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Bush Policies Ignore Iraqi Religious Persecution

August 13, 2007

Conservative thinker and strategist Paul Weyrich sees a Republican political disaster in 2008 because of Iraq. "I believe that the Democrats, most likely with Senator Hillary R. Clinton (D-NY) as the nominee, will win," he says. "The Republicans, regardless of who they nominate, will lose because of the war in Iraq. Voters want to punish the Republicans for Iraq."

It's easy to see how this might develop. But the backlash could get even worse when members of the conservative Republican base begin to grasp how the Bush policy has led to the virtual destruction of the Christian community in Iraq. It is nothing less than an outrage for this to be occurring under the auspices of a conservative Republican President who claims to be a born-again Christian.

On July 25, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom held a major hearing on religious persecution in Iraq that made your stomach turn. It effectively demonstrated that American soldiers, many of them Christians, are giving their lives and limbs to prop up a Muslim government that encourages or tolerates religious persecution against Christians. Michael Cromartie, chairman of the group and an appointee of President Bush, said reports indicate that nearly half of Iraq's Christians have already fled the country.

He explained that "Violence against members of Iraq's Christian community is of particular concern in Baghdad and the northern Kurdish regions. Reported abuses include the assassination of Christian religious leaders, the bombing and destruction of churches, and violent threats intended to force Christians from their homes. In some areas, ordinary Christians have reportedly stopped participating in public religious services for fear of inviting further violence."

Pascale Warda, an Assyrian Christian who was the Minister of Migration and Displacement during the first transitional Iraqi government, testified, "Over 30 churches have been destroyed, priests have been kidnapped, killed, or beheaded, and the Christians have been systematically targeted for persecution by Islamic fundamentalists. A 14-year-old boy was crucified in Basra. A one-year-old baby was roasted and delivered to his mother's doorstep, on a bed of rice."

The dramatic hearing was covered by a few specialized news organizations, such as Catholic News Service, but the major media ignored it.

Writing on Front Page magazine, in an article headlined, 'The Death of Iraq's Christians," analyst Doug Bandow contended that "Washington has done essentially nothing" to help these people. 

"Christian America may soon be the death of Iraqi Christians," he wrote. "The irony is extraordinary: America, a nation with deep Christian roots, has inadvertently loosed the vicious forces bent on destroying Iraqi Christians." 

While this may sound harsh, it was confirmed by testimony before the commission. Michael Youash, project director of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project, said that the U.S. Government's "lack of action, even proper acknowledgment of the matter is most regrettable." He said there is an "inability or unwillingness" to confront the fact that Christians and others are being persecuted and murdered in Iraq.

He stated, "As an indigenous, religious and ethnic minority, in Iraq, liberation held that we might not only share in that dream but fully realize it. For a variety of reasons, we are today trapped in a nightmare...We are creating a dictatorship out of an enormous American sacrifice to liberate Iraq from tyranny."

President Bush was lectured on the problem by Pope Benedict XVI during their meeting on June 9. Bush said the pontiff was worried that Christians in Iraq were being "mistreated by the Muslim majority." Bush did not say whether he agreed with the Pope's concerns. However, about three weeks later, Bush rededicated The Islamic Center of Washington and announced that he will appoint a special envoy to the Organization of The Islamic Conference.

One problem stems from the constitution for Iraq, crafted with U.S. help, that established a Muslim state. Many of us warned at the time that the document could help lead to crushing non-Muslim religions and their followers.

Conservatives who supported this war have to face the present-day reality that not only are U.S. troops fighting and dying to maintain a pro-Iranian Muslim government in power in Iraq, but that Iran has emerged as the big winner in the region and the world as a result. What's more, it looks like the Bush Administration has no will to confront Iran over killing our soldiers in Iraq or building nuclear weapons. As a result, the administration now wants to sell Saudi Arabia billions of dollars worth of arms so it can confront or contain Iran. Yet, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says that Saudi Arabia is undermining U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq.

It also looks like China is emerging as another winner in Iraq. Incredibly, after returning from a state visit to China, Iraq President Jalal Talabani announced that his government was going to buy weapons from the Chinese for Iraqi police forces. China also agreed to cancel Iraqi debt. The two countries signed deals on economic cooperation and China is seeking an agreement to develop Iraqi oil fields.

Yet Talabani is supposed to be one of our strongest allies inside the Iraqi government.

As the old saying goes, "with friends like these, who needs enemies?"

The question that Republicans will then have to ask, in order to change the subject and try to win the 2008 presidential and congressional elections, is whether another President Clinton and the Democrats should be trusted to safeguard our security.

Weyrich, who foresees a Hillary victory, has accurately predicted the outcomes of presidential elections for decades with only two exceptions. But this prediction comes many months before the presidential primaries begin and before Republicans in Congress, those running for president, and those across the nation take advantage of an opportunity to disavow their own President. That way, the public backlash against the war may be directed at the President, but not Republicans in general. It is a gamble but Republicans may see such a course as the only way to keep Hillary out of the White House and keep things from getting even worse.

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Copyright ©2007 Cliff Kincaid

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