Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iraqi-Americans Rue War, Voice Concern for Homeland

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iraqi-Americans Rue War, Voice Concern for Homeland

Article excerpt

GRAB some refreshment, we're celebrating," says Sabah Gewarges, a real estate broker and member of the second-largest Iraqi community in the United States. In his small office near a string of Iraqi-owned businesses here, Mr. Gewarges and Iraqi-American colleagues have been riveted to radio reports of the systematic bombing of their one-time homeland.

"The quicker and the bigger the retaliation (toward Iraq) the better - the sooner our families and friends can throw off the chains of this madman, Hussein," says Gewarges.

Adds Amer Karmo, president of the Babylon Chaldean Iraqi-American Association: "Saddam Hussein is not Iraq, though that is all America has been hearing from its media."

Mr. Karmo, Gewarges, and most of the estimated 60,000 Iraqis who have migrated to the US in the past few decades, are Roman Catholic Chaldeans, descendants of a Semitic people who settled in Babylonia in about 1000 BC. Ninety percent of Iraq's 16 million-plus population is Muslim. The more than half-million Chaldean Christians that remain include Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. Residents of this small suburb of San Diego are very aware of the concentration of Iraqis - second in number only to that in Detroit - in their midst. Most of the Iraqis here run small businesses - including restaurants, liquor stores, car washes, and garages.

If these Iraqi-Americans, most of them US citizens, feel any divided loyalty between their home and adopted countries, they are not admitting it to the many media representatives who have descended on this community in recent weeks.

"We love our (former) country and the families and friends that remain," says Ray Daniel, who grew up in a town 300 miles north of Baghdad. "But we are first and foremost Americans. After all, this is the country that allows us to be who we are." However, Bob Hanna, an Iraqi property manager, says: "Ever since I have come here, I have been astonished at (Americans') lack of knowledge about the outside world." He fears that, should Americans want to lash out at Iraq, the Chaldean community might be victimized. …

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