Saturday, August 21, 2004

Soccer Balls

A.Y.S. at Iraq at a Glance has the right response to Americans who are upset at Iraqi Olympic team soccer player Salih Sadir for lashing out at President Bush: "How will [Mr Bush] meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women? He has committed so many crimes."

A.Y.S. writes:

Well, at first you have to remember that the players are a part of the Iraqi people! And you can find the same criticism among ordinary Iraqis, some of them are happy with the liberation others have no comments others are angry, you can’t say that ALL Iraqis are happy. There are Bathists, Saddam’s relatives, ordinary people, oppressed and others…so you don’t have to be upset because of someone said ‘America destroyed my country’! I think you are wiser than that!

I remember many players shown on the TV many months ago talking about what Uday Saddam was doing and the types of torture they endured and that they are free now and not afraid of anyone…and can represent their country.

The reporters did not meet those players, so you did not hear or read what you were looking for -- that’s it!

... One or two guys DO NOT represent the whole country; keep this in your mind.

We didn't set them free so they'd love us. We set them free so they could do what we do: speak our minds. Earlier in the day I read a 1999 piece from a Catholic charity group describing interactions with average Iraqis as the group delivered medicine in defiance of international sanctions (to me, they seemed to be as interested in the defiance as in the medicine, but it was a good work nonetheless):

She also warns against attempting discussions about Saddam Hussein. Because of the severity of punishment for anything construed as critical, people never mention his name. For a visitor to do so could place someone in jeopardy. The assumption is that rooms are bugged and telephone lines are tapped.

The point is hammered home as we make our way through meetings and interviews. Only the U.N. offices and the papal nuncio’s sitting room are free of pictures or portraits of Saddam Hussein. To this Westerner’s ear, it seemed that everyone had a version of an oath of loyalty to Saddam that was part of any presentation. It was easy to imagine that, in a society where conversations might quickly be reported up the line, such obeisance is a natural part of any public exchange.

So, good for Salih Sadir. Plenty of Americans use their freedom of speech to say dumb-ass things like that. It's not the U.S. never witnessed a case of athlete's foot in mouth. Join the John Rocker club, Salih.

The 1999 piece, by the way, is titled "Iraq: for the children, sanctions are deadlier than the bombs." It must have been difficult for the same people to argue in 2003 that bombs were a bad choice because sanctions "hadn't been given enough time to work."