Third Party & Independents Archives

Iraqi Olympians rebuke Bush

You’ve probably heard from Republicans, or seen the Bush ad during an Olympics broadcast: President Bush informing us that “at this Olympics, there will be two more free nations.” The Iraqi Olympic team, led by their soccer talent, has become one of few jewels in an otherwise lackluster Olympic season. The Bush campaign was quick to jump on the Iraqis’ success, and “Team Iraq” has now become a common element of their election presentation.

Guess what? The Iraqi team is sick of it, and wants Bush-supporters to shut their opportunistic mouths:

They had a message for U.S. president George W. Bush, who is using the Iraqi Olympic team in his latest re-election campaign advertisements.

In those spots, the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan appear as a narrator says, "At this Olympics there will be two more free nations -- and two fewer terrorist regimes."

"Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign," Sadir told SI.com through a translator, speaking calmly and directly. "He can find another way to advertise himself."

Ahmed Manajid, who played as a midfielder on Wednesday, had an even stronger response when asked about Bush's TV advertisement. "How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women?" Manajid told me. "He has committed so many crimes."

At a speech in Beaverton, Ore., last Friday, Bush attached himself to the Iraqi soccer team after its opening-game upset of Portugal. "The image of the Iraqi soccer team playing in this Olympics, it's fantastic, isn't it?" Bush said. "It wouldn't have been free if the United States had not acted."

Sadir, Wednesday's goal-scorer, used to be the star player for the professional soccer team in Najaf. In the city in which 20,000 fans used to fill the stadium and chant Sadir's name, U.S. and Iraqi forces have battled loyalists to rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr for the past two weeks. Najaf lies in ruins.

"I want the violence and the war to go away from the city," says Sadir, 21. "We don't wish for the presence of Americans in our country. We want them to go away."

Manajid, 22, who nearly scored his own goal with a driven header on Wednesday, hails from the city of Fallujah. He says coalition forces killed Manajid's cousin, Omar Jabbar al-Aziz, who was fighting as an insurgent, and several of his friends. In fact, Manajid says, if he were not playing soccer he would "for sure" be fighting as part of the resistance.

Emphasis mine.

When the Olympics come to a close, these Iraqi athletes must return to their homes in Iraq in Baghdad, Najaf, and even Fallujah to face the reality breaking out in their streets. While few Iraqis would argue that Saddam's removal was needed, they are very capable of seeing the many, many mistakes the Bush Administration made before, during, and (most importantly) in the aftermath of his invasion.

Iraq was liberated from Saddam Hussein, but as Salih Sadir and Ahmed Manajid can tell you, liberty from one tyrant does not guarantee peace, safety, or liberty from the many tyrants-in-waiting.

President Bush (with support from the GOP blogosphere) has brought quite a bit of attention to the Iraqi Olympic team this year. It's good to see that they are now returning the favor.

Posted by Shem Daimwood at August 20, 2004 7:58 AM