A Legal Golden Eagle
Building Hope in Iraq One Law at a Time
By Lucas Roebuck '97
Thursday, December 2, 2004
Traveling on the road from the green Zone to the Baghdad airport, JBU alumna Myriah Jordan ’99 was apprehensive when her SUV became stuck in traffic.
“We started buzzing down the main highway, windows open, weapons pointed outside, and traffic came to a halt,” Jordan said. “Of course, my first thought is, A traffic jam on the way to the airport, and I’m going to end up late.” My second thought is, A traffic jam on the way to the airport, and we’re a giant, sitting target in the middle of one of the most dangerous roads in Iraq.”
Jordan, who works as an attorney in the Chief Counsel’s Office of the Economic Development Administration of the United States Commerce Department in Washington D.C., spent several months in Iraq helping to rewrite Iraq’s commercial law for the Coalition Provisional Authority before the handover of sovereignty to the interim Iraq government.
Jordan was heading from the Green Zone, the expansive headquarters of the provisional government, to catch a flight to the nation of Jordan where she would give a speech at a convention about the laws she was drafting that deal with non-governmental organizations. She had not left Baghdad since arriving in Iraq in February three months earlier. Now they were stopped in traffic by a truck full of unsecured bricks that had flipped on the road ahead.
“Just as we think we’re going to get out of the mess, the guys in front of us stop their car. They get out, dressed in traditional Arabic garb and pop the hood, right in the middle of the exit,” she said.
Aware of similar tactics employed by terrorists in the area, the two “shooters” who were in the vehicle became concerned, Jordan said, and they prepared their rifles.
“The guys in front of us were trying to hold us there,” Jordan said. “My shooters raised their weapons, and my driver backed out of the exit ramp, cut across more traffic, and flew across a field, down another road. As we lopped down the other road, we saw the men in robes close the hood to their ‘broken down’ vehicle, and move on down the make-shift exit.”
For Jordan, being a single American civilian woman in a turbulent Iraq was worth the risk for the good of freedom and democracy that was being worked out in Iraq.
“Every day I have a sense that I’m right in the middle of history, and I’m watching it unfold in a way that I wouldn’t be able to from back in the States,” she said in a recent interview with Jocelyn Green, writer for the Council for Christians Colleges & Universities. “I also know that I’m serving a cause much bigger than myself. I really believe in what we’re doing to help the Iraqi people, and for me, that meant that I should be willing to give up a little segment of my life to go help out in any way I could…in the end, because of what we’re doing here, I would have come to Iraq to make copies all day, just to be a part of it.”
Jordan, who studied journalism at JBU and served as editor of the Threefold Advocate, later went to law school at the University of Texas. She proved to be adept in legal matters while studying in Texas, combining her journalism training and law degree to work as an editor for both The Review of Litigation and the Texas Review of Law and Politics. Also while in the Lone Star state, she served both the governor and Texas Supreme Court as a legal intern.
Her interest in politics and law led her to a post at the Economic Development Administration, which “detailed” her to the Department of Defense for deployment to Iraq. She was asked to serve her country as a civilian helping to bring modern, democratic law to the commerce of that Middle Eastern nation.
Jordan contends that Iraq is on the right track and that the American news media have portrayed the situation with darker hues than those that color reality. However, she says, the specter of death is real, even in the Green Zone, and the grief over human loss hands heavy.
While in Iraq, Jordan was strengthened through chapel services, where many came for support after suffering loss. Jordan said one service particularly showed the need for divine comfort.
“Our chaplain began his sermon, and didn’t make it far before he was interrupted,” she said. “A marine walked in, and apologized for interrupting. He had just lost two of his men, and needed someone to pray with him. The chaplain stopped right then, placed his arm around the marine’s shoulders, and prayed out loud.”
Jordan said the chaplain was used to dealing with such distress—but she was not.
“After the prayer, the soldier thanked us, re-shouldered his rifle, and returned to duty. The chaplain picked right up where he left of in his sermon.”
While Jordan had high praise for the men and women in uniform, she was not as gracious with some members of the news media who had come to Iraq to cover the war.
“The American media is atrocious,” she said. “They send people over here just so that they can put a Baghdad dateline on their stories, but then they never get out in Baghdad.”
Jordan said Iraq is dangerous, but because the journalists don’t get out, they are prone to “pack journalism,” reporting on the stories that “fall into their lap” and failing to report a whole picture of conflict and development.
And yet in the midst of negative press and real violence, Jordan contends Iraq is improving.
“Admittedly, there is violence throughout Iraq,” Jordan said. “Yet tremendous progress has been made in Iraq, at a rate faster than that of post-World War II Europe. The improved schools, greater utility capacity, immunization programs, health clinics, increasing jobs, an emerging, independent court system, progress in women’s rights, a new constitution, a new sense of freedom, etc., get little or no attention from the media.”
For Jordan, the brightest hope for Iraq is seen in the faces of its children.
“I had some little toys I’d been planning on giving out to the kids, and I went down to this alley where I always see a lot of them playing,” Jordan said. “As it turned out, it was too hot even for them to be outside, but when one of the men saw me looking for them, he ran inside to get them. They were absolutely thrilled.”
Jordan said the children were well-mannered and gracious.
“I think we played with every toy in the bag,” she said. “When I told them I had to go, they all promptly handed back all the toys—no whining or pleading. I told them they could keep all that they wanted, and they gleefully dug their hands back in the bag.”
Acts of goodwill such as Jordan experienced with these children will be the foundation of good relations between a post-Saddam Iraq and the United States, Jordan said.