War Torn

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

Suleiman and Adeeb have never met, but they have much in common. Suleiman, 76, holds an advanced engineering degree from Berkeley, courtesy of the Iraqi government. In the 1950s, he helped build the Iraqi railway system. In 1965, he joined the World Health Organization as a sanitary environmental engineer and became a manager. In the 1970s, he helped construct water pipelines and sewage plants in Iraq.

In 1991, he watched on TV from his home in America "as so-called smart bombs hit the Baghdad sewage treatment plant that had been the pride of WHO. Now, raw sewage runs into the river; we have inadvertently used biological weapons, creating epidemics of typhoid and cholera."

Suleiman talks about how Iraq, because of its oil riches, became an industrialized country capable of aiding less developed nations. "My brother and sister were teachers. They owned their homes before I did, they had cars, they traveled to Europe on vacations. Iraq was flooded with Egyptians doing menial jobs."

Everything changed when the Iraqi army entered Kuwait in 1990. According to Suleiman, many Iraqis feel that Hussein fell into a trap laid by the United States, which remains intent upon seizing Iraq's oil fields and utilizing the now-impoverished country as a base for regional military operations.

"My brother and sister died during the [UN-imposed] sanctions," he says. "They had diabetes. There was no medicine. There is another kind of death, too. The death of hope, the death of unemployment, no real college, no computers, no one becoming an engineer, a doctor, a teacher."

Suleiman says that when he first came to America he was impressed by the kindness of the people. "I wanted my country to become like America, with a constitution and freedom.

"A few years ago, an Iraqi wrote a book called Republic of Fear, about life under Saddam Hussein," he continues. "Now I see the Patriot Act and thousands arrested and no accusations and no legal representation and millions set up to spy on their neighbors. And I see that this government has turned America into a republic of fear. The Bush administration is taking up the law of the jungle.

"I call myself a Moslem. Every day I say silent prayers to guide our leaders to see daylight. I hope that the angel Gabriel [who delivered the message of prophecy to Mohammed] will come down to wake them up."

Like Adeeb and Suleiman, Emanuel Ashoo was born in Iraq, studied engineering abroad, returned to Iraq to build public works and, in the end, became an American citizen. Ashoo, who is a Presbyterian, shares their contempt for Hussein, as well as their abhorrence of the approaching war.

"I was against the Gulf War," he says. "But I wish that the U.S. had overthrown Hussein. They could have finished him easily."

Despite that violent sentiment, Ashoo, 72, is a pacifist. He has the financial means to live an easy life in retirement, but he has chosen to speak against the prospective war at Bay Area churches and on satellite television. Aware that he may be under surveillance, he is wary of what he says in public, on the telephone, and in e-mail lest his remarks be misinterpreted by secret police with spy-catching quotas to fill -- or perhaps other forces. (Shortly after 9/11, he discovered a fizzled car bomb in the gas tank of his car. He made a police report but no one was arrested.)

Ashoo has visited Iraq since the Gulf War -- on the q.t., since he is no friend of the regime. He reports that the people have been rebuilding the war-damaged country, despite the impediment of sanctions. They are terrified of the coming war.

"Some Iraqi people will behave as patriots if their country is attacked," he says sadly.

Deena Al Adeeb is Adnan's daughter. Young, brisk, and afire with political commitment, she is an organizer for the Women of Color Resource Center in Oakland. As hundreds of people demonstrated last month in front of the Immigration and Naturalization Service building in San Francisco -- protesting the arrest and deportation of Arab men whose visas had expired -- she explained why Iraqis of her father's generation are hooking up with the new anti-war movement.

"Inside America, people who call themselves 'anti-imperialists' are usually radical leftists," she says. "But outside America, even conservative businessmen will call themselves anti-imperialist when American militarism threatens their families."

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