Loading...

Hold the Missiles — Please 

L.A.’s Iraqi community opposes Bush war march

Wednesday, Oct 23 2002
Comments

Page 2 of 3

The notion that a cornered Saddam Hussein will unleash destructive forces throughout the region and beyond is an apprehension voiced by many. "Listen, people have tried to assassinate this man for 25 years, and they haven't been able to do it," says one 58-year-old former Iraqi army lieutenant, who asked that his name not be used. He left his homeland in 1977 when government officials pressured him to join Saddam's B'ath party; now he makes ends meet by working at Home Depot. "Why does President Bush think he can do it now? I know what Saddam is like. My very best friend back in Iraq was the son of the man who was president 30 years ago, when Saddam was vice president. And I'm telling you, if we make him desperate, he'll use any weapon -- on his own people, on Israel, on us, whatever. And then he'll disappear."

Among those local Iraqi-Americans who favor U.S. intervention is Dr. Maha Yousif, a 51-year-old orthodontist who teaches at USC. "We don't look at it as an invasion," she says. "We look at it as a liberation." Yousif says she understands there may be Iraqi casualties, but her attitude has become fatalistic. "Death is coming to Iraqis either way," she says, "so we can't worry about it anymore."

Yet like many other Iraqi-Americans interviewed, Yousif would prefer to have Saddam indicted by an international court of justice. "We worked toward that for years, but nothing happened. And now the U.S. has refused to sign the [International Criminal] Court Agreement," Dr. Yousif shrugs. "So what is our alternative? At least, if the U.S. goes in, we can have hope."

Related Stories

  • Controversial Saudi Rapper $kinny

    Perpetually stoned, Saudi Arabia-born rapper Skinny is asked constantly about the political situation in his homeland. "That's when interviewers hear ignorant answers," explains the man whose name we'll spell Skinny, his thick dread-locks resting on his shoulders as he lounges in a Glendale recording studio. "I'm just not really into...
  • Today's Monuments Men Are on the Internet

    That "greatest art heist in history" tagline on posters and in trailers for The Monuments Men, George Clooney's new war movie, makes World War II sound like a caper. It also frames wartime art conservation efforts, often a bureaucratic mess of miscommunications, as a story in which clear-cut good guys triumph. ...
  • Immigrant Prison 13

    After nearly a decade of hard-line enforcement on illegal immigration under both the Bush and Obama administrations, one of the results is that Latinos now comprise about half of all new federally sentenced offenders. And drug and immigration crimes taken together now account for nearly two-thirds of all federal convictions,...
  • Gangsters in Syria 3

    The federal Joint Terrorism Task Force is looking into the mysterious case of two self-proclaimed L.A. gangsters captured on video in what appears to be Syria and firing assault rifles at enemies both in the name of President Bashar al-Assad and for their "homies" back in Southern California. A Los...
  • L.A. Video Game Company Teaches Soldiers How to Survive a Foreign Culture

    "People in America are always moving," the man from Trinidad says to the camera. "People back home are more laid-back. ... We have the most holidays in the world!" He's sitting in a Del Rey office, in a nook that's shrouded in black and green fabric, waxing nostalgic about all...

Still, Yousif has her reservations. "In 1974, I heard Saddam Hussein say on TV that if he ever had to leave the country, he would leave it in ruins. Then his son got on TV recently and threatened to unleash chemicals on the people of the South. But despite the risks," she says, "I'm willing to roll the dice, because our people are suffering every day. So this is medicine we have to take."

THE MOST SANGUINE VIEWS OF INVASION were expressed, predictably, by those who stand to gain the most from overthrowing Saddam -- namely the members of the various competing Iraqi opposition groups who hope, under a U.S. military umbrella, to return home and assume some quota of state power. Most prominent among these official opposition leaders is Washington, D.C.-based Dr. Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an Iraqi coalition parliament in exile. With money and encouragement from the Clinton administration, Chalabi launched an insurrection from inside Iraq in March of 1995, but the U.S. pulled back support, and the attempted coup failed completely. Since then, Chalabi has won warm support from the Bush White House. And, just this week, the Bush administration allocated $92 million to train 5,000 Iraqi exiles -- most of them to be supplied by Chalabi.

Chalabi's principal INC representative in Southern California is Dr. Yousif's cousin, Mazin Yousif, 41, the owner of an electronics-design firm in Orange County. "Ten days ago, we had contact with members high up in [Saddam's elite] Republican Guard," he says, "and they told us, 'We're going to leave our windows and doors open.' What this means is, they're really fed up with Saddam and ready to switch sides." On the subject of a cornered Saddam becoming the world's biggest suicide bomber, Yousif is dismissive. "The way around that is to give Saddam an exit by allowing him to have a residence outside Iraq."

Yousif is also confident that the U.S. will stay in Iraq long enough to stabilize a new government. "They will not abandon us. We are sitting on the second largest oil reserves in the world. Of course," Yousif says, "we have been double-crossed a couple of times before. But I don't believe that will happen this time."

Yet Yousif too is not without his apprehensions. "What really bothers me is that the administration will take a short cut and make a last-minute deal with some second cousin of Saddam," he says. "As Henry Kissinger wrote in his memoirs, in the Middle East, tyrants are easiest to control, because you only have to deal with one person. Democratic governments are much harder."

Yousif rather glumly predicts that the odds are "50/50" the Bush administration will wind up making just such a deal. "If the U.S. government was really planning to support a democratic revolution -- meaning a liberation force, not an occupation force -- they'd be training opposition troops to go in with Americans," he says. "We have submitted a list of 2,000 ex-officers and soldiers who are ready, willing and able to be trained on a base in the region to spearhead the removal of Saddam. That proposal is sitting on George Bush's desk. But nothing has happened. And it's getting awfully late in the day. Thinking about that is what keeps me up at night."

Related Content

Now Trending

  • Jay Z Grand Park Concert Is Official as Mayor Plans Announcement

    It looks like Mayor Eric Garcetti is going to officially announce that a two-day "Budweiser Made in America" festival is taking place  at downtown L.A.'s Grand Park. The mayor's office said today he " will make an announcement with Shawn "JAY Z" Carter, Supervisor Gloria Molina, City Council President Herb...
  • "Compton Division" Pimps Made Millions, Cops Say

    A trio of local pimps forced women to work the streets from San Diego to Las Vegas and beyond, cops say, and they allegedly made millions doing so. But now 31-year-old Robert Walker, 34-year-old Daniel Gunther, and 34-year-old David Sheffey, who called their crew the Compton Division, are behind bars, says...
  • L.A.'s Top 10 Streets for Bicycle Crashes Revealed

    You're probably already aware that there's a hit-and-run epidemic in L.A., and that bicycling in a car-crazed capital like Los Angeles can be hazardous to your health. See also: Critical Mass Bike Ride Recognizes L.A. Hit-&-Run Victims But the nerds at the MIT Media Lab's Social Computing Group recently came up...
    2

Around The Web

Slideshows