- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

"Coming into Basra as part of a massive military convoy, I encountered a stream of young men, dressed in what appeared to be Iraqi army uniforms, applauding the U.S. Marines as they swept past in tanks," David Willis, the British Broadcasting Corporation's correspondent in southern Iraq, reported Saturday night.
It must have pained him to do it. No Western broadcast news organization outside of France has been as vociferously anti-American as has the BBC.
Andrew Sullivan calls it the "Baghdad Broadcasting Corp."
The Independent and the Guardian are two of the most left-wing of British newspapers. Their editorial pages and columnists strongly have denounced President Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair, and war with Iraq. But their reporters "embedded" with U.S. and U.K. troops are reporting the same things Mr. Willis saw:
"As a huge British convoy crossed into Iraq yesterday, hundreds of children came to greet it," the Independent's Paul Harris reported Sunday. "As the troops moved past, small boys ran up to the windows smiling and grinning.
"Older men stood and watched. Occasionally they gave a thumbs-up signal."
"Iraqi civilians lined the streets and cheered American and British forces moving up from the south," the Guardian acknowledged.
"You're late. What took you so long?" the Guardian quoted one Iraqi as saying. "God help you become victorious. … I want to say hello to Bush, to shake his hand."
The Telegraph's Olga Craig witnessed the Iraqi surrender at Um Qasr. "We never wanted to fight only the diehards did," she quoted one Iraqi soldier as saying. "We hate Saddam, but we are scared," said another.
These reports come from southern Iraq, populated overwhelming by Shi'ite Muslims long oppressed by Saddam. Support for the regime likely is stronger in Baghdad and its environs, populated chiefly by the Sunni Arab minority that has run Iraq since its creation after World War I.
But reports that Saddam is just about as unpopular with his base as he is with the Shi'ites and the Kurds has come from an unlikely source: repentant former "human shields."
"A group of American anti-war demonstrators, part of a Japanese human-shield delegation, returned from Iraq yesterday with 14 hours of uncensored video, all shot without Iraqi government minders present, with Iraqis eager to tell of their welcome for American troops," The Washington Times' Arnaud de Borchgrave reported from Amman, Jordan, Sunday.
Rev. Kenneth Joseph said some of the Iraqis he interviewed "told me they would commit suicide if the American bombing didn't start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain freedom from Saddam's bloody tyranny."
"I was a naive fool to be a human shield for Saddam," wrote Daniel Pepper, who went to Iraq with a British anti-war group, in the Telegraph Sunday.
Mr. Pepper's awakening began, he said, in a conversation with a taxi driver who was taking him back to his hotel in Baghdad:
"I said, as we shields always did, 'Bush bad, war bad, Iraq good.' He looked at me with an expression of incredulity," Mr. Pepper said.
"As he realized I was serious, he slowed down and started to speak in broken English about the evils of Saddam's regime," Mr. Pepper said. "Until then I had only heard the president spoken of with respect, but now this guy was telling me how all of Iraq's oil money went into Saddam's pocket and that if you opposed him politically he would kill your whole family."
Mr. Pepper asked another taxi driver, who took him and five others from Baghdad to Jordan, if he feared American aerial bombardment.
"Don't you listen to Powell on Voice of America radio?" the cabdriver said. "Of course the Americans don't want to bomb civilians. They want to bomb the government and Saddam's palaces. We want America to bomb Saddam. … All Iraqi people want this war."
Back in London, Mr. Pepper attended an anti-war rally last Thursday. This time, he was disgusted by it.
"Anyone with half a brain must see that Saddam has to be taken out," he said. "It is extraordinarily ironic that the anti-war protesters are marching to defend a government which stops its people from exercising that freedom."

Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration and is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.

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