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Another perspective

With all the rallying and marching this weekend by people claiming to be worried about the Iraqi people, it's useful to hear what they think, without the benefit of Iraqi "minders" supervising them. The New York Times talked to Iraqi refugees in Amman, Jordan. No, these people aren't fans of the United States -- but they're bigger opponents of Saddam Hussein:

The men refused to accept that their image of the United States might be distorted by the rigidly controlled Iraqi news media, which offer as unreal a picture of America as they do of Iraq. But when it was suggested that they could hardly wish to be liberated by a country they distrusted so much that they might prefer President Bush to extend the United Nations weapons inspections and stand down the armada he has massed on Iraq's frontiers they erupted in dismay.

"No, no, no!" one man said excitedly, and he seemed to speak for all. Iraqis, they said, wanted their freedom, and wanted it now. The message for Mr. Bush, they said, was that he should press ahead with war, but on conditions that spared ordinary Iraqis.

Well, I think that has been the plan.

And apparently, it isn't just Iraqi refugees -- people with a special incentive to hate Saddam Hussein -- who feel this way:

On its face, the hostility promises only deeper trouble ahead for the United States. But there is another possibility, one that Arab leaders who are cooperating with the Americans are relying on as Mr. Bush's moment of decision draws closer. These nations include Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which allow American military bases, as well as Jordan, where American troops would man Patriot missiles against missiles Iraq might fire at Israel and mount pilot rescue missions into Iraq.

The leaders of these nations, all monarchies, know that if an American war bogged down, with heavy casualties on both sides, their own legitimacy, never strong, would be challenged by their own people in ways they might not survive. For these rulers, it is crucial that any conflict be short and inflict minimal casualties on Iraq's civilians.

At least one of the rulers, discussing American war plans with his advisers, has concluded that Mr. Hussein's regime is apt to collapse quickly as non-elite army units surrender or change sides.

But it is not the rapidity of an American victory alone that sustains the hopes of these Arab rulers. The pro-American Arab leaders are confident of something that invites mockery among the Europeans and Americans who oppose any war: that American troops would arrive in Iraq's major cities as liberators.

When Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the American commander in the Middle East, visited one Arab palace in recent weeks, Western diplomats reported, the Arab ruler quieted his restive courtiers by predicting that American forces would be met in Baghdad by Iraqis lining the street in celebration.

That will be a sight to see. No, not cheering liberated Iraqis; that's just icing on the cake. The sight will be the faces of the anti-American protesters who pretended they spoke for Iraqis when they chanted juvenile anti-war slogans and compared Bush to Hitler.

Of course, even if Iraqis are happy about being liberated, that doesn't mean that what we do afterwards will be easy; the Times also indicates that these refugees will want the US to leave as quickly as possible -- something which probably won't happen. And there's still the problem of reintegrating the currently-autonomous Kurds into Iraqi society. But if we can get past one supposedly-insurmountable challenge, why not another?


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