FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Iraqi and American Reconciliation

Standing in front of 40 religious and academic leaders in Najaf, Iraq this summer, I wondered how they would react to the presentation I was about to give. I was an unarmed, Christian American spending five weeks in Iraq with the Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT). The topic of my presentation was the relationship between Iraqis and Americans and the possibility of “reconciliation.”

I lived for five weeks in June and July of 2011 at the home of my friend and colleague, Sami Rasouli, in Najaf, a city about two hours south of Baghdad. My country still occupied theirs, but the people I met were welcoming and warm. Most told me they were eager, if somewhat nervous, for the end of the American occupation, but also eager to build stronger relationships—professional and cultural—with the American people.

While in Iraq, not once did I enter the Green Zone or an American military base. Invited by Sami, I helped teach English classes in Najaf and visited families in Najaf, Karbala, Baghdad, and Basra. I met artists, business professionals, farmers, the owner of a small internet cafe, university professors, and others. All welcomed me with smiles and generous hospitality.

Sami and I know each other through our work at partner nonprofit organizations–Sami at MPT and I at the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project (IARP). The two organizations are based in the Sister Cities of Najaf and Minneapolis. They work together to organize civilian and humanitarian partnerships, such as an October, 2011 medical delegation from Najaf to Minneapolis, or a program that brings clean drinking water to schools in Iraq.

Recently, MPT began hosting Americans to live and work in Iraq, just as IARP has hosted dozens of Iraqis in American homes over the past few years. The project is small compared to the scope of the Iraq War, but it affirms our shared desire for peace and our common humanity, despite the war.

This coming March, IARP and MPT will help coordinate a delegation from Minneapolis to Najaf to attend opening ceremonies celebrating Najaf’s designation as the 2012 “Cultural Capital of the Islamic World.” Invited and hosted by the governor of Najaf Province, the delegation will include local government officials, academics, a journalist, medical professionals, students, and others. In April, a second group will travel from Minneapolis to Najaf for an interfaith conference.

The Iraqis who hosted me and who will welcome other American civilians demonstrate an amazing capacity to focus on the future. For them, the war is not over, and there is no time to dwell on the past: not for the millions who still lack reliable access to clean water and electricity, are living as refugees, or dealing with trauma-related disorders.

After my presentation in Najaf, a microphone was passed around the room for comments. Nearly all welcomed me warmly to Najaf, but nearly all also rejected the possibility of reconciliation with Americans until the US military left Iraq and Americans worked in long-term partnerships with Iraqis to help rebuild Iraq. With the US military now officially out of Iraq, will Americans forget about our war in Iraq and its consequences? Or will we work with Iraqis in the coming years and decades to support the recovery of a country we helped destroy?

Luke Wilcox is the Development and Communications Director of the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project in Minneapolis, MN. He can be reached at luke@reconciliationproject.org.

 

More articles by:
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
Michael Collins
The Affirmative Action Silo
Andrew Levine
Tipping Points
Geoff Dutton
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the New York Times
Ajamu Baraka
Cultural and Ideological Struggle in the US: a Final Comment on Ocasio-Cortez
David Rosen
The New McCarthyism: Is the Electric Chair Next for the Left?
Ken Levy
The McConnell Rule: Nasty, Brutish, and Unconstitutional
George Wuerthner
The Awful Truth About the Hammonds
Robert Fisk
Will Those Killed by NATO 19 Years Ago in Serbia Ever Get Justice?
Robert Hunziker
Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact
Ramzy Baroud
Europe’s Iron Curtain: The Refugee Crisis is about to Worsen
Nick Pemberton
A Letter For Scarlett JoManDaughter
Marilyn Garson
Netanyahu’s War on Transcendence 
Patrick Cockburn
Is ISIS About to Lose Its Last Stronghold in Syria?
Joseph Grosso
The Invisible Class: Workers in America
Kim Ives
Haiti’s Popular Uprising Calls for President Jovenel Moïse’s Removal
John Carroll Md
Dispatch From Haiti: Trump and Breastfeeding
Alycee Lane
On Heat Waves and Climate Resistance
Ed Meek
Dershowitz the Sophist
Howard Lisnoff
Liberal Massachusetts and Recreational Marijuana
Ike Nahem
Trump, Trade Wars, and the Class Struggle
Olivia Alperstein
Kavanaugh and the Supremes: It’s About Much More Than Abortion
Manuel E. Yepe
Korea After the Handshake
Robert Kosuth
Militarized Nationalism: Pernicious and Pervasive
Binoy Kampmark
Soft Brexits and Hard Realities: The Tory Revolt
Helena Norberg-Hodge
Localization: a Strategic Alternative to Globalized Authoritarianism
Kevin Zeese - Nils McCune
Correcting The Record: What Is Really Happening In Nicaragua?
Chris Wright
The American Oligarchy: A Review
Kweli Nzito
Imperial Gangster Nations: Peddling “Democracy” and Other Goodies to the Untutored
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail