Rejoicing Needs to Be Learned

In the German Tagespiegel Malte Lehming offers an interesting commentary (“Jubel will gelernt sein” or “Rejoicing needs to be learned”) on why American expectations to be greeted as liberators by the Iraqi population were disappointed.

After all, during World War II the Russians fought fiercely for Stalin, and the Germans for Hitler. (And it can equally be expected that North Koreans, if called upon to do so, will fight fiercely for Kim Jong Il – certainly if the widespread, sincere grief among that population on the occasion his father Kim Il Sung’s death back in 1994 is any indication.) Long after that war was over, neither the German nor Japanese populations felt any inclination to celebrate their “liberation”; such feelings only surfaced as the effect of the occupations in easing economic hardship and building the way for a happier future became apparent.

True, the Shiites in the south and the Kurds in the north have little reason to mourn Saddam’s demise. But, as in the case with all long-lasting dictatorships, over the years Saddam has built up a cohort of those “favored” by the regime, and therefore enjoying certain privileges – not only Baath party officials, but also webs of garden-variety domestic spies and informers. The numbers of these should not be underestimated, if the similar experiences of the former Communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe are to be any guide, whose domestic spies have since 1989 been largely exposed by means of various “lustration” processes and the making public of secret police records. Their “good life” – and the concealment of their shameful spying activities – has depended on their submission to Saddam’s regime, so it should be no surprise that they don’t exactly welcome regime change.

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