On Inauguration Day, National Public Radio wanted to know how the Iraqi people would greet the American transition of power. On the afternoon talk show Talk of the Nation, host Neal Conan talked to NPR Baghdad Bureau Chief Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, and her street interviews led her to the idea that Iraq was unanimous: not a single Iraqi was grateful for the removal of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship:
Any Iraqi that you speak to on the street will tell you, and I ask them this question, was the war worth it for you? Did this invasion, do you feel, give you a better life? And across the board, I didn't find one Iraqi who said to me, actually, I'm glad this happened. Most Iraqis have paid the price of, you know, if you want to call it their freedom, in blood, the blood of their relatives.
NPR could give the public (if not their usual audience) a case of heartburn that a journalist cannot locate a single Iraqi who is grateful for their "if you want to call it their freedom." This came in an exchange about how happy Iraqis were to see President Bush’s term ended:
CONAN: And any reaction to the departure today of George W. Bush, the man who launched the invasion of Iraq?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, he's not a popular man here, as you can imagine. I mean, if you remember, President Bush came here on his last visit, and he was, you know, a shoe was thrown at him at a press conference, and pretty much that was viewed, you know, favorably by many Iraqis that I spoke to.
His departure -- many people, you know, won't miss him, quite frankly, and many people here do believe that, and they're hoping, that President Obama will, you know, engage in a different way with Iraqis and will treat them with more respect. As I said before, you know, Iraqis really do feel that they've been humiliated.
And not only that, you've got to remember that the cost and blood of this war, the tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands who've died here throughout the course of the last six years. Any Iraqi that you speak to on the street will tell you, and I ask them this question, was the war worth it for you? Did this invasion, do you feel, give you a better life? And across the board, I didn't find one Iraqi who said to me, actually, I'm glad this happened.
Most Iraqis have paid the price of, you know, if you want to call it their freedom, in blood, the blood of their relatives. So it's still a very painful issue for them, and they're very much looking forward to seeing what's going to happen next, what the United States will do here and how President Obama will work differently than his predecessor, President Bush.
Earlier, as she implied, she found two kinds of Iraqis: America-haters who want America out immediately, and America-haters who want to make them stay until the American harm is fixed:
I've been speaking to Iraqis over the last few days about President Obama and about his plan to withdraw Iraqi forces from here. And it's very interesting, you know. You go onto the streets, you talk to people, and there are such mixed emotions about the U.S. presence here, about the plans to withdraw forces.
You speak to Iraqis, and they do feel that they are under occupation. They do feel that the presence of U.S. forces here is a humiliation and a blight on their sovereignty and on their sense of national pride. But they are split on what they want. Some Iraqis are telling me that they'd like to see the back of U.S. troops tomorrow, if not today.
Some Iraqis [are] saying, you know, we didn't ask for this invasion. America came here. They broke it. They have to stay until it's fixed. We still don't feel that this country is stable. We still don't feel that the Iraqi security forces are able to rise to the challenging cases for the conflict, so we need them to stay a little bit longer. So Iraqis themselves are divided on what they want.
The interview's about 15 minutes into NPR's sound file.