Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Iraqi Soccer Players Unhappy with Bush

The headline is about Bush referring to them in a campaign ad, but in the body of the story we see that it goes much further:

"Ahmed Manajid, who played as a midfielder on Wednesday, had an even stronger response when asked about Bush's TV advertisement. 'How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women?' Manajid told me. 'He has committed so many crimes.'"

Bad news for the Bushies? Yes and no.

First of all, if the ad is showing footage of the soccer team, and the team isn't happy about that, then Bush should pull the ads. He should do it immediately and with an apology. I say this by way of consistency, because I've been annoyed that John Kerry uses a picture of himself and other soldiers in his unit for ads, when only one person in that picture actually supports Kerry. I think it is utterly classless that Kerry is willing to use the images of people without their permission, to imply they support someone they do not. Similarly with President Bush, if the soccer players don't want to give the impression that they support the President, Bush has no right to use the offending footage.

The foregoing is based on an assumption. According to the article, the ad simply says, "At this Olympics there will be two more free nations -- and two fewer terrorist regimes."

I haven't seen the ad, and my computer is too slow to let me follow the link on the SI page, so I am willing to stand corrected on this. But if that statement, with no images of Iraqi soccer, is the extent of the ad, then I think Bush is perfectly within his rights to say that. It is a statement of fact, without any implied statement about any particular athlete - Iraqi or Afghani - who doesn't in fact support Bush. We have a privacy-based right to monopolize our images, but not to monopolize facts.

That said, regardless of Ahmed Manajid's and Salih Sadir's attitude towards the Iraq invasion, I hope they go all the way. And I don't care if they criticize Americans the whole time. I'll just rejoice in their success while basking in the irony that they will go home to a Saddam-free Iraq - courtesy of the United States military.

The Other Side of the Coin

While certain Iraqi soccer players are very unhappy with things (as is their right), Instapundit points us to an interview with an Iraqi, done very recently, the full text of which can be found here. It is in Mosul, by a U.S. soldier, who just snagged the first English speaker he could find.

Here are some highlights, but I hope it doesn't dissuade you from reading the whole thing:

"Yes the United States did the right thing about coming here. As I told you, to give the Iraqi people freedom. Because we don't have any freedom before the war. We can't speak, we cannot talk about the government, we can't talk about the president. We are restricted here in Iraq."
"QUESTION: What do you think of people that protest us being here?ANSWER: I think some of them are crazy, because why are they protesting? They protest for nothing. Why they protest? American Forces came over here in order to help them. I consider American Forces a friend to the Iraqi people, not an enemy, there is no need to protest."
"QUESTION: What do you think of Americans?ANSWER: Each of one of us have traditions. American people they have there tradition, and we have our own tradition. But I think they're friends to the Iraqi people. QUESTION: If you had a chance to jump on a plane with you family and fly to the United States and live there happily ever after would you do it?ANSWER: Yes! (Huge smile) I wish I could go there and live in the United States."

A few notes, just to be fair. Our informant candidly admits that things are still not safe in Mosul (not that that's any different from before the war). And he is being interviewed by an American soldier with a visible tape player (but no weapons). That could certainly influence the man's answers, especially if he fears that Americans are anything like Saddam's old regime. In other words, while we are getting unedited primary text, we cannot necessarily take it at face value. Also, what people think in Mosul doesn't necessary tell us anything about what people think in Kirkuk, Basra, Baghdad, Fallujah, or Najaf.

That said, this is not the first time I've read stuff like this. And in the early days after the war, I remember seeing a poll that said something like 90% of Iraqis were happy that the U.S. invaded (and, more informatively, something like 50% wanted the Americans to stick around). I attended a lecture at Tulane University by a military judge person (pardon me, I don't know the exact title) who was in charge of rebuilding the judicial system in Wasit, and he showed us pictures of Iraqi kids who were very happy to hang out with Americans, and said that many people cried when the Americans left (control was passed to a Polish unit).

In other words, I think all the evidence suggests that one story, positive or negative, simply doesn't give us a complete picture of the "Iraqi" attitude toward Americans.

Does that Matter?

I've seen many liberals argue that Iraqis don't want us there, and certainly the soccer players would agree with that sentiment. How, then, can we justify keeping our troops there?

Well, I don't recall asking the Germans whether or not they wanted us there in WWII.

That's right, folks, it's easy to forget that we're at war. Not with Iraq, really. Not anymore. But it was never with Iraq alone. It's a War on Terror, and in wars, sometimes you occupy the territory of people who would rather not have you there. As I've said elsewhere, I'm thrilled that Iraqis, even those who oppose American intervention, are learning that they can speak their minds without fear of reprisal. And many Iraqis really do like us. And many of them, even if they oppose continued occupation, will certainly not complain about increased potable water, more electricity, more schools, and more hospitals, and those things will make a difference.

But even if they don't, it doesn't matter, because this is a war. It's better to win a war with minimal casualties, and the best way to do that is by winning hearts and minds.

But even if we don't, it doesn't matter, because this is a war.

And I still hope the Iraqis take the gold in soccer.