Reports have been circulating of "surprise" that the allied troops haven't been universally greeted with dancing in the streets by Iraqi civilians. The answer seems pretty clearly that civilians are so fearful and traumatized by almost a quarter century of Saddam that they aren't going to commit to anything until it is unequivocally established that Saddam cannot wreak his vengeance upon them.
This [French!] report seems a little closer to the truth:
- Sergeant Kenneth Wilson said Arabic-speaking US troops made contact with two busloads of Iraqis fleeing south along Route Seven towards Rafit, one of the first friendly meetings with local people for the marines around here.
"They had slaughtered lambs and chickens and boiled eggs and potatoes for their journey out of the frontlines," Wilson said.
At one camp, the buses stopped and women passed out food to the troops, who have had to ration their army-issue packets of ready-to-eat meals due to disruptions to supply lines by fierce fighting further south.
....Corpsman Tony Garcia said the food donation was an act of appreciation for the American effort to topple the brutal regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
"They gave us eggs and potatoes to feed our marines and corpsmen. I feel the local population are grateful and they want to see an end to Saddam Hussein," he said.
"It was a lovely, beautiful gesture."
Khairi Ilrekibi, 35, a passenger on one of the buses, which broke down near the marine position, said he could speak for the 20 others on board.
In broken English he told a correspondent travelling with the marines: "We like Americans," adding that no one liked Saddam Hussein because "he was not kind."
....Lance Corporal David Polikowsky stood guard over 70 POWS near the broken down bus, saying how grateful he was for food cooked and donated by locals, which included oranges.
....He said they told him: "We welcome you. What is your name? We will pray for you."
He said another group of POWS, largely conscripts, had been moved south.
"They told me they wanted to go to America after the war. I said where. They said California. I said why? They said the song Hotel California and they left singing Hotel California." [AFP]
This is a beautiful picture, made all the more charming by the fact that "Hotel California" is basically an ANTI-California song. We have no control over our cultural artifacts once we send them out into the world - people do with them what they will, including construct dreams around them.