The late Christopher Hitchens had a standard response to Iraq war critics who ridiculed Vice President Cheney and others who predicted that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators in Iraq. His response: “They were, I saw it.”
Others saw the same thing, and reported it. Michael Rubin collects some of these reports. For example, there was this from the Daily Record of April 10, 2003:
Ten days ago, when the war still looked like a contest, Iraq’s deputy premier poured scorn on claims that civilians would greet Allied troops with flowers. Baghdad’s people rammed Tariq Aziz’s sneers down his throat. Hundreds threw bouquets at US tanks as they rumbled through the city. Mothers held up babies for soldiers to kiss. Kids reached out to touch the tanks. The fact of their freedom was hard for many Iraqis to accept. Millions have lived their whole lives under a regime where it was a crime to throw away a newspaper, because Saddam’s face was always on the front page. Some stayed in their homes, astounded and still afraid. But others poured on to the streets to celebrate.
Similarly, on the same day, the Boston Globe had this to say:
Lieutenant Colonel John Charlton, who commands a tank and infantry task force, advanced yesterday morning into a neighborhood near the Mother of All Battles mosque, where he had expected to find stiff resistance. Instead, Charlton said, his troops found hundreds of smiling, cheering Baghdad residents. “We came in ready to attack with a tank company and an infantry company,” Charlton said. “Instead, it was a celebration. “The civilians all came out and were overjoyed to see us,” said Charlton, 43, of Spokane, Wash. “I was surprised that a lot of them spoke English and had relatives in the United States. They were thanking us for our help and denouncing Saddam and the regime.” Residents, Charlton said, were helping the troops locate ammunition caches and hideouts.
The Bush administration made its share of mistakes regarding Iraq. High on the list, I believe, was its post-liberation emphasis on being liked rather than feared, when the two impulses were in conflict. But the prediction that we would be greeted as liberators was not mistaken.