On the shores of the Tigris River sits 40 acres of prime real estate which recently was home to a compound used by Saddam Hussein’s secret police.
The location has since been bombed by coalition forces, and looted by local Iraqis.
Now, a retired U.S. Navy commander is leading the charge to turn the remnants of the police camp into a first-class camp and training facility for Boy Scouts in Iraq, and have Scouting flourish once again in the region.
Chip Beck, a former Scout himself and father of one, accepted the Pentagon’s call to serve in Iraq as a civilian advisor with the Coalition Provisional Authority, and found in Baghdad a large number of fellow workers who also happened to be involved with Scouting.
“Scouting is perceived with tremendous excitement and receptivity, because it’s been here for 50 years. It’s got its own Iraqi face to it,” Beck said on Joseph Farah’s WorldNetDaily Radioactive program. “We in America sometimes tend to think that Boy Scouts of America [is] the only Scouting organization in the world, when in fact it is one of 217.”
The Boy Scouts originally were established in Iraq in 1954, but suffered repression with Hussein in power.
“Under Saddam, he had restricted their independence and movement. They couldn’t travel outside the country to go to other jamborees, and international Scouts couldn’t come here,” Beck said. “Saddam didn’t control the Scouts the way he wanted to. He started his own youth movement which was really corrupt.”
But Beck says older Scout leaders, men in their 50s and 60s who had been trained with international Scout standards, kept their honor and dignity in the wake of deterioration caused by Saddam.
“They came through it kind of battered and tattered, I’d say, but with their head held high. Now we’re trying to get 80 young leaders under the age of 35 – 40 men, 40 women from all over the country – to go to Cairo and be trained in a two-week professional Scouting leadership and program-management course. They’re all excited about this!”
Beck says there’s been no resistance to his effort, as he works with the Iraqi Center for Reconciliation, which includes leaders from the region’s diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.
“All of them agree that Scouting is good for their young people, their communities, themselves, the country. It promotes what I call universal values. It doesn’t have to be American or British or Jordanian or South African or anybody’s beliefs. It’s something every decent person in the world can agree on. These are the values of right and wrong.”
Beck is hoping to raise some $4.5 million dollars to rebuild the damaged secret-police camp as the national headquarters of the Iraqi Scouts.
And while he admits there is still violence afoot throughout the nation, he’s optimistic it can be quelled.
“We can do it. There’s more people out here in Iraq that want to see their own society succeed and need our help than there are those who want to destroy, but those with guns can also make a loud statement. It’s the quiet ones that need to do the work more effectively.”
(Editor’s note: Those wishing to donate to the Iraqi Scouting effort can make checks out to:
World Friendship Fund, PO Box 152079, Irving, Texas 75015
Include the notation “Iraqi Scouting” in the memo.)