United States to Train Iraqis In Rhetoric Against HusseinBy Robin Wright
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON
The Bush administration has drawn up plans to escalate the war of words against Iraq this fall, with new campaigns to step up pressure on Baghdad and rally world opinion behind the U.S. drive to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
This week, the State Department will begin mobilizing Iraqis from across North America, Europe, and the Arab world, training them to appear on talk shows, write op-eds, and give speeches on reasons to end Hussein’s rule, among other things.
“We’re going to put them on the front line of winning the public hearts and minds. It’s one thing for an American to get up and talk about regime change in Iraq. It’s quite another thing when Iraqis do it,” said one State Department official, who requested anonymity.
The program reflects the administration’s increasing focus on making Iraqis key players in the quest to change both the leadership and the political system in Baghdad.
“We believe the principal engine for transforming Iraq is the Iraqi people, and, ultimately, we hope that they are going to be freeing themselves of Saddam’s tyranny,” Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, said in an interview aired Friday on Radio Sawa, a new U.S.-funded, Arabic-language station.
“The United States will perhaps be in a position to help that along, but the future that we see for Iraq is a future that would be based on the Iraqi people freeing themselves from the oppression that they are suffering,” Feith said.
In contrast to other Middle East groups, Iraqi exiles have not mobilized in most communities where they have settled. That is an issue of increasing concern in Washington, which often appears to be going it alone without much visible support from the estimated 300,000 Iraqis in the United States or the 4 million exiles worldwide.
“Iraqi Americans have been invisible, which is a product of Saddam’s oppression. Iraqis have feared speaking out because of the harassment and intimidation of family and relatives back home,” said Azam al Wash, a geologist from Long Beach, Calif., who was invited to the Aug. 27-30 training sessions in Washington. Al Wash left Iraq in 1978, when he was 20.
U.S. officials intend to be more visible after Labor Day in explaining U.S. objectives in Iraq in public appearances and overseas media, State Department officials said.
“It’s no accident that we’re torquing up the language. A decision was made this week by the Iraq public diplomacy group to do more,” said one administration official.