"Americans must leave Iraq now, not an hour later!"
Yesterday, John McCain told us that the Iraq war is winnable. "Unfortunately, the American people are not being told of the progress that's being made."
Yesterday, Sami Rasouli (pictured) told us that Americans must leave Iraq now, "not an hour later!" because America has F-A-I-L-E-D. Stay-the-course and surge (I call it scourge) means continuing to fail. What is the shelf-life of failure, I wonder. Perhaps Lyndon Johnson could have told us. Who to believe, hmmm? Read the rest.
Sami Rasouli was born in Najaf, Iraq'"the city where New York Times photos show thousands of Iraqis demonstrating yesterday against the presence of the U.S. in their country. Sami came to the United States three decades ago. He became a U.S. citizen. He lived in Minnesota for 17 years, and while he was here, he bought "Sinbad's," a Minneapolis restaurant on Nicollet Avenue that became an area favorite.
Last night, speaking to a small group gathered in a large, suburban Catholic church, Sami said that on September 12, 2001, a couple of Minneapolis residents hurried to his restaurant because they feared for his safety in a world suddenly gone berserk. They offered him safe haven in their homes. They also offered sanctuary to other Minnesota Iraqis. Sami was deeply moved by their offer. Like the rest of us, he had not yet grasped the far-reaching, convoluted consequences of 9/11, culminating in America's military strike on Iraq in March 2003--assuming that was the culmination.
Sami painted a graphic word picture of today's Iraq, a place where you wake up each morning, knowing it could be the day you'll die. If an explosion or gunfire doesn't bring you down, then parasites or rampant disease like hepatitis or typhus might. The six-story hospital that used to provide quality healthcare is now a clinic that dispenses pain pills.
You listen to the news to learn who died the day before. There are a million widows in Iraq now, he said. The middle class has disappeared. The country is essentially lawless and unstable in the extreme. Iraq's infrastructure has been totally destroyed in the wake of the invasion and occupation by an immense military force from half a world away.
When his mother died in 2003, Sami went home for her funeral and discovered the depth and breadth of the suffering of his family and Iraqis in general as a direct result of the American war on Iraq. The following year, he sold "Sinbad's" and returned to Iraq to live, to see what he could do. There was a lot of press here about his departure. He was, after all, our local non-military connection to that war-ravaged nation. Human interest, for a day or so, anyway.
Theoretically, Sami could have quietly disappeared into the hell that is Iraq. You've only to listen to him for a short time to understand that was never an option. He organized the Muslim Peacekeepers Team (MPT) that, in tandem with the Christian Peacekeepers Team (CPT), has been trying to bring some semblance of order to massive disorder and sow seeds of recovery and hope. No small task in a place where hope is increasingly rare.
Sami returns to the U.S. once a year and has become a much-sought-after speaker. He is articulate and, though he is generally controlled, it's obvious he is passionate about bringing an end to the wholesale destruction in Iraq. Even so, he chooses his words carefully. Occasionally, he gestures with his hands, though never expansively. I found myself wanting him to leap onto a table and shout, "What America has done, is doing, is wrong, wrong, wrong!" Maybe that would have helped blunt our collective and individual guilt. But he stayed the course of gentleness, even as he spoke of atrocities.
So who(m) to believe? Sami or John? Sami or George? Sami or Dick? For two hours, we listened and asked questions of Sami Rasouli. Here are some of his remarks.
' Salaam, shalom, peace.
' The capitol (Baghdad) has not yet been secured; therefore nothing is secure.
' Yes, the U.S. is training Iraqi police, but does not trust them with weapons. Therefore, the trainees must secure them via the black market.
' Many bombings, killings are not reported by the media. For example, parents were bringing their newborn home from the hospital and, at the American checkpoint, Americans opened fire for reasons unclear, killing the baby and seriously wounding the parents and others.
' No one knows for sure who is perpetrating the attacks, particularly the bombing of Samara, which was a pivotal moment in escalating the violence. Perpetrators masquerade as Iraqi security forces, as Americans or contractors in their signature black SUVs. Who are they, really? Maybe the Americans know, since they control everything '" the sea, the sky, the land.
' Iraqis have lived in a religious mix within their borders for centuries'"Sunni, Shiite, Kurd, Jew, more recently some Christians, and others. Saddam was brutal, no doubt about it. But things were stable. Now they are not. (NOTE: Sami was not pining for Saddam; he was simply observing how things have deteriorated for the people on the heels of U.S. involvement.)
' General Petraeus no longer speaks of insurgents. He says al Qaeda, over and over and over again.
' The surge forces are not for securing Iraq. It's for Iran.
' Study history. Look at Alexander the Great in his quest for lands to conquer. (NOTE: Perhaps it is apocryphal, but somewhere along the line, I learned that AG's epitaph says something like this: "A tomb now suffices him for whom the whole world was not sufficient.")
' Partitioning Iraq is a terrible idea!
' U.S. interest is not above the interest of the rest of the world; it's part of it!
' Can Iraq rebuild and run their own country if America leaves? They can and must. It will be their responsibility to deal with al Qaeda, to get rid of them. Iraqis resisting the U.S. occupation are allowing them to be there because they're targeting Americans.
' People always evolve for the better!
' Americans must leave Iraq now, not an hour later! because America has failed. And you cannot ask the raped woman to have the rapist stay with her after the crime.
' It is very grim. Sorry. Maybe I can come with better stories next year.
Sami Rasouli will return to Iraq in May. There is little doubt in my mind that though his may not be the only truth, it is definitely part of the truth, as we were reminded by the convener before he spoke. But truth-tellers about Iraq and a great deal more are in short supply these days. I choose to believe Sami. Get. Out. Now.