EDITOR’S NOTE: Abd al-Majid al-Khoei, a Shiite leader in Iraq, recently returned to his homeland from exile in London. On April 10, 2003, he was assassinated in Najaf, at the sacred Shiite Ali Mosque in Najaf. He wrote about the Iraqi desire for freedom in the February 21, 2003 issue of National Review Online. We reprint his piece, the day he died — which is the day after the Iraqi dictatorship effectively fell. R.I.P.
The question of regime change in Iraq figures prominently in news bulletins and is occupying the full attention of politicians and world leaders, experts in Arab and Islamic affairs, and, of course, the Iraqis themselves.
The thorny issue of whether or not there should be a change of regime by force has become the focus of much discussion. Even among those who support such a change there still remains heated argument as to how best this is to be accomplished, and when — each of the involved parties naturally being influenced by political and economic factors and allegiances. The problem of Iraq can thus seem complicated in the extreme, if not insoluble.
Still, from the point of view of those living in Iraq, the problem is clear and uncomplicated and requires no protracted debate as to what should be done. The real question is the rule and domination, for over three decades, of a cruel despot over a populace upon whom he has wreaked his wrath incessantly, inflicting upon them every kind of torment and misfortune.
Hussein has led his country into conflicts with Iraq’s neighbors and has kindled armed conflicts among the various ethnic and religious entities that make up Iraqi society. His greed, arrogance, and tyranny, and his need to satisfy his criminal ambitions, have resulted in the deaths of over a million young Iraqis.
The resources of the land and its people have been pillaged; Hussein has squandered them acquiring lethal weapons, erecting palaces, and setting up deposit accounts in foreign banks. All this, while his people groan under the yoke of oppression.
Women, children, and old men have suffered and starved because of Hussein and he has successfully stifled all opposition. Thousands have been executed for opposing his rule or for allegedly conspiring against him — often on the basis of mere suspicion. Thousands more have been thrown into prison on a whim, without having committed any crime. Hundreds of thousands of families have been expelled on account of their ethnic origin, even as their sons were forced to remain so Hussein could try out his latest chemical and biological weapons on them before using them against the town of Halabja and in other massacres.
His tyranny has caused millions of Iraqis to flee their homeland and they are now scattered throughout the world, seeking a place of safety — those, that is, who were fortunate enough to escape shipwreck and other disasters.
This is what the Iraqi people face.
The solution in their opinion is also clear, and comes down to one thing only: the urgent need to get rid of this despot and his cruel regime at the earliest opportunity and by any means. I emphasize, by any means.
There is little point to discussing the means and the method; the Iraqi people are not interested in who is to carry out this task — be it an individual or individuals, one outside force or a coalition of forces. They see the issue as being essentially one of ethics and humanity, and furthermore believe that the task of freeing them of this tyranny is an obligation enjoined by every sacred code of law and supported by every secular ethical system. Anyone, therefore, who can perform this task will win their gratitude. To them it is entirely unacceptable that someone who is able to bring about — or help bring about — the collapse of this regime should, nonetheless, do nothing.
This, in brief, is the opinion of the Iraqi people. They know all too well that no one can benefit from further complicating this crisis save the tyrant himself, who simply wants to gain time to extricate himself and so be free to commit further crimes.
Anyone who doesn’t believe this, or wants proof, needs only to go to Iraq and — at a safe distance from the eyes of the secret police and security services — ask anyone he should meet. Surely the crucial element in this dispute is the actual opinion of the Iraqis themselves — not the tired rhetoric of those who have been talking for years about “our dear Iraqi brothers” but who have done absolutely nothing to alleviate their suffering.
— Abd al-Majid al-Khoei, an Iraqi dissident, is the secretary-general of the al-Khoei Foundation, an international Islamic cultural, philanthropic and educational organization.