by Bro. Richard J. Filippi.
Reprinted in part from the December 2006 Philalethes Magazine.
Five years ago I attended a special course on Civil-Military relations. The course was attended by ranking military and political members of various Middle Eastern countries. The few American officers attending were there to assist and sponsor our guests and make their stay a warm and positive experience. As one of these officers, I got to know several of the students during their two-week stay in Florida. Included in the group were four members representing the Iraqi National Congress (the then U.S. back pseudo-Iraqi government in exile). Among them was a former Iraqi Lt. Colonel who had escaped Iraq with his family after the 1990-91 Gulf War. Yarab was of Kurdish heritage and joined the ill fated, U.S. encouraged, uprising after the 1991 armistice with Saddam. He was imprisoned and only through the bravery and sacrifice of his wife and family, was able to escape and make their way to Canada via Syria, Jordon and Europe. Yarab had joined the Iraqi National Congress in hopes of one day returning a free man to his beloved country. We had many enjoyable discussions over dinner. We spoke about our upbringing, our children and our hopes and dreams. He told me that he wished one day to take me to his favorite seafood restaurant in Baghdad. This would be a good thing.
Returning to our guest rooms one evening we shared an elevator. Yarab abruptly stopped the elevator, turned and looked me square in the eyes and accusingly said, "You're one of them? - Aren't you!" I was taken back - I didn't know what he was implying. Was I what: an American, a spy, a capitalist, or a Republican? My mind raced, trying to discover an answer to his question. He then looked down toward my right hand and motioned with his eyes. Ah. Now I knew what he was asking. I responded with a muted, but neutral "Yes." At that he grasped me in an enthusiastic bear hug and with a smile beaming ear-to-ear said, "So am I - brother!" At that point, our relationship moved to another level.
He was a Freemason. He told me that to be a Freemason in Saddam's Iraq meant certain death and imprisonment of your entire family. He knew a few other Iraqi Freemason's, by their signs, words or deeds, but there were no Lodges or meetings in Iraq. Yarab told me he felt his grandfather, who was also an officer, was a Freemason. His grandfather never said he was but many years later, after Yarab was Raised, he remembered some of his grandfathers now relevant phrases, gestures and deeds from his childhood. From that moment on we were as childhood friends. Later we lost contact and I've wondered if Yarab ever got back to Baghdad.
I've gained a new respect for the tenets of Freemasonry. It is easier for us to make the commitment to a belief or organization when that choice isn't life threatening. Could we do the same if our lives and families were put in extreme jeopardy? It is a sobering thought and one that caused me to renew my vows and dedication to the brotherhood.
Sent to Cinosam by:
Bro. Dwight D. Seals