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Iraqi Ambassador - February 2005
IRAQI AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES AMERICAN INVOLVEMENT
By Jessi Schimmel, Brown & White Newspaper
Samir Sumaidaie, the Iraqi ambassador to the United
Nations, spoke about the current situation in Iraq and
prospects for the
future Thursday, February 10 in Zoellner Arts Center. His
speech was the second in Lehigh's United Nations
Ambassadorial Speaker Series.
"The Iraqi situation has its own peculiarity" Sumaidaie
said in a press conference before his speech. "Sovereignty
is quite a complex concept. I would say that Iraq is
moving steadily and in a determined way toward
"We have started a political process and we have kept to
the timeline of that political process where one of the
stages was to get an elected government in place, the next
is to write a constitution and then have further
elections. I think we are most of the way there. I don't
think the situation could be described, or should be
described, as an occupation any longer."
Sumaidaie's speech had a central theme of understanding
perceptions as reality.
"One of the worst things that happened after the
liberation of Iraq was to declare that Iraq was under
occupation. This word 'occupation' has so many
connotations, so much historical baggage, that it
immediately became a weapon in the hands of the
Sumaidaie is in an interesting position to pass along this
perspective. He is a Sunni Muslim and was born in Baghdad
in 1943, but has lived in exile since 1973, according to
the U.N. press release in which Sumaidaie presented his
credentials to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
In his speech he told the audience that from 1977 until
2003 after the United States intervention, he had not been
to Baghdad , living mostly in London . This mixture of
Western education and Middle Eastern roots allows him to
see the war as a two-sided conflict.
"Why is it that America goes out of its way?" Sumaidaie
asked. "To make so many sacrifices in blood and treasure
to save our nation from tyranny only to be treated as a
hostile occupier. In order to answer this, we've got to
look at it from two different aspects.
"From the Iraqi side, the whole nation completely
traumatized, certainly relieved and happy to be rid of
Saddam, but totally disorientated. They have no way of
rationalizing what was happening to them. From the
American side, I would say that it was not sufficient
understanding of the complexities of the situation to
which they had gotten into."
In the question and answer segment of his presentation,
Sumaidaie faced questions posed by the audience and
delivered via index card by moderator Bill Hunter,
director of international students and scholars. Questions
ranged from how to appropriately deal with detainees, to
an independent Kurdish state, to exit strategies for the
United States .
When questioned about how he views the United States '
intentions in the region, Sumaidaie recognized the common
images of regime change, weapons of mass destruction and
introducing democracy to Iraq . He said that what the
United States has started it must finish.
"The possibility of leaving the job half done is too
terrible to be contemplated for both Iraq and the United
States ," he said.
Sumaidaie concluded the speech with his belief that the
ends do justify the means.
"The action of going into Iraq should not be judged in the
context of the immediate aftermath," he said. "It should
be judged within the context of perhaps 20, 30, even 50
years. What will people in 20 years, 30 years or more
looking back at this event - Iraqis or non-Iraqis - think
of this action? I am positive, I am absolutely certain,
that given that span of time, it will be totally
vindicated and will be seen as it was absolutely the right
thing to do.
"What was destroyed in 35 years of systematic destruction
and looting cannot be reconstituted or rebuilt in two or
The speech resulted in mixed reviews. President Gregory
Farrington, who introduced Sumaidaie before his speech,
was quite pleased.
"I found it simply fascinating, so sincere,
straightforward and thoughtful. I'm so pleased I had the
opportunity to be here, complete with my purple finger."
Rob Hoxie, '04, said he didn't learn anything new from
"I would say he was fairly standard for a diplomat," Hoxie
said. "He didn't say anything very shocking."