Ahlan Wa Sahlan


Canadian reporter Matthew Fisher, embedded with a Marine unit and unable to specify his exact location, writes:

The United States Marine Corps received a joyous welcome from Iraqi civilians and soldiers alike yesterday as they crashed deep into Iraqi territory on the great march to Baghdad.

All along the road, for many kilometres, Iraqi civilians and soldiers waved, blew kisses and gave the thumbs up to passing marine vehicles….

There was no hostility to speak of. There were some Iraqi civilians and as we drove there was an increasing number of Iraqi soldiers and there were incredible scenes. Scenes of many Iraqi citizens joyously welcoming the Americans. Also, saying with their arms, "Praise be to Allah" for being delivered. They were thanking the Americans for that.

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  1. And then, as soon as they were out of eyesight, flipped the American troops the Iraqi equivalent to the ‘bird.’

  2. Josh may sound like a war-critic caricature, but his comment raises an almost-legit issue that has accompanied reports like this one: For some Mideasterners, the thumbs-up sign (observed by reporter Fisher) *does* mean “fuck you.” So could that be what these Iraqis were really saying to the Marines? Given that the Iraqis were also throwing kisses and raising their arms in a show of gratitude to God, it doesn’t seem too likely. Also, there’s a nuance of gesture that separates the “good for you” thumb from the “fuck you” thumb, but we’d have to go to the tape for that, and there isn’t any tape. All we’ve got is a report of a lot of Iraqis who are pretty happy to see Americans, and evidence that there are some people who are pretty disgruntled to learn about it. Thumbs up.

  3. There are also reports of Iraqi civilians who scowl after the US soldiers have gone by. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A15003-2003Mar23.html

  4. andrea’s “scowl” link is about some teenage boys scowling at “a convoy of British tanks and trucks” because the boys esteem the character and leadership of Saddam Hussein. As one of the boys tells the Post’s reporters, “Saddam is good.”

    Granted, people who think that Saddam is a splendid fellow will scowl at British and American forces. But criticism of the war has reached its nadir when it starts citing scowls emanating from the love for Saddam. Anyway, if representative government comes to Iraq, Ba’thists (those who survive the coming round of reprisal killings) can stand for public office, and then we’ll learn how representative such scowlers really are.

  5. geophile, I don’t actually expect to see Iraqi ballots featuring a “Ba’thist Party” line any time soon. It was one way to weigh the legitimacy of war criticism when it turns out to draw on cultist admiration. On the other hand, assuming that there will be elections of some sort eventually, there might well be candidates with known Ba’thist backgrounds, and the scenario could actually play out. Who knows, they might sweep the Tikrit city council.

  6. Is that a real democracy or is that a Sears democracy?

  7. You know, whe the Germans and the British traded the desert the back and forth between themselves during the North Africa campaigns, each time either army advanced they were treated as liberators. German or British flags would pop-up, and there would be much joy.

  8. My point is, not everyone’s thrilled. For their own reasons. Just as CP Freund is convinced everyone is, he has his own reasons for believing that.

  9. Would we really risk letting Baathists run the show in a democratic Iraq? I’d wager not until a couple of pseudo-puppets have gone by. Maybe many years down the road, once the proper checks and balances are in place, I suppose it’s possible…

    But it raises an interesting question about the gradual phasing in of democracy. What are elections going to look like right after the liberation? Will we respect the right to keep and bear arms? At what point will we allow peaceful protests (Which could be easily infiltrated by gunmen, theatening the safety of the entire crowd if we attempted to retaliate)?

  10. Re arms, bear in mind that a lot of IRaqi families keep arms anyway. Not advanced military weapons, but arms.

    As far as the article goes, at least one part (Iraqi soldiers lining the sides and cheering) strikes me as highly dubious. Iraq soldiers would either be in POW camps or would have faded back into civilian garb. Would the US army actually allow soliders to cheer by the side, knowing that one could pull a grenade or a Molotov cocktail any minute.

  11. Gun ownership is widespread is Iraq? That must be why the government never became oppressive, and there are such low levels of violent crime.

  12. Re: “Is that a real democracy or is that a Sears democracy?” Point well taken; the line following that would be “We could make more money as a butcher.” Whoa! I’ve got a clear idea what Frank would have thought about this mess.

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