The Chronicle’s View: Lend a hand to Iraq’s democracy

The United States is a country that prides itself on its democratic values. The same values that drove President George W. Bush to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power.

While troops in Iraq are still fighting to calm the violence erupting from insurgents trying to stop the upcoming election, those of us here in Utah can help secure democracy for the Iraqi people.

As U student Bryan Catherman, who returned from Iraq in 2004 after serving in the U.S. military, says, this is not a fight the Iraqis can win on their own. Catherman has set up a fund to help Utahn-Iraqi families make the trek to California to register to vote in the upcoming elections.

So far, the fund doesn’t have enough to fund even one family to travel there, but that can easily change.

U students have opened their hearts and their wallets to help those in need after the tsunami, and they should not ignore Iraq.

Utah has sent more reservists to Iraq than most states, and if we want our brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, sons and daughters to come home safely, Iraq must be stabilized. Holding an election and voting in an Iraqi to lead the country is the first, and perhaps the most important, step to doing this.

U students can donate money to the fund to help more Iraqi families make it to California and help determine the fate of their homeland. Many of these immigrant families cannot afford the $400 average cost of going to California and back to both register and then later vote.

Of course, money is not the only way. Some students have offered to drive or loan their cars to families that are making the trip. While that may be an even bigger inconvenience for many U students, there are still other ways to get involved.

One of the biggest problems the Iraqi and Arab communities face in Utah is ignorance. Many Utahns, and indeed many Americans, have several assumptions about the Iraqi culture. Getting to know people from Iraq who have resettled in Utah is the best way to learn about them and their culture.

Whether it’s donating money or simply offering words of encouragement, it’s important for U students to support Iraqi-Americans as they try to pave a new path to peace in their homeland.