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May 18, 2004
Dispatch From Iraq

More from M in Baghdad:

"Good afternoon from Iraq. The weather here is getting hotter, and I don't have time to work on my tan, to the chagrin of my lovely bride. I wanted to come back to the United States lighter (in the belly area, because before I left, my belly was somehow, oddly enough mind you, getting larger) and tanner, but time does not permit. Regarding the ever expanding belly…hey, there is free ice cream here, and who could resist free ice cream in a combat zone where the temperature is 104 on a daily basis? Could you?

I thought not.

From what I can tell from watching the U.S. media, the prison scandal has not died down. However, here in Iraq, it's not getting as much play, and the Iraqis that I speak with daily tell me that under Saddam, the Sunni's were the ones who were torturing the Shi'ias and the Kurds. And when I say torture, I mean like drilling holes in heads, hands, feet; and that is the least painful things that have been told to me.

So, the Iraqis here say that now that the Sunni's are in Abu Ghraib, they tell me it's "God's judgment." And how do the Kurds feel about it? Yawns all around. It is only the liberal American media who will just not let this thing go. I still tell folks, however, that this scandal doesn't represent what is great about America. But they follow up by saying, "What about justice for those who did this to us under Saddam? There is no justice for them!"

Of course, I have no answer. I understand and empathize with them, but I tell them that you don't justify bad behavior by pointing to worse behavior, and that America operates on a higher moral standard, and those who choose to break the law, pay the price in a democracy. It's a good lesson for the Iraqis to see that America punishes those who commit crimes. They never saw that under the evil reign of Saddam.

As you may or may not know, the U.S. military discovered WMD's in Baghdad. Mustard and sarin nerve gas were concealed inside artillery shells. FOX News Channel has been running heavy with the story, but I haven't seen too much coverage from CNN. An Iraqi friend of mine, Z, said that Al-Jazeera and CNN are one and the same...

Call me corny (my wife does—and often, too!), but I carry around a pocket edition of the Declaration of Independence and a copy of the Constitution, and I show the Iraqis that the principles laid out in those documents are what we want to see happen in Iraq. Freedom is NOT free, and the Iraqi people know and understand this concept. They so much appreciate the men and women of the U.S. military and the other coalition partners who have given their lives for the cause of freedom. And I'm so honored to be here serving, and witnessing the transformation of folks who have known nothing but tyranny and horror, to freedom and democracy. The Iraqi people are loving, warm, and generous individuals who are thankful that the United States is here. Oh, and they LOVE George W. Bush. It's close to idol worship! He is called the "liberator" of Iraq. Tell that to John Kerry.

Have a great day.

PS: And if you see a member of the U.S. military today, thank them for your freedom… "

Posted by Woodlief on May 18, 2004 at 09:21 AM


Ah, how I love the impartiality of the U.S. media. I wonder why we don't see interviews with the Iraqis "on the street"...

Tony, thanks for giving us a peek into the real world over there. Please pass along our heartfelt thanks to M for his sacrifice (and that of his family). He should know that the (not-as-vocal) majority still believes in their mission there.

Posted by: Paul at May 18, 2004 10:15 AM

Me too, pass along my regards and Godspeed to M.

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at May 18, 2004 5:51 PM

Thanks for the update. Positive news from people in Iraq...So great to hear!
Stay safe M!
God Bless!

Phoenix AZ.

Posted by: Matt S. at May 19, 2004 1:39 AM

Dear Woodlief,

I just want to tell you how heartwarming your letter is and how happy it made me. You are right about CNN and Al-Jazeera over here. I watch nothing but Fox news when I am home and they are, by far, the only new station to report the good happening over there but there is still too much focus on the scandal. Your letter brings to light what I assumed all along.

Thank you and the other men and women over there bringing a better life to the Iraqis, even at the risk of your own.

Very Sincerely,
Tina Hammond

PS - I have 2 brother-in-laws over there as well and my husband was in Qatar for a long time right after 9-11. My heart is there with all of yall! Take care & God Bless You!

Posted by: Tina at May 19, 2004 3:13 PM

Hello M. I really enjoy your postive stories from Iraq, since we get almost none here in the states. Please keep them coming. Thank you.

Posted by: Richard at May 19, 2004 6:16 PM


Thanx for the upbeat stories from Iraq. I'm glad you rekonize like I do that the Communist News Network hates freedom as much as Al Jazerah. I too thank God for Fox, since it his personal network. Your right. The recent discovery of Sarin supports the whole deal. I'm gonna have Colin read your letter since he seems to be wanderin off the reservation. I'm especially glad to hear the Iraqi people love me. Are you sure they don't have me confused with my Saddam appeasin' daddy? He's big in Kuwait, you know. With that news I'm thinkin' about makin' them the 51st state. I figure with 26 million folks I could easily lose Ohio and Pennsylvanya and still make up for it. Karl will be glad to read your letter, too.

Well, I'm gonna play a little golf with Don Evans. Hang in their, buddy.

The "liberator"

Posted by: George W. Bush at May 19, 2004 7:32 PM

I have to admit I'm a little surprised here. First of all, a couple of sarin shells constructed well over a decade ago and lying in the desert are most assuredly NOT WMD. Let's wait and see what else we can find, but until then, let's hold our horses here. It's simply too early to tell. If you don't believe me, listen to Mr. Rumsfeld.

Second, I would hope that if there is one thing that post war 20th century international politics have taught us, it is that directly transplanting a political and value system from one country to another (particularly from a rich, industrialized Western one to a developing Muslim state) has shown very mixed results, at best. The US Constitution has worked very well in the New World; there is no reason to suppose it should work in Iraq. If M's viewpoint is shared by the majority of the American civilian administration there, then perhaps getting out as soon as June is a good idea.

Posted by: yes, but at May 20, 2004 10:26 AM

To "yes, but", I agree that what was found probably doesn't constitute "WMD." However, the whole flurry over "where are the WMDs?" displays an ignorance I'm surprised nobody has challenged. Saddam, though insane with power and desperately wicked, was not stupid. He wasn't just going to leave those things around for people to find. If I was in his shoes, I would have had the WMDs on the first truck headed out-of-country as soon as the U.S. started rattling sabres. Those are valuable commodities, and their absence is proving to be even more valuable (in terms of embarassment to the U.S. government).

Posted by: Paul at May 24, 2004 2:35 PM

The CIA assessment was that if Saddam actually had WMD, then attacking him would provoke an attach with those very WMD, i.e. chem and bio. That was one of the major concerns regarding the invasion. WMD are supposed to be a detterent, but if you have them and don't use them when you are being invaded or about to lose a war then what's the point of WMDs?

The only thing I can see as a possibility for Hussein for having WMD and not using when he's losing miserably is Nuclear Annihilation. At that point you're suicidal if your only option is nukes. Maybe overconfidence on Saddam's part?

I guess that requires me to give credit to Prez Bush I, since he knocked Saddam out of Iraq, gave him an incentive to not use chem/bio by letting him stay in power (and threatening to nuke him if he did), then send in the UN weapons inspectors, strip him of WMD capability, leaving him incapacitated. As I recall Bush Sr. said (and I'm paraphrasing) "If you use any chem bio we will nuke you". You could make the case that for this reason there were far less casualties the first war as well as this one with. I guess I've conceding Bush Senior did something right in the end...

Of course, it would have been nice if Bush Sr. had not approved the loan to Saddam thru the import/export bank to buy chem bio weapons in the first place. But let's not ruin this moment.

If I was in his shoes I would have had the WMDs on the first truck headed out-of-country as soon as the U.S. started rattling sabres. Those are valuable commodities, and their absence is proving to be even more valuable (in terms of embarassment to the U.S. government).

That's you first mistake Paul. You are not a power hungry murderous dictator who killed some of his own friends to get to power and dumped chemical weapons on your own people to supress them (thank god!). While I might be a little presumptious here, I have a feeling that you probably don't understand what he truly thinks. I certainly don't. How about asking an expert in the field, like maybe a psychologist?*

You're problem here is simple - you're projecting what you want to be true, as well as empathizing with the President. Every thing that goes wrong is not a plot by others to make the Prez look bad. Is it possible that he does that well enough all by himself?

*ironic the speech was at the war college, since when the experts there weighed in on the war and didn't hear what he wanted to, Dubya ignored 'em.

Posted by: Palmer Haas at May 25, 2004 1:42 PM

As wonderful as it is that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power - and I truly mean that, it's not a throw-away line - it'd be nice to acknowledge the utter failure of the administration to prove the claim that Hussein was a gathering threat to the U.S. - the only claim that justified the war according to long-held American principles of national defense.

It was never the intention of the founders to liberate people around from their oppressors -"But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy, She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all, She is the champion and vindicator only of her own."

And so, at the end of 14 months, with $200 billion spent and billions more in acqiescing to welfare-state liberals, I think conservatives can generally agree that this president has been a failure.

Posted by: ab at May 26, 2004 12:17 AM

"ab" and "yes, but" only prove that they are not qualified to say what situation does or does not constitute a threat to the nation. I'm glad that less complacent people happen to be in charge this time around.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at May 31, 2004 1:01 AM

Do you have any opinion as to what is and what is not a threat, Andrea? Or would you rather the people in government made that decision for you?

I'm tempted to quote Benjamin Franklin at this point, so I'll just stop now.

Posted by: yes, but at May 31, 2004 5:42 AM