“And so John likes — John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007. You talk about the surge. The war started in 2003, and at the time when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong.
You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong.”–Barry, Presidential debate September 26, 2008, on the campus of the University of Mississippi.
- On the March 12, 2003, edition of MSNBC’s Hardball, host Chris Matthews asked McCain: “Do you believe that the people of Iraq or at least a large number of them will treat us as liberators?” McCain answered: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”
- On the March 24, 2003, edition of Hardball — several days after a U.S.-led coalition had invaded Iraq — McCain said: “[T]here’s no doubt in my mind that we will prevail and there’s no doubt in my mind, once these people are gone, that we will be welcomed as liberators.”
Has John McCain backed away from these statements? Is there really need to do so? No. And no.
Here he is on January 10, 2007, Meet the Press, defending those statements:
Even in last night’s debate, Senator McCain said:
I think the lessons of Iraq are very clear that you cannot have a failed strategy that will then cause you to nearly lose a conflict. Our initial military success, we went in to Baghdad and everybody celebrated. And then the war was very badly mishandled. I went to Iraq in 2003 and came back and said, we’ve got to change this strategy. This strategy requires additional troops, it requires a fundamental change in strategy and I fought for it. And finally, we came up with a great general and a strategy that has succeeded.
This strategy has succeeded. And we are winning in Iraq. And we will come home with victory and with honor. And that withdrawal is the result of every counterinsurgency that succeeds.
Tim Russert, God bless him, was corrected in his assumption by John Burns of the New York Times, on February 3, 2007:
“The American troops were greeted as liberators. We saw it. It lasted very briefly, it was exhausted quickly by the looting.” – John Burns [The Anchoress has a longer transcript- great stuff from Burns]
Was it all a mirage? A propaganda stunt? Or did we really see Iraqis waving to American convoys as they pressed on to Baghdad? Was their real joy amongst Iraqis when Saddam’s statue was dragged down? Or was it all staged?
April 2003 – Lieutenant Colonel Jim Chartier, commanding officer of U.S. Marines 1st Tank Battalion, briefs his commanders at the Martyrs Monument in Baghdad in a scene from the Military Channel’s “Delta Company: A New Era in Baghdad”:
Do people forget:
Baghdad fell in 3 weeks. In comparison to other war invasions of this scale, overthrowing Saddam’s regime was indeed a cakewalk. That’s why on May 2, 2003, President Bush announced that major combat operations had ended. The post-war insurgency was another beast entirely, however related. It brought us from war to counterinsurgency. Historically, insurgencies last an average of more than 10 years before chances of quelling it improve. In 5 years time, thanks to the pressures of waning public opinion in America, partisan political posturing among Democrats, al Qaeda revealing their true nature to the Iraqi people, a highly motivated military and the right general in the right place at the right time; and thanks to a president with tenacious resolve, the insurgency in Iraq appears to be coming to a close in under 10 years.
When American and Coalition forces first overthrew Saddam’s regime, it wasn’t just the American public who were under the spell of “cakewalk”, even though President Bush in his “Mission Accomplish” speech warned that “we have difficult work to do in Iraq” and that the “transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time”. Who else aside from Americans became disillusioned by the fantasy of overnight success from dictatorship to democracy? The Iraqi people.
There have been a number of accounts regarding how Iraqis thought Americans could do anything. After all, the U.S. military and their allies dethroned the Butcher of Baghdad with seeming ease and effortlessness. How is it that they could not transform 30 years of repression and oppression with just a snap of the fingers? Or even repair a 30-year neglected power, water, and sewage system overnight with the wave of a wand?
The insurgency began sometime before Paul Bremer arrived in Baghdad but really took shape sometime after his arrival when the decision to officially disband the Iraqi army and police force was made and offers of help from the sheiks rebuffed; and in wake of UNSC Resolution 1483, drafted on May 22, 2003, transforming our efforts in Iraq from one of liberation into occupation.
But all of this does not dispell the fact that initially, we were indeed greeted as liberators by many Iraqis.
Here is a letter sent to Larry Elder by a U.S. soldier:
“In April 2004 I was in the first push through Fallujah after the four American contractors were murdered, desecrated and hung from a bridge. I was critically wounded after I was shot through the hip in a firefight and nearly bled out on the battlefield. It was six months before I was able to walk semi-normally on my own more than 20 feet unaided by crutches or a wheel chair. In December of 2004 I was medically retired, and even now over two years later I still cannot run and I honestly don`t think I will be regaining that ability in this lifetime. . . . Well I have had multiple people ask me about what I think about everything going on over there and I always respond the same way. . . . I reach into my wallet and pull out a card and let them read it. It speaks for itself; I don`t need to say a word. I received this shortly after the invasion in 2003, a young boy walked up to me with his father who was standing behind him with his hands on his shoulders and just reached out his hand and gave this to me. . . . Sure there are those who want us dead and gone and will do anything to get rid of us, but they are a minority.”
The soldier enclosed a copy of the card. It has a big heart on the front, and inside it reads: “Thank you George Bush. Thank you American soldiers. Thank you Marines [sic] soldiers. To save us. We are so grateful. Your friend, Ali Ahmed. An Iraqi boy, 9 years old. 2003.4.15 Wedensday [sic].”
Karl Zinsmeister, a frontline reporter who traveled with the 82nd Airborne Division during OIF, writes in Boots on the Ground, page 172:
When I was on combat patrols with soldiers, I saw Iraqis wave and smile. More significant, I saw them miming danger and pointing out the windows from which snipers were firing, putting themselves at risk to aid Americans battling Saddam. I met locals who expressed gratitude that the Baathist rogues had been killed with minimal destruction of civilian homes and infrastructure. This care won the United States goodwill from Iraqis (if not from Western opponents of the war),
The Americans, for the most part, were treated as conquering heroes. Young Iraqis put flowers in the pockets of their body armor. Kids begged for money.
There was a lot of smiling and laughing. One Iraqi slapped high-fives at passing Marines and Western reporters.
Some American and European “human shields” were there, antiwar activists who had come to Baghdad and placed themselves in front of power plants and other potential targets. They chastised the Marines for attacking Iraq and promoting war.
That angered some of the soldiers. “I didn’t bury two of my fellow Marines just so someone like that could call us murderers,” said one, angry and teary, referring to an Iraqi artillery attack that killed two of his colleagues on Monday. “They died for this country.”
Meanwhile, two Iraqis held up a sheet bearing the message: “”Go home Human Shields, you U.S. Wankers.”
The Marines posed for pictures with Iraqis and traded knickknacks.
Here is an excerpt from an early post by Omar of IRAQ THE MODEL:
Through out these decades I lost trust in the world governments and international committees.
Terms like (human rights, democracy and liberty..etc.)became hallow and meaningless and those who keep repeating these words are liars..liars..liars.
I hated the U.N and the security council and Russia and France and Germany and the arab nations and the islamic conference.
I’ve hated George Gallawy and all those marched in the millionic demonstrations against the war .It is I who was oppressed and I don’t want any one to talk on behalf of me,
I, who was eager to see rockets falling on Saddam’s nest to set me free, and it is I who desired to die gentlemen, because it’s more merciful than humiliation as it puts an end
to my suffer, while humiliation lives with me reminding me every moment that I couldn’t defend myself against those who ill-treated me.
What hurt me more and kept my wound bleeding was that they gave Saddam a tribune so the skinner can talk, and offered him a diplomatic representation almost all-over the world to broadcast his filthy propaganda and sprinkle Iraq’s wealth on his supporters.
I really didn’t understand those countries demands to take away our misery. Did they really think that the sanctions were the cause?
We were not even human, Saddam wiped off our humanity , we were just numbers and a lot of Identity cards that we had to show wherever we went.
The Baath idea was this:
YOU’RE A CITIZEN , THEN YOU’RE A SUSPECT
Believe me , we were living in the” kingdom of horror”.
Please tell me how could the world that claims to be civilized let Saddam launch chemical weapons on his own un-armed people?
Can anyone tell me why the world let Saddam remain and stood against America’s will to topple him?
When I first got into following political blogs, one of the early Iraqi blogs I discovered was Democracy in Iraq (Is Here!). Husayn hasn’t updated in almost 3 years, but thankfully his blog has not been deleted nor his blog address taken over by some spambot. Here’s something he wrote December 27, 2004, in a post titled “Iraqis and Americans“:
People have asked me why do people fight the Americans. Its an interesting concept in my view. I should say first that I do not know anyone who is an insurgent, not that I know of. IT is possible though, as people do things in their own time that they do not talk about openly. But I do live in a major city so I know many people, and I know people who are opposed to the United States Army and who are apparently against elections.
I feel that these people are driven by two major factors: ego and impatience. Ego drives them because they do not see things in the large picture and are simply angered by our nation having foreign soldiers in it. Rather than thinking about why they are here, and how it will benefit us, they simply get angry and thus oppose America and whatever comes from American actions in Iraq. I say they are also impatient because they are unable to think long-term, or better yet, wait for things to take their course before they get mad. People with such a mindset are quick to blame Americans or the interim government for everything ranging from the lack of electricity to the lack of fuel to terrorist attacks and so on.
I think these are the two main factors which drive some Iraqis, in my mind, the vast minority to actively oppose the Americans and IRaqi forces, and which leads them to become insurgents. I have simplified the explinations a bit, but I feel that these factors cover other reasons for opposing America, such as the fear of losing power, or fear of other Iraqis coming to power.
There are some people who are simply after violence and who think like animals, but I feel that these are the vile terrorists you hear about on the news who execute people. They are in the vast minority here, they tend to be foreigners, probably affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Now if you were to ask me what percentage of IRaqis are opposed to democracy and Americans, I would say a low percentage. I get the feeling that in the United States, the media makes it look like many Iraqis hate America and want them to leave. I do not agree, and I feel that this is not reflected on the street. These polls that give such data are probably skewed as the people they ask may be naturally guarded at being asked questions by foreigners. And I dont know how these polls are carried out. If its by phone, then that will skew results, as not all Iraqis have phones, or phone service.
I think the most accurate idea of how Iraqis feel about American soldiers is to say that they have no problem with American soldiers as long as American soldiers do what they say they are in Iraq to do. I mean to say that they do not oppose Americans as long as the Americans act as they say they will. This has been mostly true of American soldiers, they come off as professional, and only on rare occasion do they make mistakes which anger people. Mistakes do occur though, and this is one factor which drives some Iraqis to oppose Americans. People who have lost their family whether by accident or other means to American forces are naturally angered, but I do not think most Iraqis have felt this.
So I think most Iraqis feel a sort of neutrality of anything towards Americans. IRaqis who have had good relations with Americans have good feelings towards them.
As for Americans staying, I think most Iraqis want them to leave once their job is done. This I think is mostly due to the fact that they do not want to be held accountable for the injuries that many Americans suffer to the insurgents. I realize it is very hard for them to be here, and I feel bad, I feel responsible if they are hurt in my nation, as they are in one way a guest, and I hope that they are safe.
The above is just what I feel most Iraqis think from my own interactions. I think negative feelings towards Americans are due more to ignorance than anything else. Those Iraqis who have worked with the Americans towards the goal of building an Iraqi democracy clearly understand that their job here is to assist us, and we try hard to make their job easier, so that we can all look back on this episode in the future with satisfaction.
Certainly the sentiments expressed by Omar and Husayn do not speak for all Iraqis; and some of those who were initially joyful of the toppling of Saddam’s regime became disillusioned and resentful. For those who have lost loved ones, who have been scarred, the sacrifice might not seem worth the decision to invade Iraq. But right or wrong, it begs the question, “what do we do now?” And I believe most Iraqis have answered that question by rejecting al Qaeda and the insurgents, choosing instead to side with the United States and Coalition Forces who have sacrificed blood and treasure from day one to bring freedom and democracy; to rebuild schools, hospitals, and mosques; to help create a peaceful and stable Iraq, for our own self interest, yes; but also in best interest of the Iraqi people.
“The next president of the United States is not going to have to address the issue as to whether we went into Iraq or not. The next president of the United States is going to have to decide how we leave, when we leave, and what we leave behind. That’s the decision of the next president of the United States.”– Senator McCain
We were greeted as liberators when we first came to Iraq. We remained as liberators for these last 5 years. The next President of the United States will be a factor in whether or not we leave as such.