The Corner

Re: Iraqi Gratitude

John, I hesitate to grapple with you, particularly where numbers are involved. But I would say a few things in response.

First, Iraqi gratitude is not the functional equivalent of an Iraqi desire that we remain in their country. It is quite possible — indeed, it’s probably common — for an Iraqi to acknowledge being in our debt for deposing Saddam and to be anxious for us to leave. The poll question: “Do you want the Americans to leave?” (assuming it was asked that way) implicates at least equally the respondent’s national pride (to be able to go it alone) as it does what you seem to draw from it — viz., a resentment that excludes feelings of gratitude. I don’t read a wish that our presence was no more — a wish that is shared by a vast majority of Americans, including probably both of us — as necessarily conveying ingratitude.

Second, though you did not quote this part of what I said, I did acknowledge that there are a lot of malcontents. I also think the American people’s perception will continue to be that the number of ingrates is substantial, whether that is true or not, because of the news coverage. BUT, in the middle of a war, the head of an allied nation we would like to see succeed came to the U.S. and expressed lavish thanks on behalf of himself and his countrymen — much like what our own President did in England a few months ago notwithstanding that there is a substantial and loud opposition in this country. Under those circumstances, and especially after Kerry — about a nano-second after Allawi was done — gave an obnoxious response, unbecoming of someone who would represent the U.S. to the world, I felt a bit small for having effectively accused ALL Iraqis of ingratitude.

Allawi says he understands what is going on in his entire country better than the snippets we have been shown in the media (and perhaps even in the public opinion polls). I think he should get the benefit of the doubt at this point. Not necessarily forever, but at least for now.

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