War Torn

Despite their hatred of Saddam Hussein, many Iraqis living in the U.S. oppose Bush's war

As teams of FBI agents fan out across America looking for 50,000 Iraqis to question about their loyalties -- Saddam or Dubya?, you decide -- they are expected to concentrate their efforts in Michigan, Texas, and California. So at least some of the several thousand Iraqi people who live in the Bay Area -- many of whom fled their country after Saddam Hussein seized power -- will probably hear a knock on the door in the not-too-distant future.

Many Bay Area Iraqi émigrés are U.S. citizens, professionals educated in American universities who have established businesses, bought homes in affluent suburbs, and raised their children as middle-class Americans. Some belong to mosques, some to Christian churches. They are, like most Americans, divided by class, gender, age, and political preferences. And like the public at large, some favor invading Iraq, while others are strongly opposed.

The New York Times recently observed, rather one-sidedly: "Iraqis living in America ... are among the staunchest supporters of Mr. Bush's campaign for military action. For many of them, no price is too great to overthrow the Iraqi leader -- even if it costs the lives of ordinary Iraqis, including their own relatives. ... For them, there is no debate over the rightness of America's going to war with Iraq."

The Times might not have proclaimed expatriate Iraqis so uniformly bellicose if its reporter had talked to Adnan Al Adeeb, an Iraqi émigré who owns a Walnut Creek architectural engineering firm.

"The U.S. is in it for the oil; its agenda is to dominate, not to free Iraq," says Adeeb, who fears the "heavy price of war on Iraqi civilians" as much, if not more than he loathes Saddam Hussein. To the degree that Adeeb's anti-war stance reflects the opinion of many Iraqi-Americans, prying FBI agents are likely to discover that opposing the war is not the same as supporting the Ba'ath regime -- and that desiring Hussein's liquidation is not the same as desiring war.

In 1963, the Iraqi government sent Adeeb to study at Stanford University. After earning a doctorate in engineering, Adeeb returned to Iraq, where he built public works for the government and taught engineering in a university. Two years after Hussein declared himself dictator in 1979, Adeeb and his family sneaked out of Iraq and flew to the United States. "I was afraid if I stayed I would be executed," he says.

"My sister's two sons were executed," he adds, noting that his sister is nonetheless so terrified of the Iraqi leader that she still has a picture of him in her living room.

Adeeb, 62, found work teaching engineering at UC Berkeley. He started his own engineering company and his children graduated from American colleges. He has the highest respect for American ideals of democracy and freedom, but he takes exception to America's "imperial" adventures in the Middle East.

Hussein's rise to power was facilitated by the United States government, Adeeb says. "When Saddam Hussein suppressed people, the CIA knew it. He did it with their blessing."

Like Iraqis on both sides of the war question, Adeeb is still angry about the immediate aftermath of the Persian Gulf War when the first Bush "betrayed the rebellions in the south of Iraq." He does not believe the U.S. military is interested in promoting democracy in Iraq.

Adeeb is a practicing Muslim. A tapestry inscribed with a quote from the Koran in Arabic -- "a god who is merciful" -- hangs in his office. Adeeb appears to be a gentle soul, but recent events have riled him up.

"I thought the U.S. was about freedom," he says. "I ran away from a dictator, now I feel betrayed by U.S. policy. Some at the mosque fear surveillance, some fear the prospect of internment in the event of war; they fear that their cash will be impounded.

"This could be a great country if it abided by the principles of its Constitution. But change requires a movement and time. Unfortunately, the media controls the mind of the average person. He is busy making his buck to support the family. He goes home, he drinks his beer, he sleeps, he goes to work again."

Adeeb shrugs, hoping that the average American soon awakens from his political slumber, as he himself has.

"When I was a very serious student at Stanford during the Vietnam War, which was also unjust, I had no time to demonstrate while making the grade," he says. Now, things are different. "I recently went to my first anti-war demonstration.

"Americans should look at why terrorist acts happen. Never-ending injustices create never-ending violence."

In Menlo Park, 50 miles from Walnut Creek, Mahmood Suleiman says, "I went to a picnic of Iraqis [recently]. The subject of war can't be avoided. Not a single person there said, 'Hey, let's go.' All of us felt that the people of Iraq deserve a better government, but we are all worried, losing sleep. We have family there; they are worried. People forget that it is a form of terror to make people worry with the talk of war every day. It is unthinkable to indulge in another war."

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