Message to Obama: We Were Greeted as Liberators

My friend and colleague, Paul Kengor, contributes these observations about Barack Obama’s claim that American troops were not greeted as liberators, made again in last night’s debate. I have friends who have been to Iraq and back as both soldiers and observers and they tell me that many citizens of Iraq view Americans positively and believe we have helped advance their freedoms. Thanks Paul for allowing me to post this article.
Message to Obama: We Were Greeted as Liberators
By Dr. Paul Kengor
A casualty of the left’s hatred for President George W. Bush has been a destructive inability to separate fact from fiction in the ongoing history of the war in Iraq. The latest case, which, sadly, has dug its way into the head of the Democratic presidential nominee, is the allegation that American troops, when they liberated Baghdad in April 2003, were not welcome as liberators. This inaccurate appraisal, shocking given that it’s made by people who watched the liberation on TV, was leveled again on Tuesday evening by Barack Obama for the second time in consecutive presidential debates. Both times, Obama criticized John McCain for predicting that Americans would be greeted as liberators in Iraq.
I cannot confirm whether McCain said that. Either way, though, the undeniable truth is that we were welcomed as liberators. I know this very well, because I, like everyone over the age of five, lived through it.
I recall a June 27, 2003 piece by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times, titled, “The Man With No Ear.” A few weeks after the apparent cessation of war, Kristof visited Iraq. Like The Times, he adamantly opposed the war. Now, he had to come to grips with the undeniable freedom wrought by the liberation, and the gratitude that Iraqis felt for George W. Bush. One Iraqi told Kristof: “A thousand thanks to Bush! A thousand thanks to Bush’s mother for giving birth to him!”
Kristof admitted he did not expect that reaction. He tracked down a man named Mathem Abid Ali. For deserting the Army, Ali’s ear was amputated. “Children looked at me, and turned away in horror,” he told Kristof. But now, at last, Ali was free. He told Kristof: “I’d like to make a statue in gold of President Bush.”
Kristof admitted that such facts “got in the way” of his plans for his column. He conceded that it was important that doves like himself encounter Saddam’s victims and their joy at being liberated by American troops. Doves “need to grapple with the giddy new freedom that—in spite of us—pullulates from Baghdad to Basra,” wrote Kristof.
When Iraqis weren’t talking of forging gold statues to George W. Bush, they were running around the streets literally praising God for him. Here, too, I could give example after example, but I will stick with another from the popular press, this from the London Telegraph, May 21, 2003:
Juad Amir Sayed, an Iraqi Shiite Muslim, lived in the village of Karada, 90 miles southeast of Baghdad. At age 24, he had buried all of his books in a flour sack, burned his identity card, and constructed a tunnel and three-by-five-foot concrete cell under the family kitchen. He entered that cell on December 2, 1981 and lived there for the next 22 years.
Juad dug a tiny three-inch diameter hole deep into the ground from which he sucked water. This was his well. A smaller peep hole provided a ray of sunlight during the day. His only company was a Koran and a radio with headphones that he kept tuned to the Arabic Service of the BBC. His bright moment came near the 20th anniversary of his confinement when he heard a speech by President Bush on the September 11 attacks. “Mr. Bush gave a speech in which he said the terrorists of the world would be hunted down,” recalled Juad. “The next time my mother brought me food I told her of my conviction that [Saddam] would not last.”
Juad assumed that any hunt for terrorists would naturally include Saddam Hussein. Fortunately for him, the American president agreed.
Once American troops arrived, Juad entered the light of freedom for the first time in over two decades. “I believe that Allah worked through Mr. Bush to make this happen,” said Juad. “If I met Mr. Bush, I would say, ‘thank you, thank you, you are a good human, you returned me from the dead.’”
Those are simply a couple of anecdotes from newspapers. Has everyone forgotten about the images they saw on their television sets?
I spent two hours with about 50 students on the morning of April 9, 2003 watching CNN coverage of Iraqis and U.S. Marines in Firdos Square tearing down a statue of Saddam Hussein, which was then desecrated, spat upon, smacked with shoes, and ridden like a donkey through the streets of Baghdad. As Howard Fineman wrote in Newsweek, affirming what no one doubted, it was George W. Bush “who toppled that statue.”
Doesn’t anyone remember this? Are the biases of liberals so personally crippling that they purge their own memory banks?
Every president has a “finest hour.” For JFK, it was the Cuban Missile Crisis. For Jimmy Carter, it was Camp David. For George W. Bush, it was April 9, 2003.
Of course, shame on President Bush and his administration for not constantly reminding us of this. Certainly, the press hasn’t bothered. And now, yet again, because of the Bush administration’s failure to communicate to the larger public, the president’s enraged opponents have been able to inaccurately portray another highlight from the Iraq war. The left has been so successful in eviscerating George W. Bush that even this amazing day of freedom in his presidency has been somehow turned upside down.
The fall of that statue in Baghdad on that day should be the visual equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall for this president and his presidency. It is not. It is now a negative used by the Democratic presidential nominee!
Now, all that said, here’s a critical rest-of-the-story: George W. Bush eventually became unpopular in Iraq, as did the occupation/reconstruction, especially in the 2005-6 timeframe. No question. The situation deteriorated. But that’s a different argument. The fact is that we were indeed greeted as liberators.
Here again, we have another exhibit in the Hall of Hatred erected to George W. Bush. The left has become so anti-Bush that it can’t make simple distinctions between fact and fiction. And now, worse of all, this latest false charge has become a talking point for the left’s presidential nominee, where, yet again, it is uncontested.
Paul Kengor is author of God and George W. Bush (HarperCollins, 2004), professor of political science, and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007). This article is archived here on the CVV website.

8 thoughts on “Message to Obama: We Were Greeted as Liberators”

  1. Liberals make me head for a puke bucket.
    Give your hate speeches to the many in Iraq that will vote; something they were not able to do before.

    It is immensely gratifying to read about conservative support for the Iraqi people. Even after hundreds of thousands killed, and over 4 million Iraqis displaced as refugees, the neocon commitment to the Iraqi people is matched only by the care with which they planned Iraq’s future.
    Conservatives like Douglas Feith, former Undersecretary of Defense, whose brother was a fanatical Zionist settler in the Occupied Terrorities.
    And neocons like Marty Peretz, who just the other day wrote:

    Whether the Gaza Palestinians can ever have a truly civil society is another question, the answer to which — given the Arab societies that surround them — is probably ‘no.’

    As Lynn aptly notes, one side does indeed make one reach for a puke bucket. I can only imagine what disaffected Arab youth are reaching for right now.

  2. There were WMD’s – what did Saddam kill the Kurds with, kindness? The downgraded yellow cake that was secretly shipped out of the country was not dangerous?
    Liberals make me head for a puke bucket.
    Give your hate speeches to the many in Iraq that will vote; something they were not able to do before.
    The supporters of Saddam want us out; the Kurds still welcome our military.

  3. David,

    The fact is we were viewed as liberators and that is what McCain said would happen.

    Repeating something over and over does not make it true. Polls of Iraqi civilians from various organizations as early as the 2nd half of 2003 do show a population which was optimistic about its future. But, they also show a significant portion of the population – depending on the question, in some cases a clear majority – held negative or ambivalent opinions about the invasion, and was skeptical of the motivations and continued presence of coalition forces.
    Obama, of course, doesn’t support leaving “before the conditions on the ground dictate that it is safe to do so.”

  4. To all of the commenters above who are detached from reality,
    Obama mocked McCain about the Iraq war, he mocked him for saying we would be greeted as liberators, not for saying we were no longer viewed that way. The fact is we were viewed as liberators and that is what McCain said would happen. McCain had no way to know (at the time) that Bush would screw up the prosecution of the war (up to the point of the surge) nor did he have any way to know that the WMD argument would turn out to be bogus. Obama knows all of this, his comments are meant to paint McCain as someone in lockstep with Bush and he uses something that he SHOULD know is false but doesn’t seem to.
    I was against the war, didn’t see the reason for going in, still don’t. But as stupid as it was to invade it would be catastrophic to leave before the conditions on the ground dictate that it is safe to do so. Anyone who calls themselves a humanitarian and argues against this reality is no humanitarian. Imagine we went in to Darfur to secure the peace and then set an arbitrary deadline for our departure regardless of the conditions on the ground. Would that make sense? It is an idiotic idea. A very dangerous idea that would unnecessarily put hundreds of thousands of innocent lives in jeopardy. I am amazed to hear so many Democrats say that this is a sound policy.

  5. Oh for Pete’s sake – I don’t think Obama’s point was that NO ONE was happy we were there, his point was that many, many people – perhaps a majority, did not view us this way.
    Let’s not forget the reason we were sent there in the first place! Weapons of mass destruction or that Iraq had a part in 9/11 – both reasons which turned out later to be false. And how many American lives did these false reasons cost?

  6. Saddam Hussein was not a terrorist who threatened our security.
    Lynn David,
    It is my understanding that he paid off the families of those who were terrorists that threatened both Israel and the U.S. He also was very slow and evasive in producing verification that his country did not have wmds. In light of his propensity of threats and invasions of other countries and that we were in a war with Afghanistan and other uncertainty, this posed a great threat that we could not toy with.

  7. George W Bush eviscerated himself. You, like Bush, have blurred the reason we entered into Iraq. Supposedly our security was on the line from Hussein’s multiple WMDs. The Iraqi government’s links to terrorism were rather tenuous. Indeed, the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein was anethema to that for which al-Qaida stood. A dictatorship of terror is not of necessity terroristic outside its own borders.
    Many of us saw how Saddam’s armies crumpled in the first Gulf War and then wondered how this rather incompetent leader could have been creating WMDs on such grand scales. It was only the “supergun” which he intended to fire at Israel and the biochemical attacks on some Kurdish villages which led to our doubt. Time and time again, inspectors came up with nothing, though their way was often thwarted. But beyond those none that has been alleged by the Bush administration has proven to be true. Saddam Hussein was not a terrorist who threatened our security.
    Therefore it was not in our interest to invade Iraq, if someone should have been worried and invaded it should have been Saudi Arabia, not us. Yet this liberal was happy to see that statue fall. But this liberal also soon heard the calls in the succeeding months by Iraqis for America’s withdrawal.
    Islam has a very political, self-determining aspect to the religion. It is incumbent upon those Muslims to determine their own fate. Thus if once truly liberated, to be occupied by and dictated to by a “liberator,” especially a nonMuslim liberator, becomes unconscionable to the Muslim mindset. That knowledge seems to have eluded the Bush administration. And so we have the last five years in which the evisceration of Bush was self-inflicted.

Comments are closed.