Please Leave: An interview with Sami Rasouli

by | Apr 28, 2007 | Stress Blog | 4 comments

by Scott Horton

Interview conducted April 1, 2007. Listen to the interview here.

I have on the line Sami Rasouli. He is an Iraqi, who was an ex-patriot. He lived in the United States for I believe about 30 years — a very successful restauranteur from Minneapolis, owner of Sinbad’s Restaurant. Since the war, he has moved back to Iraq and has created something called the Muslim Peacemaker Team. He is a Shi’ite Muslim from Najaf, Iraq. Welcome to the show Sami.

Rasouli: Thank you, Scott, for having me.

Horton: Nice to make your acquaintance. Did I get that right? You are a Shi’ite originally from Najaf?

Rasouli: Well, yes. I was born and raised in Najaf. Najaf is considered a Shi’ite city, populated mostly by Shi’ites, but there was always a Christian here and there — Sunnis too. In the old days there were actually Jews in the city. Even now there is an alley called Jewish alley. Jews manufactured shoes and wholesaled them to the main bazaar, which is adjacent to the alley. They actually owned most of the shops in that main bazaar. This was before 1948. Iraq was known as a beautiful treasure, a wonderful mosaic fabric of society.

So actually, not only Shi’ites and Sunnis live in Iraq. There are other sects: the Mandaeans, the Sabians, the John the Baptist sects. There are also the Yezidi, who are considered to be Satanic worshipers (though they actually deny this), and they live in Sinjar, a place in the Ninawa province to the North.

There is a nice story about the Yezidi. Back in September 2005, the city of Tal’Afar was bombed by the U.S. Air Force, forcing lots of Sunnis and Shi’ites, who lived in Tal’Afar, to leave…

Horton: This was cited as a great success, by the way, by the President [Bush].

Rasouli: Well, I keep hearing from this administration about the success and the progress. There is nothing but destruction in Iraq.

So anyway, these Yezidi saw those Shi’ite and Sunni families living as refugees from Tal’Afar and hosted them in Sinjar. They [the Yezidi] opened their homes and their hearts and told them, ‘Please stay here as long as you want. We know you do not consider us to be as clean as you are, so we are going to leave you here, and we will go and stay with our relatives until the time you feel you’re safe and can go back home.’

But they [Sunni and Shi’ites from Tall’Afar] never did [go home] because the agony and the problems of Iraq have continued for the last four years.

Horton: So they have had no opportunity to go back home?

Rasouli: No. This story was narrated to me by the second Grand Ayatollah al-Sayyid Muhammad Said al-Hakim in Najaf, when I visited him with a group of Muslim Peacemakers. We also had in the room the Christian Peacemakers Team: Sister Peggy Gish and Michelle Naar. That was back in January, 2006 — last year actually. We also heard about this story from the Tal’Afar people, Shi’ites and Sunnis, who were in Najaf and Karbala when we tried to supply them with some food, clothing and shelter.

Today, Scott, as you and your listeners may know, there are four million Iraqis, who have been displaced for at least the last two years. Two million are displaced inside their own country as refugees, and the other two million are outside Iraq. Most of those four million are the middle class, which actually has been destroyed in Iraq and replaced by a new generation, which for us is a strange generation. It is made up of kids, who couldn’t go to school back in 1991 due to the harsh sanctions that Iraq has been subjected to. So kids, aged seven to fifteen then (now they are adults), mostly join the poorly trained army and the newly formed police forces in Iraq. Many of them don’t hold the Iraqi’s real values from the middle class in Iraq. Most of them are criminals in the streets or unemployed. Employment runs about 65 percent.

Every time I go back to Iraq looking for my generation, the middle class I belong to, I hardly find any of them. They are either dead, chased out of the country or imprisoned. I don’t know where they are.

Iraq is not Iraq. Iraq is broken. Iraq is lawless — all in the name of the western democracy (actually American freedom) that was delivered back in 2003.

Horton: So — the four million displaced Iraqis…

There is actually a great report done for Minority Rights Group International by Preti Taneja [Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq’s minority communities since 2003], that discusses the four million refugees and particularly some of those very small ethnic and religious sects that you mentioned: Jews, Mandeaens, Assyrian Christians and all the other groups besides the major Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish groups. They and (as you say) the middle class of the country — the bread and butter of the country — have been dispersed.

I think what you are telling me now is that there is really no one left except those who are unable to leave or those who are willing to work for the occupation government.

Rasouli: Correct.

Also, the rumors that we keep hearing here about the Sunnis killing the Shi’ites or vice versa. This is a smoke screen. I would like to tell you what is actually happening in Iraq today.

You introduced me as Sami from the Shi’ite city of Najaf, but my wife is a Sunni. Most Iraqi people are inter-married from all sects, and it makes no difference. They have managed to live for the last thirteen years (thirteen centuries actually) in a harmonious way.

What you see in Iraq today is not Sunnis killing Shi’ites. It’s actually people (we don’t know who they are) hired by third parties to destroy Sunni mosques, to destroy Shi’ite mosques and set bombs off in markets where people are. They do this just to demonize elements of the Iraqi resistance and make them look bad.

Here’s what is going on. There are 150,000 mercenaries in the form of private contractors. They are civilians. I don’t know if you or your listeners know about the story back in 2005 (actually it was September, 2005) when two British soldiers were caught in Basra wearing Arab clothes and having supplies of explosive devices, guns and other weapons in a private car. They were caught, but the British authority at that time stormed the jail and freed them. We never learned about their mission at that time.

Horton: Right, well I do remember that story and, in fact, I spoke with Professor Juan Cole from the University of Michigan — maybe just a day or two after that.

If I remember correctly (I don’t know if I remember all the details), the original accusations were that they had all these explosives and so forth, but what they really had was laid out for the cameras. It wasn’t bombs. Juan Cole said it looked to him like they were on a surveillance mission. They had lately been harassing the Imam, who they were within rifle-range of when they were captured. They were basically covertly monitoring this guy that they were planning on capturing, but were routed, got into a gunfight and were captured.

But I believe what you’re saying is, you believe the most egregious killings in this sectarian violence are not done by Iranian backed Shi’ite factions or foreign fighters (al-Qaeda jihadists) on the Sunni side, but that it is the westerners, who are fomenting this covertly.

Rasouli: Correct. Part of our Muslim Peacemakers Team’s mission is to be in touch with the religious leaders, political leaders, government officials, tribal leaders and others to bring them together and listen to their thoughts and views on what’s going on in Iraq.

I was able, with a group of MPT [Muslim Peacemakers Team], to meet personally with Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr, who is the leader of the al-Mahdi movement in Iraq. I also met separately with Dr. Harith al-Dhari, who is the head of the Muslim Scholar Board in Baghdad. Harith al-Dhari represents the Sunni sect, and Muqtada partially represents the Shi’ite sect in the south.

Both indicated to me that they’ve never and will never authorize any spilling of Iraqi blood — no matter what the background of those Iraqis are. They always meet and draw up plans to work together.

If you remember when the Samarra Golden Dome of Imam Hassan al-Askari and his father, Ali l-Hadi, was destroyed on February 22nd of 2006, we never got an investigation that clarified who was behind the bombing.

Horton: That’s true. They just basically assumed it was Zarqawi and al-Qaeda fighters that did it.

Rasouli: Right. But the housing minister came out later that day with initial information based on their own investigation, but it was not a thorough investigation. It is still considered a mysterious operation that rips apart the Iraqi people. The casualties of the violence have risen from about twenty Iraqis getting killed every day to where it’s now at one hundred or two hundred.

Horton: Let me stop you here and make sure I understand you.

You are saying that the westerners (perhaps in an event like the attack on the Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra) may be staging some of this to foment violence among the Iraqis — or even staging every bit of it?

Are you saying that every truck bomb and every Shi’ite death squad is the Americans?

Rasouli: Well, let me put it this way. There are four factors that incite the violence in Iraq.

The first and the biggest one is the United States occupation forces in Iraq. Second, there is the Iraqi Resistance that counters the occupation. This includes resistance fighters, who target only U.S. military bases and convoys that travel the highways, as well as snipers, who target American individuals. The third is the homegrown (as well as international) criminals, who are coming to Iraq to do their dirty work for money or other reasons. The fourth are the foreign intelligence agencies, and among them I would like to include the private contractors, who are operating in civilian clothes. There are about one hundred to one hundred fifty thousand of them — mainly employees from the Blackwater corporation and also Dyncorp. It is not clear what those private contractors are doing.

Horton: Well, what if I tried to add five and six: foreign fighter/jihadists on the Sunni side and the Iranian backed Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution and their army the Badr Brigade — or even seven, the Mahdi army. You are saying that these groups are not five, six and seven on your list?

Rasouli: Well, remember that the Badr Brigade is almost a part of the government right now and takes the form of the the interior ministry.

Horton: So to you, the Shi’ite death squads basically count as the Americans — by proxy.

Rasouli: That is exactly what I would like to say.

I put them at the fourth because it is not clear who they work for. They are intelligence agencies. They work for foreign forces, including the United States, the Israelis, the Iranians, al-Qaeda and others.

If you remember, John Murtha was in Iraq over a year ago. When he came back, he figured there are about thousand members of al-Qaeda. He indicated that most of them are Iraqis, who became extremist. I would like to refer back to this strange new generation, the product of the sanctions [during the 1990’s] and the war of the last four years. These people can easily spread rumors around and carry out operations that really don’t fit the real Iraqi society. Those forces are (as you mentioned) allowed [by Iraqis] to work in Iraq, because they target Americans too.

Horton: Right. In fact, we’re featuring a news story on in the frontline section today, Sunday, the first of April (no fools), and that story is about local Sunnis, who are turning against al-Qaeda and saying, ‘You are no longer welcome here. We don’t want your help anymore.’

Rasouli: Exactly. They [al-Qaeda] are allowed there [by Iraqis] only because they are targeting the occupation forces.

Horton: Sami, I just wanted to clarify that when you say ‘foreign intelligence sources [being behind the sectarian violence],’ you’re not just saying ‘American and British,’ but also Iranian and Sunni involvement — perhaps Syrian as well.

Rasouli: Mossad too.

Horton: And the Mossad as well…

Rasouli: The Israelis are there too.

Horton: We know they are interfering at least in Kurdistan.

Rasouli: Well, in the southern sector too.

I am just trying to tell you what Iraqis feel. This war in Iraq is not being done in the interests of the American people. The American [citizen] has nothing to do with this war. This war in Iraq (and maybe the war will be in Iran) is being waged on behalf of the Israelis. This is the general feeling. Intellectual Iraqis feel the same way.

The war in Iraq is all about three letters: ‘O’ for oil, ‘I’ for Israel, and ‘L’ for location or logistics.

Horton: Right, Ray McGovern’s acronym — absolutely. I have no problem with that.

Now let me ask you a two part question: What is life like in Iraq, and what do you think the solution to Iraq’s problems are?

This is the main benefit (I think) that you can provide — your insights from being there.

So what is life like for the average Iraqi?

You already told me that the middle class, the educated, the professionals and the tradesmen are all gone. The ethnic and religious sects have been banished. There are four million displaced Iraqi refugees. Two million of them have been lucky enough to get out of the country. Two million are displaced within.

I want to know more about what life is like for the average Iraqi in terms of electricity, water, sewage, schools, hospitals, roads and the basic standard of living in that sense.

I also know you told a reporter from the Minneapolis Star Tribune that this cannot begin to change until America leaves.

So what do you believe the solution to this problem is? Why do you believe that America must leave immediately?

Rasouli: America must leave, because America failed to secure Iraq and improve Iraqi lives. America failed to secure Iraqi livelihood.

The Iraqis were promised their lives would be improved, but nothing of this happened. The infrastructure has been deteriorating — literally destroyed. When I came [back to Iraq] last year, the people in Baghdad were able to get four hours of electricity a day. Now it has shrunken to two hours. So things are going from bad to worse every day.

The U.S. failed completely in Iraq. The major U.S. accomplishment has been nothing but more destruction to Iraqi life, to the country, to the future and to the collective Iraqi memory. The past has been erased. History has been eliminated in Iraq by having the museums broken into and looted. You know the story.

There is a saying, ‘You cannot ask the rapist to stay with the raped woman as a therapy.‘

Iraq has been handcuffed, its legs tied, its eyes blindfolded, thrown into the sea — and asked not to get wet.

Iraqis need their country back. Only Iraqis can rebuild and rule their country.

When the United States leaves, then we will know Iraqis are responsible for the violence. Until that minute, the violence is the responsibility of the United States.

I would like to shed some light on the numbers. There are over a million Iraqi widows today in Iraq. Women are shipped out of the country to sell their bodies in neighboring countries. It’s really painful. Four and one half million Iraqi kids under the age of five are malnourished.

We also don’t have much fuel in Iraq. We have a hard time just getting kerosene to light some lanterns in our homes. We have a problem getting propane gas for our stoves to cook reasonable food and get decent nutrition.

In Iraq, you have to stay in your car two days and sleep two nights to get gas, and the price has gone up twenty-five fold.

This is a country that floats on a sea of oil — and you cannot find fuel?

It’s a country, where the fuel is shipped out to the rest of the world. In fact, the oil in the south has been flowing and shipped without any metering until recently.

Can you believe that?

No meters for the last four years?

Nobody knows how much oil is going out of the Iraqi wells.

The seven hundred thousand Iraqis in Jordan today are considered illegal, because they escaped the violence. They have kids, who are school age, that number between one hundred seventy and two hundred thirty thousand. They are not allowed to go to school in Jordan, because (according to the Jordanian local law) they are illegal, and their parents cannot afford to send them to private schools.

So what kind of future are these kids going to have?

We are in a ‘War Against Terror’ — so we hear.

Help me out here, Scott. Tell me, if those kids grow up and are not educated, will they easily become extremists? As you know, extremism is on the rise.

Whether it is in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere — this war must be stopped.

We [the United States] should not be acting desperately. We should not desperately initiate another war in Iran to forget about what’s going on in Iraq — to forget what’s going on in Lebanon and in Palestine. We should not go and wage yet another war in Iran.

Horton: I’m Scott Horton, and this is Antiwar Radio. I’m talking with Sami Rasouli. He is an American — Iraqi-American, who lived in Minneapolis. He has been a successful restauranteur, an owner of Sinbad’s Restaurant in Minneapolis. He has returned to Iraq and is the head of the Muslim Peacemaker Team.

Well Sami, I think you pretty clearly exposed the lie that somehow we’re fighting them [terrorists] there [in the Middle East] so that we won’t have to fight them here. In fact, what we are doing is destroying people’s lives and giving them countless more motives to fight against the United States. It’s a pretty preposterous idea, and yet it still needs debunking, so I appreciate that.

But right now, the biggest excuse the War Party gives for not leaving Iraq, is that things would get worse. Let’s be honest about it (correct me if I’m wrong) and establish a realistic appraisal of the situation:

The Kurds and the Shi’ites have all the oil, and the Sunnis don’t. The Sunni minority used to rule, and now they don’t. The Sunni are fighting, because they want to control a monopoly government, while the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution folks are just as happy to have extreme federalism — or even partition.

The Kurds could probably go either way.

Muqtada al-Sadr (I think) wants a strong central state, but he wants to rule it with an iron fist and put a drill into the head any Sunni who resists him.

What America has done (as you very well described) is destroy Iraqi society.

But it seems like what they’ve [U.S. Government] also done is put American soldiers in the awkward position of fighting the Sunni minority that they are actually protecting from the Shi’ite majority, which has now been installed in Baghdad — the Iran backed factions.

What most Americans believe (in fact, I even believe) is that when America leaves, the violence is going to get much worse. Americans believe that this is going to have to be fought to some kind of conclusion, and the American presence is preventing that conclusion.

I think we ought to leave anyway, because I don’t think we’re going to be able to put off the consequences or make the circumstances any better.

I think (as you say) we are making matters worse all the time. But when we leave, do you believe that somehow there is going to be a multi-ethnic coalition government that will be able to hold Iraq together and not just devolve into a theocratic dictatorship — with one sect or another controlling everyone else?

Rasouli: It will absolutely not devolve into a theocratic dictatorship, Scott — and I tell you why. Do you remember those four factors I classified that instigate the violence in Iraq? When the United States leaves, there will be no reason for the resistance to fight. They will lay down their weapons and…

Horton: But won’t they [Sunnis] have a reason to violently resist domination by the Shi’ite majority?

Rasouli: Well, the Shi’ite majority is a hoax. I mean, it is not whether they are a majority or a minority. The current [Shi’ite] government is a fiction of our [U.S.] creation. They don’t represent the average Iraqi. They are confined to the ‘green zone,’ my friend. They don’t know what is going on.

Horton: So if America left, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution and the Dawa party would be ruined?

Rasouli: They will be leaving. They cannot stay.

Horton: And what about Muqtada al-Sadr? He’s a homegrown power.

Rasouli: Well, he is part of the equation. If he wants to participate in the political process, he better realize that he cannot impose himself — but he will participate in it.

He was used by Maliki and the Dawa party. He has also been demonized by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq — by al-Hakim.

Muqtada al-Sadr is a lone figure. His aides have been detained, killed or driven out of the country. Nobody even knows where he Muqtada himself is.

But when I met him, he indicated that any relationship between countries should be based on mutual respect, acceptance and recognition — not on occupation or one country imposing itself on another. He was referring to the United States. That’s why he was taking a stand against the occupation.

When it comes to Iraqi factions, political parties, or religions — he always said that Islam treats Iraqis equally, no matter whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims, Shi’ites or Sunnis, Kurds or Arabs. That’s what he always said — but we demonized the guy. We are always calling him a thug, just because he…

Horton: Well, his guys put drills into the heads of the people they execute, man.

Rasouli: When we talked to him about the death squads that you are referring to, he never agreed with this practice. Even now we don’t know who these death squads are. We just speculate. They run under the supervision of the Iraqi government through the interior ministry…

Horton: Absolutely.

Rasouli: …and this is supervised also by the U.S. Forces.

Horton: Absolutely. Yeah, the part about whether this is all America’s fault or not is not in dispute. But still, my understanding is that the Interior Ministry and the Iraqi army are basically a mix between the Mahdi army and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution’s Badr Corps, and that they are taking turns putting drills into the heads of Sunnis.

Rasouli: Scott, the al-Mahdi army was a spontaneous movement. It arose right after the fall of Saddam. They were young men from their own neighborhoods and were followers of Muqtada al-Sadr. They support his line politically and religiously. They gathered to protect the property of the people, the homes, the women and others in Najaf and Karbala.

But over time we give it [the Mahdi army] excessive importance. We create the idea that the al-Mahdi army is something real. It is not as you think. There is a base consisting of a lot of followers of Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr. You have about five million Shi’ites, who are in the south. They follow his [Muqtada’s] ‘hawza’, his seminary, and it’s called the ‘spoken hawza’ versus the ‘silent hawza,’ which is a Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani hawza.

So both [Muqtada and Sistani] are competing for followers in the southern Shi’ite sector of Iraq.

Now the Hizb al-Dawa, Maliki and Jafari, were needing a party, but they didn’t have any political base. So they had to strike a deal with Muqtada al-Sadr and become elected using the base of Muqtada. So when the second election took place, they won. If you pay attention, you know the Prime Minister is not part of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution. He is Dawa.

Al-Hakeem (SCIRI) lost, because he hasn’t got the approval or support that al-Mahdi [Muqtada al-Sadr] had.

The Dawa also didn’t have much support, but by having this most important aid from consulting with Muqtada, they won.

Now they [Muqtada and al-Mahdi army] are being hunted down. Last Monday, there was a car carrying a mother, who had just given birth to a baby, with her father, husband and sister. They got shot at in Najaf. The baby was killed and the others were injured. Then two brothers of the mother came, and they got shot and injured too. I heard this report two days ago from Najaf. The story was told to me a week ago, but not in such detail. The reason for all this is because the United States is chasing the al-Mahdi army leaders, such as the aids of Muqtada al-Sadr.

Again, if the United States leaves tomorrow, I profoundly believe Iraq will start to heal. They [Iraqis] might have their own clashes — their civil war as you say it. But everybody is saying, “We better have it now — not a year from now or ten years from now. We have to get over our problems. The occupation should be ended now.”

My feeling? The occupation will not end. It’s going to continue — and the Iraqis will pay dearly for the occupation.

Horton: How soon are you going back to Iraq, sir?

Rasouli: I am going at the end of May [2007].

Horton: The end of May — and you’ll be spending the meantime back here in the States asking Americans to please get out of Iraq?

Rasouli: Well, I’m trying and trying, but I believe the United States sees its withdrawl from Iraq as a disaster and a defeat — not only for the United States, but mainly for the Israelis, who are pushing the United States to stay in Iraq and driving the United States into another war with Iran — maybe soon.

Horton: Let me ask you one more thing.

You brought up the possibility of war with Iran a couple of times here. I’ve read two pretty disturbing quotations: one from Muqtada al-Sadr and another from Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the Head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution. Both of them have said that if America attacks Iran, they will go to war against the Americans in Iraq.

I wonder whether you think that is true? How damaging could that be? Is it possible that the Americans could have broken lines to Kuwait and not be resupplied — stuck out there in the desert and surrounded by Shia fighters?

Rasouli: Well, you may know about this, but I would like to remind you anyway. On January 20 of this year, five to eight black SUVs ran into the government building of Karbala. They killed four marines. Now the armed personnel on those SUVs spoke English fluently. They dressed in American uniforms and were armed with American weapons. They kidnapped (besides the four marines that got killed in that building) two American generals. They left smoothly and stopped between Karbala and Hillah, where they abandoned the SUVs with two dead bodies.

Horton: And what do you think was behind all that?

Rasouli: Well, at the time I was in Karbala. I heard Mr. Aqeil al-Khazaali, the Governor of Karbala, state in a press conference that foreign and unidentified forces had attacked Americans. He said this, because he could not believe Americans were attacking Americans.

At first they thought it was an act of Hollywood movie-making, because the scene was bizarre and unusual. Then a week later, people were guessing whether the perpetrators had been Israelis (like Mossad agents).

Then they guessed Iranians, because earlier in the same month (I think January 10) U.S. Forces had detained four Iranian diplomats in the region of Arbil in northern Iraq. The action was then interpreted as a message sent to the U.S. administration, ‘Don’t mess with us.’ So it was believed the Iranians were involved, but furthermore, I don’t know if you know about it…

Horton: I remember the story of the abduction and the murders of those soldiers, but I had not heard the spin that perhaps it was the Iranians sending a message to the United States in response to the arrests of the SCIRI members in Arbil.

Rasouli: Well, President Bush came out and stated publicly, that he had authorized the killing of anybody, who endangers American life in Iraq — if you remember. Right after that, one of the Iranian government’s officials (I don’t recall if it was Ahmadinejad or somebody else) said, ‘Oh, the President [Bush] just made a terrorist statement.’ So it was like a debate on the air at that time.

But talking about the Iraqi government, whether it’s Sadr, Hakim, Maliki or others, most of those people were ex-patriots — except for al-Sadr.

Horton: Right, they lived in Iran.

Rasouli: They waited eight years [Iran-Iraq war] in Iran for Khomeini to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein. After eight years of bloody war, it didn’t happen.

Then they sought some ways for the United States to do this, and they came from abroad with the United States forces. So they are Iranian [laughter] one hundred percent in their loyalty. What you see right now posing as the Government of Iraq in the green zone is actually a temporary marriage.

The information and intelligence on the Karbala operation (that I just related to you) indicates an inseparable collaboration of the Iraqi and the Iranian governments — if the Iranians were indeed involved.

Horton: Right. We can also remember (I hope) that the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (the DIA) have come out and said they believe that Chalibi was an Iranian spy.

Not only did Chalibi inform them [Iran] that America had broken Iran’s secret codes, but the CIA and DIA agents (I believe) talked to the McClatchy newspapers or Knight Ridder, and said they thought that Iran had used Chalibi to help lure the United States into war.

So this war (as you said before) was primarily an Israeli operation — a joint operation between Israel and Iran to lie America into Iraq.

Rasouli: The bottom line…

Horton: Not that they [Iran and Israel] were working together (I meant that part facetiously).

The Israelis would get the Kurdish north. The Iranians get the Shi’ite south, and it works out for everybody — except the Iraqi and American people.

Rasouli: The bottom line is that America lost this war, but also — somebody won it. Unfortunately, Iran is the winner of this war in Iraq.

Iraq has now become an arena for a fight between countries that Iraq has nothing to do with — except for paying a dear price.

Every day the average Iraqi (young people and adults) has a blind date with a brutal death. Every morning in Iraq, when they wake up and go to school, to work, or anywhere they conduct their business — only the time and place remains to be determined where this brutal death will take place.

Horton: Is that what your life is like living in Najaf?

Rasouli: Definitely. We lost one of our members, Mr. Abo Zuhair…

Horton: Yes, I read about that.

Rasouli: Yes, he got killed on the second of January just for being a member of the previous army. The guy is 63 years old and resigned [from the army] in 1989, but his name was on a list, so he had to be liquidated. So that’s a member of the Muslim Peacemakers Team.

Last year we lost Tom Fox, another dear member of the Christian Peacemaker Team [CPT], who got kidnapped. On March 10 of 2006 his body was found in the suburbs of Baghdad.

Two members of the CPT were kidnapped two months ago in the northern area. They were traveling between Mosul and Sulaymaniyah. They were eventually released unharmed. Right now the Christian Peacemaker Team is not in Iraq. They are healing and responsibly thinking about what they’re going to do next.

The Muslim Peacemaker Teams [MPT] are in Iraq and committed to supporting the culture of nonviolence. The MPTs are helping Iraqis ease the hardships they face every day from this dirty and unjust war. That is what’s important.

Horton: I’m Scott Horton. This is Antiwar Radio on KAOS Radio 95.9 in Austin, Texas.

I think it’s pretty important for my fellow Texans out there driving around to really get a handle on that — to understand what the American government has done with most of our permission to these people in Iraq.

We’ve completely destroyed their society. Are you listening to this? We’ve destroyed their society.

Now, virtually anyone living in Iraq (I guess there are some safe places in Kurdistan, but certainly anyone in Baghdad or as Sami Rasouli pointed out here, in Najaf) wakes up every day assuming it’s the day they are going to die. They might as well. It is that likely they are going be violently killed that day.

When I look out the window in Austin, Texas — I don’t see life like that.

The fact that our government is what’s responsible for doing this to these people’s society is unforgivable. You had better take note of it and not fall for it next time.

You see what happens? You know the story of the shell shocked American soldiers coming back home — how they can’t close our eyes without seeing dead [Iraqi] kids? Well, what about that dead kid’s little brother? What do you think he sees when he closes his eyes?

Americans need to understand that foreigners are not cartoon characters — they do exist. Yes, there is water between here and there. Yes, it is too far away to hear them screaming, but the amount of grief they suffer is just the same as if it happened to you.

If you fell for the lie that somehow doing this to them would prevent them from doing it to us first — well, you just fell for a lie. You have to admit it. You have to take the next logical step and not let them fool you again. You cannot let them do this to another culture — just obliterate it as though those people aren’t human, as though they don’t matter.

I thank you very much for your time, Sami Rasouli. If you have any closing words that you would like to add, please feel free.

Rasouli: Well, I brought with me letters from Iraqi children, adults, men and women. In their letters, they hold the American people responsible for what’s going on.

It was hard for me to explain that most of the United States population is against this war. I tried hard to show them that as a result of the November seventh elections last year, the American people said no to the war.

They [Iraqis] said, ‘Come on Sami. You chose the society of freedom and democracy [U.S.] thirty years ago. You left Iraq then because the government of the previous regime of Iraq [Saddam’s Baathist regime] had addressed the people of Iraq saying, ‘If you’re not with me, you’re against me.’’

It was hard for me to tell them it took thirty years for that sound to be echoed [by Bush] back home in the land of freedom, opportunity and democracy [the United States of America].

Iraqis hold the American people responsible for the Iraqi agony, because the American people (they think) chose this government [Bush] twice — they elected this government twice.

So I cannot do anything except try to tell them, ‘The situation will change for the better.’

But Iraqis believe and still remind me, that in spite of the wakeup call sent to Washington on the seventh of November, Americans only woke up halfway. Americans need to wake up all the way and pressure Congress, the House and Senate, and tell them — ‘Wake up, this is the situation we [U.S. Citizens] are in. We are taking off to nowhere but more agony and destruction — and not only for the Iraqis. We are draining our own resources. We are not treating our own injured men and women in uniform well in Walter Reed and other veteran’s hospitals. They [U.S. Vets] were robbed.’

Billions of dollars were spent on this war, and nothing happens. It is pointless. It is a disaster that the war goes on. This culture of violence has got to be disbanded, so that we can all live together and accept each other.

Nonviolence is the only way for us all to survive.

Horton: Sami Rasouli — he is an Iraqi-American. For 30 years he lived in Minneapolis as a successful businessman, owner of Sinbad’s restaurant. He now lives in Iraq. He is back here to beg us to please withdraw our military from his now-again home country. Please google and read all about Sami Rasouli. Thank you so much for your time today, sir.

Rasouli: You’re welcome, thank you.

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