By Ian Starker
Hayder Assad is an Arabic lecturer at Ithaca College. He lived in Iraq all his life until Oct. 30, 2007. He was an Arabic translator for the U.S. Army during the invasion and worked on the 2005 Iraqi elections by organizing them and trying to bring more Iraqis to the polls and to vote. He was interviewed for a blog, iraqiselections.blogspot.com, which was created for Beth Harris’ politics seminar, Witnessing War, Displacement, and Occupation: Columbia, Iraq and Palestine.
You really don’t hear much in terms of Hayder’s point of view in the media. He is clearly pro-Iraq War, and from what he said, his life definitely seems much better than it was under Saddam. He does believe mistakes were made during the invasion, specifically absolving the Iraqi Army, but overall he thinks Iraq is better off. The invasion could have been done better, primarily with UN support and backing, but Hayder says there was some good done in Iraq, especially with the elections. As he said, it is important to ask the whole group, rather than a small sample—he is just one man, but he still showed that there is another side that you don’t really see in mainstream media anymore.
Q: Since the 2005 Iraqi elections were closed elections (in which people only voted for political parties, and the politicians who would be in power if a party won were not listed), there was a lot of criticism that the elections were unfair. What do you think?
A: I don’t think so, no… this short story I’m going to tell you right now is going to explain what I mean for your question. Now, I took my son last month up to Syracuse to the neurologist, and you know we just came back at this point three months ago from Iraq—I had to do my Hajj and I had to see my family—but when I told him we just came back from Iraq and we just spent two months. … So, then we told him we came back to JFK, and he just sat back and said, “Just like that simple? Just went back to, just flew to Iraq and then Saudi Arabia and then to Jordan and then came back within two months?” I said, “Yes, why not?” He said “Gosh, the world is different when you see it in the media.” You see? The world is different when you see it in the media. The media is something else. People were saying different things. It doesn’t mean that it’s correct when you see it in the media.
So in this case, no, in 2005, I don’t believe at all it wasn’t fair. It was fair. And if you take it, who won the elections, well, we have them. You know, you can count them. There are not more than 10 political parties. And, if anybody else wants to say, “No, it wasn’t fair,” prove it. How wasn’t it fair? Do not go to a specific area; do not take one sample rather than the whole group. Go to the whole group and test the whole group. We’re talking about consistency here, so I think it was fair.
Q: In the constitution, a member of the Ba’ath Party (of which Saddam Hussein was a member) cannot be in power. Here in the United States, members of the Communist Party or the Fascist Party are allowed to run, though they most likely won’t win. So if Iraqis really want the Ba’athist party, don’t you think they should be allowed to run?
A: Good question. Very good. I’m happy you asked that. There is a difference when you say the United States and the Fascist Party and the Communists. Again, we have not seen, or at least the United States have not seen any oppression from those people in the United States. You see? But the difference is that we have seen something from Ba’athism in Iraq. And we have said, across 30 years, it was very harsh. You can’t imagine—it was very harsh. Ten of thousands of people died because of the Ba’athist party members, because of Ba’athism.
So no, absolutely no. I mean, again, that’s a personal opinion, but if deep in their hearts, if you ask Iraqis, most of Iraqis, again, we’re not talking about samples. Yes, if you go to the north, they will say “Yeah, we want Ba’athist party members. Yes, we want Ba’athism.” But, again, ask overall. … Again, most Iraqis don’t want Ba’athist party.
Q: Did Iraq change after the 2005 elections for the better or for the worse?
A: Absolutely, absolutely… Well, my father and my uncles and my young relatives, not even old relatives, did not travel for 30 years before 2003. They did not go to Hajj even. It’s a huge difference. After 2003, do you know how many times I traveled outside of Iraq? At least before I came to the States in 2007, so from 2003 to 2007, 5 years, I have traveled six times. I went to Egypt, I went to Dubai, I went to Jordan for my honeymoon, I went to Syria, I went to South Korea. I visited all these places in four years. Well, it’s a huge difference. So what do you expect? That’s a sample only. That’s a sample. If you look at Iraqis, they could go everywhere—they went everywhere after 2003, I mean.
Do you know how much we had to pay before 2003 just to go outside Iraq to take your family for a picnic or a vacation? Did you know how much we had to pay in U.S. dollars? And let me tell you something before I answer the question. Do you know how much we used to get paid at that time? Not a lot. Not even what you think. It was $3 per month. And guess what, how much we had to pay for, to get outside of Iraq just for a vacation: $100. You see? Ask everybody. We had to pay taxes, whatever you can say it, fees, whatever you say it, say it. But that’s the case. Saddam was charging $100 to get outside per person though. Per person. And the whole family. … That’s insane. That’s insane. I mean, that explains the answer, I mean explain the question. For you, which one is better?
Editor’s Note: This is only one opinion, which does not necessarily reflect the views of Buzzsaw writers or editors. It is important to share dissident opinions.