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April the Ninth
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Two
by Brian S. Wise
11 April 2003

Dissenters have maintained a most unique view of the big picture, the sort that comes with an even more unique tunnel vision: whatever happens, it will most likely be bad; more, whatever has happened has definitely been bad.

By now you have probably read a dozen (or two) emotional recollections – and have watched more than a few hours of television coverage – on the grand spectacle that was the Hussein statue coming down in Baghdad two days ago.  And make no mistake as to the underlying significance of the event; it was one of those collective demands for freedom that warms the heart.  Freedom, it has been said, begins with the word no; those born with the highest liberty humanity has ever allowed should take great pleasure when a people discovers (or rediscovers) a liberty of its own, for so long denied by a force they could not overpower.
         
Yet, footage of the looting has by now taken the place of the statue footage.  There has come to exist a certain sideways glance when the footage is shown; it is as though some are passively suggesting that, in the first days of freedom, this is the best the Iraqis could manage.  Well, all right.  Let it be said that people should resist whatever temptations they may have to loot (or riot, or whatever).  But let it also be said that not everyone is looting (you would not have suggested all of Los Angeles looted for Rodney King), and that the initial targets (note: the initial targets) were regime owned apartments and office buildings (not illogical given the impact of the regime on the people), and not because the Lakers beat the Nets for the NBA championship.
 
Stud Rumsfeld the First referred to the continuing looting and unrest as … “untidiness.”  (“If you go from a repressive regime … in that transition period, there is untidiness.”)  The Stud is right as to the nature of the point, but looting, arson and shootings are more than merely untidy.  “We do feel an obligation to assist in providing security, and coalition forces are doing that.  Where [the troops] see looting, they are stopping it.”  Concluded the Secretary of Defense, “Stuff happens.”  Indeed.  In Mosul, that stuff included: 1) a marauding of the central bank, 2) three of Saddam General Hospital’s five ambulances were stolen, 3) all eight of Jumhuriya Hospital’s ambulances were taken at gunpoint, and 4) the Mosul University library was ransacked, disturbing what Al-Jazerra called “rare manuscripts.”
 
So anyway.  What is the best way to deal with the civil disobedience of a newly liberated people?  We have all seen the footage of this one female soldier trying to hold back several Iraqis from advancing on one target or the other, and that is probably the best way to end such uprisings.  One trusts (at least I do) that a steady, contained field of non-violent allied resistance will eventually convince our new looting / rioting / pyromaniac friends that enough is enough, with arrests from some sort of centralized police department taking care of the rest.  (Imprisonment for the newly freed?  If you must.  At least torture is no longer in the cards.)
 
Not surprisingly, Arab reaction to the fall of Baghdad on April the ninth was an odd combination of outrage and bewilderment.  The following cross section of Arab feedback was taken directly from the Thursday (April the tenth) edition of Special Report: An Al-Jazerra producer told Larry King (ugh) that she and her colleagues were very surprised to see Iraqis “receiving the Americans and British with smiles and flowers.”  Reuters quoted a Yemeni teacher who said, “I still cannot believe that the Americans entered Baghdad so easily.”  A history teacher in Egypt said he hears people asking why Hussein’s forces “crumbled like a biscuit.”  A shopkeeper in the West Bank asked, “Where is the Iraqi army?  Have they evaporated?”  A housewife in Syria broke down in tears and said the taking of Baghdad was “humiliating.”  A government employee in Cairo concluded, “Now no one believes Al-Jazerra anymore.”  You would expect that from a people whose culture literally has no definitions for words like “democracy,” “freedom” and “constitution,” let alone the ideas behind them.
 
But what is keeping such large sections if the American media from speaking at length on the joys experienced by the Iraqi people?  Objectivity?  Not exactly.  Peter Jennings managed to wonder aloud about a sculptor, whose job was to sculpt statues not unlike the one in Baghdad for all regime hire-ups, and who is now out of work.  Ted Koppel, was heard to have said the bringing down of the statue was just one of those “benign photogenic events that can dilute us into misunderstanding what lies ahead.”  What lies ahead?  He future may be daunting, but what about taking a moment to appreciate what has already been accomplished?  Never mind.
 
Dissenters have maintained a most unique view of the big picture, the sort that comes with an even more unique tunnel vision: whatever happens, it will most likely be bad; more, whatever has happened has definitely been bad.  Iraqis being allowed to take their first baby steps to independence is a towering success, a benefit to humanity, a first step in their enjoying the sort of sovereignty far too many of us have come to take for granted.


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