, and so were others, such as the Native Americans. That doesn't lead me to conclude however that establishing a 'State' for Indians or Blacks would have been a good answer. In fact, the establishment of the reservation system is one of THE things which continues to retard Native Americans to this day.
Be inclusive. Seperate but equal never is. The Assyrian Christians are just going to have to tough it out, voting for representative in the Iraqi parliamnent, or emmigrate to more hospitable nations. Continued Balkanization of the region can only lead to more factions with no forum of cooperation and joint decision making.
Let me understand you: Partition isn't the answer and so the Assyrians are going to have to flee. Their future in Iraq is one of intensified mistreatment at the hands of Muslims and so they will just have to leave. This is the democracy our troops have been fighting for.
Balkanization: You are mixing up the conflicts between ethnic/religious/racial/tribal/national groups and the drawing of borders. If there hadn't been Serbs being ruled by the AHE in 1914 then Gavrilo Princip wouldn't have been plotting to kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The political conflicts are an outgrowth of groups ruling other groups. Partitioning stops the ruling of one group by another group. In the Balkans that is what the imposed solution is all about. Albanians are no longer being ruled by Serbs. The Serbs, Bosnian Muslims, and Croats have been split off into separate cantons in Bosnia.
The United States in the last 225 years has produced one home-grown internal conflict - our Civil War. A 'partitioned' Europe during the same time period has had a more spotty record, wouldn't you say?
I think the Assyrian Christians deserve to be as well treated at any Iraqi, but they should seek it in Iraqi Courts and political institutions. The solution isn't perfect, but neither is partition. I prefer inclusive Federalism.
Think about our own history. Some Blacks were sent back to Liberia. Others stayed and endured hardship, but kept their citizenship in a larger, more prosperous nation. Which group is better off today?
Sometimes partition works - after all, Singapore & Hong Kong seem to have done quite well for themselves being cut off from their larger nations. They seem to be the exception though, and Chinese capitalists seem to be a breed apart. The chances of the Assyrians being able to capitalize as well on their independence as the Chinese seems unlikely to me. Additionally, do they own any land that is exclusively theirs, or do they live in mixed neighborhoods with others? If it's the latter, what exactly would you do? Create a reservation system like the Cherokee?
Remember, the US is going to keep troops there. There may be day-to-day harrassment, which is regrettable, but there isn't going to be a Bosnia or Rwanda. This is the US in charge, not the UN :-)
How do you propose to make amends to the Assyrian Christians if it does turn into another Rwanda? Or another Somalia?
The Bush family does not exactly have a spotless record when it comes to screwing over oppressed groups in Iraq.
I'm assuming your referring to the many crimes committed by the Hussein regime. If you haven't noticed, Saddam's in jail and Sadr (aka 'Little Saddam', as he's called on the streets of Baghdad) is being ostracized by his own people. That chapter of history is closed.
Additionally, Hussein committed his crimes when we were based in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere. We are now based in Iraq and have free range over the entire country. The 'no fly zone' has been replaced by the "US A-10" zone. Systematic genocide won't happen under our watch. This whole war has been about bringing positive change to the Middle East. We allow the Iraqis to make small mistakes (like tolerating Sadr or the insurgents in Fallujah) so they can learn from them, but we won't allow big mistakes (like allowing Iranian & Syrian backed insurgents from taking over the country).
If genocide really looked like it was unavoidable, we have the will and the means to either prevent it or get the Assyrians out. Remember, it was the US, not Europe or the UN, who ended the conflict in Kosovo. We did it without even having boots on the ground, which we have lots of if Iraq. If parts of Kosovo are messed up now, its mostly the fault of the UN "Peacekeepers" in charge there. A lesser caliber of troops than the US Marines by any measure.
Also, BOB, I don't believe in original sin or that the sins of the father are inherited by the son. Saying "the Bush family" wins no points with me. Bush Jr. has diverged in many respects from the policies of Bush Sr. I would not be surprised to learn that Bush Sr. disagrees with many of the things his son is doing. Sr. is a quintissential Cold Warrior. As the former head of the CIA, and Ambassador to the UN when the UN was about detente with the Soviets, his world view is very different from Jr.'s.
Lastly, even Bush Sr. only allowed the Shia uprising to be crushed because the Saudi's 'vetoed' the idea. Do you really think the Saudi's have a shit's worth of clout in the current White House? I don't. Our President knows full well where the root of terror finds its nourishment. The Saudi's need us as much as we need them. They're in our pocket now, not the other way around.
PS - Oh, right - I forgot to mention. I was friends with an Assyrian Christian in college. Her family fled the Middle East (Syria, I think) and is now doing quite well in New Jersey. Much better than they would have back in their old home. They own their own home, and their own business. Unlike Randall, I'm pro-immigrant. If all else fails you can bring as many hard-working Christians to America as you care to, AFAIAC.
Brock, So the Assyrians can be systematically discriminated against, their women can be scared into wearing full burqahs and become afraid to walk outside without a man with them, they can be randomly attacked by thugs, but until the discrimination rises to the point of a genocide there's no big problem?
We have free range over the entire country? Does include Fallujah and other towns we've handed over to local militias that are hostile to us? The Kurds are fleeing Fallujah for fear of their lives.
The Saudis are in our pockets? Where's your evidence for that?
But the Kosovo conflict was settled by de facto partition.
For the record: I am opposed to immigration of anyone below an IQ of about 115 or so. I think we should brain drain the world and keep out anyone who is not really smart.
"So the Assyrians can be systematically discriminated against, ..., but until the discrimination rises to the point of a genocide there's no big problem?"
I didn't say it wasn't a problem. It is a problem. I just don't think its worth the cost.
"[T]he Kosovo conflict was settled by de facto partition."
Yugoslavia has been partitioned, but it is 'de facto' partitioned within a Federal framework - the EU. Even though the former Yugoslavian states are not formally part of the EU yet, they are surrounded by EU members and scheduled EU applicants. Additionally several of the former Yugoslavian states are effectively working towards EU membership themselves. This is a very stabilizing force in the region.
Any Assyrian state would not be so protected. Its neighbors would be the likes of Syria, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as well as the new Iraq. Not exactly the best neighbors, eh? Suppose that Syria tried invading (or subverting through insurgents) the new Assyrian nation. Woule Iraq intervene? Maybe, maybe not. Would the rest of Iraq intervene if the Assyrians were just part of the Federal structure within the sovereign borders of a single nation? You bet your ass they would.
This is not an absolute answer, Yes/No. This is a sliding scale. Randall, I understand your arguments, and I think they have some weight - but I don't think their weighty enough to tip the scale. The circumstances are such that a small Assyrian nation would be very much in danger. I think their people will have problems as a part of the larger Iraq, but that their problems will be worse if they were independant.
"We have free range over the entire country? Does [this] include Fallujah and other towns we've handed over to local militias that are hostile to us?"
Indeed it does. We could go into Fallujah any time we wanted. We could kill every insurgent, or just flatten the whole damn city. If genocide was being practiced inside the city, I believe we would.
Instead what's happening is that we control half the city, and we let the Islamicists control the other half. Meanwhile the people of Fallujah can observe the two systems and decide for themselves which is better.
Seeing as how we're hiring locals and paying money into the system to rebuild mosques and infrastructure, while the Islamicists have devolved to a mafia/ street-gang arrangement, I don't think it will take much longer for a majority of Iraqis to reach a firm conclusion as to which they prefer. Be patient. The neural programming installed by Saddam and reinforced by al Jazeera cannot be undone overnight.
"The Saudis are in our pockets? Where's your evidence for that?"
Haven't been listening to the speeches by Crown Prince Abdullah recently, have you? Read between the lines.
"For the record: I am opposed to immigration of anyone below an IQ of about 115 or so. I think we should brain drain the world and keep out anyone who is not really smart."
Whew. Glad to know at least I would be welcome in your America, Randall - but I know plenty of hardworking people I would not mind employing myself who probably wouldn't qualify. There's more to an economy than high-flying R&D or business consulting. After all, what's the >115 IQ percetange of the population? 60-70%? I think US GDP would be significantly under $10 Trillion without the under-115's.
Not too mention I would be vrey upset with you if your IQ tests barred my wife's mother from immigrating. She's as smart as my father-in-law (who has a graduate degree in Chem Eng) or my wife (who's applying to law school now), but seeing as how she had to drop out of school when she was 14 to support her family, she might not do so well on one of your tests.
Do NOT presume that your tests are infallible. They are not. They are as flawed as the people who make them, and often more so. They cannot begin to fully take the measure of a human's potential.
Partition Iraq tp give the Assyrian christian protection?
Why just Iraq? Let's just partition Syria and Lebanon and give the christians their part, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia to give the jews living there their share of land; Spain, France and Belgium to give the muslims their share; the USA to give the blacks, Mexican and native american their part... getting the picture?
What a ridiculous idea!