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Jewish World Review April 27, 2006/ 29 Nissan, 5766

Larry Elder

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Consumer Reports

Iraq: Were we greeted as ‘liberators’? | Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich explained in a National Public Radio interview why Vice President Dick Cheney provides such good red meat for satirists. Luckovich said, "First of all, he's sort of a colorless and seemingly humorless individual, and something about that type of person is sort of fun to caricature. And he's always so certain when he talks, like when he's on 'Meet the Press' — 'Well, we'll be greeted as liberators, Tim.' You know, he's so certain, and then he's just completely wrong . . . " [Emphasis added.]

Just completely wrong? Recently I received the following letter from a soldier who served in Iraq:

"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]."

Okay, so that's one soldier. But a reporter from The New York Times saw things the same way. On April 10, 2003, John F. Burns filed this story from Baghdad:

"Saddam Hussein's rule collapsed in a matter of hours today across much of this capital city as ordinary Iraqis took to the streets in their thousands to topple Mr. Hussein's statues, loot government ministries and interrogation centers and to give a cheering, often tearful welcome to advancing American troops.

" . . . Army and Marine Corps units moving into the districts of eastern Baghdad where many of the city's 5 million people live finally met the kind of adulation from ordinary Iraqis that American advocates of a war to topple Mr. Hussein had predicted. . . .

"Much of Baghdad became, in a moment, a showcase of unbridled enthusiasm for America . . .

"American troops, but almost as much any Westerner caught up in the tide of people rushing into the streets, were met with scenes that summoned comparisons to the freeing of Eastern Europe 14 years ago. . . .

"Shouts to the American soldiers of 'Thank you, mister, thank you,' in English, of 'Welcome, my friend, welcome,' of 'Good, good, good,' and 'Yes, yes, mister,' mingled with cries of 'Good, George Bush!' and 'Down Saddam!' . . .

"A middle-aged man pushed through a crowd attempting to topple a statue of Mr. Hussein outside the oil ministry with a bouquet of paper flowers, and passed among American troops distributing them one at a time, each with a kiss on the cheek.

"A woman with two small children perched in the open roof of a car maneuvering to get close to a Marine Corps unit assisting in toppling a Hussein statue outside the Palestine and Sheraton hotels, the quarters for foreign journalists, wept as she shouted, 'Thank you, mister, thank you very much.' . . .

Gen. Georges Sada, the No. 2 ranking general in the Iraqi Air Force, said the same thing when I interviewed him Feb. 9, 2006.

I said, "You said the president did the right thing in invading Iraq — "

"Excuse me," said Sada, "you say invading, I always say liberating. . . . In most provinces of Iraq and Kurdistan, the forces were received with cheers and flowers, in the South, it was the same thing in my province." The people living in the Sunni triangle did not consider Americans liberators, he explained, because Sunnis ran things. "When they found that this is all gone, of course they didn't like it."

The Iraqis show more optimism about their country than Americans show about theirs. According to a November 2005 American Research Group poll, 31 percent of Americans believe their household financial situations will improve over the next year. But, according to a December 2005 ABC News poll, 69 percent of Iraqis expect their lives to improve in the coming year.

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JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of, most recently, "Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests That Divide America." (Proceeds from sales help fund JWR) Let him know what you think of his column by clicking here.

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