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Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Where's Zogby when you need him?
When even Salon -- no friend to the Bush administration, to say the least -- reports that Iraqi Shiites are grateful to the U.S., you really have to wonder why the New York Times is so very desperate to portray Iraq as an anti-American hotbed? (Samples: "As Baghdad Awaits Aid, Feeling Grows Against U.S." and "But even in the Shiite south, one feels as much menace as gratitude. ... Those Americans who contend that Iraqis hail us as liberators should try traveling around Iraq. I grew a mustache to look more like an Iraqi so hostile locals wouldn't throw rocks at my car.")

Ferry Biedermann reports, in Salon:
From all parts of Iraq the pilgrims have been streaming toward Karbala for almost a week -- openly, proudly and, despite the mournful occasion, joyously. For the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein there is a clear mass popular expression of the relief of the people that the dictator is no longer in power. "Thank you, Bush!" many of the pilgrims shout, as they give the thumbs-up to the U.S.A. The religious holiday is turning into a huge festival of liberation.
A little farther down the road, a student from Al Durra, near Baghdad, is walking toward Karbala with two female relatives, clad in black. "The road is safe," he says, "and we have the Americans to thank for it. They are our friends. They even said we could leave our weapons at home because they will defend us."
Not that all Shiites are now 100 percent positive about the U.S. presence. Outside the mosque of Ali in Najaf, a group of men from Nasariyeh is eating lunch in a hurry before moving on to Karbala. "The American soldiers touch our women when they frisk them," some complain. "They look into our homes with binoculars and they show pictures from Playboy to our children," others chime in.

Still, even this relatively disenchanted group does not want to see the Americans gone just yet. "The war has barely ended, Saddam Hussein has not been found yet, and the country has to be helped on its feet," one of them explains. Another man, who had been complaining about the frisking of women, concedes, "We wouldn't mind the women being frisked if is being done by female soldiers." This reflects the attitude of the large majority of the people on the road. There may be some complaints, but by and large people regard the Americans as friendly and they want the troops to stay and finish the job.
The "Yankee go home" demonstrations, according to Biedermann, represent political maneuvering by Shiite leaders more than true anti-American sentiment. Of course, I don't discount the possibility that U.S. screwups in post-war Iraq could lead to widespread anti-Americanism, but the eagerness of the Times to interpret every chanting Iraqi as an America-hater seems more an example of wishful thinking than reporting.

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