- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. Ramsey Jiddou, fresh from a conference in Washington with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Richard B. Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, was back here at home to beat the drums of liberation with his fellow Iraqis.
"Finally, somebody is listening to us," Mr. Jiddou, a chemist who immigrated from his native Baghdad in the late 1970s to escape Saddam Hussein's dictatorial oppression, said over the weekend.
His sentiments are shared throughout the largest Iraqi community in the United States, in southeast Michigan: Get Saddam out of power and do it now.
"I want peace in Iraq. So if you are for peace, you cannot be for Saddam. It is all about changing the regime," said Ala Faik, a real estate agent in Ann Arbor, 45 miles down Interstate 94 from Detroit. Like almost everyone who has settled here from his homeland, he simply knows that Saddam has to go by any means necessary.
Since a June conference here of various anti-Saddam groups that was attended by low-level State Department members, Iraqi communities in Michigan, California, Illinois and Tennessee have been quietly tapped by the Bush administration for support and advice on the U.S. effort to depose Saddam.
At government expense, these representatives have been brought to Washington to tell Mr. Cheney, Miss Rice and other ranking officials of the pressing need to remove Saddam from power.
The State Department would not comment on its effort to recruit these community members.
"We have actually said this for 35 years," said Mr. Jiddou, 59, as he drove through a large settlement of Chaldeans members of Iraq's Christian minority in this Detroit suburb, where a retirement home, Chaldean Manor, sits next to a megachurch and the Chaldean Club.
An estimated 120,000 Chaldeans live in and around Detroit, and 60,000 more Arabs and Kurds as well as Chaldeans came in two waves: one after the rise to power of Saddam in 1979 and another after the 1991 Gulf war and the ensuing failed uprisings.
They danced in the aisles when Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz showed up in Dearborn to address them last month.
"He did not expect that. The people were so glad that he came here to talk to us about ending the regime in Iraq" said Mr. Faik, who is part of a national group of Iraqis, called the Iraqi Forum for Democracy, who advocate the removal of Saddam.
Last week, a coalition of mostly Detroit area Iraqis, Muslim and Christian, sent a letter to Miss Rice, thanking her for inviting them to the White House and stressing that "those who are marching for 'peace and justice' in the name of the Iraqi people are unwittingly supporting a totalitarian dictator who promotes terrorism."
"These people, these so-called peace people who support human rights, have never been there for the people of Iraq," said Salam Jafar, a 52-year-old physician, who left Iraq in 1980.
He sits in a suburban Ann Arbor kitchen with several other Iraqi Muslims, gulping coffee and talking about siblings, parents and children who were taken in Saddam-ordered campaigns of ethnic cleansing and brutal suppression of uprisings.
All four of the men, in their 40s and 50s, have made the United States home, raising families, paying mortgages and hoping for the end of the Saddam era so relatives in Iraq can be free to visit and vice versa.
Until now, anti-Saddam statements from Iraqis in the U.S. were rare, they all conceded; Saddam has spies among them in Detroit's Middle Eastern community.
"People are now encouraged by this administration, and we are tired of not being able to tell the truth," Dr. Jafar said, risking retribution against family members in Iraq.
"And we got tired of all those stories from Iraq, where the people tell the news people that they don't want war," he added. "Of course they say that. There are [government police] right there next to them. To tell the truth could mean death."
If Saddam is toppled as hoped, there are few Iraqis who would return permanently to their home country, although most would enthusiastically help settle a long-awaited democracy.
"Nobody here would go back, not after all this time," said Ilham Jiddou, wife of Mr. Jiddou, the chemist. "It will take a long time to really establish the country … too long."

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