"A good deal of anticipation"


New York Times reporter John Burns, interviewed from Baghdad Wednesday night, was asked by Gwen Ifill of PBS' NewsHour to describe "the mood tonight on the streets of Baghdad." Here's what Burns said:

Well, you would imagine there is a great deal of apprehension… [but] I think America should know that there is also a good deal of anticipation. Iraqis have suffered beyond I think the common understanding in 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 that we only heard in the past, but now in quite candid conversations-- that they are waiting for America to come and bring them liberty.

IFILL: They are actually anticipating… eagerly anticipating war?

BURNS: It's very hard, though, for anybody to understand this. It can only be understood in terms of the depth of repression here, and it has to be said that this is not universal, of course. Having traveled throughout Baghdad in the last few hours, I can tell that you there are occasions when people are angry … There are, of course, people who, because they are loyalists of the regime or out of fear or out of suspicion of America's motives, don't want this war at all….

All I can tell you is that … the most extraordinary experience of the last few days has been a sudden breaking of the ice here with people in every corner of life coming forward to tell us that they understand what America is about in this. They are very, very fearful, of course … and they are very concerned about the … American military governance that they will come under afterwards.

But … there is absolutely no doubt, no doubt that there are many, many Iraqis who see what is about to happen here as the moment of liberation.