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Prayer of the Refugee: My Interview with Sam the Iraqi

“Warm yourself by the fire, son,
And the morning will come soon.
I’ll tell you stories of a better time,
In a place that we once knew.
Before we packed our bags
And left all this behind us in the dust,
We had a place that we could call home,
And a life no one could touch.”

“Prayer of the Refugee” – Rise Against

Sam the Assyrian never had any intentions of telling his story to this news outlet or any other, and his story only came after a cordial friendship had been forged between us, and the two gentlemen who had introduced Sam to me, Greg Finley and Morgan Reynolds. An amount of safety and authenticity had been measured and gauged by all participants in the group. 

This being said, Sam’s story is something that rightfully deserves to play its own part in the discussion of concepts like the War on Terror, the Refugee Crisis, US Foreign Policy, and the culture of secularization that has been fostered within postmodern Mainstream culture. Since Sam left his story in the hands of The Last American Vagabond, it was felt that we had a personal responsibility to make sure the coverage of this man’s viewpoint was done honorably and with the appropriate discretion.  

Sam the Refugee

The first time I met Sam, the Assyrian refugee from Iraq, I felt a genuine personal connection with him. In his early twenties, Sam had worked as an interpreter for US forces during the initial Iraqi invasion of 2003 before he was even 13. He had shaggy, black curly hair and a small scruff of facial hair that covered his jaw. His words were articulate, his tone was soft-spoken yet passionate, and there was a deep sorrow hidden behind the immediate façade of his social presence. Before reaching puberty, Sam had seen more grit and disturbance as an interpreter than some people see in their lifetimes, and it wasn’t something that he wore on his sleeve. Yet what he had seen were things that he was forced to carry with him everyday, sitting at the forefront of his mind. Very much so, it was evident that Sam felt like a young man displaced in time, space, and culture–and he knew this, wearing it like a badge of honor.

Our first meeting took place in Anchorage, Alaska (my hometown), through Mr. Finley and Mr. Reynolds. Far from being any special insiders, these two men in their early twenties had come across Sam simply in their adventures around Anchorage for that summer. For a brief period of time, Sam had even used Mr. Reynolds’ living room as a place to sleep. This was a life experience that subsequently became much more than we had intended or ever expected, and all of it was done in person, face to face–not a single shred of conversation was held in an IM chat-room.

Sam was not a person of the usual social caliber, and openly stated that he had shades of PTSD that he was still dealing with; abrupt and loud noises from people or anything else notably made him physiologically anxious, and at one point during a specific occasion, he had to leave and go for a walk by himself because of the stress he felt from an abrupt yet seemingly mundane encounter. This is not to illustrate Sam’s mental discrepancies, but rather to illustrate how well he actually held it together after the things he had seen, which brings us to the next point.

On April 10th, a Friday over six months after I had seen him last, I twiddled my thumbs and reviewed my notes as I waited for Sam to come by. He had been off on his own adventures, moving jobs, and he had left my friend’s living room after an argument with Morgan’s roommate. For a time, we had not even heard from Sam, but eventually we received contact; still waiting a bit longer before actually seeing him in person once again. During our brief interlude of communication with Sam, I had become invigorated and deeply inspired to write a piece on him documenting his tribulations–something that had been discussed before, and we even attempted to record a conversation for the official record, but the recording itself was inadequate. So there, on that overcast Friday afternoon, with an almost palpable ominous foreboding of the heavy discussion to come, was our first official reunion with Sam since his departure.

I’ve been writing ever since I was a small child, and was no stranger to analysis and nonfiction write-ups, but a true interview about specific life events that helped shape a person and an entire culture of people is something that I had never considered myself in the equation of, and I must admit that I was not prepared. At first having heard Sam’s tale and ideas about the War on Terror from a conversational and more generalized level, I was aware of the heavy subject matter–but when he brought the details for the full record, the combination of this and my greenhorn nature not only completely blew me away, but forced me to reassess some fundamental ideas that I had about politics, and even catalyzed many changes in how I perceived my own personal life on a daily basis. The information was heavy enough, but for one to see the eyes of a man as he recounts such trying events, is something that really changes a person, and it is truly something that altered me for the better. 

The entire recording of the conversation can be heard here:

The Interview

Born an Orthodox Catholic in the heart of Iraq, Sam’s childhood was at the peak of Saddam Hussein’s Islāmic regime. My friend was quick to admit two things right off the bat: 1) Saddam Hussein was essentially a dog of a man who needed to be thrown from power, and 2) the Invasion of the United States military, contrary to facilitating modern civilization, had and continues to paralyze the country of Iraq and has effectively robbed it entirely of its structural-cultural integrity. Sam does not claim to have any secret documents, he has no spectacular stories of being privy to massive conspiracies or anything like this, but put simply: Sam remains a living piece of evidence to innumerable war crimes done by both the US government to the public of Iraq, and to many unnamed US soldiers who participated in Vietnam-esque acts of violence against the Iraqi people. This is why Sam was understandably hesitant to tell his tale, eventually feeling that it was indeed something that he had a responsibility to share with anyone who cared to listen. 

As well, Sam elaborated on the religious parameters that permeate the culture between the different Islāmic denominations of Sunni and Shiite, along with the outlier percentage of Orthodox Catholicism wedged somewhere in between, not to mention the age-long social warfare between Iraqis of Assyrian descent and of Arabic descent. Because of the cultural bigotry under the reign of Saddam Hussein, Sam, his family and their fellow families strove—usually fruitlessly—to retain any sense of Assyrian social equality. After the repeated prejudice of Saddam towards the Iraqi Assyrians, by essentially outlawing the teaching of their native Assyrian language, Sam and his people did what they could to teach it and promulgate their culture—doing so within their churches, within their supposed religious freedoms; the only safe place they felt they had. Not surprisingly, Hussein would not allow such education to take place, for not long after inception of the schoolrooms, the dictator mandated that schools become a public service, and the Assyrians found they had effectively and unwillingly donated large portions of their worship areas to their classist Iraqi counterparts.

Sam recalled at this time being a young boy, not yet breaking his double digits of age. When word of the US Military Invasion was confirmed and made its way through all the “grape-vines” of local conversations and gossip, he recalled a sense of anticipation and excitement, speculating that this could be the change that the country needed. Everyone around him had silently awaited Saddam’s overthrow for quite some time, and being a boy amidst the social pandemonium around him, Sam saw this as his chance to aid a revolution. Within days of the US touchdown, the entire country was put into a state that could very easily be considered a Police State, with soldiers of both sides and weaponry all around. Due to the unrest that the US invasion helped facilitate, the country of Iraq went into a total cultural shutdown astonishingly fast. Within weeks, there were no banks, electricity or running water; not a single store, let alone one with any food items; no hospitals or pharmacies, and certainly nothing dedicated to any sort of recreation. The military conflict between the US and its War on Terror had put the entire country’s cultural infrastructure to a halt, and thrown it into the backseat. So without much to lose, Sam used his bilingual talents to become a translator for the US forces. 

Doing this for a number of years, Sam not only grew to be brutally, unflinchingly aware of the duality of US foreign policy, but of the hatred that this policy fostered within the people and the community that he had been raised in. It soon became clear that because of his involvement with the enemy (whom he was indeed coming to understand as an enemy) the Islāmic opposition began targeting him as well. 

Both Sam and his family became the brunt of an onslaught of intimidation tactics, ranging from death-threat letters to fired bullets. Additionally, while Sam and his family endured these things from their local community, Sam also witnessed US soldiers openly murder innocent civilians time and time again without consequence due to classical “Rules of Engagement.” If one finds this an untrue or controversial statement, Wikileaks’ declassified video entitled “Collateral Murder” is an easy source that most people are aware of. The footage shows US soldiers gunning down Iraqi civilians over supposed suspicious activity, which turned out to be over a camera with a telephoto lens. These soldiers as well were met with no consequence, and can even be heard in the video congratulating each other on confirmed kills. Again, no single amount of information can illustrate a specific soldier’s heart or state of mind, but regarding how our military treats foreign civilians, it is undoubtedly appalling and inhumane. 

As well, Sam told me in an understandably few amount of words that his situation reached a critical point, and although his US involvement was in many ways the apex of his problems, it proved to save his life when it granted Sam UN Witness Protection after this critical point. He quickly fled to Syria, ending his career as a translator before he had even become a teenager. Sam remained in Syria for seven years. He chose not to elaborate on any specific details for the interview. While a protected witness in Syria, Sam eventually became aware of the Refugee program that he was unknowingly quite eligible for, and through some hard work and dedication, came to find himself on a flight to the US, destination unknown. 

Originally arriving in Texas, Sam eventually made his way to Anchorage, where he has remained a young and bright man adrift a jilted culture–admittedly cynical about the culture’s improvement. Of his current spiritual beliefs, Sam briefly said off-record with a smile that the more he thought about it, the more I feel like I am just energy,” and indeed aren’t we all. Sam also expressed interest in Peter Joseph and Julian Assange, and spoke of the beauty of psychedelic therapy, as well as recommending to me Tom Hanks’ performance in the movie, Cloud Atlas. However, Assange’s situation also seemed to be a notable point of frustration for the Assyrian, for despite all the cats that WikiLeaks has released from the bag, the only thing it has truly achieved is well over 1,000 days in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy for Assange. So, understandably, in a world where anyone with an internet connection can find official documentation proving the United States military of war crimes in Iraq, Sam continues to stay proportionately skeptical about the current state of affairs.

Along with his story, he also spoke to me of biological engineering, nanotechnology, transhumanism and the like; and he remarked with exasperation at the wasted potential of our global society. As we live in a world where science has verged on the realm of sorcery, Sam urges the necessity of all humans uniting together:

“We don’t have the power. The power is capitalism and the power is money because we let it happen. We forgot who we are.”

Elaborating on this subject and speaking of America and the other first world countries alike:

“We have everything we need here. Information, tools—we have everything, basically! But it falls down to the individual and it falls down to the environment he came from—his principles, his morals, his ethics and this kind of thing, because that is what builds personality.” 

During the interview, Sam also expanded on a few other cultural concepts such as terrorism, 9/11, and groups like al-Qaeda and the Islāmic State. Sam personally agreed with our sentiments of NATO-funded false flag terrorism, as discussed by FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds (although we didn’t know of Edmonds herself at the time). Both Edmonds and researcher James Corbett have gone to extensive lengths to lay out the known information on what is considered Operation: GLADIO B, which serves as a continuation of source funding and training by NATO to Islamic radical groups, that were originally funded during the Cold War as stay-behind troops for US Defense.

In retrospect, Sam commented on the level of propaganda being forced onto his people at the time. Through what can be seen as a form of the Hegelian Dialectic, making them choose between the US invasion or the classified NATO funding of what appeared to be grass-roots local rebel groups to Sam and his community. Because of this, the community as a whole was sold by the idea of the rebel groups casting out the “infidel” and rebuilding their community, unaware of how these rebel groups were being portrayed in the Western Media. And, of course, these rebel groups have progressed and grown increasingly more and more misguided and aggressive since their early inceptions that Sam discusses. Sam told me that the bulk of the Islāmic State is a last-ditch effort of an embittered people looking for a way out of their social turmoil. While he clarified multiple times that he was very against any sort of terrorist act, he admitted that he could understand how a man can get to the point of terrorism within his own mind, saying that it is an act of desperation and that one can usually not think rationally when desperate. Of the 9/11 “terrorist attacks,” Sam clarified that he had nothing more than what is public information and could not prove anything himself, but believed that it had indeed been orchestrated by the US government. 

The interview ended on a note of uncertainty, all of us clearly bearing a cognitive dissonance in a way, struggling to incorporate the many new contrasting and overshadowing ideas with we were once sure so sure of. But thanks to the warm and friendly company of the room, the crispy embrace of blueberry cannabis sativa, and the smooth, atmospheric beats of Shlohmo’s Dark Red album, we found ourselves taking the evening into the night. After speaking of possible plans for the future over a final shared American Spirit cigarette, Sam and my two friends departed.

Alone, I felt wavered—shaken by what I had heard and unsure of what it all meant initially. Even with time of reflection to distance myself from the interview, I felt quite lost, with an overwhelming sense of disjointedness—a misplacement. I felt an orphan to a culture that I didn’t belong or fit into, and the only answer I could ever really seem to come up with is this: We need to understand that we all stem from the same source, no matter the religion, or skin-tone, or culture, or ethnicity. And in this understanding of unity, we must find ourselves–our truest higher understanding of who we are and what role we play in the betterment of our communities. The answer is not a one-world government, but a society that recognizes the sovereignty of the individual as the conduit to a community. And not ironically, these were the very same points that Sam stressed as well. 

This world is encroaching upon a time where it cannot afford indifference. For every single able-bodied person who sits on the sideline, there are other able-bodies suffering, and the wealth distribution has left most of the world hanging on its hinges. For the past few decades, America and its cohorts have been happy to sit in their cultural bubbles of the petrodollar (among other things) while entire continents like Africa shout out. But now, with the working class infrastructure of the US continuing to crumble, where else will there be left to hide? If public services are incapacitated, how will one find time to binge-watch Netflix? If someone is unable to buy food at any stores, then what will that mean for McDonald’s? This is the point: If the civilians to the Globalization Surveillance State keep burying their heads in their own filth, then pretty soon the filth will be all that is left. The truth is that the American public has been lied to for a very long time, and that in many paralleled and disturbing ways, the War on Terror is Vietnam all over again, but with greater implications. The US government is unarguably committing war crimes in the Middle East, and in this day and age, apathy doesn’t translate to indifference anymore—it translates to a body count.

As for my friend Sam, the following months after this interview gave way to many more meetings, discussions and smoking. There was talk of following up the interview as well, but on one summer afternoon, Sam pleasantly surprised me at my house, with some good, albeit somber news. Still part of the Witness Protection program, he had just received word that more of his family had made their way through the program to safety, so Sam was off to reunite with them the following day. We exchanged goodbyes and tried hard to not linger on the subject, knowing that we could very likely never see each other again. I gave him my phone number, and although that has since become outdated, since Sam still knows my name and The Last American Vagabond, I hold solace in the fact that Sam could contact me should he ever be in trouble. Unfortunately, I have not heard from him since he has left, something I had anticipated with the circumstances. So, to Sam, wherever you are, I hope you are warm, with a roof over your head, food in your pantry, loved ones around you, and cannabis in your pipe. I do love you, brother!


Anthony Tyler
A journalist and author from Anchorage, Alaska, Anthony Tyler aims to twist the knife in both phony new-age ideals and scientific materialism by drawing attention to the rich heritage of esoteric science throughout history. Far from being “satanist,” the esoteric (i.e. occultism or comparative religion) marks the beginning of mathematics, astronomy, psychology, medicine, and even politics. Esoteric science represents a cache of little-known knowledge detailing how to decipher the human's unconscious mind--and the unconscious mind is essentially everything that the human mind is not considering at any given moment.

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