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Monday, March 24, 2003


Glenn Harlan Reynolds and his Coalition of the Shilling convey more information through omission than through what passes for substantive content on their sites. Ordinarily credulous before anything congruous with their preconceptions (or what their unelected leaders have told them), certain warbloggers seem to have been left in a state of pronounced sexual arousal by the news that Iraqis were "celebrating liberation." I say now as I said then, good on the Iraqis. We all pine for a day when we're free from the murderous operations of absolutist rulers lacking democratic mandates.

I also say that one should follow a story for more than an eighth of a news cycle. I wonder why the Instapundits and others demanding detail on what ground-level liberation looks like overlook so obvious and accessible an outlet as Nate Thayer's diary at Slate. From the first installment:
The mood on the streets remains somber and sullen. Stores are mostly closed, and those that are open have run out of duct tape, gasoline, and aluminum foil (which is wrapped around computers to shield them from e-bombs). People seem sad, resigned, sometimes resistant, mostly fearful. There is universal opposition to the war: George W. Bush's name is spit with venom. Yesterday, a soldier saw me on the street and shouted, "George Bush, I fucked your mother. We will win this war because you are here. You are a human shield. We are all human shields and the world is with us." Still, Iraq's celebrated hospitality remains, even in wartime. I have been greeted with kisses and hugs as often as I have with people pointing fingers at me and yelling pow-pow.
True, it's still a pre-liberation Baghdad he's writing about. With more bombs, those Iraqis will no doubt come around. His latest entry is likely just a depiction of the storm before the calm:
Today is also the first time that I am truly frightened. It is not the American bombs I am primarily afraid of. What frightens me and Mary—the name I'll give a photographer with whom I've become inseparable—is the mood of the people. The city is thick with anger and defiance, and we are Americans.

Every day since Mary and I arrived by road from Jordan, we have been threatened with expulsion. This morning, once again, we were ordered out. "You have two choices—you can be a human shield or you can leave the country," said my government minder. He offered this without his usual smarmy smile.

"But what about my visa?" I asked.

"Your visa is now to heaven," he said, forcing a laugh.


At 4 p.m. Baghdad time, an American fighter jet dropped its payload so close that the concussion sucked the air out of our lungs. Mary and I got in our car and drove toward the site of the explosion.

As we crossed one of the four Tigris bridges, there was an enormous traffic jam. Hundreds of armed men and civilians were looking down to the river below. Scores of cars had stopped in the middle of the bridge. We grabbed our gear and got out.


"Where are you from?" demanded an armed Iraqi, looking at me.

"Germany," interjected my government guide, abruptly grabbing me by the arm and yanking me away.

"Do not tell them you are American," he whispered as he rushed me to the car. "We must leave. It is very dangerous here."

Then we were on the western side of the Tigris, where the coalition bombardment has struck hardest. The sounds of imams on speakers reverberated through the streets—calls for the people to kill all the Americans.
Ingrates! It's nearly as bad where the liberation has already begun working its magic. From this morning's Wall Street Journal:
Far from being hailed immediately as liberators, invading U.S. and British forces in southern Iraq are facing deep hostility and gunfire from some residents who are often desperate for food and water and sometimes furious about the continuing military assault against their country.

The coalition is now rushing to get relief supplies into the region through the seized port of Umm Qasr, hoping that food will ease the bitterness.

Even after supplies enter the country, however, distributing them in large cities such as Basra could be difficult if many residents remain hostile to the invasion and fighting persists, which isn't clear will happen. The military, facing not only Iraqi troops but also defiant civilian guerrillas, also may have to run separate supply routes into the south as most coalition forces follow the latest military planning and move further north toward Baghdad, bypassing other cities along the way.

In the dusty town of Az Zubayr, just south of Basra, some Iraqis in civilian clothes fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at British and American troops. "The Americans are destroying our country. There will be a fight," said Ismail Hantush, an engineer at the state-run Iraqi oil company. Nearby, a local tailor cradled his baby boy and said with a smile: "We hate you. You are all criminals."


The early indications of hostility to the coalition invasion in southern Iraq, the heartland of the Shiite community that rose up against Mr. Hussein's rule in 1991, sharply contrasts with expectations among some U.S. military commanders of being greeted there as liberators. Just a few weeks ago, coalition officers in Kuwait were making plans to fly TV crews to film cheering crowds in southern Iraq.
Those certain of an outcome favorable to G.W. Bush and his cronies should hope that Curtiss Leung's reading of the Times is faulty. I'm not at all certain it is:
"We are not cowards, but what is the point?" said Ahmed Ghobashi, an Iraqi colonel from Baghdad. "I've got a rifle from World War II. What can I do against American airplanes?"

Colonel Ghobashi talked on for a while, detailing his participation in the disastrous wars begun by Mr. Hussein in Iran and Kuwait. He was a professional soldier, he said, and he did not sign up to engage in fanciful adventures. As he talked on, his tone grew bitter, until he concluded that Mr. Hussein must have a secret agenda.

"He doesn't give us enough to eat, and he doesn't pay us," the colonel said. "And then he starts this thing with the Americans and then tells us to defend the country against the invasion."

Colonel Ghobashi pursed his lips in contemplation and rendered his final opinion on Mr. Hussein. "I believe he is an American agent," he said. [more: NYT]
A surrendering Iraqi army colonel identifies Saddam Hussein, whom he hates, with the Americans to whom he has just surrendered. Think on that and the implications it has for whatever efforts the Bush administration will make to gain the trust of the Iraqi people and rebuild the country. To this man--and who can say how many others?--we are brutes on a par with their current dictator, a man who fancies himself an heir to Stalin. We just have better weaponry.
Coincidentally, Glenn is still hootin' and hollerin' about the left's (Marc Herold=Global Exchange=The Left) alleged tolerance for mass death, invoking Saddam and Pol Pot as examples. I thought Saddam was Rumsfeld's man. I'm certain that Pol Pot was Reagan's.

But it's ultimately not about the vigor with which The Professor's heroes cuddle dictators, it's more about The Professor's willingness to accept unlikely scenarios while discounting available evidence showing the naivete of same.

UPDATE: GHR's not the only one proposing a bombs-for-gratitude swap. Big Dick Perle is saying, "I expect the Iraqis to be at least as thankful as French President Jacques Chirac [sic] was for France’s liberation."

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