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Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Even If They Hate Him

I have often wondered how anyone could accept the Perle Wolfowitz claque's rose colored glasses scenario with a straight face. Perhaps they've all been watching "Patton" on a loop with Michael Ledeen and believed that it would be just like the scene of the Americans liberating Paris. (And when Condi said that the Americans had liberated the German people from Hitler, I just assumed she was carried away with the moment.) But, now that I fully realize how completely these people depended upon the Iraqi people to welcome them with open arms I'm convinced that their biggest problem, from diplomacy to war planning, is that they are completely clueless about what motivates and animates human beings. They are psychologically crippled.

Clearly they never gave even a moments thought to the fact that average Iraqis might assume that a bunch of American guys in uniforms running around shooting at Iraqis aren't really a whole lot different from a bunch of Iraqi guys running around shooting at Iraqis. Except for one thing. The Iraqis, at least, have not invaded their country under circumstances that many people in the world, much less the citizens of Iraq, find suspicious. And after our ignominious bail-out in 1991, it's not hard to predict that those most likely to rebel might just be a little bit gunshy. We don't exactly have a good reputation for follow through.

And, did it not occur to the neocon planners that our determination to overthrow and occupy Iraq without international sanction or support would be looked at askance, even by the victims of Saddam Hussein? Merely proclaiming yourself to be "good" and Saddam "evil" is unlikely to persuade anyone but silly red-staters who carry around signs that say "W Is A Hottie." Nobody else is going to buy it. Certainly not Iraqi people who have every reason to be a teensy bit skeptical of politicians who talk and act tough. They've learned the hard way that strong men aren't particularly thrustworthy.

And they underestimate the fact that just like people everywhere the Iraqis love and will protect their home, their country from a foreign invader. It's instinctive. One would have thought that if the Bush administration were depending upon a popular uprising against Saddam (or at least a passive reaction) they would not have cavalierly dismissed the value of international support, particularly from the UN, nor would they have neglected to make their post-war plans for a free and democratic Iraq known to everyone in great detail. It might, at least, have helped to allay the obvious fear that the Iraqis are trading a horrible Iraqi dictator for a horrible American one.

Via a great post on Liberal Oasis I found this article in the Washington Post from a couple of days ago that puts it in terms most Americans surely should be able to understand -- national pride:

When it came to the cause of Iraq's predicament, family members pointed to Hussein, describing him as rash. He invaded Iran, trapping them in an eight-year war. He seized Kuwait, bringing on the Persian Gulf War and the devastation of sanctions that largely wiped out Iraq's middle class. After that war, they were ready to overthrow him themselves.

But they bitterly denounced the war the United States has launched. Iraq, perhaps more than any other Arab country, dwells on traditions -- of pride, honor and dignity. To this family, the assault is an insult. It is not Hussein under attack, but Iraq, they said. It is hard to gauge if this is a common sentiment, although it is one heard more often as the war progresses.

"We complain about things, but complaining doesn't mean cooperating with foreign governments," the father said. "When somebody comes to attack Iraq, we stand up for Iraq. That doesn't mean we love Saddam Hussein, but there are priorities."

Tom Tomorrow said it best:

We took a lot of lessons from 9/11, but it occurs to me that there's one we might have overlooked. When you attack a nation, people tend to rally around their leader --- even if they hate him.