Officers Cite Overwhelming Iraqi Support
for U.S. Forces
By John D. Banusiewicz
WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2004 – More than
90 percent of the Iraqi people support the efforts of U.S.
forces in their war-torn country, a panel of Army and Marine
field commanders told the House Armed Services Committee here
All five officers based their estimates on personal
Army Col. Michael Linnington, who commanded a 101st
Airborne Division brigade in Iraq before assuming his current
duties on the Joint Staff, told the committee he found the
Iraqi people to be committed to the same objectives as his
"I spent a great deal of time my last eight months in Iraq
meeting daily with Iraqi governmental and ministerial leaders,
tribal elders and border, customs and security officials," he
said. "We used all of these opportunities to work together to
identify issues, come up with joint solutions, and work
together for the betterment of the people of Iraq.
"In all of these interactions I had, 99 percent of the
Iraqis I met with were happy for American presence, concerned
with improving the quality of life for their citizens, and
dedicated to the future prosperity of their country."
Linnington acknowledged the difference between Iraqis he
worked with and those he didn't, but said he still believes
U.S. forces do enjoy overwhelming support in the country.
"I'd say from my contacts, being up north in Nineveh
province, it was about 99 percent looking at us as liberators
vs. occupiers," he said. "Of course, those that saw us as
occupiers were usually trying to kill us, so I didn't see very
much of them. I would say if you took the Iraqi people in
whole, it had to be greater than 90 percent saw us as
liberators. And they were routinely happy for our presence."
Maryland Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett asked the other officers
to provide their views on Linnington's estimate of Iraqi
support, based on their own experiences.
"I would say well above 95 percent," said Marine Corps
Capt. Morgan Savage, who served two tours in Iraq as a company
commander with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. "And if
ever there was a perceived indifference from the Iraqi people,
that can be (attributed) to a spike in anti-coalition and
anti-Iraqi force activity – essentially, an element of
coercion perhaps changing the perception of the Iraqi people.
But they understood why we were there, and it was to help
them, and it was as liberators, not conquerors."
Savage said that since he returned from Iraq on July 12,
media coverage he has seen has depicted an Iraq quite unlike
the one he saw firsthand. "I haven't seen any good news
stories about what soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors are
doing," he said.
Army Capt. Patrick Costello, who commanded an air defense
artillery battery in Iraq, agreed. "In the six months that
I've been back from Iraq, I find it very difficult to watch
the news, because I think it's a complete misrepresentation of
what is actually going on there on a day-day-day basis," he
said. Having told the committee he believes about 90 percent
of Iraqis sees U.S. forces as liberators, he noted his belief
that media coverage in the United States paints the opposite
picture. "It makes it seem like it's 90 percent of the Iraqi
people don't appreciate what has happened for them, and see us
as occupiers," he said. "Every experience that I had in Iraq
was completely to the contrary."
Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Springman, who commanded the 3rd
Battalion in support of the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq,
served in an area notorious for attacks against U.S. forces.
"I served in the Sunni Triangle," he said, "and even there I
would agree with the 90 percent figure seeing us as liberators
and as the best hope for the future, working with us."
He concurred that the good news from Iraq wasn't being
reported. "I also agree that while I served there, I don't
think the good news was being put out," he told Bartlett and
the committee. "There was a lot more good news than bad news,
that's all. And I wish, you know, the news media could have
seen the towns that we went into as we went into them, and
then a year later when we left to see how active business was
and how secure they were compared to the time we moved in,
Marine Corps Lt. Col. Bryan P. McCoy commanded the 3rd
Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, and served on two Iraq
deployments. He acknowledged that the Iraqi people, as any
people would, wanted their country back, but said they
understood that U.S. forces were trying to make that happen.
"I would say in excess of 90 percent saw us as liberators,
not occupiers," he said. "They very well saw what we were
providing for them and were happy to have us."
Savage recalled the Iraqi people's reaction when they were
first liberated from Saddam Hussein's regime. "At that time,
the Iraqi people, regardless of what they had suffered for
many years, were in a state of euphoria," he said. "This is
demonstrated by the fact that as we patrolled the streets of
Baghdad, we would constantly be met by Iraqis, be it vendors
or families coming out of their homes, to offer us fresh-baked
bread, sodas or artifacts from their personal life – things
from their personal life that told us a story.
"And sometimes they didn't even have to offer us anything;
we could look at them and see perhaps that either through
service to their country or through torture what some of their
experiences had been," Savage continued. "As we operated in
Baghdad, the Iraqi people were also willing to help us locate
enemy forces, which demonstrated the fact that they understood
our intent and what we were trying to do, and for the common
Iraqi person, we were there to help them."