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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

SLUG: 3-557 Shallal Iraq
DATE:>
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=2/26/03

TYPE=INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

TITLE=SHALLAL / IRAQ

NUMBER=3-557

BYLINE=TOM CROSBY

DATELINE=WASHINGTON

INTERNET=

///// AVAILABLE IN DALET UNDER SOD/ENGLISH NEWS NOW INTERVIEWS IN THE FOLDER FOR TODAY OR YESTERDAY /////

HOST: As the rhetoric continues from both sides...some Iraqis living outside the country are watching and worrying about what war will do to their homeland...and to families they left behind.

Anas Shallal (ANN-ahs SHAL-all) is the founder of Iraqi Americans for Peaceful Alternatives. And he believes there is an unprecedented rush to war in his homeland:

MR. SHALLAL: I do not know when the last time this happened, where our diplomats are going around over the globe trying to create a conflict, basically, that is very avertable. And it is rather distressing.

MR. CROSBY: You, of course, are the founder of Iraqi Americans for Peaceful Alternatives. Are those alternatives diminishing at this point?

MR. SHALLAL: Well, no. I think you always hope that there would be a peaceful alternative to what we are trying to impose here. I think the Iraqi people really deserve more. We can not go around killing them in order to liberate them. It just does not make sense. We have people and relatives that live in Baghdad that are not very fond of Saddam Hussein at all, but they are less fond of a war that is about to take place that harms them, their families and everything that they have ever worked and lived for.

MR. CROSBY: Indeed, Saddam Hussein is portrayed, is he not, as a very repressive and brutal man?

MR. SHALLAL: Yes, he is. I think, for the most part, his repression and brutality really took place years ago. I think, for the most part, for people that live in Iraq at this point, if you stay out of politics and you do not get involved with the government issues, you tend to sort of go about your own life. There are many people that live in Iraq that are not under constant oppression and just go about doing their own thing. As long as they do not mess with the government, they tend to be left alone. And at some level, the Iraqi people are very resourceful and are able to find alternatives for themselves, rather than having this heavy-headed approach to ending the tyranny that they have been under, which is, in no small part, due to our involvement in the Middle East and Iraq for many, many years.

MR. CROSBY: But as an Iraqi American, are you at all fearful that there might be retribution against family members who are still inside Iraq?

MR. SHALLAL: You mean because I am speaking out?

MR. CROSBY: Because you're speaking out and because you are here.

MR. SHALLAL: I think far worse than retribution is a war, if it does take place. We are reading about some of the types of weaponry that is going to be used - microwave bombs, bunker-busters, vacuum bombs - all these things that are horrifying people. People are under a lot of stress right now. They are almost at the point of saying just go ahead and do it, because we can not take this anymore.

We have families that have been split up, where the breadwinner of the family stays in Baghdad because they have to earn a living and the family is sent out to Amman, Jordan, or some other place in order to avert a catastrophe. But imagine what would happen once the first bomb drops and they can not communicate with one another. Families are being torn apart and they're under a tremendous amount of stress.

MR. CROSBY: Is there any thought by families living abroad about trying to bring the families in Iraq out at this point?

MR. SHALLAL: I think there is some attempt for people that are able to be able to move out, but not everyone is able to do that. It is not that easy. Some people do not have the resources to be able to do it. Some people feel this is my home, I am not going to leave; where am I going to go? People do not want to live like refugees.

The Iraqi people, people that live in Baghdad, have been living under relatively good conditions, although the sanctions have been pretty horrible, but they have seen better times and they think that they can do better. And it is not that easy to bring out a 60-year-old couple or a 70-year-old couple and they'll start a new life somewhere else. It is not that simple.

HOST: Anas Shallal (ANN-ahs SHAL-all) is the founder of Iraqi Americans for Peaceful Alternatives. He was speaking with News Now's Tom Crosby.

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