Jim Hake has launched one of the bravest programs to help the people of Iraq. Spirit of America, a Los Angeles non-profit has “deploy[ed] the best practices of the modern U.S. economy – efficiency and speed – around the margins of the Iraq war effort,” according to the Wall Street Journal. This economic assistance is critical to the transition of Iraq from tyranny to democracy.
I wholeheartedly support Jim and Spirit of America’s efforts. I’ve know Jim for a decade and his dedication to unleashing the potential in every person is extraordinary, a gift he has shared generously at every turn.
You may find it odd that a critic of the war enthusiastically supports Spirit of America, but I could not agree more with Jim’s assessment of the reasons for sending help to support the Iraqi election on January 2nd:
Tomorrow, we are launching the Iraq Democracy Project also known as “Friends of Democracy”. This is our most important initiative to date with the greatest opportunity to influence positively the future of Iraq. Here’s why.
In many ways, the war on terror – the struggle for freedom, progress and peace – boils down to success in Iraq. This is true whether you supported or opposed the policy that got us there. The stakes are enormous. That is why we see the level of violence in Iraq. The terrorists also know what is at stake.
The upcoming national elections (Jan. 2) can be the most visible symbol of success in Iraq. As the free elections in Afghanistan were a major blow to the Taliban, the elections in Iraq can be a crucial step in defeating the terrorists and stabilizing the country. This is an historic moment and there won’t be a second chance. We can make a difference.
Having begun the war, it is our responsibility to end it, and I believe that this kind of citizen-to-citizen project is essential to winning the peace rather than leaving a mess for the people of Iraq—and the rest of the world—to clean up. The war was a mistake, but it’s a mistake that has been made, so we should support this kind of effort to help Iraqis without exerting force alone.
Here’s the story of the Iraq Democracy Project. I urge you to give generously to support the project at the Spirit of America Web site:
IRAQ DEMOCRACY PROJECT – “FRIENDS OF DEMOCRACY”
The Iraq Democracy Project is the result of much work behind the scenes since last spring – working with both Americans serving in Iraq and Iraqis committed to advancing freedom and democracy. The Iraqis we are working with have mostly come to us through referrals and introductions by American military and civilian personnel.
In this project we are supporting the ideas and efforts of leading Iraqis. We have provided some assistance in brainstorming and developing plans but these are the projects of the Iraqis on the front lines of the struggle for their country’s future. It is what they believe will make a difference and what they are willing to risk their lives for. Spirit of America is in a support role.
We are supporting initiatives that have two main goals: (1) increase voter participation in Iraq’s January 2 election; and (2) encourage the Iraqi people to make informed decisions on the candidates. These projects will not advocate specific candidates or parties. But there is a good chance the days of Saddam Hussein and the Baathist regime will be accurately portrayed as a crime against humanity that the Iraqis should never allow again. That message is something Iraqis wish to communicate to their countrymen and encourage them to vote accordingly.
We have an ambitious goal for this project: $2 million. This reflects the high stakes of the Iraqi election and that we now have in place the relationships in Iraq to put these funds to good use. We’re already 25% to that goal as we’ll be using for this project $500,000 in funds previously donated to Spirit of America.
Friends of Democracy and the plan is described in more detail here:
Please note, in many cases we will not be able to publicize the specifics of the projects we are supporting as part of this effort. We will need to work quietly and we won’t be able to provide our normal level of transparency. Those who are visibly associated with Americans are much bigger targets for the terrorists. One of the men that is part of this effort, a prominent Iraqi publisher, was attacked earlier this year. He survived but his driver and bodyguard did not.
This makes a difficult situation for you – our donors. In the near term we won’t be able to tell you about some of the best things your donations make possible. We understand if that prevents your support. Unfortunately, there is no other way. Otherwise, we would get the brave Iraqis we are supporting kidnapped or killed.
Out of the blue last night my wife said, “I hope someday we’ll be able to visit Iraq with the boys and meet the people you’ve worked with.” I really look forward to that day. And I look forward to a big donor party where can talk freely about this and look back with great pride on what we’ve done here.
STATUS/TRAINING OF AL ANBAR TV STATIONS
Last spring many of you donated to provide equipment to Iraqi television stations in Al Anbar province. Al Anbar includes the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. This was initiated by a request from the 1st Marine Division. The equipment was delivered to the stations in June and July. The project is described here:
Two of the stations have used the equipment to produce local stories that people won’t see on Al Jazeera. The best examples are the stories on the opening of women’s centers in Ramadi and Habbaniyah. These centers offer Iraqi women a place to work and earn a living with sewing machines donated by Spirit of America. On our Web site we have clips from those stories that your donations made possible, see them here: http://www.spiritofamerica.net/site/video
While they may seem small things these stories are a big deal. Seeing progress and good news on Iraqi TV is as rare as it is here . in part because those that run those stories are at risk of being targeted by terrorists – progress is their enemy.
Last week we met with personnel from those stations to determine their needs and establish plans to provide training. Training is needed badly. In November we will provide technical and journalism training. Personnel from the stations will be trained in camera, lighting and sound operation and video editing. They will also be trained in writing, shooting and producing news stories and interviews. Don North, with extensive experience in Iraq and in television journalism, will be leading the Spirit of America’s training team. Don is also the producer of the documentary “Remembering Saddam.” The meetings confirmed that we can add great value to the success of the stations and their ability to inform and positively influence their communities.
NEW WEB SITE IS OPEN
Our new Web site is now up and running. This was a true Spirit of America team effort but I must highlight the extraordinary efforts of two young (by my standards) technical geniuses – Donovan Janus and Rhesa Rozendaal. Words cannot describe how much their work means to Spirit of America. If Web technology were used to cut wood, we just upgraded from a butter knife to a chainsaw. In another 2 months it will be a light saber (remember Star Wars?).
Our site has lots of new information you’ve never seen. You can watch video from TV coverage of Spirit of America and kids playing in Iraq with Frisbees donated by SoA here: http://www.spiritofamerica.net/site/video
You can find our year to date financials and detailed project financials here: http://www.spiritofamerica.net/site/financials
Donors will be getting a separate email today giving you login instructions to your member account and dashboard. Once you login, in your member dashboard you’ll be able to see your donations and get links to updates on projects you have supported. You’ll find tools to tell your friends about Spirit of America or invite them to become members and keep track of how many accept.
That’s all for now.
Onward and upward,
Jim Hake and everyone at Spirit of America