Freedom, At Home and Abroad
The media finally shows Iraqis yearning to breath free, while protesters hit the streets in San Francisco and Washington.
6:15 AM, Mar 21, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
ONE OF THE most encouraging developments of the past 72 hours is the fact that most Iraqis are eager to have Saddam Hussein removed is finally seeping into the mainstream. New York Times reporter John Burns said on PBS the other day, "Iraqis have suffered beyond, I think, the common understanding of the United States from the repression of the past 30 years here. And many, many Iraqis are telling us now, not always in the whispers we have heard in the past, but now in quite candid conversations, that they are waiting for America to come and bring them liberty. . . . Can I just say that there is also no doubt--no doubt--that there are many, many Iraqis who see what is about to happen here as the moment of liberation."
On Wednesday on CNN, Iraqi exile Zainab Al-Suwali reported, "I spoke with a friend who just came out of Iraq two days ago, and he told me the situation is very interesting inside Iraq because people are storing--buying a lot of food and storing it at homes, and also filling bags of sand, building bunkers. At the same time, they are very excited and very happy to get rid of Saddam soon. . . . The [Iraqi] government is waging war against us because they are afraid . . . they know how much they torture their own people. . . . And people inside Iraq, they don't really believe what the [Iraqi] government is saying."
And today, CNN's Martin Savidge, who is embedded in a unit making its way toward Baghdad, reported that as his column sped north this morning, large numbers of Iraqi civilians came outside to wave to the troops.
COMPARE THAT with the reaction of many on the American left. Protests broke out across the country late yesterday. Two thousand people marched in Chicago and clashed with police. In San Francisco a much, much larger group brought the city to a halt. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that some 1,400 protestors--just the tip of the iceberg--were arrested. If Evan Coyne Maloney's latest documentary is any indication, these people are as nutty as you think. (As a side note, Glenn Reynolds has been saying for some time that multimedia dispatches such as Maloney's are the next big thing on the web. He doesn't look wrong.)
In Washington, a few hundred protestors marched through downtown around rush hour last night. The group was surprisingly young, so maybe they should be forgiven. One of them was carrying a placard saying "President Bush, choke on this pretzel!" as the crowd chanted, "What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!" Wishing death to your commander in chief while he's sending troops to protect your freedom is one thing, but deciding that your personal desire for "peace" outweighs 24 million Iraqis' desire for freedom from torture and oppression seems cruel and ungenerous in the extreme.
It's also disturbing that many of these protestors seem to hate America even more than Saddam does. One of the mainstays at the San Francisco protests were posters explicitly comparing President Bush to Hitler. At a press conference this morning, Saddam's spokesman Mohammed Al-Sahaf said that the world can now see that Bush is just like "Al Capone." The Chicago mobster might have been a bad guy, but he's a country mile from the F hrer.
IT'S DIFFICULT to sort out exactly what's happening on the ground in Iraq, but a couple things are now certain: (1) Overnight the allies liberated the port city of Umm Qasr; and (2) The allied forces took their first casualties. A helicopter crashed in Kuwait last night killing eight British and four American soldiers, and then an American Marine was killed in action this morning.
The debt we owe these brave men and women, already unpayable, grows every day.
Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard.