Biting the hand that frees you.

Now here’s a story that I’m sure will come as a bit of a surprise to many pro-war types who keep arguing that we’re freeing Iraqi citizens from a brutal dictator and they will be grateful because of it. Baghdad Seethes With Anger Toward U.S. (New York Times, free registration required)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP)—At first they cheered, smiled, offered hearty thumbs-ups to the U.S. soldiers newly in their midst. But across Iraq’s lawless capital, that sentiment is evaporating as quickly as Saddam Hussein’s government melted away.

Baghdad was bursting with anti-American feeling Saturday as residents saw their city being stripped by its own citizens while U.S. forces stood by, rarely intervening and in some cases even motioning treasure-laden men through checkpoints.

Some still agreed with the United States’ assessment of itself as a liberator. In the middle-class Zayuna neighborhood, friendly people offered American Marines baths, bread and buoyant greetings—and asked for both autographs and help against looters.

But for other Iraqis, in dozens of interviews conducted across Baghdad, the assessment was drastically different: America as conqueror.

“The coalition forces are responsible. Where is the law?” said Safa Hussein Qasim, 44, a jeweler. “This is the promise of the United States to Iraq? This is democracy in Baghdad?”

Looting has died down since this article was published on the 12th, but that’s mainly because the damage has been done and there’s not much of anything left to loot. What little is left is being actively guarded by armed Iraqis. Still, the rampant lawlessness that developed when the regime fell and the almost total lack of action on the U.S. and Britain’s part to do anything about it has left a lot of Iraqi’s with a bad taste in their mouths. You’d think that the administration would have considered this possibility and made plans for it, but when we can’t even keep our fellow Americans from rioting over sporting events I suppose this lack of planning comes as less of a surprise.

U.S. forces say they are doing the best they can under chaotic conditions—chaos, many Iraqis point out, that the United States itself created. Few praised Saddam. But at least, they said, he offered stability.

Baghdad lacks that right now. Water, electricity and gasoline are pipe dreams, and food is becoming almost as scarce.

Elsewhere, the Marines received less enthusiasm. In front of the Palestine Hotel, an area thick with U.S. Marines, several dozen Iraqis demanded a new government—now. “We want peace,” they chanted in English as Marines looked on from fighting vehicles.

“The United States breaks into the palaces and then threatens all the people who steal from them,” said Efil Adnan, a 48-year-old oil engineer guarding the barricade with two of his sons and his brother. He held a pistol; the brother wielded a Kalashnikov.

“The United States is a liar,” Adnan said. “They are not going to make anything better.”

“The army of America is like Genghis Khan,” Fouad Abdullah Ahmed, 49, snapped as U.S. tanks rumbled by without stopping. “America is not good and Saddam is not good. My people refused Saddam Hussein, and they will refuse the Americans.”

One young man went even further.

“If this continues in Baghdad, we’ll kill any American or British soldier,” said Rahad Bahman Qasim, 30 and unemployed. For emphasis, he added this: “All of us—even the women.”

Oh yeah, sounds like they’re real happy to see us. With gratitude like that this whole rebuilding-Iraq-as-a-Democracy thing should be a cake-walk.

Not that I can blame them in some respects if the U.S. continues to allow lawlessness to rule the day. I’m sure the lack of fresh water and food isn’t helping the mood any. Still, it’s somewhat telling that a lot of Iraqi’s seem to be saying “Thanks for getting rid of Saddam, now get the fuck out of Iraq and leave us alone or we’ll kill you.”

So much for winning the hearts of the Iraqi people.

3 thoughts on “Biting the hand that frees you.

  1. True they’re not happy about the looting and feeling that the US isn’t any better – but i’m sure if they were asked, “Would you like to return to how things were 6 months ago, or deal with this?” – they would go with the way things are…  I’m sure what they’re adjusting to now is much better than the hell they were in…

  2. That’s hard to say and I think a lot of that would depend on where you ask that question. Word has it that in Tikrit, which benefited greatly under Saddam’s rule, there were no cheering crowds welcoming the troops and the statues of Saddam still stand.

    Those who were most oppressed will naturally welcome the removal of Saddam and it’s clear that there are large groups of people who were pretty heavily oppressed, but not everyone was oppressed and not everyone, even among the oppressed, is happy about the change.

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