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Anybody who’s been to Iraq lately knows that the gloom and despair in our major newspapers concerning the conflict is low-grade liverwurst. Yet as I recently discovered when I picked up a copy of the Financial Times Deutschland on a trip, our papers look like Pentagon propaganda compared to what the Germans are reading. Such reporting may go a long way towards explaining European opposition to our Iraqi efforts.
While the entire first page of the "Agenda" section was devoted to what was presented as straight reporting, "agenda" was clearly the proper description. Titled, "Saddam, wir lieben dich!" ("Saddam, we love you!"), the words might as well have been from the German reporter, not the Iraqis who were allegedly shouting them.
The difference between an op-ed and biased "straight reporting" is that the opinion writer says what he thinks while the reporter scrounges up others willing to support his position. (Let’s not even entertain the possibility that some quotes may be fabricated.) So it was here.
In the city of Fallujah from which the story was reported, among 200,000 residents not one could be found who did not have utter contempt for Americans or didn’t think of Saddam as a reincarnation of the prophet Mohammed with a bit of Santa Claus tossed in for good measure.
Kurds gassed by Saddam Claus.
Given the chance, "I’d have killed every American who passes my way," says one Iraqi in pull-quote. Compared to the British, "The Americans are completely uncivilized," read the other pull quote.
The Financial Times Deutschland also found American troops guilty of the ultimate war crime: insensitivity. It noted that when U.S. soldiers accidentally kill an Iraqi, as is inevitable in urban fighting in which the enemy wears no uniform, they pay the families compensation. But "$1,500 for a brother, that’s a humiliation," grumbles a young man in a Baghdad supermarket.
Obviously no amount of money can adequately compensate for a human life. On the other hand, there’s nothing in the article about compensation from Saddam’s supporters, even though they’ve proved themselves far more adept at killing their own civilians than slaying Coalition troops.
Blame on the Americans even extends to winning the war. There’s no mention of polls showing the great majority of Iraqis are glad Saddam has fled or hidden. The reporter picked Fallujah precisely because it was a Saddam power base, one of the few cities where he spent the money he stole from the rest of the nation. "Here," we’re told, "almost everyone awaits Saddam’s return."
"I’d like 100 Saddams and no Americans," cries the owner of "the best Kebab restaurant in Iraq," according to our investigative reporter-turned-gourmet. "There is no freedom so long as there’s an American occupation of Iraq." The reporter apparently sees no irony in placing this quote immediately after saying the city was a major recruiting center for Saddam’s secret police, a virtual carbon copy of Hitler’s Gestapo.
"Saddam, you filled our pockets and now you will always fill our hearts!"
Americans are even held responsible for the actions of the Iraqi government. A building contractor complained bitterly that an order he received from the government before the war ended wasn’t paid for. "The Americans drove off the administration officials, but refuse to be responsible for my damage. Those are the sons of a pig." Perhaps we should have left the government intact just long enough to make sure it paid all of its bills.
There is simply nobody in all Fallujah who does not want all the Americans roasted slowly on a spit, according to the Financial Times Deutschland. "Mothers explain to their children that the Americans are monsters," we’re told. Had the reporter bothered to interview the cats, dogs, and lizards, presumably he would have gotten a similar impression.
Ah, but the U.S. will pay for such crimes! "America will experience their second Vietnam," crows an Iraqi. Relief for the oppressed peoples of Iraq is at hand! The activities of the disparate groups will become coordinated, Financial Times Deutschland assures us. "We have enough money and weapons to struggle for years against the Americans," says an unidentified Iraqi. Thousands of young men stand ready to die for the country and "the great leader Saddam Hussein." Many "men from Fallujah are ready to die to restore their lost honor and pride."
Hmm...Is that why their typical modus operandi is to set off a bomb in the road by remote control and then, as a minstrel from a Monty Python movie put it, "Bravely taking to [their] feet [they] beat a very brave retreat."
When three shells hit a U.S. military compound, you’d think from press reports it was the Viet Cong infiltration of the U.S. embassy compound during the Tet Offensive. Actually, it was more like kids tossing snowballs at passing cars. The attackers again bravely fled, leaving nine precious shells unfired while those they did fire bounced harmlessly off the building because the terrorists were too hasty or scared to aim their shots.
The courageous and savvy VC these are not.
Curiously, not only does the German reporter make no effort to deny that those attacking U.S. troops are by no means strictly indigenous, as some American media outlets have insisted, he repeatedly emphasizes the presence of fighters from Saudi Arabia and other countries and even labels them terrorists.
"I tell you; Saddam isn’t wicked. He’s just been misunderstood!"
The purpose, apparently, is to show that this is a pan-Islamic effort against which the U.S. cannot possibly prevail. "Everyone hates the Americans. Terrorists from neighboring states want Iraq to be a battleground in the war against American transformation," warns a policeman.
With another reporter, in another paper, this just might lead to the issue of whether the president is right when he says Iraq is now the main battlefield against terror.
The final lines of the article, in reference to a funeral for the eight Iraqi policemen who died in a crossfire between American troops and terrorists, speak for themselves. "The sad guests shoot in the air with their Kalashnikovs and swear revenge. ’Saddam, we love you!’ cry the men. ’We will defend you with blood and steel.’"
Nobody needs three guesses as to why the French want to see our butts kicked. Germans, however, like us. But faced with Goebbels-like propaganda such as this, it’s easy to see why they — and other Europeans similarly brainwashed — want nothing to do with our efforts to keep the Iraqi people free. Nor do they seem to realize that using Iraq as a terrorist magnet and killing ground makes it that much less likely they will attack targets in America, or more likely in Europe itself.