Brown Excludes Iraqi Group As

Brown excludes Iraqi Group as “Dangerous” in Memphis

AP reports from Memphis that a Memphis councilman barred a visiting Iraqi delegation on a State Department tour of the United States from city hall.

The seven Iraqis, who are meeting elected officials in Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago, were supposed to meet Memphis councilman Joe Brown on Monday, but he refused, saying “he feared the group was dangerous.” Brown is chairman of the city council.


“We don’t know exactly what’s going on. Who knows about the delegation, and has the FBI been informed?” Brown said. “We must secure and protect all the employees in that building.” Elisabeth Silverman, the group’s host and head of the Memphis Council for International Visitors, said Brown told her he would “evacuate the building and bring in the bomb squads” if the group entered.

One of the visitors, 31-year-old Shahla Wali, of Baghdad, according to AP remarked of the civil rights struggle in Memphis:


“I heard there was a kind of majority-minority conflict in Memphis, especially in history,” she said. “We have these smaller provinces, and we have majority-minority conflicts in these places.”

There are lots of potential twists and ironies here. Joe Brown is an African-American, treating Arabs rather the way Jim Crow whites treated blacks before 1964. Shahla Wali is, from her name, a Shiite Iraqi whose people were oppressed by the Saddam regime but who are poised now to take power in Iraq. What lesson does she take from Brown’s comments? That once a people throws off the chains of bigotry they should feel free to clap other, weaker peoples in the same manacles that used to bind them?

That there was something wrong with Brown’s methods on the city council should have been apparent from the raucous confrontations of this spring. Brown got into a shouting match with another council member:


[Carol Chumney:] “I’m gonna stand up for the people of Memphis and if you don’t like that I’m sorry.”

[Joe Brown]: “Everyone one of us will stand up for the people we represent Carol and if you don’t understand that you’re mighty stupid.” . . . .

That was the tone of Tuesday’s face off between Carol Chumney, E. C. Jones and Joe Brown .

Jones and Brown aren’t happy Chumney has made public statements about her colleagues and their fights with the Mayor, at one point calling the squabbles “petty.” . . .

Council member Joe Brown said, “You did use profanity on the staff. You want 12 or 13 witnesses? I have not called. You were irate in that particular office on March fourth and your tones were going all over the office.”

Chumney says she did once call a memo from Brown “B-S,” but has never used profanity on a staffer and she feels she’s working as hard as her constituents want her to.

You begin to sympathize with Chumney. B.S. indeed.

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