Freedom from fear is what the Iraqis hoped we were bringing them when we rolled into Baghdad last year. They’d spent 35 years living under Saddam’s malevolent eye, knowing he could jail them, torture them, slaughter them whenever he saw fit. But they were unsure about American intentions. The United States had betrayed their hopes many times before, and at terrible cost. So the solid citizens of Iraq watched as the statue fell, and they waited. What they got was anarchy. And Defense Department flippancy: "Freedom’s untidy," "Democracy is a messy thing."And a powerful closing line: "People do not feel liberated just because you say they are. They won’t love you for intentions. They will judge you by your actions."
"The message we sent to the Iraqis," says an American member of last year’s post-invasion transition team, "was that we’ve done what we had to do. Saddam’s gone. We’re not really interested in the Iraqi people." Inaction spoke louder than words. "Urban riots, if you don’t get them under control, they spread like a forest fire. The Iraqis looked at what was happening and said we didn’t stop it because we didn’t care. The sense of utter indifference on our part was chilling."
Anarchy set the stage for insurgency, which doesn’t require a supportive population so much as a passive one that declines to side with the occupiers. "After the looting, nobody was going to stand with us then," says the same U.S. official, "because we didn’t stand with them."