Mader and Hermann at the latter's recently completed home in Florida.
A Disassociated Press Report, Naples, October 11, 2005
By Michael Festadus
U.S. President George W. Bush today appointed a sibling team to head his administration's new Shia-Sunni Peace Initiative. Weber C. Hermann of Brookfield, Wisconsin and his sister Marie A. Mader of Naples, Florida will head to Iraq in November to set up and oversee a special task force intended to quell the rising tide of inter-ethnic violence in the country.
"The new task force will seek to establish dialogue and problem solving mechanisms in those places in the country where tensions are highest," said White House spokesman Snott McClellan. "The president has the highest confidence that these two appointees will be able to have a significant effect on the situation on the ground. We'll be sending them directly to the trouble spots."
Speaking at a press briefing, McClellan also indicated the new task force was part of a new administration effort to "cover all the bases" in the war on terrorism.
"We seek not only to fight the terrorists militarily," he said, "but to help the Iraqi people bury the grievances of the past and reach a new level of tolerance and understanding. The Hermann-Mader team is a crucial part of this effort."
Many experts on the region fear Iraq is on the verge of civil war.
"I'm hoping Marie and I can do something to straighten these people out," said Hermann in a telephone interview. "I'm thinking they need more leisure activities and less in the way of rallies and radicalism. I'm going to try to use leisure activities as a way to bring them to a more peaceful lifestyle."
Hermann is a successful oral surgeon with a fondness for boats. His sister has her own ideas about the problem.
"Leisure is certainly something they need more of," she said. "But I think their main problem is their holy book, the Koran. It's the wrong holy book, and it's got them all messed up."
Asked if she intended to use the Bible as a means of bringing peace, Mader adopted a pragmatic approach.
"Look," she said, "I'm well aware these people are quite sensitive about their religion. So I'm not planning on coming out right away with the Bible as the solution to their problems. It is the solution to their problems, but I'm not going to be bringing it out right away. I have to work them to it slowly. We'll be starting with something else."
Mader explained her plans to use joint Shia-Sunni Creative Beading Seminars as a first step toward peace. According to this plan, Shia and Sunni leaders would join in making bead necklaces and other bead items around the same table.
"I thought of gardening first," Mader said, "but from what I've seen on TV it looks pretty dry over there. So I think beading is the way to go."
Neither of the siblings has any experience leading a governmental organization, nor do they have experience in the Middle East or any Arabic ability. This has led some Democrats to question the wisdom of Bush's decision to appoint them.
"It's another case of Bush cronyism," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D - CA). "These two have been lifelong Republicans, and the administration is obviously rewarding them with these important posts."
Mader adamantly denies the charge of cronyism.
"What the hell do Democrats know?" she said. "That Bill Clinton with his cigar tricks brought such shame to this country."
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