The first man to speak wants to know two things: There's a U.S. election next year, and if President Bush loses will the Americans go home? And second, are you secretly holding Saddam Hussein in custody as a way to intimidate us with the fear that he might return? Mr. Wolfowitz replies no to both points, with more conviction on the second than the first. But the question reveals the complicated anxiety of the post-Saddam Iraqi mind.
Most reporting from Iraq suggests that the U.S. "occupation" isn't welcome here. But following Mr. Wolfowitz around the country I found precisely the opposite to be true. The majority aren't worried that we'll stay too long; they're petrified we'll leave too soon. Traumatized by 35 years of Saddam's terror, they fear we'll lose our nerve as casualties mount and leave them once again to the Baath Party's merciless revenge.
Have you ever noticed that the opponents of the war are constantly evoking the "Iraqi people" as their object of greatest compassion and concern, and yet seem utterly uninterested in what the Iraqi people actually think about the war and the demise of the Saddam regime? There is clearly a logical disconnect in the claim that you are helping an oppressed people by doing everything within your power to keep them oppressed. Rant about occupation and imperialism all you want, the fact still remains that Saddam is gone and the Iraqi people are happy to see him gone. Of course, to acknowledge this would destroy the anti-war Left's most precious posession: self-regard. How long can you consider yourself a partisan of the oppressed of the Third World if you consistently ignore what your precious oppressed actually think and feel?