A casualty of the left's hatred for President George W. Bush has been a destructive inability to separate fact from fiction in the ongoing history of the war in Iraq. The latest case, which, sadly, has dug its way into the head of the Democratic presidential nominee, is the allegation that American troops, when they liberated Baghdad in April 2003, were not welcome as liberators. This inaccurate appraisal, shocking given that it's made by people who watched the liberation on TV, was leveled again on Tuesday evening by Barack Obama for the second time in consecutive presidential debates. Both times, Obama criticized John McCain for predicting that Americans would be greeted as liberators in Iraq.
I cannot confirm whether McCain said that. Either way, though, the undeniable truth is that we were welcomed as liberators. I know this very well, because I, like everyone over the age of five, lived through it.
I recall a June 27, 2003 piece by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times, titled, "The Man With No Ear." A few weeks after the apparent cessation of war, Kristof visited Iraq. Like The Times, he adamantly opposed the war. Now, he had to come to grips with the undeniable freedom wrought by the liberation, and the gratitude that Iraqis felt for George W. Bush. One Iraqi told Kristof: "A thousand thanks to Bush! A thousand thanks to Bush's mother for giving birth to him!"
Kristof admitted he did not expect that reaction. He tracked down a man named Mathem Abid Ali. For deserting the Army, Ali's ear was amputated. "Children looked at me, and turned away in horror," he told Kristof. But now, at last, Ali was free. He told Kristof: "I'd like to make a statue in gold of President Bush."
Kristof admitted that such facts "got in the way" of his plans for his column. He conceded that it was important that doves like himself encounter Saddam's victims and their joy at being liberated by American troops. Doves "need to grapple with the giddy new freedom that–in spite of us–pullulates from Baghdad to Basra," wrote Kristof.
When Iraqis weren't talking of forging gold statues to George W. Bush, they were running around the streets literally praising God for him. Here, too, I could give example after example, but I will stick with another from the popular press, this from the London Telegraph, May 21, 2003:
Juad Amir Sayed, an Iraqi Shiite Muslim, lived in the village of Karada, 90 miles southeast of Baghdad. At age 24, he had buried all of his books in a flour sack, burned his identity card, and constructed a tunnel and three-by-five-foot concrete cell under the family kitchen. He entered that cell on December 2, 1981 and lived there for the next 22 years.
Juad dug a tiny three-inch diameter hole deep into the ground from which he sucked water. This was his well. A smaller peep hole provided a ray of sunlight during the day. His only company was a Koran and a radio with headphones that he kept tuned to the Arabic Service of the BBC. His bright moment came near the 20th anniversary of his confinement when he heard a speech by President Bush on the September 11 attacks. "Mr. Bush gave a speech in which he said the terrorists of the world would be hunted down," recalled Juad. "The next time my mother brought me food I told her of my conviction that [Saddam] would not last."
Juad assumed that any hunt for terrorists would naturally include Saddam Hussein. Fortunately for him, the American president agreed.
Once American troops arrived, Juad entered the light of freedom for the first time in over two decades. "I believe that Allah worked through Mr. Bush to make this happen," said Juad. "If I met Mr. Bush, I would say, 'thank you, thank you, you are a good human, you returned me from the dead.'"
Those are simply a couple of anecdotes from newspapers. Has everyone forgotten about the images they saw on their television sets?
I spent two hours with about 50 students on the morning of April 9, 2003 watching CNN coverage of Iraqis and U.S. Marines in Firdos Square tearing down a statue of Saddam Hussein, which was then desecrated, spat upon, smacked with shoes, and ridden like a donkey through the streets of Baghdad. As Howard Fineman wrote in Newsweek, affirming what no one doubted, it was George W. Bush "who toppled that statue."
Doesn't anyone remember this? Are the biases of liberals so personally crippling that they purge their own memory banks?
Every president has a "finest hour." For JFK, it was the Cuban Missile Crisis. For Jimmy Carter, it was Camp David. For George W. Bush, it was April 9, 2003.
Of course, shame on President Bush and his administration for not constantly reminding us of this. Certainly, the press hasn't bothered. And now, yet again, because of the Bush administration's failure to communicate to the larger public, the president's enraged opponents have been able to inaccurately portray another highlight from the Iraq war. The left has been so successful in eviscerating George W. Bush that even this amazing day of freedom in his presidency has been somehow turned upside down.
The fall of that statue in Baghdad on that day should be the visual equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall for this president and his presidency. It is not. It is now a negative used by the Democratic presidential nominee!
Now, all that said, here's a critical rest-of-the-story: George W. Bush eventually became unpopular in Iraq, as did the occupation/reconstruction, especially in the 2005-6 timeframe. No question. The situation deteriorated. But that's a different argument. The fact is that we were indeed greeted as liberators.
Here again, we have another exhibit in the Hall of Hatred erected to George W. Bush. The left has become so anti-Bush that it can't make simple distinctions between fact and fiction. And now, worse of all, this latest false charge has become a talking point for the left's presidential nominee, where, yet again, it is uncontested.
Paul Kengor is author of God and George W. Bush (HarperCollins, 2004), professor of political science, and executive director of the Center for Vision Values at Grove City College. His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).