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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Grateful to Iraqi Insurgents

U.S. President George W. Bush famously explained after Sept. 11, 2001 that terrorists attacked the United States because "they hate our freedom." Bush now keeps repeating that the insurgency in Iraq is driven by the same group, al-Qaida. It follows, then, that Iraqi insurgents fight the U.S.-led military coalition and the U.S.-backed Iraqi government for the same reason.

Admittedly, Islamists in Iraq, as well as homegrown Shiite and Sunni militiamen, have little affection for U.S. values. Nevertheless, few people in the world have done more in recent years to further the cause of U.S. democracy than Iraqi insurgents -- or paid a steeper a price for it.

Bush's approval ratings -- the lowest of any U.S. president except Richard Nixon -- have been severely damaged by the Iraq war. Two-thirds of voters now believe that the war is going badly. Largely because of the war, the Democrats won control of both houses of Congress in November. They have begun to look into the pervasive abuse of power and subversion of the U.S. Constitution perpetrated by the Bush administration. Investigations are certain to multiply once Bush leaves office, spreading into such issues as the politicalization of government agencies, domestic spying and use of torture.

Yet, had Iraqi insurgents been less tenacious or less successful in killing Americans and sowing chaos in their nation, Bush could have got off scot-free. He would have retained his 70 percent approval ratings and pursued the same policies. The neo-conservative architects of the Iraq war would have sent U.S. troops to Tehran or Damascus.

Even though Bush's foreign policy has been widely recognized as disastrous and damaging to U.S. interests, Washington continues to overreach. Having withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, considered in the 1970s a major step toward preventing a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union, it insists on building an unworkable missile defense shield on the Russian border -- a move that, predictably, will spark a new arms race.

Iraqi insurgents have killed nearly 3,700 U.S. military personnel. It might be a small price to pay for their success. Without the insurgency in Iraq tying down the mighty Pentagon, triumphant neo-cons would have probably put Moscow and Washington on the road to even more certain confrontation, costing a lot more lives around the world.

No U.S. politician -- regardless of how firmly he or she is opposed to Bush's foreign or domestic policies -- would ever dare express gratitude to the "bad guys" in Iraq. The Pentagon has even managed to tar U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton as unpatriotic for doing her job when she questioned the wisdom of the executive branch's Iraq policy. Generals and right-wing politicians have already begun the usual "stab in the back" mythmaking, preparing to blame war opponents for the inevitable defeat in their misconceived, badly planned and incompetently prosecuted war.

The Nashi summer camp at Lake Seliger featured a red-light district, where opposition leaders Gary Kasparov, Mikhail Kasyanov and Eduard Limonov were portrayed as "prostitutes." The U.S. media gleefully quoted a Nashi commissar, who explained that the opposition are "traitors."

But is this different from declaring that war protesters aid and abet terrorists? Samuel Johnson might have had this in mind 200 years ago when he called patriotism the last refuge of a scoundrel.

In August 1968, eight dissidents staged a rally in Red Square protesting the Soviet-led military invasion of Czechoslovakia. Even though no authoritative opinion poll could be conducted in the Soviet Union, the majority of people undoubtedly considered them traitors. The protesters held up a sign borrowed from Polish General Joseph Bem, who fought Austrian troops in Hungary during the 1848 revolution. It read simply: "For Freedom, Yours and Ours."

Alexei Bayer, a native Muscovite, is a New York-based economist.