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The flight of Iraqi Christians
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On Tuesday, September 11, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker sat down with 45 Senators to explain the U.S. Iraq policy and to take questions.

 Each senator had 7 minutes, and the questioning took several hours. The Senators repeatedly asked how long US troops would be in Iraq; they asked if we are making any progress in Iraq; and they commented on what a mess Iraq is.

 As far as I know, no one mentioned one of the clearest indicators of the coming collapse of the Iraq "democracy," that is, the flight of the Iraq "Chaldean" Christians. According to some estimates, Chaldean Christians in Iraq numbered about 1.5 million in the year 2000.

They now account for fewer than 500,000 Iraqis. In what has been called by some "the biggest persecution of Christians of our time," the 2,000 year old Christian community has been persecuted into taking flight. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Christians made up only 4 percent of the Iraqi population, but they make up 40 percent of the refuges. Could there be a clearer sign that democracy has failed, at least thus far, in Iraq?

Think of democracy as a beautiful flower, with roots going down into a rich soil. Uproot the flower, carry it over and bury it in a pile of rocks, and it generally will not last very long. Democracy needs good soil to survive, and religious freedom is a key component of the good soil.

Thomas Jefferson called the freedom of religion the first freedom. It is protected in the first clause of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Freedom of religion is what makes all other freedoms possible. Freedom of conscience and thought are prerequisites for free expression, freedom of press and freedom of association.