The Haunted Embassy
The strange and delightful story of Achmed Alkaissy, the last remaining employee of Iraq's American embassy.
11:00 PM, Nov 23, 2003 • By ERIC PFEIFFER
Several of Alkaissy's relatives served in the Hussein regime. His uncle was a high-ranking member of Iraqi intelligence. Now thousands of former Baathists, who chose not to fight coalition forces (including his uncle) are unemployed. "When I talk to my uncle, he says, 'Ask them to bring us back. Bring the intelligence back, the secret service. Those who abused human rights put them in jail. Most of us are just employees. Put us in a different category. At least we could help the Americans to settle the security problem.'" Alkaissy says he has written Condoleezza Rice and offered his assistance to the State Department as a liason between former Baathists and U.S. forces but hasn't received a response.
Contrary to popular opinion, Alkaissy insists Iraqis are not the main threat to coalition forces. He blames unemployment and Iranians. "To have a job or get an education in Iraq you had to be a Baath party member. But over 90 percent of the people didn't support Saddam. Now, half the population is out of jobs. They cannot feed their families. Who will they find that will support them? Maybe a previous regime will bring them to the opposition. Or, you will find the Iranians supporting them trying to bring an Islamic government to Iraq."
"They'll forget about this 'nice life' in the Saddam era because now they are free," he continues. "The main problem is the Iranians. They are creating some friction. When I talk to anyone over there they say the Americans are going to be here for a while and then they will leave. But the Iranians, they will try to stay."
ALKAISSY SEES IRAQ as a new beacon of hope not only for the Middle East, but for all countries suffering under oppressive regimes. He sees a nation that will serve as a testament to freedom around the world. And once his work at the Iraqi embassy is done, he plans to return to his native country and start his own political party. "It will be the Iraqi Republican party. These critics will say anything about George Bush. I don't care what they say. He's a good man. He made the tough decision and did the right thing."
In the meantime, Washington's own patch of Iraqi soil and its lone representative await reconstruction, slowly exorcising the demons left behind on Saddam's American real estate. As we look out the ballroom windows, the maintenance workers have cut away a significant portion of the weeds that just hours ago consumed the grounds. A block away in Dupont Circle, fliers are posted with the phrase, "End the occupation now! U.S. forces out of Iraq!" When I mention this, Achmed shakes his head and smiles, "They are entitled to their opinion. And now, thankfully, Iraqis are too." Then, he repeats, "Bush, he is a good man."
Eric Pfeiffer is a writer in Washington D.C.