March 31, 2003


SHATRA, Iraq (Reuters) – Hundreds of Iraqis shouting “Welcome to Iraq” greeted Marines who entered the town of Shatra Monday after storming it with planes, tanks and helicopter gunships.

A foot patrol picked its way through the small southern town, 20 miles north of the city of Nassiriya, after being beckoned in by a crowd of people.

“There’s no problem here. We are happy to see Americans,” one young man shouted.

It’s especially impressive when you note this Arab News report:

“There are people from Baath here reporting everything that goes on. There are cameras here recording our faces. If the Americans were to withdraw and everything were to return to the way it was before, we want to make sure that we survive the massacre that would follow as Baath go house to house killing anyone who voiced opposition to Saddam. In public, we always pledge our allegiance to Saddam, but in our hearts we feel something else.”

Different versions of that very quote, but with a common theme, I would come to hear several times over the next three days I spent in Iraq.

And the really big story, of course, is that you’re seeing stuff like this reported by Reuters and the Arab News. Bad news for Saddam in the propaganda war — if you can’t count on these guys, who can you count on? Peter Arnett?

UPDATE: Reader Michael Levy emails that people have their historical analogies wrong:

Some people compare this war to the Vietnam War (of course, they do that every time). But Iraq resembles Vietnam’s neighbor, Cambodia, at the height of the genocide. Even the Vietnamese regime was not so cruel–but if we had invaded Cambodia, we would have faced something similar to this.


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