Thursday, February 20, 2003

The debate continues...

Off late I have been seeing interesting news about how Iraqi exiles support the war. The surprise (to me) came on Tuesday night in the form of one-hour debate on Channel 5 in UK. The debate was between two women – one an Iraqi exile and the other a current resident of Iraq who is in London for medical treatment. The panel also included two editors of national newspapers and of course the TV anchor (who I must say did a good job to prevent a mini war between the debaters!). I wish I could reproduce the entire conversation but since my memory is limited I am posting here the essence of the debate. The disclaimer is: what is written here is not verbatim. It is all from my memory. I have used PW for pro-war Iraqi exile, AW for anti-war current Iraqi resident, ED for editors, and TV for the anchor. Of course both the lady debaters had a strong Iraqi accent and their English was not grammatically at its best.


TV: Do you support war?

PRO: Absolutely. I think it is time Saddam was removed. I left the country right after the first Gulf war and it was horrendous to see the massacres that Saddam committed in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Kurds were just massacred because they challenged him.

ANTI: I don’t support war. I think in the end it will be hurting us more than Saddam. I don’t like Saddam. Many in my country don’t like him. Even he knows that but he is powerful and will stay there as long as he likes.

ED: Aren’t you afraid that Saddam might punish you or do something bad to you for saying all this?

ANTI: No. We say this everyday in Iraq itself. No I am not afraid. Saddam knows not many people like him. There are few who will die for him but not many. Many of his own soldiers don’t like him but work for him just to earn a living.

ED: So Saddam does not get angry for saying this?

ANTI: No. I don’t know. If he does then he has to be angry with all of Iraq.

TV: Is it true that he executes people who oppose him?

ANTI: Yes he does. But not common people. Only people who pose real threat to his chair. Most executions take place in the army. He is scared of coups. When I left Iraq two days ago he put the Defence Minister under house arrest. This is the person who is his own relative. So you see he is really scared.

TV: What do you think of the million people who marched for peace?

PRO: I think it is stupid of them to march like that without knowing the ground realities. Where were these people when Saddam killed thousands of Kurds? Where were they when he killed his own people? It is time we have democracy in Iraq. Thousands are dying everyday – why is it they go for march only when US wants to liberate people?

ED: You were shaking your head as she spoke. Do you disagree?

ANTI: Yes. I don’t think war will bring peace to my nation. At least I don’t think people will accept US democracy.

TV: Why not?

ANTI: Because there is no one to lead my nation. We do not have confidence in US appointed leader. US is a friend of Israel and they hate Arabs. How can we allow US to install leader and rule us? Saddam is better than having US appointed leader.

PRO: But surely you would want freedom more than Saddam?

ANTI: Yes I do. But I think our people should fight for it.

PRO: But Iraqi’s are not capable of fighting.

ANTI: Who told you so? (angrily). If we are weak today, it is because of America. They have put sanctions on us. Let me ask you one thing (to the editors). Can you fight when you are hungry? No you can’t. We are too hungry to fight. People die of hunger daily. At least Saddam doesn’t kill daily. Lift the sanctions and we will fight. It may not be as quick as bombs but in the end we will have a new leader who we can trust. Today if my son wants a gun to fight, he has to approach Saddam for it.

PRO: Iraqi people can never topple Saddam. After him it will be his son and it will go on like that. Even if million people die in war it will be good for Iraq. Tell me one time when a ruthless person like Saddam has given up power? Such people give up only when they die.

ED: So you oppose...

ANTI: Wait wait (almost getting up out of chair). What about Idi Amin? He was worse than Saddam. But who toppled him? Not US or UK. It was the people. They overthrew him. All I ask is give us a chance.

ED: So you don’t want US or UK to come and liberate you.

ANTI: No I didn’t say that. I don’t mind them coming and taking out Saddam. But it is not easy. Saddam is cunning. He plans to take all pregnant women and put them next to radars. So America has to be careful when it bombs. He has already done survey of all houses to see how many pregnant women there are. But I don’t want America’s leader.

TV: Why not?

ANTI: They are our enemies. They always support Israel and Israel has done us lot of harm.

ED: What if UN appoints a leader?

ANTI: Why should anyone appoint leader? Tell me is there anyone you know who can lead us? Twenty-five years Saddam has ruled. We have had no chance to test other leaders. How do we know the UN leader is not working for US or Israel? America does not have moral right to impose leader on us. Nor does it have right to impose no fly zone.

TV: But surely no fly zone has helped the Kurds?

ANTI: Helped them? I don’t think so. That whole place is become a smuggling and gambling area now. Even America uses it for smuggling and other meetings. Look. Iraqi people don’t hate Kurds. Do you hate them? No. Then why should we hate them? Kurds don’t hate us either. Yes some want free country but that we can discuss. I don’t think Iraqi’s and Kurds will go to war on that issue.

PRO: Then why did Saddam gas them?

ANTI: Saddam is not Iraqi leader. He is a dictator. You should ask him that question and not me. When that happened, many Iraqi’s risked their lives to hide Kurds in their house. Do you know that?

ED: What do you think about people saying America wants Iraqi oil?

PRO: I think they will not get it. Iraqi people do not trust American leadership. Even I would not support America appointed leader. I think new leader should be one who has always been in Iraq. He will know our pains. So I don’t think America will get any oil if they are going to war with that in mind.

ED: So you want America to liberate you and leave you alone?

PRO: Of course. I believe that is all they would like to do as well.


Once again the debate is what I recall from my memory. It was an hour programme and many more issues were discussed. The pro-war Iraqi woman is a UK resident who got asylum after the first gulf war. The anti-war Iraqi woman is here in UK for a week trip for medical reasons. She will be going back and for those doubting Thomases, I would like to state that she had no idea she would be asked to join a debate when she left Iraq. The TV crew requested her to participate when she was at the hospital (or so they stated).


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