The US Owes Iraq “Just Compensation,” Says Founder of Muslim Peacemakers Group

As we proceed to look again on the twentieth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we’re joined by Sami Rasouli, an Iraqi native who immigrated to the USA over 35 years in the past and have become a profitable restaurateur and beloved member of the group in Minneapolis. After the U.S. invasion of his residence nation in 2003, he moved again to Iraq, the place he based the Muslim Peacemakers, a gaggle that works to advertise and observe nonviolent battle decision and intervention. Rasouli additionally based the American Institute for English in Najaf, which was destroyed by a 2020 bombing. He’s engaged on beginning a brand new group known as the American-Iraqi Peace Initiative and at the moment resides within the U.S. along with his household. The struggle in Iraq has “left scars and a visual legacy” amongst Iraqis, says Rasouli, who requires “a simply compensation” within the aftermath of the U.S. occupation.


It is a rush transcript. Copy is probably not in its ultimate type.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Democracy Now!,, The Struggle and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

As we proceed to look again on the twentieth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we’re joined by Sami Rasouli, who we’ve spoken to quite a few occasions over the previous 20 years. He was an Iraqi native who immigrated to the USA over 35 years in the past. He grew to become a profitable restaurateur and beloved member of the group in Minneapolis. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, his residence nation, in 2003, he moved again to Iraq, the place he based Muslim Peacemakers.

In a second, Sami will be part of us reside from Minneapolis, however first I need to return to 2004, the place Sami appeared on Democracy Now! to debate his plan to maneuver again to Iraq within the midst of the U.S. struggle.

SAMI RASOULI: I might do something. Something. In all probability I’ll begin cleansing the streets the place my sister lives, and get these children, who prefer to hearken to their uncle, to come back and assist me. And doubtless we do a numerous issues and get the folks influenced by rebuilding their nation once more.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Sami Rasouli in 2004, once I visited him in Minneapolis. In 2008, I interviewed Sami through the Republican Nationwide Conference in St. Paul. Sami was again from Iraq at that time. He criticized then-vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden’s proposal to partition Iraq.

SAMI RASOULI: As you and the viewers, the viewers, and plenty of Iraqis nonetheless keep in mind, Mr. Biden, when he launched the invoice to the Congress final 12 months to partition Iraq, now he got here again on the ticket. So, that was not a shock for me, no less than, as a result of the surge has completed one in all its targets, that Iraq is able to be partitioned, by expelling or displacing greater than 5 million Iraqis throughout the nation and out of doors of the nation.

AMY GOODMAN: You recognize, that was 5 days after I used to be arrested in St. Paul as we have been masking a protest, together with my Democracy Now! colleagues Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. The police went after us — them for filming and me for asking for them to be launched. Effectively, in 2011, Democracy Now! spoke to Sami once more on the telephone from his residence, at that time, in Najaf, Iraq. The interview happened simply after President Obama declared an finish to the struggle in Iraq.

SAMI RASOULI: When it comes to destroying Iraq, it’s actually “mission completed.” … The healthcare system has been actually destroyed. As you talked about, the infrastructure is a complete disaster that started not solely since 2003, and, truly, it’s greater than 20 years, since 1991. You recognize, we should always not neglect the impact of the sanction earlier than the invasion. The Iraqi folks have suffered quite a bit, and plenty of of them have died.

AMY GOODMAN: Whereas President Obama pledged to take away all troops from Iraq by the tip of 2011, in the present day, greater than a decade later, there are nonetheless greater than 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq, and violence has continued in Iraq, as nicely. In 2020, in only one instance, a bomb destroyed the American Institute for English in Najaf, Iraq, the college that was based by our visitor, Sami Rasouli. On the time of the bombing, Sami was visiting the USA. Since then, he has remained right here along with his household, which was lastly reunited on the finish of final 12 months, his spouse and son returning to be with him and their children. He’s now engaged on beginning a brand new group known as the American-Iraqi Peace Initiative.

Sami Rasouli, it’s nice to have you ever again with us, as I discuss to you from New York and also you’re sitting in a studio in Minneapolis. It’s wonderful to return on that journey. As we met you in Minneapolis, the antiwar motion so warmly supported you, the entire group at your restaurant in Minneapolis. However then you definitely mentioned, “I’m closing all of it up, and I don’t care if I’ve to only sweep the streets of Najaf, I’m going to enhance my nation in any small approach I can,” because the U.S. bombs have been falling. Take us on that journey 20 years later and the way you ended up again in the USA. However speak about that first determination you made, out of your comfy abode in Minneapolis, to say, “I’m going again to Iraq.”

SAMI RASOULI: Hiya, Amy. Thanks for having me. And thanks for reviewing our previous conferences. It has been some time since we met.

Anyway, I’m again now. And concerning your query, I all the time inform my listeners that — and mates, after all, that Sami and salmon, the fish, has one thing in frequent: that they go upstream. However in addition they haven’t any earnings, and that salmon doesn’t come again, however Sami retains coming again, as a result of my good pal Jeremy Iggers right here from Minneapolis mentioned, “Sami, keep in mind, you all the time needed to construct a bridge for peace between the 2 nations, your nation of beginning and your nation of selection. So keep in mind that bridge has two ends. It’s important to keep each ends.” That meant to come back again once more and return. So, wherever I’m going, that’s my residence, and I’m privileged to have that.

As you talked about, finally, I bought reunited with my spouse and my stepson. My household and I survived. My goals and faculty has been destroyed in Najaf again in September 2020, after killing Normal — the Iranian Normal Soleimani by Mr. Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: On the Iraq airport.

SAMI RASOULI: Right, in Baghdad, Baghdad airport, sure.

Effectively, it appears to be like like my spouse, my children and I are protected now right here, however the struggle in Iraq, 20 years in the past, have left scars and visual legacy. And that is the infants, the infants in Fallujah and Najaf and Basra. And the rise of the incidence of most cancers, if we communicate generally, fourfolds went up, however among the many children, 12 occasions went up. And that’s catastrophic. The ugly deformality of new child infants, whether or not in Najaf or in Fallujah, retains taking place as a witness for the crimes dedicated towards peaceable nation in 2003.

And that brings the query how we’re going to take care of that. I all the time say a simply compensation, a simply compensation to respect that nation and go away that nation alone. That nation is wealthy in its assets, however, sadly, Bush’s administrations, represented by Paul Bremer, assigned those who’s incompetent. They don’t have anything to do with main a rustic, such a rustic known as the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia. They’re simply promoting every a part of the nation out to others. And we, because the folks of Iraq, residing an unsecure nation, and really it’s not state, a lawless state. So, there isn’t any safety. There is no such thing as a revered financial system, social system, well being system, schooling system.

And once I say simply compensation, I imply to construct a brand new tradition right here, the yard of the remainder of the world, the USA of America, the brand new tradition that’s based mostly on justice and peace, that take care of, for instance, native, home, severely affected all of us. It’s a faculty mass capturing. Since Columbine in April twentieth, 1999, we haven’t carried out but something to forestall that, as a result of since that capturing in 1999 updated, there are about 366 faculty mass shootings occurred already. And people disturbed children, that receiving very dangerous schooling system — by their political leaders, I ought to emphasize — as a result of at college they educate them the way to be sort and good to their neighbors, to their mates, and educate them to not be racist towards any colours or different those who they meet, to be diversified. However once more —

AMY GOODMAN: Sami, I needed to —

SAMI RASOULI: — they’re informed the identical factor by their mother and father —

AMY GOODMAN: I needed to interrupt for one second —


AMY GOODMAN: — since you’re making a particularly attention-grabbing level, as you speak about, you understand, this nation being actually the one place on this planet that has this degree of mass shootings day after day. And also you return to Columbine. As you mentioned, Columbine was April twentieth, 1999. And I’ll always remember President Clinton’s feedback on the time. What was it? 4 — three days later that the U.S.-backed NATO forces, for instance, bombed RTS, the Radio Tv studio in Belgrade, Serbia, and we noticed the physique components of make-up artists and technicians being taken out of this civilian construction. That was only one instance. However Columbine taking place within the midst of the bombing of Yugoslavia, and President Clinton saying, “How will we educate our kids that violence will not be the reply to resolving battle?” And the irony of this with the backdrop of struggle, then Yugoslavia. In your case, we’re speaking about Iraq, and now speaking in regards to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

SAMI RASOULI: Proper. I imply, children, the teachings. I imply, they have been like 12 years outdated or 17 years outdated, the perpetrators. These children — they usually come as a problem for his or her surrounding world. They wish to make some modifications on this stage of age. So, to inform them at college and at residence, “Violence is dangerous, and we should always not do it,” however but we’re doing it by our political leaders in Iraq and Syria and different locations, and we inform them, “That’s good, however the violence, for instance, or attacking Ukraine in the present day will not be OK.” So, we’re — what we’re doing, we’re contributing to disturb their minds, their psyche, and finally they find yourself with a conclusion that human life has no worth, whether or not it’s their mates, their classmates or their enemies.

And bullying their classmates if they’re larger or stronger, simply they’ve seen it when the U.S., as a superpower, goes and march in Iraq, with no cause, and destroy the nation and are available again, and go, after that, to Syria, destroy it, to Libya, and the saga will proceed. So, that must be ended. And as I mentioned, a brand new tradition of peace and justice ought to lead our thoughts and hearts, not solely at residence and at college, but in addition within the Pentagon and the White Home and the Congress.


SAMI RASOULI: So, one — yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: I needed to ask you about 2015. President Trump was working — Donald Trump was working for president on a fiercely anti-Muslim platform. We all know, you understand, proper after he got here into workplace, the Muslim ban, and so on. However you invited him to Iraq as a part of a cultural trade program for Muslim Peacemaker Group. For those who might speak about establishing the Muslim Peacemakers, working with Christian Peacemakers and the antiwar motion, and why you needed Trump to come back to Iraq?

SAMI RASOULI: Effectively, Amy, you keep in mind once we met in Minneapolis again, I believe, in 2004, you visited Minneapolis, and also you interviewed me, and also you requested me — you introduced a part of that assembly earlier within the present. So, I informed you I’m going with no clue what I’m going to do, however no less than I’m going to go and sweep the sister — my sister, the place she lives, the home or the road the place she lives in. So, by accident, with no earlier plans, I met the Christian Peacemaker Groups there, they usually have been an excellent steerage for me to ascertain the Muslim Peacemaker Groups. So, I’m nonetheless grateful for them to create all of the roots and the preliminary motion that Muslim Peacemaker Groups adopted their footsteps to work collectively in lots of initiatives.

So, one in all them, when Mr. [Trump] banned Muslim nations, amongst them Iraq, to not enter the U.S., then excluded Iraq, I keep in mind, however nonetheless what I did — Somalia, as a result of it was additionally excluded, so I flew to Somalia to carry Somalia and Iraq collectively, and we signed an settlement with the authority in Bosaso, and that’s in Puntland space, approach within the north, to make Najaf and Bosaso sister cities, since each of them are sister cities of Minneapolis. So, we constructed that triangle as a response for Mr. Trump.

However on the similar time, I despatched a letter inviting Mr. Trump to come back and study in regards to the info, how a Muslim household operates and the way the Muslim household conduct its enterprise with the neighbors, with the youngsters, with the college lecturers and with their visitor, him, if he come and stick with us at residence, to look at us somewhat than to hearken to the mainstream media, as a result of, you understand, the mainstream media within the U.S., they image the Muslims as terrorists. And the mainstream media within the Center East, they image the European and the Western, amongst them, the People, as infidels.

So, right here comes the obligation of Muslim Peacemaker Groups, when the Muslim Peacemaker Groups carry each collectively, the infidel and the terrorist, midway, have them sit in a roundtable, look within the eyes, break that piece of bread, share it, they usually discover out all that nonsense of terrorism or infidels has no values, however they’re nothing however brothers and sisters in humanity, and they need to pursue this idea, that peaceable idea, to respect one another and share what they’ve collectively.

AMY GOODMAN: Sami Rasouli, I need to thanks a lot for being with us, beloved Iraqi American restaurateur in Minneapolis, who moved again to Iraq after the U.S. invasion, based the Muslim Peacemaker Group, and now’s again in Minneapolis 20 years later. Sometime quickly, I hope to come back to Minneapolis and share a meal with you, break bread with you and your group. Thanks a lot, Sami.

That does it for our present. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks a lot for becoming a member of us.

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