- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

DETROIT While most Arab-American advocacy groups, joined by many liberals and a smattering of conservatives, vehemently protest military action in Iraq, several groups of Iraqi-Americans are waging a war of their own a war of words against those very protesters.
Their fellow Middle Easterners and their antiwar allies are misguided, says Muhannad Eshaiker, an Irvine, Calif., architect and a member of the Iraqi Forum for Democracy, one of a number of groups favoring liberation of Iraq.
"We support a regime change that is long overdue," he says. "Nobody has been listening to the voices of Iraqis in America, not the Arabs, not the French … even these peace people, who think that if we remove the sanctions things will be OK. Well, they won't be."
A letter last week from 11 prominent Iraqi-Americans to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice urges the Bush administration to discount the loud and insistent domestic protests against the war.
Those protesters "have no clue what justice is and who has brought war, bloodshed and annihilation by weapons of mass destruction and wholesale devastation to Iraq and the region," they say.
Iraqis here in Michigan, which has the largest Arab and largest Iraqi communities in the United States, are frustrated by the refusal of some of their fellow Middle Easterners to understand their persecution and perspective.
"They speak out of ignorance," says Mohammed Ogaily, a 41-year-old oncologist from Ann Arbor. "It is truly a sticking point in our relations with them, because they haven't lived under Saddam."
Many Arab-American and Muslim groups nationwide have issued statements assailing U.S. military action in Iraq.
For example, James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, wrote in an editorial last week that Iraq's situation is "not a matter for the United States or Great Britain. Their involvement has no foundation in international law and can only create greater regional instability."
Arabs and Muslims here who are not Iraqis tend to believe that, too.
"Why would we not start with our so-called friends over there instead of a country that has never attacked us," says Tim Attalla, a Dearborn lawyer and first-generation American whose Palestinian parents came to the United States in 1950. "Why don't we start by bombing Israel, the country that has the real power in the Middle East?"
Muslim and Arab interest groups have been most outspoken on the Iraq issue and say the United States has credibility with Arabs in the Middle East.
Says Imad Hamad, director of the Michigan office of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee: "The Iraqi regime is the least of my concerns. We will be able to deal with that but what will be the public reaction there? Will they buy that we liberated them or will they continue to look at the U.S. as oppressors?"
Iraqis have their answers and their salvos ready. They say other Arabs are partial to Saddam because he has used those national groups for high-level jobs in his regime and paid millions of dollars to families of Palestinian militants while persecuting his own countrymen.
While Iraqis both Muslim and Christian have fought plenty of wars, says Nouri Sitto, a Chaldean who owns a sign-making shop in suburban Oak Park, "at least we aren't terrorists."
His icy retort is emblematic of a rift between Iraqis and other Arabs, who tend to live separately here.
Chaldeans are part of Iraq's Christian minority. At the tony Chaldean Club in Southfield, patrons from the local community of tens of thousands of Chaldeans are waiting to celebrate an invasion and liberation of their relatives in Iraq with a sort of anticipation often felt for sporting events.
"We will be here, watching, celebrating our liberation," says Jacoub Mansour, past chairman of the Chaldean Federation, gesturing to the wooden bar and big-screen television. "It will be so good to be gone with Saddam and to see our people free."

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