There are a million things to say, but let me start off with something simple: I’m so, so grateful. Grateful that a people is liberated, that a tyranny has been overthrown. Grateful that we have an administration that will stand up to adverse opinion and do what is right. Grateful for a military that is effective and admirable. Grateful for the efforts of people like Ahmed Chalabi, Kanan Makiya, Richard Perle, and Bernard Lewis, who have waited for this moment for so long.
Continued tyranny is more the rule than liberation. The boot — whether red or black — is also stomping on the human face. We don’t get to see something like this — a people relieved of a nightmare — every week. We must savor it.
You may remember that I quoted an Iraqi on the second or third day of the war. He said to a reporter, “You’re late. What took you so long? God help you become victorious. I want to say hello to Bush, to shake his hand. We came out of the grave.”
I was reminded of this by my favorite quotation from yesterday. It came from Yusuf Abed Kazim, described as a Baghdad imam. “I’m 49, but I never lived a single day. Only now will I start living.”
You might have seen footage of an elderly man beating a portrait of Saddam Hussein with his shoe. With his shoe! David Pryce-Jones reminded me (more like informed me) that this is a special insult in the Arab world. The shoe — the sole of the shoe — is exceedingly dirty, and if you expose it to anyone, you have issued a great insult. So, that man’s action had more significance than we knew.
Some Iraqis handed Marines flowers. Elsewhere, “We were nearly mobbed by people trying to shake our hands,” according to Maj. Andy Milburn of the 7th Marines.
I was forcefully struck by one line from a report: An Army contingent “had to use razor wire to hold back surging crowds of well-wishers.”
Remember that, the next time someone tries to poor-mouth this effort: that our soldiers had to hold well-wishers back with razor wire. What must the naysayers think when they hear that? Do they simply disbelieve it? Are they embarrassed? Disgusted with the Iraqi people? Don’t those stupid natives know we’re cowboys, conquerors, and imperialists?
Speaking of DP-J (David Pryce-Jones): He marvels that Saddam Hussein botched it so badly. Thank goodness he’s delusional! But many dictators tend to oblige us this way. Saddam could have said, “Have all the U.N. inspections you like. Go anywhere, everywhere. Take your time.” He could have held this up for months, years — forever. He could have died in bed, whispering sweet last orders for torture. But no. His pride and madness did him in.
He might even have subsumed Kuwait without a struggle, and then gone for Saudi Arabia, becoming the colossus of the Middle East. And what did he do for the year and a half in which he had to prepare for our certain invasion? Nothing?
Sometimes, you’re lucky in your enemies.
An old theme of ours (and DP-J’s, of course): In the Arab world, they expect you to act as they themselves would act, in identical or similar circumstances. I was reminded of this — for the thousandth time — when I heard that Iraqi information minister say that the film of American soldiers at the Baghdad airport was a fake. Of course, Arab governments use fake film all the time — think of the recent images on Iraqi TV! And the Egyptian military museum in Cairo, where they portray 1973 as a great victory.
They use fake footage for propaganda purposes — why wouldn’t we, their nemesis?
In this light, I was especially touched by the following report: “‘We discovered that all that the [Iraqi] information minister was saying was lies,’ said Ali Hassan, a government employee in Cairo. ‘Now no one believes al-Jazeera anymore.’” May it last — for more than a day or so.
The fall of Baghdad apparently came as a surprise to many in the Arab world, and as a humiliation — which is endlessly sad. In order to recover, Arabs will have to transform the culture of the lie. But will that occur in the lifetimes of even the youngest?
Check out this sentiment from Tannous Basil, “a 47-year-old cardiologist in Sidon, Lebanon”: “[Saddam Hussein's regime was] a dictatorship and had to go. I don’t like the idea of having the Americans here [in the Arab world], but we asked for it. Why don’t we see the Americans going to Finland, for example? They come here because our area is filled with dictatorships like Saddam’s.”
Record the name of Tannous Basil: someone who sees!
But many are bitter — resentful at the Iraqis for their liberation, just as they were resentful at the Kuwaitis for theirs (believe me): “Mohammed al-Shahhal, a 49-year-old teacher in Tripoli, Lebanon, said the scenes reminded him of the collapse of the Soviet Union. ‘Those who applauded the collapse of Lenin’s statue for some Pepsi and hamburgers felt the hunger later on and regretted what they did.’”
Uh-huh. That’s what the fall of Communism was all about: Pepsi and hamburgers. You wish, Mohammed. But then, that sort of remark would earn him an A at our finer universities, wouldn’t it?
Ed Koch has suggested that the U.S. grant honorary citizenship to Tony Blair, same as we did to Winston Churchill. Not a bad idea.
Saddam’s regime is almost perfect in its villainy, don’t you agree? It could be a James Bond foe, only the matter is too serious for laughter, or fantasy. They have “Chemical Ali.” They have “Dr. Germ.” Who could deny the rightness of the word “evil” in “axis of evil”?
A weird tidbit, out of the Iraq reporting: Our soldiers found movies on videotape in that palace of Saddam’s. One was The Hanoi Hilton, one of the greatest anti-Communist movies of all time. So curious!
Over at TheNation.com (what, you haven’t been reading it?), Katrina vanden Heuvel — the world’s most beautiful leftist — has a deliciously absurd article blasting Bill Kristol. It’s called “Kommisar Kristol.” She says that he has been behaving like a Soviet enforcer/ideologist, and that he has hurled false charges of anti-Americanism.
Two questions (for now): Since when did The Nation start opposing the Soviet Union (and ideological enforcement, for that matter)? And since when have they regarded a charge of anti-Americanism as an offense?
While I’m asking questions, when did the vanden Heuvel family start squishing the “van den” together? Or is it just Katrina?
I don’t believe I have directly joined my comrades in knocking Sen. Chuck Hagel (although such knocking, he has richly deserved). But now he has piled on Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi democrat and freedom fighter hated by the State Department and other people worth being hated by. The last molecule of hope I had for Chuck Hagel has now vanished.
Poof. The [expletive deleted].
A great many readers have asked me to write about Cuba, and the recent crackdown and round-up there. Why have I been silent (relatively)?
Well, first, I am fatigued. And one musn’t get fatigued. I should scream about Cuba every day (and, every day, I receive from my sources reports of fresh outrages, crimes against individuals and humanity). But, in screaming, one’s voice gets hoarse.
Second, what have I left to say, that I haven’t said countless times before? It’s hard to get the world to care about Cuba. That’s why I once titled a piece on the subject, “Who Cares About Cuba?“
Third . . . but as I’ve said, I’m fatigued. And, fortunately, some others have started noticing Cuba and the dictator’s foul deeds. And when that occurs, I’m less needed. I’m needed when everyone else is looking the other way (or, worse, defending the persecutors).
One amazing thing in all this is that journalists — American journalists, Western journalists — don’t care more. One of those rounded up and banished to a dungeon is Raul Rivero, one of the country’s leading independent journalists. But do we hear a peep from his “brethren” in the American press, apart from a few nuts on conservative websites?
Journalists are a proud lot — they’re always beating their breasts about how noble their profession is. They watch every hair on the heads of journalists throughout the world — except for Cuba, of course, where it’s cool to be for the dictator, or at least against the big bad Yanks, and those crude, loudmouth Miamians. Raul Rivero ought to be famous. If he were a South African, circa 1983, he would be.
But he has the misfortune of being the victim of a Communist regime, so he’ll just have to sit there and take it, in the interest of not giving aid and comfort to the Right.
But, as I keep mentioning, I’m fatigued.
Did you get a load of that John Kerry not-a-litmus-test stuff? We must reconsider whether, as between Sen. and Mrs. Kerry, it’s Teresa who’s battier.
Readers, I received a great deal of mail in response to my affirmative-action squib the other day, and I’ll print several examples of it. But not now. We’ve been warring it up — about Iraq, I mean, not affirmative action (though the Michigan case is before the Court) — in addition to which, Impromptus will be thin on the ground in coming weeks, as I’ll be traveling and otherwise engaged.
But let me conclude with a couple of war-related letters. The first is from Switzerland:
“Our recently appointed foreign minister, Bundesrätin Micheline Calmy-Rey, has proposed to embarrass the United States by posting on a government website the names of all civilians injured during the Allied attack on Iraq. I think it’s interesting that a high-ranking member of the Swiss government should propose to compile such a list within a couple of weeks of the start of the Anglo-British-Australian effort to liberate Iraq, particularly since it took nearly 60 years (and extraordinary pressure from the United States and Holocaust-survivor groups) to get the Swiss government to pressure the banks to reveal the names of holders of World War II ‘dormant accounts’ (principally Jews who deposited their assets in Swiss banks for safe keeping, most of which assets were confiscated by the banks with the connivance of the government).”
And this, from a man in Michigan who signs off, “Semper Fi.”
“I want to cry.
“I want to weep with joy for the newly liberated citizens of Iraq, who, now free, no longer feel compelled to chant canned slogans in support of a murderous tyrant who cut out the tongues of those not chanting loud enough.
“I want to laugh.
“I want to laugh out in glee and in ridicule of the French, the Germans, the anti-war protesters in America, who [effectively] sided with a murderous tyrant who stole the wealth and pride and liberty of an entire nation. I want to guffaw and snicker and hoot at the gray-beard professors and the racist leftists who insisted that Arabs don’t want freedom, aren’t sufficiently evolved for democracy, will respond with terror to attacks on a terrorist. I want to drink beer, and then piss vigorously on their signs and on their cheap slogans.
“I want to cry.
“I want to cry for the Iraqis who, over the past 25 years, have had to cower in fear for their lives, for the lives of their family members, and for the loss of human dignity that was denied them because one evil man wanted to control the destiny of 25 million human beings, and because we have not until now had the courage to kill him.
“I want to laugh.
“I want to laugh with the British and U.S. Marines and the soldiers now in Baghdad, who expected and trained for a fight against fanatical Republican Guards, against citizen militias, against chemical attacks that never came, who have survived the mission and liberated an entire nation, and who now welcome an onslaught of incoming flowers, the embrace of joyously grateful citizens, the pride of stoic and professional Anglo-American accomplishment.
“I want to cry.
“I want to cry with the families of the Americans whose sons will not enjoy the gratitude of a newly freed nation, who have paid in full the price of liberty so that others may live in freedom.
“I want to laugh.
“I want to laugh at the armchair generals and the pampered, purse-lipped media, who after only days proclaimed a ‘quagmire,’ a ‘failure of planning,’ a ‘disaster in the making.’ I want to throw a brick through my television, and dance with Chaldeans in the streets of Dearborn.
“I want to cry.
“I want to shed tears for my country, tears of pride, tears that show that I understood and argued and always believed that this war was always about freedom for Iraqis and security for Americans. This war is not over, and there is still much work to be done, but no one can now say that we haven’t won it. The legions of liberated Iraqis who now freely, openly, chant ‘Bush! Bush! USA!’ in the center of Baghdad confirm it.
“Never forget the brutality of this regime, the torture chambers, the rape rooms, the terror training camps, the summary executions, the weapons of mass destruction — and never, never forget that we were right to destroy it.
“Finally, let this victory be a guide for our future when murderous tyrants again dare challenge a free and resolute America.