Some Iraqis fear war inevitable, say Saddam must go

CLEVELAND (AP) - Some local Iraqis view a U.S. attack on the Middle East country as inevitable, and the potential outcome worth considering.
"Non-Iraqi Arabs, friends of ours, they are surprised that we are so much in favor" of war, said Ali Alhaddad, of suburban Moreland Hills. "They say, 'Iraqis are going to die.' Well, heck, Iraqis are dying every day. They have not had a decent human life in 30 years. Enough is enough."
Alhaddad, the night emergency room physician at Hillcrest
Hospital, came to Cleveland from Iraq in 1979 -- the year Saddam Hussein took power. His sentiments are common in Cleveland's small Iraqi community, which resembles an embittered exile community.
Many Iraqis came here as young adults to pursue advanced degrees and found it unsafe or undesirable to return after Saddam's rise to power. They now hold professional jobs as doctors, architects and engineers.
The Iraqi community in northeast Ohio probably numbers between 200 and 300 people.
After 24 years in Cleveland, Alhaddad said he is no longer
afraid of speaking out. He said Saddam's defeat in the Gulf War emboldened many of the older exiles.
"People perceive that Saddam is getting weaker," Alhaddad
said.
What is needed, he believes, is a final push: An American
military strike to remove Saddam.
"Nobody is going to fight for him," he said. "Nobody is going to defend him."
Ten years ago, Dr. Nezar Rahim and his wife, Bushra, founded the Iraqi American Society to raise money to help the arriving Gulf War refugees. They later tried to steer the group toward political activism, even staging an anti-Saddam rally on Public Square.
"We wanted to educate Americans to Saddam's atrocities, the
tortures," Rahim said in his office at St. Michael Hospital.
Rahim describes himself as a pacifist. He said he opposes
American and British bombing missions in the no-fly zone, as well as economic sanctions, because both strategies miss the only meaningful target.
"Saddam is a very evil man," he said. "He has grandiose ideas to control the whole region. He will use any weapons he can get his hands on to keep his regime in power."
The Iraqi American Society faded as Gulf War refugees moved on to the larger Iraqi community in Detroit, but rumors of war are again galvanizing the Iraqi community. Some are now considering their roles in a new, more democratic Iraq.
Rafal Badri, a surgeon at Huron Hospital, said he and his
Iraqi-born wife, Dr. Nadia Kaisi, hope to move back to Iraq after a war and help rebuild. He envisions himself teaching doctors and offering free surgeries.
"In all honesty, I really can't wait for the day when U.S.
troops go in," he said. "I pray for the day when the strike
comes."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)