FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Iraq Soccer Team Give Bush the Boot

Sometimes we are reminded that the Olympics can serve as an international platform not only for nationalism and truck commercials, but also resistance.

In an incredible piece by Grant Wahl on Sports Illustrated.com, the Iraqi Olympic Soccer team has issued a stinging rebuke to George W. Bush’s attempt to use them as election year symbols.

Iraq’s soccer squad is perhaps the surprise of the entire Olympics, advancing to this weekend’s quarterfinals despite the war and occupation that has gripped their country for the last 17 months. Yet amidst cheers and triumph, they were infuriated to learn that Bush’s brain, Karl Rove, had launched campaign ads featuring their Olympic glory as a brilliant by-product of the war on terror.

The commercial, subtle as a blowtorch, begins with an image of the Afghani and Iraqi flags with a voice over saying, “At this Olympics there will be two more free nations — and two fewer terrorist regimes.”

Bush has also been exploiting their exploits in stump speeches. Much more comfortable talking sports than foreign policy or stem-cell research, Bush brayed with bravado in Oregon, “The image of the Iraqi soccer team playing in this Olympics, it’s fantastic, isn’t it? It wouldn’t have been free if the United States had not acted.”

This has compelled the Iraqi soccer team, at great personal risk, to respond. Mid-fielder and team leader Salih Sadir told Sports Illustrated, “Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign. He can find another way to advertise himself.”

Sadir has reason to be upset. He was the star player for the professional soccer team in Najaf. Najaf has in recent weeks been swamped by US troops and the new Iraqi army in an attempt to uproot rebel cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr. Thousands have died, each death close to Sadir’s heart.

“I want the violence and the war to go away from the city,” said Sadir, “We don’t wish for the presence of Americans in our country. We want them to go away.”

Sadir’s teammates were less diplomatic.

Midfielder Ahmed Manajid, told Wahl angrily, “How will [Bush] meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women? He has committed so many crimes.”

Manajid understands Sadir’s pain because he is from another Iraqi city that has been in a state of siege, Fallujah.

Manajid told Wahl that his cousin Omar Jabbar al-Aziz, who was a resistance fighter, was killed by the US, as were several of his friends. Manajid even said that if he were not playing soccer he would “for sure” be fighting as part of the resistance.

“I want to defend my home. If a stranger invades America and the people resist, does that mean they are terrorists? Everyone [in Fallujah] has been labeled a terrorist. These are all lies. Fallujah people are some of the best people in Iraq.”

Usually when there is political unrest on Olympic teams, the coach tries to be a mitigating force with the media. But not here and not now. Iraqi soccer coach Adnan Hamad also went public to Sports Illustrated saying, “My problems are not with the American people, They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq.”

To be clear, Iraq’s team is not pining for former Olympic head Uday Hussein, notorious for torturing athletes that under performed. Yet they don’t feel their choice has to be between Uday’s way and the bloodbath that has been visited upon their country. As Hamad said,” What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road?

The ideas expressed by the Iraqi soccer team are by all counts commonplace in Iraq yet find little expression in the mainstream media here at home. It is critical that their words find ears.

Without WMDs, Al-Qaeda connections, and with an Iraqi populace that overwhelmingly views the U.S. as occupiers and not liberators, what possible justification does Bush – and Kerry – have for supporting this invasion that has cost hundreds of billions of dollars and countless lives?

Take time this weekend to root for the Iraqi soccer team. Their ascent will accompany a platform for ideas that demand to be heard.

DAVE ZIRIN has a book coming out this Spring 2005, “What’s My Name Fool: Sports and Resistance in the United States (Haymarket Books). He can be reached at: editor@pgpost.com.

 

More articles by:

DAVE ZIRIN is the author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press) Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
March 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
The Ghost of Fascism in the Post-Truth Era
Gabriel Rockhill
Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests
H. Bruce Franklin
Trump vs. McCain: an American Horror Story
Paul Street
A Pox on the Houses of Trump and McCain, Huxleyan Media, and the Myth of “The Vietnam War”
Andrew Levine
Why Not Impeach?
Bruce E. Levine
Right-Wing Psychiatry, Love-Me Liberals and the Anti-Authoritarian Left
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Darn That (American) Dream
Charles Pierson
Rick Perry, the Saudis and a Dangerous Nuclear Deal
Moshe Adler
American Workers Should Want to Transfer Technology to China
David Rosen
Trafficking or Commercial Sex? What Recent Exposés Reveal
Nick Pemberton
The Real Parallels Between Donald Trump and George Orwell
Binoy Kampmark
Reading Manifestos: Restricting Brenton Tarrant’s The Great Replacement
Brian Cloughley
NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries
Ron Jacobs
Donald Cox: Tale of a Panther
Joseph Grosso
New York’s Hudson Yards: The Revanchist City Lives On
REZA FIYOUZAT
Is It Really So Shocking?
Bob Lord
There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t
John W. Whitehead
The Growing Epidemic of Cops Shooting Family Dogs
Jeff Cohen
Let’s Not Restore or Mythologize Obama 
Christy Rodgers
Achieving Escape Velocity
Monika Zgustova
The Masculinity of the Future
Jessicah Pierre
The Real College Admissions Scandal
Peter Mayo
US Higher Education Influence Takes a Different Turn
Martha Rosenberg
New Study Confirms That Eggs are a Stroke in a Shell
Ted Rall
The Greatest Projects I Never Mad
George Wuerthner
Saving the Big Wild: Why Aren’t More Conservationists Supporting NREPA?
Norman Solomon
Reinventing Beto: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for President
Ralph Nader
Greedy Boeing’s Avoidable Design and Software Time Bombs
Tracey L. Rogers
White Supremacy is a Global Threat
Nyla Ali Khan
Intersectionalities of Gender and Politics in Indian-Administered Kashmir
Karen J. Greenberg
Citizenship in the Age of Trump: Death by a Thousand Cuts
Jill Richardson
Getting It Right on What Stuff Costs
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Puddle Jumping in New Britain
Matt Johnson
The Rich Are No Smarter Than You
Julian Vigo
College Scams and the Ills of Capitalist-Driven Education
Brian Wakamo
It’s March Madness, Unionize the NCAA!
Beth Porter
Paper Receipts Could be the Next Plastic Straws
Christopher Brauchli
Eric the Heartbroken
Louis Proyect
Rebuilding a Revolutionary Left in the USA
Sarah Piepenburg
Small Businesses Like Mine Need Paid Family and Medical Leave
Robert Koehler
Putting Our Better Angels to Work
Peter A. Coclanis
The Gray Lady is Increasingly Tone-Deaf
David Yearsley
Bach-A-Doodle-Doo
Elliot Sperber
Aunt Anna’s Antenna
March 21, 2019
Daniel Warner
And Now Algeria
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail