Both Presidents Bush have a tendency to portray the Iraqi population as purely the victims of Saddam Hussein. I argued in "Why America Can't Save the Kurds." Wall Street Journal, April 11, 1991, that the picture is more complex:
Iraqis-including Shi'is and Kurds-are our opponents. President [George H.W.] Bush glossed over this fact when he stated that we were fighting Saddam Hussein, not the Iraqi people. But, as Daniel Boorstin points out, such a distinction flies in the face of a long-standing American tradition which holds the body politic responsible for the actions of its state. Does a people not have the government it deserves? True, Iraqis have suffered most from Saddam's tyranny, but they also abetted his foul regime for two decades. Ordinary Iraqi soldiers committed atrocities in Kuwait and now stand by Saddam. Substantial numbers of Shi'is and Kurds joined the ruling apparatus, serving in capacities ranging from informant to prime minister. Had the Iraqi war machine been more competent, Iraqis might have killed tens of thousands of American soldiers. While the Iraqi population is not exactly an enemy of the United States, it is by no means a friend. We owe them little.
The same applies again a dozen years later. (April 21, 2003)
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