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Local man helping plan for a post-Saddam Iraq
Tuesday, October 1, 2002
BY ANTHONY SHADID
Emanuel Kamber is convinced a U.S. military intervention or outright war against Iraq is the action to take, and now.
Kamber, a professor of physics at Western Michigan University, says he is in a position to know: Born in Iraq, he is part of a coalition of Iraqi exiles working with the U.S. State Department to pave the way for a new government when and if Saddam Hussein is deposed.
"We would like to see a regime change," the 52-year-old Kamber said, sitting in his small office on WMU's campus.
"We want him (Saddam Hussein) to get the message that the people do not like him anymore. He needs to leave to let Iraqis live in peace with people throughout the world."
Kamber is among the scores of Iraqi exiles who are quietly planning the future of their homeland after Saddam Hussein -- planning for everything from war-crimes trials and a transitional ruling council to specific projects like rejuvenating the marshes in the south that are home to a fading, 5,000-year-old culture.
The State Department has funded the exiles' work, which began in the spring and intensified last month amid the flurry of activity signaling Washington's determination to oust Hussein.
U.S. officials acknowledge that the planning is designed in part to avoid past mistakes in places like Afghanistan and the Balkans, where U.S. military preparation outpaced civilian efforts.
Iraqi participants say they are trying to wrap up initial work by the end of October, when a broad meeting of the Iraqi opposition is planned in Europe. Kamber is not sure yet whether he will be attending that meeting.
The effort, which will eventually cost $5 million, is an attempt to address fears that a post-Hussein aftermath could be messy, and that the administration has done too little to plan for it.
Meetings already have taken place in Washington, D.C., and Surrey, England, and another gathering is set for later this week in Italy.
The State Department believes the six Iraqi working groups can lay the groundwork for everything from humanitarian and environmental issues to potentially explosive questions such as amnesty for members of the current government.
The groups also are working on the legitimacy of a transitional government and the outlines of a decentralized, federal government -- a principle the majority of the Iraqi opposition has already embraced.
More than 80 Iraqis are taking part in the planning. They include academics, physicians, former members of the Iraqi military and leaders of different opposition groups, some of whom could play leadership roles in a future Iraqi government.
Kamber said he is the only person from Kalamazoo on the committee, which includes other Iraqi-exiles, primarily from the Detroit and Chicago areas.
"A large number of Iraqis, they would like to see a democratic system in Iraq that guarantees human rights and equality of all citizens," Kamber said. "A lot of people, when they get the chance to leave Iraq, they join the opposition."
Kamber's work with the committee involves drafting a guideline for what he calls a future "Iraq Bill of Rights,'' based on the U.S. model.
The bill of rights would provide protection for people from illegal detentions and death sentences without the benefit of a fair trial, and ensure rights for all citizens, particularly those from such minority groups as the Assyrians, to which Kamber belongs.
The Assyrians, also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs, make up about 5 percent of the Iraqi population, which is about 80 percent Arab and around 15 percent Kurd.
Kamber said a large majority of American citizens of Iraqi descent -- about 300,000 people -- are of Assyrian ancestry.
Kamber says it is critical that Hussein follow human-rights guidelines as established by United Nations Resolution 668 after the Persian Gulf War.
The average Iraqi does not want Hussein in power because his regime frequently commits civil rights abuses, he said.
"I think it's very important that the American (public) should learn about this," Kamber said.
He last visited his homeland in 1980. He moved to Europe before coming to the United States in 1985, settling in Kalamazoo four years later.
He lives here with his wife and two children.
Kamber said the group of Iraqi exiles, who have been known to each other for a while, has been working for years to have Hussein removed.
Stephanie Esters can be reached
at 388-8554 or se@
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