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Discrediting Muntader al-Zaidi « The Washington Independent

Delicately and respectfully, Matthew Yglesias argues that Dave Dilegge is missing the point when he writes that “those who have strived — and died — to ensure Iraq’s freedom and future place as a responsible partner on the world scene are brushed aside for the latest bash Bush melodrama” — namely, shoe-throwing Muntader al-Zaidi — because the reasons why soldiers consider themselves to have fought in Iraq is vastly different from the reasons President Bush ordered Iraq invaded and occupied.

For my part, I don’t understand why Dave thinks that U.S. troops are in any sense “brushed aside” by al-Zaidi’s actions. Who’s brushing them aside, exactly? The Iraqis? Well, *yeah, *sure — they don’t like being occupied, and don’t particularly feel grateful to the U.S. troops who comprise the occupation. Would it be any other way if, say, the Iraqi army marched into Tennessee and said that Tennessee was going to implement a totally new political system and part of doing so involved reserving to the Iraqis the right to burst into the homes of individual Tennesseeans and detain those who resisted the new way of doing things?

Another thing about al-Zaidi. I’m not going to say any names here for the time being. But I’ve been noticing on the internets that people are saying he’s a Baathist because of this New York Times Baghdad Bureau blog post saying al-Zaidi was “the head of the student union under Saddam Hussein.” Now that’s missing the point. First of all, Iraqis under Saddam did whatever they had to do to survive given the reality of a totalitarian regime. Baghdad metal band Acrassicauda wrote a song praising Saddam so they could get some funding for equipment. Did al-Zaidi head his student union because he wanted to head a student union or because he believes deeply in the glory of Saddam Hussein? I don’t know and you don’t either.

And it’s completely irrelevant. al-Zaidi has become a symbol in Iraq and the Middle East because the occupation of Iraq is an unwelcome intrusion. Calling al-Zaidi a Baathist is a particularly pathetic way to put one’s head in the sand instead of confronting this simple reality. (You know who were also Baathists? Thousands of the so-called Sons of Iraq.) Watch the al-Jazeera video that Siun put on FDL. Are all of these people Baathists? Or are they Iraqis who are expressing the perfectly normal nationalistic reaction that the foreign leader who ordered their country invaded and occupied is a bastard?

Last thing. From a counterinsurgency perspective, the deep antipathy Iraqis feel to the U.S. has to be considered a relevant fact. If al-Zaidi threw a shoe and Iraqis either didn’t care or denounced him in the streets, that would be strategically significant. Instead, they’re texting their friends about him and passing out candies in his name. That’s strategically significant. I, of course, haven’t served in Iraq, so I have no idea what goes through the head of an Iraq veteran when he or she sees al-Zaidi so venerated. But we’re not dealing with a population that wants the U.S. there, we’re dealing with a population that wants the U.S. out. No intelligent strategy can afford to assume otherwise.

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