Jackson Township man recalls life in Iraq, need for liberation
Friday, March 21, 2003
By CHARITA M. GOSHAY Repository staff writer
JACKSON TWP.-Dr. Nashat Y. Gabrail said there is a good reason why Saddam Hussein defied President Bush's 48-hour ultimatum.
"He had no place to hide in Baghdad," he said. "There's not a single person in Baghdad who would hide him in their house. So many people hate him."
A Christian of Assyrian descent who lived under Saddam's regime, the Jackson Township oncologist is thrilled that American and allied forces have launched an assault to remove the strongman from power.
Gabrail, who left Iraq in 1981, said Iraqis are anxious to re-embrace democracy. His mother still lives there, as does a sister, who lives in Baghdad. Both women have fled to a city in northern Iraq.
"I talked to them three days ago and told them to pack and leave," he said Thursday. "My brother talked to them two days ago. They're all right."
Gabrail said he hopes the Iraqi opposition will be permitted to lead the way into a liberated Baghdad.
"I think their voices will be heard by the Iraqi people," he said.
Gabrail said a U.S. military presence is vital if Iraq is to make a successful transition, adding that he would like to see a permanent American military base there.
Gabrail said the Iraqi justice system also must be overhauled. Judges appointed by Saddam's socialist Baath party have been in power since the 1970s.
"There's no real constitution there," he said.
Gabrail said he also hopes the United States will institute a policy similar to the Marshall Plan that followed World War II. He noted that like post-war Germany and Japan, Iraq's new military should be limited.
"If you don't have a big military, you won't harass others," he said.
Gabrail said he can attest to the depravity of Saddam and his sons, Odai and Quasi, known for their penchant for torture and violence.
"I have a friend from college whose sister was kidnapped by Odai and kept for seven or eight days," he said. "They couldn't say anything, of course. He would have killed them."
He also recalled how Saddam kidnapped the attractive wife of an Iraqi airline president, then exiled the man to Europe.
Gabrail said overthrowing Saddam could encourage Iraqi expatriates to invest and help spur a free-market economy in a nation rich in natural resources. The most difficult problem, he said, will be to convince Iraqi intellectuals and professionals to return. Gabrail himself is an American citizen.
"As much as I love Iraq, I love America more," he said. "This is my home now. I'm raising my kids here."
Gabrail is a member of Iraqi Forum for Democracy, which wants Iraq to adopt an American-style constitution.
"Iraq is the most fertile land for democracy in the Middle East," he said. "Freedom is God's gift to man. What part of the U.S. Constitution can offend any culture? It says that all men are created equal, not 'all Americans are created equal.' I believe the founding fathers had a vision that it could be a world constitution."
Gabrail said the forum also supports separation of religion and government. Iraq is one of the most religion-tolerant countries in the Middle East.
"There's a saying in Iraq that goes back to the 1950s," he said. "Religion is for God. Iraq is for everybody."