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Letter from Baghdad
UPI | September 2, 2003 | Ken Joseph Jr.

Posted on 09/03/2003 10:12:46 AM PDT by gcruse


BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- I have been shocked at the difference between the Baghdad I found on my return and all the bad news from the city.

Despite the recent bombings, Baghdad looks dramatically different. The stores are full of supplies. The streets are crowded with people and cars. The buses are working and police are on the streets, directing traffic.

At night the streets are full of pedestrians, many families with children. I am at a loss to reconcile what we see on the ground with what is being reported.

The "regular people" are much better off than they were. Security has improved with Iraqi police everywhere, telephones are starting to work, electricity, while off and on, is relatively stable, the stores are full of food, and, little by little, people are getting jobs back.

Pensions have been paid on time. The schools are working and people for the first time have hope and a future.

When I was here before the war what was most awful for people was that they had no future -- nothing to look forward to. For us who have never experienced that situation, it is difficult to understand, but it is akin to being in prison without the possibility of parole.

They would look at me and say, "Sure we have food, a place to live, a job. But can you understand what it is to live with no tomorrow? It is like living in prison."

Now -- for the first time in 35 years -- they have a hope and a future. What most impressed me was to see Iraqis really hustling. They are thinking of starting companies and importing goods.

People, especially young people, say that for the first time in their lives they can travel overseas, surf the Internet, make international calls, and watch satellite TV. It is a wonderful time for the average Baghdadi.

What is really happening is the movement of Iraq from a "police state" to a "normal" country. During Saddam's time, life in many ways was stable, crime was low, prices were low.

But we are in a time of dramatic change. People have to learn to adjust to the "fringe benefits" of a free society. These changes include higher prices, the need to work, room for creativity, having choices, basic street crime, locking doors -- and a range of TV channels.

It is shocking for some -- especially the older people -- but the very old and the young are excited. The very old because they remember the good old days; the very young because they're excited about all the new things, such as MTV and the Internet.

Those who naysay everything are very interesting. The people are very clear on who they are -- they all were connected to Saddam. For the first time in their lives, they are going to have to work; no more handouts. The easy life is over. But the numbers are staggering. People estimate nearly 20 percent or more of the population was in some form on Saddam's gravy train, some by choice, others by force. And nearly all of the population had been getting free food, tea and sugar.

As for the crime, they emptied the prisons so nearly 50,000 hard-nosed criminals are on the streets.

Another problem is just as it was before the war -- the outsiders. I cannot understand why the United States has not done two basic things: sealing the borders and setting up a TV station.

There is no border check so Iraq is becoming the magnet for every one that wants to get a chance to fight with Americans. This is a great puzzle to me.

What is happening, including the bombings, as far as people who I talked to are concerned, is the work of foreign nuts -- the same people who were the only ones to fight for Saddam at the later part of the war.

They are coming from all over the world like they did in Afghanistan to get a chance to fight Americans. I always remember how in Jordan everybody loved Saddam, whereas in Iraq everybody hated him.

The Iraqi people, in spite of all that is said, love the Americans. They are deeply grateful and are giving the United States the benefit of the doubt.

What has happened as far as the general population is concerned is what I term "the great letdown." People tend to make the United States Superman. They think the United States is all-powerful, the bastion of freedom, democracy, strength.

They thought that the United States would come in and with superhuman power overnight transform Baghdad into New York and Mosul into San Francisco.

It is traumatic to realize that America is not God and is very, very human. There is this gap between godlike perceptions of Americans and the realization that they have limits and cannot do everything overnight.

That is why it is critical to get basic services up -- electricity, water, and transportation.

With all due respect, people in Iraq in general hate radical Islam. They are secular. They do not want to see an Islamic state. They do not want to become like Iran.

At the same time, money and people from Iran, Saudi Arabia and other places are flooding the country using intimidation to accomplish what they cannot do by any other means. And average Iraqi is concerned at what seems to be a U.S. position, that is soft on Islam.

The problem for Christians is very different. The Americans do not appear to be requiring a secular constitution as they did in Japan or a limited regional autonomy.

This is a serious problem for us. They are already giving their blessing to the dual system so common in Muslim countries: the recent citizenship changes allow for a 2-year wait for Arabs (read Muslims) and a 9-year wait for non-Arabs.

We are beginning to feel that if the United States will not demand that the constitution be secular with a strong prohibition against religious involvement by the government and limited autonomy, then we will have to pull Assyrian Christians out of the country.

-0-

Rev. Ken Joseph Jr., an Assyrian, who initially was against the war, was so shocked at his experiences while in Iraq before the war as one of the few allowed in without government "minders," he changed his mind. Following the war, Rev. Joseph brought in the first post-war refugee truck with 20 tons of water, food, medicine and satellite telephones, and continues to assist on the ground in Iraq.



TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: baghdad; humanshields; iraq

1 posted on 09/03/2003 10:12:46 AM PDT by gcruse
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To: gcruse
Good news bump. Here's wishing the Iraqis success as they make a go of democracy.
2 posted on 09/03/2003 10:17:20 AM PDT by Ciexyz
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To: gcruse
One question then, why does every single irockheady who gets a mic in his face denounce the coalition (particularly the U.S.)? Is this do to some congenital incapability of arabs to express gratitude?
3 posted on 09/03/2003 10:17:48 AM PDT by Righty1
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To: Righty1
One question then, why does every single irockheady who gets a mic in his face denounce the coalition (particularly the U.S.)?

Because that would not fit the liberal news agenda?

4 posted on 09/03/2003 10:26:45 AM PDT by 11Bush
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To: gcruse
The Iraqi people, in spite of all that is said, love the Americans.

Common sense would tell me the truth would lie somewhere between "love" and "hate". Enduring an occupation, even by benevolent forces, is a humiliating experience. Combine this with the inevitable complications and I'm sure you'd get something in the neighborhood of "begrudging appreciation". I'm good with that. Let's just make sure we get them hooked up fast and get the hell out of there.

5 posted on 09/03/2003 10:30:35 AM PDT by Mr. Bird
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To: gcruse
Thanks.

A welcomed change from reading the constant daily death totals, how many killed to date since the president declared hostilities mostly over from the carrier deck, and how it's necessary for the UN to get troops in there so we can avoid the quagmire.

6 posted on 09/03/2003 10:34:29 AM PDT by b4its2late (FOOTBALL REFEREES: Best seats in the house and we're paid for it!!!!!)
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To: Righty1
One question then, why does every single irockheady who gets a mic in his face denounce the coalition (particularly the U.S.)?

Wow, you really think the media lets you see what 'every single' Iraqi says to the camera? That's funny. First rule of news - Positive news is not news.

7 posted on 09/03/2003 10:37:48 AM PDT by Gunslingr3
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To: Gunslingr3
I am really delighted to read this article from Ken Joseph, Jr. He happens to be the minister who married me to my lovely wife when I was living in Japan. Rev. Joseph is to be congratulated for this article and his awesome courage and giving with respect to Iraq.
8 posted on 09/03/2003 10:51:49 AM PDT by Life Ain't Easy
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To: Righty1
One question then, why does every single irockheady who gets a mic in his face denounce the coalition (particularly the U.S.)?

Because of the agenda of the "reporter" behind the microphone??? The media is desperately trying to weaken Bush for 2004. They know he'll win re-election so they're trying for the Senate. So, I imagine it goes something like this: reporter walks up to crowd of Iraqis and asks if anyone has anything bad to say about us. Those who raise their hands get a mic shoved in their face and international coverage. The majority are ignored.

9 posted on 09/03/2003 10:53:26 AM PDT by mikegi
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To: gcruse
Also made "The Grapevine" on Brit Hume's "Special Report":

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,96420,00.html

Reality in Iraq

Meanwhile, remember Ken Joseph, the American pastor who went to Baghdad as a human shield, but was so disgusted by Saddam Hussein's regime that he left? Well, he's back in Baghdad, and says,

"I am at a loss to reconcile what we see on the ground with what is being reported. ... Security has improved with Iraqi police everywhere, telephones are starting to work, electricity, while off and on, is relatively stable, the stores are full of food, and, little by little, people are getting jobs back. ... People for the first time have hope and a future."

10 posted on 09/05/2003 12:05:27 PM PDT by Stultis
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To: gcruse
Rev. Joseph's original mea culpa:

I Was Wrong About the War: An antiwar minister visits his relatives in Iraq ^
      Posted by JohnHuang2
On 04/07/2003 3:29 AM CDT with 5 comments


FrontPageMagazine.com ^ | Monday, April 7, 2003 | By Ken Joseph Jr.
I Was Wrong About the WarBy Ken Joseph Jr.AssyrianChristians.com | April 7, 2003 How do you admit you were wrong? What do you do when you realize those you were defending in fact did not want your defense and wanted something completely different from you and from the world? This is my story. It will probably upset everybody - those with whom I have fought for peace all my life and those for whom the decision for war comes a bit too fast. I am an Assyrian. I was born and raised in Japan where I am the second generation...

"I Was Wrong." (Another Protester Comes His Senses)  ^
      Posted by conservativecorner
On 04/01/2003 8:18 AM CST with 37 comments


Capitalism Magazine ^ | Ken Joseph, Jr.
Summary: I had been demonstrating against the war thinking I had been doing it for the very people I was here with now and yet I had not ever bothered to ask them what they wanted...Over and over I questioned them 'Why could you want war? Why could any human being desire war?' They're answer was quiet and measured. 'Look at our lives! We are living like animals. No food, no car, no telephone, no job and most of all no hope.' [CAPITALISM MAGAZINE.COM] How do you admit you were wrong? What do you do when you realize those you...

I Was Wrong!**A Must Read ^
      Posted by yonif
On 03/28/2003 8:44 PM CST with 84 comments


Assyrian Christian News ^ | March 26, 2003 | Ken Joseph, Jr.
How do you admit you were wrong? What do you do when you realizethose you were defending in fact did not want your defense and wanted something completely different from you and from the world? This is my story. It will probably upset everybody - those with whom I have fought for peace all my life and those for whom the decision for war comes a bit too fast. I am an Assyrian. I was born and raised in Japan where I am the second generation in ministry after my Father came to Japan in answer to General Douglas Macarthur's...

OTHER RECANTERS:

Anti-War Human Shield Confirms Coalition Bombing Precision ^
      Posted by Yankee
On 03/29/2003 3:59 PM CST with 14 comments


FNC | 3/29/03 | Yankee
A human shield in Baghdad told Simon Marks in an interview on FOX News, that the coalition's bombings in Baghdad are indeed precision strikes and are focused only on regime and military targets. Abe Dawjee of South Africa told Marks, "Baghdad is not a bombed out city. It hasn't yet been turned into rubble. You have to drive around and look for the sites where the bombings took place, and there are many of those. Government buildings have been blown up and military targets have been hit".

Human shields against Saddam  ^
      Posted by Andy from Beaverton
On 03/29/2003 10:56 AM CST with 4 comments


he National Business Review ^ | 03/26/03
Human shields against Saddam So-called "human shields" are returning from Iraq with a very different perspective from the one that led them there. There are still anti-war activists on the ground in Bagdhad -- several of them have "diaries" on electroniciraq.com, for example -- but stories coming from many who have fled paint a grim picture of the regime targeted by the war. The UPI reports that: A group of American anti-war demonstrators who came to Iraq with Japanese human shield volunteers made it across the border today [story filed 21 March] with 14 hours of uncensored video, all shot...

Disillusioned Human Shields ^
      Posted by NYer
On 03/28/2003 12:21 PM CST with 14 comments


NewsMax ^ | March 28, 2003 | Reed Irvine
At the Army’s daily briefing in Qatar on March 26, a reporter asked Gen. Vincent Brooks what he had to say to the human shields who have gone to Iraq to risk their lives to stop the war. The general missed a great opportunity to tell what two of these "human shields" had recently said about what they learned in Baghdad that caused them to abandon their plans to risk their lives trying to protect innocent Iraqi civilians. In a dispatch from Amman, Jordan, distributed by UPI and published in the Washington Times on March 23, veteran foreign correspondent Arnaud...
     
 
Disillusioned Human Shields  ^
      Posted by webber
On 03/27/2003 10:17 PM CST with 13 comments


Accuracy In Media ^ | Reed Irvine
Disillusioned Human Shields - The Saga Continues By Reed Irvine March 27, 2003 At the Army's daily briefing in Qatar on March 26, a reporter asked Gen. Vincent Brooks what he had to say to the human shields who have gone to Iraq to risk their lives to stop the war. The general missed a great opportunity to tell what two of these "human shields" had recently said about what they learned in Baghdad that caused them to abandon their plans to risk their lives trying to protect innocent Iraqi civilians. In a dispatch from Amman, Jordan distributed by UPI...

Human shields caught in crossfire(Light finally dawns ALert) ^
      Posted by Jacob Kell
On 03/25/2003 6:49 PM CST with 32 comments


WorldNetDaily ^ | March 25, 2003 | WorldNetDaily
As the coalition bombs drop across Iraq, many anti-war protesters from around the world seeking to serve as human shields for the Iraqi people find themselves caught in the crossfire. The London Independent reports a British human shield has not been heard from since the initial bombing last week. Leo Warren, 44, from Feltwell, Norfolk, is one of seven British human shields believed to be still in Iraq. In his last e-mail to family hours prior to the initial "decapitation" airstrikes, Warren raised concerns that he and other members of the group were being manipulated by the Iraqi government.

Human shields-turned-hawks ^
      Posted by kattracks
On 03/26/2003 5:15 AM CST with 16 comments


TownHall.com ^ | 3/26/03 | Joel Mowbray
They arrived as Saddam apologists willing to die for the despot—but they left Iraq weeks later with changed hearts and a determination that Saddam must go.  Many of the human shields who had arrived with much fanfare to “stop” the United States and Britain were swayed by the strongest supporters of Saddam’s ouster: the Iraqi people.  Particularly powerful is the story of an American group from the Assyrian Church of the East, who went with a Japanese human shield delegation and recently crossed over into Jordan with 14 hours of uncensored video footage.  Out of the presence of Iraqi secret police,...

I was a Human Shield ^
      Posted by gracie1
On 03/25/2003 10:08 PM CST with 29 comments


sf.indymedia.org ^ | 3-25-03 | Daniel Pepper
I was a human shield by Daniel Pepper • Tuesday March 25, 2003 at 06:19 PM Why I regret being a human shield. 'I was a fool to be a human shield for Saddam', By Daniel Pepper Advertisement I wanted to join the human shields in Baghdad because it was direct action which had a chance of bringing the anti-war movement to the forefront of world attention. It was inspiring: the human shield volunteers were making a sacrifice for their political views much more of a personal investment than going to a demonstration in Washington or London. It was simple...
 

Mugged by reality: Joseph Farah exposes real reason anti-war 'human shields' fled Iraq ^
      Posted by JohnHuang2
On 03/25/2003 7:39 AM CST with 6 comments


WorldNetDaily.com ^ | Tuesday, March 25, 2003 | Joseph Farah
Have you heard about the "human shields" deserting in Iraq? No, it's not a joke. Though I think I could come up with some good punch lines for that opener. A group of American anti-war demonstrators who went to Iraq to serve as human shields from American attacks fled Iraq this past weekend – and what a story they have to tell. It seems the human shields were granted some privileges by Saddam Hussein that most Americans would not be given. They were permitted to talk to ordinary Iraqis and videotape interviews with them when they didn't fear Iraqi government...
 

Human shields tell of being “shocked back to reality” after visiting Iraq  ^
      Posted by Remedy
On 03/24/2003 12:57 PM CST with 24 comments


Center for Security Policy ^ | Monday, March 24, 2003 | Center for Security Policy
Human shields from American and other western nations now returning from Iraq are now speaking openly about the need to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein’s regime. One former human shield, a Jewish-American photographer who had previously traveled to the West Bank during the intifada and Afghanistan, writes in the Daily Telegraph that in his naiveté "it hadn't occurred to [him] that the Iraqis might actually be pro-war."He and other human shields were shocked that ordinary Iraqis told them: "We want America to bomb Saddam" and "All Iraqi people want this war." One Iraqi they spoke with believed that Saddam Hussein...
     
 
I WAS A NAIVE FOOL TO BE A HUMAN SHIELD FOR SADDAM! ^
      Posted by Apolitical
On 03/23/2003 7:58 AM CST with 52 comments


The Iconoclast ^ | March 23, 2004 | Murray Soupcoff (The Iconoclast)
DAILY NOTEBOOK.... I WAS A NAIVE FOOL TO BE A HUMAN SHIELD FOR SADDAM! ....... March 23, 2003: Today's recommended reading, especially for anti-war activists and Hollywood's fifth column, is a first-person essay by former American human shield Daniel Pepper in The Telegraph (U.K.). In a rambling, revelatory self-confession, a mortified Mr. Pepper lets it all hang out, telling just how deceived and deluded he was about Saddam and Iraq. The opinion piece is entitled, I WAS A NAIVE FOOL TO BE A HUMAN SHIELD FOR SADDAM, and is well worth reading. Here's some of what ex-human shield Daniel Pepper...

Group shows Iraqis welcoming U.S. ^
      Posted by Oldeconomybuyer
On 03/23/2003 7:17 AM CST with 10 comments


THE WASHINGTON TIMES ^ | 3-23-03 | By Arnaud de Borchgrave
AMMAN, Jordan — A group of American anti-war demonstrators, part of a Japanese human-shield delegation, returned from Iraq yesterday with 14 hours of uncensored video, all shot without Iraqi government minders present, with Iraqis eager to tell of their welcome for American troops. Top Stories • Troops advance on Baghdad • Officers hurt in grenade attack • Allied troops skirt cities to limit casualties • Saddam's image lingers despite raids • Scientists ID killer virus        The Rev. Kenneth Joseph, a young American pastor of the Assyrian Church of the East, said the trip to Iraq "had shocked me back to reality."      Some of...
     
 
I was a naive fool to be a human shield for Saddam (MUST, MUST READ!) ^
      Posted by MadIvan
On 03/22/2003 9:02 PM CST with 246 comments


The Sunday Telegraph ^ | March 23, 2003 | Daniel Pepper
I wanted to join the human shields in Baghdad because it was direct action which had a chance of bringing the anti-war movement to the forefront of world attention. It was inspiring: the human shield volunteers were making a sacrifice for their political views - much more of a personal investment than going to a demonstration in Washington or London. It was simple - you get on the bus and you represent yourself. So that is exactly what I did on the morning of Saturday, January 25. I am a 23-year-old Jewish-American photographer living in Islington, north London. I had...

11 posted on 09/05/2003 12:39:11 PM PDT by Stultis
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