Sunday, October 05, 2003


Those who continue to describe our efforts as illegitimate - and those who call for us to now vacate Iraq might do well to listen to the Iraqis.
From the very beginning, the anti-war lobby has refused to listen to those Iraqis who supported war over continued tyranny. Banners saying 'Freedom for Iraq' were confiscated at anti-war rallies and photographs of Halabja, where Saddam gassed 5,000 Kurdish civilians, were seized.

No voice was given to people such as Freshta Raper, who lost 21 relatives in Halabja and wanted to ask: 'How many of you have asked an Iraqi mother how she felt when forced to watch her son being executed? How many know that these mothers had to applaud as their sons died? What is more moral: freeing an oppressed, brutalised people from a vicious tyrant or allowing millions to continue suffering indefinitely?'

In the summer I spent more than a month in Iraq. What I found did not correspond to what was being reported - most crucially, that the liberators were already widely denounced as occupiers. As a rule, that simply wasn't true. In Baghdad, where US forces had permitted looting (although not as much as reported) and where security and services were virtually non-existent, attitudes towards the Americans were mixed. But even in Baghdad, even with Saddam and his sons still at large, the sense of relief at the toppling of the regime was palpable.

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