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Why Don't Iraqis Seem Happy Being About Liberated?
by J. Grant Swank, Jr., Pastor
25 March 2003

How many spouses in abusive marriages continue with the abusive partner, even when they have an opportunity to escape?  Such is the Iraqi "marriage" to Hussein, father leader figure.

Why aren’t the streets full of Iraqis embracing the US-led troops? Such is happening in some places; but not as many locations as had been hoped. Reuters reports that youths smile at troops as they approach the children; but then the smiles turn to scowls.

Some Iraqi citizens even shout out that Saddam Hussein is their leader, no one else.

"We don't want them (US-led troops) here," said 17-year-old Fouad, angrily taking in spiraling gray smoke rising out of Basra.

He yanked a paper from his clothes. Unfolding it, he scanned a picture of Hussein, depicting the Iraqi leader on a throne with a pleasant face.

"Saddam is our leader," Fouad said with conviction. "Saddam is good."

"There is fighting in the center, on the streets. It is terrible," said Hussein, a 24-year-old engineer who works for the state-run oil company in the city.

"We don't want Americans here. This is Iraq."

According to reporters Luke Baker and Rosalind Russell, in Southern Iraq young people wave greetings to troops as they approach the children, but then “sneer” as the troops proceed up the road.

Why is this?

It should not be that difficult to figure out.

First, many Iraqis know no other leader but Hussein. Therefore, the familiar is tolerable, many times even in the face of the unknown which is benevolent. Compare this: How many spouses in an abusive marriage continue with the abusive partner, even when the abused has an opportunity to escape by one separation means or another? Liken that to the Iraqi “marriage” to Hussein, father leader figure.

Second, the Iraqis have been imprisoned in a daily and nightly fear prison house. They know nothing else, particularly the health of freedom. They have harnessed in their thoughts, speech, motives and interpersonal relationships so as to survive. With that mindset, it can be almost impossible for some to break out of the “comfort” of prison life into liberty’s opportunities. Compare this: there are those inmates who have served time in penal institutions, only to have a chance at release. Upon release, they consciously or subconsciously set traps for themselves so as to return to prison. Why? They have become so accustomed to incarceration that acclimating to non-prison lifestyle is impossible.

Third, there are those Iraqis who do not act quickly to change, just as many non-Iraqis do not act quickly to change. It is a human reflex with many. There is reluctance, a legitimate hesitation, a checking-things-out before hastily running forth into the questionable and unknown. Therefore, though those breathing liberty every day know the reflex of acceptance to liberty, those who have never known liberty cannot be expected to lunge toward liberty without having experienced its definition.

Fourth, there are those who are extremely weary. They are worn out. They have seen war and more war. They have seen innocent women beheaded, neighbors hauled off in the middle of the night never to return, families separated from one another, Hussein’s lying officials lording it over the populace, and more hellish situations than their biographies should ever have had to assimilate.

With all this considered, it is appropriate for liberators to take time to comprehend the Iraqi mindset. Further, it would be helpful if the free would shed naiveté in order to reason out the real, particularly in another culture than ours, with a people having a history other than day-to-day liberty.

Joseph Grant Swank, Jr., is the Pastor of New Hope Church in Windham, ME.  He is a a graduate of an accredited college (BA) and seminary (M Div) with graduate work at Harvard Divinity School.  Pastor Swank has been married for 41 years and he has 3 adult children.  He is the author of 5 books and over 2000 articles in various Protestant and Catholic magazines, journals and newspapers. He writes a weekly religion column for PORTLAND PRESS HERALD newspaper, Portland ME.  His columns have appeared on,,,,,, (USO Canteen Chapel link), (Insights link), among others.

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