Local dentist tells of Iraqi life, changes

A native of Iraq, dentist Niza Mansour was asked to share his experience with Oxford Rotarians. He wasn’t sure what to say.
‘I went to the Internet and Googled ‘Iraqi culture? and only got 14 million hits,? said Mansour, an Oxford dentist and a member of the Oxford Rotary Club. ‘I am not a public speaker, but I will tell you what I think.?
Dr. Mansour chose his words carefully and spoke with emotion of the country and people he left in 1974. About 40 Rotarians and their guests listened intently after their weekly luncheon on March 29, at Oxford Hills Golf and Country Club.
‘Iraqis are good, hard working people. They are very industrious. First comes family, then there is a tribal mentality. Social engineers changed everything in Iraq. That is when things went down,? Dr. Mansour said.
‘I was born and raised in Baghdad and went to high school with the Jesuits. By 1973 I was a full-fledged dentist. When I was growing up, the geography books said there were seven million people in my country. This past January we were told there were 20 million — four million are scattered all over the world.
‘To understand the complexities of the situation, you need to understand that the north (of Iraq) is different than the south. And, the south is different within itself. In the mountains, people were mainly tradesman. In the south it was agriculture ? the social engineers took everybody from agriculture and moved them into industry.?
And, with the Saddam Hussein regime came more struggles with surrounding countries.
‘Whenever there was a problem with Turkey or Syria, another dam was built on the Tigris or Euprhates — soon there was less water for the agricultural south. Where once we exported crops to the world, now we are importing anything and everything.
‘We were raised on right and wrong. There was nothing in between ? when Saddam came, loyalty was not with the family any more. You were trapped to get ahead however you could. They created a bunch of thugs to run the country based on fear.
‘Fifteen years after I left, I planned to take my wife back to Iraq for two weeks. We left after five days. It was not safe, that was in 1989.
‘Today, Iraqis suffer differently. The people are demoralized. Saddam gave them minimal safety, but they had water, food. Now there is little safety, water and no electricity in parts of Iraq. People are charged ransoms so their family members are not taken.
‘Is everyone happy (with the United States)? No. But, you got to live with it. A third party, insurgents are trying to undercut what we are trying to do. And the only way now is to pound on the insurgents.
‘George Bush versus Saddam. You don’t need a brain to figure out Bush is better. I’ll tell you this, throughout most of the Arab world, George Bush is loved. Most of the people in the Arab world are oppressed and there is one reason why they love Bush. Bush gave them a positive outlook on the future. Not today, but in the future there is hope.
‘We live with what happens there every day. And, we are very blessed to be living here in the United States. The Iraqis are decent people and I am hoping that decency will prove something.?
Dr. Mansour added one final thought, that brought his discussion to full circle.?
‘As before they will have to rely on family, to get by day by day, and then