Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

The story of another Iraqi who joined the Future of Iraq Project to help her homeland reach freedom.

Maha Al-Shibib Joudi, an Iraqi-born telecommunications executive, got the call as she commuted from her San Ramon home to her office in San Francisco.

Joudi said the technocrats, teachers, scientists, lawyers and engineers asked to join the Future of Iraq Project crossed religious, ethnic and geographic allegiances. But every member knew the days and weeks immediately following Saddam's ouster were critical, she says.

The Iraqi-Americans, Iraqi-Europeans and the others would use that brief window to measure the utility of democracy.

So when the State Department called, Joudi was honored and eager to help determine how the average Iraqi's world would change once Saddam was unseated.

From March 2002 through the war, the Future of Iraq Project mined the expertise and experiences of nearly 240 Iraqi exiles, and a handful of Northern Iraqis. Joudi has a banking background, and degrees in economics and finance.

These experts sketched out the details of how to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and help its people transition from dictatorship to democracy. The State Department facilitated these gatherings, but priorities were set and recommendations written by Iraqis, Joudi said.

Joudi knew Iraq before Saddam Hussein achieved a complete chokehold on the country. In the early 1970s, Joudi's father, Baha Al-Shibib, headed the country's electrical industries. Al-Shibib's position and past connections to the Baath Party afforded the family a comfortable life and beautiful home in Baghdad. Joudi says she hardly remembers a meal that wasn't shared with visiting family and friends.

Her father's desire for a free Iraq flows through Joudi's blood now. On April 15, while military skirmishes were still being fought near Baghdad, Joudi flew to Kuwait and then Iraq to represented her family at a meeting of Iraqi political groups. After the meeting in the city of Ur, Joudi said, the group issued a 13-point statement, its main pillar being dedication to a secular democratic state. The United States -- or the Iraqi pan-ethnic, politically inclusive leadership council she hopes will be established -- must restore order and then stabilize the economy, they said.

The reconstruction work in Iraq will also require a mental shift amongst Iraqis, Joudi said. They live with lingering memories of oppression, and anxiety over personal safety and their financial future, she said.

"They have been through two wars, three wars now, in almost 20 years," she said. "It takes its toll and shapes the character of the country."

So many of the naysayers like to minimize and deride the contribution exiles must make to Iraq now (like Dr Maksoud, they are willing to sacrifice the lives of millions to assure their viewpoint is correct) but it is the energy and knowledge brought by people like Joudi that will make the difference in the end.

< email | 5/20/2003 12:04:00 PM | link

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