No one doubts today that there had been no unity in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. But on the eve of the U.S.-led invasion, activist Western media and radical intellectuals eagerly parroted Hussein’s claim of a 100 percent Iraqi vote in his support. Not that anyone believed such an improbable number; the argument rather was that the Iraqis would surely forget their quarrels and unite behind their leader to defend their national dignity from “illegal occupation.” Yet the Iraqis didn’t put up a serious fight. Apparently, they had little to defend since their dignity and much of everything else had already been stripped away from them by Saddam. But at the time the myth of Iraqi unity left a sizeable dent in public support of U.S. policies.
Today, a new, democratic Iraq has become a force for good in the Middle East, having changed the region’s ideological balance in favor of democracy and freedom. And yet not a single vocal opponent of the Bush doctrine, including Barack Obama himself, has retracted his prior statements intended to prevent such an outcome.
I happened to be in Denver during the 2008 Democratic Convention. And even though I didn’t attend Obama’s famous speech at the stadium with Greek columns, I spent some time at the local Civic Center Park observing extravagant political rallies and protest marches, most of them with a marked anti-war bent. The most conspicuous production there was a mosque-like pavilion made of translucent silk sheets with photographs of happy Iranian people going about their daily lives. In the words of its author, young American photographer Tom Loughlin, the exhibit was intended to “transcend the issue of Iranian-American relations” by reminding viewers of the “significant effect that American misperceptions might have on Iranians and on Persian culture,” and to give them “the sense that something beautiful is in jeopardy.”
The author stood nearby with a camcorder and recorded the viewers’ reactions. I offered mine, saying on camera that, objectively, his artistic talent and the money paid to finance it were being used to prop up the Iranian regime with a propagandistic bait-and-switch trick straight from the Soviet playbook. The handsome, eye-catching Persian faces that supposedly represented Iran were the bait. But the faces of those who would gain most from the positive PR message were not on the pictures. That’s because the true beneficiaries of this show were the ugly, America-hating mullahs who oppressed their own people, sponsored terrorism, destabilized the world, advocated the destruction of Israel, and were building a nuclear bomb. And therein was the switch.