It's Still Not Too Late To Greet Us As LiberatorsCommentary • Opinion • war • iraq • military • ISSUE 45•40 • Sep 29, 2009 By Gen. Ray Odierno Boy, how these last six years have flown by. Back in 2003, when we first arrived here in your country, we certainly didn't expect things to turn out the way they did. It seems like only yesterday we were marching into Baghdad, waiting to be greeted with shouts of gratitude and appreciation for saving you from the evil dictator who ruled your totalitarian state with an iron fist. Well, the surge is over and we're gonna roll pretty soon, so I just wanted to mention that it's not too late to greet us as liberators if you get the chance. Honestly, there's still time. In fact, a spontaneous belated welcoming party right about now would feel pretty great. Now, I know what you're thinking: "What about all those roadside bombs and beheading videos and what have you? Wouldn't it be a little awkward for us to shower you with kisses and chants of 'U.S.A.!' now, after all the blood and gore and amputations?" Not at all. Hey, that's all water under the bridge, as far as I'm concerned. I can see how you might feel a little bit nervous or shy about embracing us as beacons of liberty six years into our occupation of your country, especially after all those civilians we accidentally killed, but it's never too late to show a little gratitude.Think of it like this. Democracy begins with two little words: Thank you.There's no pressure, of course. We're going to have a sizable military presence here for years and years to come, maybe even decades once we set up our permanent bases. So if you're not up to hoisting us above your shoulders and carrying us triumphantly down the streets now, there's always more time later. In the meantime, though, if you do get the urge to stop by the tent, grab a Hershey bar, and say a quick "thanks for the freedom," we're still open to it. Just don't make too many sudden moves or anything.My point is, don't feel like you have to run out this very second and gather thousands of colorful flowers with which to honor us for ushering you into the modern world. That would be a really sweet gesture and all, but there's no obligation for you to do that immediately. There's going to be plenty of opportunities for all of that later, when you consider the larger historical picture.Even your grandkids could thank us. Heck, sure, why not? They'd probably be more than happy to shake our hands and say a few tearful words at a parade in our honor. Although, to be honest, wouldn't you prefer to thank the actual people who actually liberated you, rather than their distant descendants several generations down the road? I know I would.But hey, look, we've all been busy as beavers these last six years. We've been shooting our way down the streets, going from door to door looking for insurgents, and you've been doing your best to either pick us off with sniper fire or avoid the stray bullets whizzing past your homes and places of worship. But if you think about it, we did put a lot of time and money into liberating you, so a simple show of gratitude wouldn't be such a bad idea, right?I mean, a lot of my guys are getting pretty stressed out here and it's almost like nobody cares. The least you could do is show some common courtesy after all the trouble you gave us over the last half-decade or so. Is that too much to ask? Because, to me—the army general overseeing your continued liberation from tyranny—it really doesn't seem like too much to ask. Jeez, Louise. We didn't have to come here and liberate you, okay? It's not like it was our fault you lived under a brutal dictator who was supposedly developing WMDs, so, come on, you could show a little, you know, consideration of our feelings in this, too. Here, I'll start: You're welcome.