Myths About Iraq: Interview with Weam Namou

Source: Global Politician
Ryan Mauro – 11/27/2005

Interview with Weam Namou
Weam Namou lived in Iraq as part of the Christian minority and has been on many radio and TV shows to discuss the misconceptions Iraqis have of Americans and vice versa. Her book, “The Feminine Art”, is an acclaimed novel set in America and the Middle East during the Gulf War aftermath.

Arabic Translation

RM: What do you feel is the biggest misconception that Iraqis have of Americans and Coalition forces?

WN: Iraqis think the Coalition forces came to help their American leaders steal Iraq’s wealth. They don’t believe their intentions were to fight terrorism or free Iraqis of Saddam. This idea stems from viewing the west’s past and current participation with Iraq:

· British occupation from 1917 to 1932, which was largely due to the interest of oil
· The strong relationship Saddam Hussein had with the CIA since the early 1960’s
· The Reagan administration’s weapon and monetary support for the Iraq-Iran war
· The “okay” given by US Ambassador April Glaspie that permitted Saddam to invade Kuwait
· The US bombing of Baghdad for forty-two consecutive days, destroying its infrastructure and killing tens of thousands of people.
· America abandoning those whom it encouraged to do an uprising against Saddam, allowing them to become Saddam’s next victims.
· The sanctions that over thirteen years cost the innocent lives of 1.5 million.
· The 2003 war that began without enough proof of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction or that it had any links to Al-Qaeda. Not a single pilot had an Iraqi citizenship. Most were Saudis
· Troops allowing the looting of the museums and libraries and an unguarded border where hoards of terrorists entered the country, yet from the start maintaining a tight protection over the oil fields.
· The $9 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq that disappeared under Bremer’s authority.

What the Iraqis don’t realize is that a large number of young Americans, despite all the freedom they’re given to investigate into their governments and to speak out, are not politically, historically, or culturally aware, due to lack of interest and/or intellectual laziness. Many rely on the media to update them on their own country and world affairs. The majority of Americans have good intentions, and when and if they come across the truth they do stand up for it. Unfortunately, that often takes place after much damage has been done to them and others.

RM: What do you feel is the biggest misconception the West has about Iraqis?

WN: That the Iraqis are ignorant people who are easy to handle. Such mentality led to the belief that the American Coalition will be welcomed into Iraq with flowers. So American troops, upon first entering the country, comfortably traveled the streets alone. Soon afterwards they saw it best to travel in groups. In studying its history, Americans wouldn’t have been surprised to see Iraq as resistant today as it has been with past invaders and occupiers. But by their actions, like the American graffiti placed on historical sites and the belief that their way will “save” them from a barbaric government, they prove to know and appreciate little about Iraqis’ important contributions, which date back over 5,000 years, to our western civilization.

RM: How worried are you about the possibility of a radical Islamic state, close to Iran, being created in Iraq?

WN: Since Iran and America are not friends, this isn’t likely. Right now the US has much influence, much control, in Iraq. It wouldn’t be smart of it to sit back and watch a government or religious sect that doesn’t serve its ideology or future plans to find a permanent home in Iraq. However, I worry about the abusive actions that radical Islamists have taken, and will continue to take due to lack of security, against Iraqi citizens. Liquor store owners are a target of violence. Women who don’t follow certain dress codes are kidnapped, raped or killed. Christian women are especially threatened. This is most disturbing when one imagines how it was not long ago. When I visited Baghdad in the year 2000, people still had freedom of religion and women were able to dress in western clothing and had much more freedom than their neighboring Islamic countries.

RM: How likely is a civil war in your opinion?

WN: It’s already happening. Sunnis are killing Shias and vice-versa. The Kurds have an autonomous Kurdish government, headed by Mr. Barzani. The Christians have no voice. With their churches burned down and their women, homes and businesses under a constant threat, thousands have fled, and continue to do so, to countries like Syria and Jordan that won’t discriminate against them. Before the start of war, many Iraqis suspected that America’s plan was to attack and divide.

RM: How do Iraqis view the regimes of Wahhabist Saudi Arabia, Baathist Syria and Shiite Iran?

WN: Iraqis have a strong dislike for the Wahhabist, which emerged only 250 years ago, because Wahhabists don’t just consider Christians infidels but also any Muslim who does not follow their rules. Wahhabists will use greater punishment towards a Muslim than they would against Christians and Jews because they expect higher standards from Muslims. Al-Qaeda represents Wahhabism in its purest form. Saudi laypeople, government officials and clerics have donated many tens of millions of dollars to create Wahhabi-oriented religious schools, newspapers and outreach organizations. Yet during Saddam’s era whoever was Wahhabist was executed. Al-Zarkawi, in a taped speech, accused Saddam of being an infidel and killing his “friends” (the Wahhabists).

Iraqi and Syrian Ba’athism today differ greatly and partially oppose each other, though they only split a long time after their creation. Yet by forming laws that suited their needs, both moved away from the Ba’athist principles that were founded by Michel Aflaq, a Greek Orthodox Christian born in Damascus. Aflaq had been in favor of free speech and other human rights and aid for the lower classes. He was for democracy. His ideologies, however, weren’t welcomed. He was forced out of Syria and fled to Iraq where he was given a token position as head of the party, though his objections to the regime were silenced and ignored.

The Shia in Iraq loves the Shia of Iran because of their common devotion for the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussein, who was slaughtered at the Battle of Karbala. Many Southern Shiites want a government made up mainly of religious leaders whereas the moderate Shiites, including the ones who live in Iran, want a secular state. Iranian Shiites who’ve experienced and enjoyed their country post 1979 miss that freedom. Today they can only view such a life on TV. Persian friends of my husband have shared their desire to be able to wear jeans and go out with their wives, to do things outside of religion and mosques.

RM: Do most Iraqis want peace with Israel or do they oppose Israel’s right to exist?

WN: Iraqis want peace with everyone. They want peace more than anything – more than elections. The majority of suicide bombers, including the woman who participated in the hotel bombing, are not of Iraqi origin.

During Saddam’s leadership, Iraq had no problems with Israel until the Gulf War. Yet they, as all Arabs, call Israel “America’s spoiled daughter” – that whatever she asks for she gets. They feel Israel guides and supports much of the role America plays in the world, that some of the most un-humanitarian treatments the Iraqis received was due to Saddam’s attack on Israel in 1991 and his televised announcement that he would burn half of Israel with weapons he did not have but assumed he’d be able to get from Russia. He never got the weapons, and those that were built by the Russian scientists that worked for him were destroyed by the United Nations. Still, he created a greater enemy for himself and his people.

RM: What is the Iraqi attitude towards democracy?

WN: The definition of democracy, just like the constitution of the Baath Party and other political parties, sounds good until government officials employ those ideologies as pretence for dictatorship or whatever other form of leadership serves their needs. Iraqis view the grandest example of democracy, the US, and wonder why the UN’s majority vote couldn’t stop President Bush from going into war. Nor was the majority, or the Geneva Convention, able to stop, lift, or even ease, the sanctions placed on Iraq. They ask, what kind of democracy occupies a land, and during that occupation, holds what they consider a staged and illegal election that installs candidates chosen by the occupation? What kind of democracy uses the excuse that they were “misinformed” to start a war that practically destroys a country? What kind of democracy allows Bremer, named Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for post-war Iraq, to order the Iraqi newspaper Al-Hawza to shut down for two months? The democracy that’s supposed to have principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community has abused such individuals, breaking into their homes in the middle of the night and in front of their women and children, using unnecessary force that’s emotionally and psychologically scarring on the household members. Or torturing individuals in a way that’s demeaning culturally and religiously.

Democracy in the Middle East is not a foreign philosophy. In Islam, the Prophet Muhammad on his deathbed didn’t nominate his successor. He allowed the people to vote. That’s how the split occurred between the Sunnis and Shias. Each elected whom they thought deserved the position of leader for Islam. Also in Islam the idea of the peasant and king kneeling side by side during prayer shows its respect for equality. What distinguishes Islamic democracy from Western democracy is that in the latter, the people are sovereign; in Islam sovereignty is vested in Allah and the people are His caliphs or representatives.

In defining the word democracy, the encyclopedia says that elections are not in themselves a sufficient condition for the existence of democracy. Elections have often been used by authoritarian regimes or dictatorships to give a false sense of democracy. This can happen in a variety of different ways:
· restrictions on who is allowed to stand for election. (In the case of Iraq, most of the people had never heard of the candidates they were voting for, since many of the candidates hadn’t set foot in Iraq for decades).
· restrictions on the true amount of power that elected representatives are allowed to hold, or the policies that they are permitted to choose while in office. (Many Arabs think elections held under U.S. occupation can only produce a government similar to the U.S.-backed interim government, which they view as an American puppet).
· voting which is not truly free and fair – e.g., through intimidation of those voting for particular candidates. (Many Iraqis were bribed and/or intimidated into voting when all they wanted to do is stay home, avoid violence and have enough food for their family).
· or most simply through falsification of the results. (That’s something that elections in the US are even accused of, let alone country operating under the chaos of war. In Iraq, the elections were such a joke that the citizens made the following riddle: if 60% of Iraqis are Shia and some 30% Sunni, who voted for the Kurd)?

Democracy is not the whole answer to Iraq, a country with diverse beliefs, backgrounds and religions, a country with people who’ve since Abraham’s time, been mostly tribal. Democracy has always accompanied rules and regulations fitting for the environment and society of that region.

RM: How do Iraqis view the various leaders in Iraq? Particularly Ahmed Chalabi, Iyad Allawi, and Ibrahim al-Jafaari?

WN: Inside and outside of Iraq the Iraqis believe the elections were staged. They’re used to, and are not deceived by, this kind of show that Saddam was popular for collaborating. That’s why of the 4 million Iraqis living outside Iraq, the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) revealed that only 280,303 people registered to vote. Imagine the number in Iraq. And they were right. First, it doesn’t make sense for a minority Kurd, whose Arabic is a second language and his people, the Kurds, refused to place an Iraqi flag in their land, to win the presidency vote. Neither is it comprehensible why those elected have western citizenships, and have been absent from Iraq for most of their adult lives.

Let’s take Ahmed Chalabi, for instance. He is considered a fraud whose statement that Saddam had nuclear weapons was used to help convince the public in America and Britain the need to go to war. Born in 1944, he left Iraq at age twelve and spent most of his life in the USA and the UK. He was convicted and sentenced in absentia for bank fraud by a Jordanian military tribunal and faces seventeen years imprisonment. He returned to Iraq after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He earmarked $97 million to support Iraqi opposition groups, which many accused him of using the money to further his own ambitions. And in 2004, an arrest warrant for alleged counterfeiting was issued for Chalabi. Charges were dropped against him for lack of evidence. In a survey of nearly 3000 Iraqis in February 2004 (by Oxford Research International), only 0.2% of respondents said he was the most trustworthy leader in Iraq. Yet currently he is deputy prime minister of Iraq and oil minister.

And what about Iyad Allawi? A former Ba’athist and the interim Prime Minister of Iraq prior to Iraq’s 2005 legislative elections, he lived about half of his life in the UK and retains British citizenship. His wife and children still live in Britain for their security. He was a friend of Saddam, so much so that when his mother died, Saddam gave his condolences on national TV – even though at one point he tried to have him executed. During the summer of 2004, Allawi recruited some former agents of Saddam Hussein’s secret police to form the General Security Directorate. He gave himself the powers to declare martial law. He closed the Iraqi office of al-Jazeera and nominated Ibrahim Janabi, a former Ba’athist and Mukhabarat officer, to head the newly created media regulator. Some reports say that his gang threatened that they’ll cut the Iraqis food ratios if they didn’t go out and vote for him.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Prime Minister of Iraq and the main spokesman for the Islamic Dawa Party in Iraq, left for Iran in 1980 and moved to London in 1989. In opinion polls since the invasion, al-Jafaari has fairly consistently had the highest approval ratings of any politician.

RM: A recent poll was conducted by the British Ministry of Defense, and leaked to the public. The poll indicates that 45% of the Iraqis believe attacks on Coalition soldiers are justified, 82% strongly oppose the Coalition presence, and less than 1% believe Coalition forces are responsible for security improvements. Do you feel the poll is accurate and what can we do to improve our image?

WN: I think the poll is accurate and in order to improve their image, the Coalition must improve security and have a criminal law system, the two things that are missing and desperately needed in Iraq.

Ryan Mauro is a geopolitical analyst. He began working for Tactical Defense Concepts (, a maritime-associated security company in 2002. In 2003, Mr. Mauro joined the Northeast Intelligence Network (, which specializes in tracking and assessing terrorist threats. He has appeared on over 20 radio shows and had articles published in over a dozen publications. His book “Death to America: The Unreported Battle of Iraq” is scheduled to be published in the coming months. In addition to writing for the Global Politician, he publishes his own web site called World Threats. He may be reached at

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