A group called Fellowship of Reconciliation -- its mission is to "replace violence, war, racism and economic injustice with nonviolence, peace and justice" -- has been hosting a "Women of Iraq Tour" of the United States. The tour stars are "two remarkable Iraqi women" -- Amal al-Khedairy and Nermin al-Mufti -- who "survived through the Persian Gulf War, the ensuing 13 years of oppressive sanctions and now the U.S. occupation."
It's no accident that tour promotions don't question how the two women survived Saddam Hussein.
Wednesday night, a professor at Mills College in Oakland parroted the promotion material as she introduced al-Mufti as "an internationally recognized journalist." What the professor didn't say -- at the time, she didn't know -- is that al-Mufti was a political columnist for Al Thawra, Iraq's Baathist newspaper. She also was the editor of several Baath-government publications.
Al-Khedairy, the scholar of the tour, is an odd pick to be an ambassadress for peace. The New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson decided to visit her this summer to see if her Saddamist sympathies had dampened after the war started. Her answer was that Hussein wasn't "all bad" -- he built great roads. As Anderson quoted her in the Aug. 11 New Yorker, she added, "Until 1991, I thought he could still do some good things, and even afterward, but it didn't turn out that way."
The piece continued: "Somewhat shocked, I asked Amal, 'What about the Anfal campaign?' -- when Saddam sent his army to raze Kurdish villages, and killed tens of thousands of civilians with guns and poison gas. 'Even after that you were OK with what he was doing?' Amal nodded. 'You know, the Kurds are a difficult people, and can be quite cruel themselves,' she said. 'I know, I have a Kurdish grandmother.' She laughed and began talking about the Kurdish persecution of Christians, and how, if I liked, she could introduce me to many Christians in Baghdad who had been forced to flee the Kurds. 'One day, you'll have to hear the whole story,' she said."
Wednesday night, al-Khedairy had a lot to say about conditions under the U.S.-led coalition. There were tanks in front of her house, Americans living in Hussein's palaces and "vagabonds" squatting in a museum. Coalition soldiers had tussled with a friend's bodyguards. And meat prices were rising. It wasn't the kind of real-people-are-suffering-horribly speech I had expected to hear.