Until recent months, the democratic opposition to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was fixated on violent means of overthrowing the oppressive government. Now, stimulated by a fruitful debate in Washington on "Prospects for Democratic Chance in Iraq", sponsored by the Iraqi Democratic Institute, a new interest in nonviolent people power is surging.
Formerly, much of the Iraqi opposition adhered to the "General MacArthur" solution for getting rid of Saddam: a US military victory, followed by an imposed democratic transition, as in Japan after 1945. At the Washington Forum, Keiko Sakai reminded the participants that this was achieved only after two nuclear bombs had been dropped on his country.
At the forum a seminar was held on "Civilian Based Resistance and Regime Change in Iraq." It involved four strategists of struggles that had defeated dictators through nonviolent means -- including Colonel Robert Helvey, who was a major figure in the training of OTPOR, the group that nonviolently destroyed the regime of Yugoslavian dictator Slobodan Milosevic.
After the conference, stratgegies were developed to broadcast television documentaries in Iraq of other nonviolent struggles, including Steve York's films, Bringing Down a Dictator and A Force More Powerful. Underground Iraqi opposition figures are being encouraged to follow the strategies described in Gene Sharp's From Dictatorship to Democracy.