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Iraqis' Muted Welcome

Those who wonder why so few Iraqis are welcoming coalition troops should consider a historical parallel: Josef Stalin.

Stalin took power in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. By the time of the 1941 Nazi invasion, he had murdered or sent to the gulag almost the entire original Bolshevik hierarchy, most of the intelligentsia, much of the military officer corps, and the clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church. He deliberately starved millions of Ukrainian peasants. Estimates of the number who died before the war began run between 10 million and 30 million.

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When Hitler invaded, Stalin faced a huge problem: how to motivate the very people he was persecuting to resist the Nazis. He released officers from prison and rushed them to the front. He freed clergy, reopened churches, and invoked Russia's historical heroes to stir up nationalism.

Saddam Hussein is a student of Stalin's use of domestic terror. He has murdered, gassed, and tortured thousands of his own people. Like Stalin's, his special forces kill soldiers who don't want to fight. And he's wrapped himself in Arab nationalism, and lately in pious Islam, to persuade a fearful people that the US and its partners are warring against the Iraqi nation and Islam, rather than to deliver them from his brutal regime.

So far, the coalition's psychological operations aren't convincing Iraqis that it's safe to openly defy Hussein. Only when the regime and its gunmen can no longer threaten them will they drop their wariness.

Bit by bit, as US and British troops control more cities, they are finding a cautious welcome. And as aid flows in, Iraqis will see that the aim of this war is to free them, as well as free the world of Hussein's deadly weapons.


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