The antiwar grouches, naysayers and quagmirists in the mainstream media were so, so sure there would be no jubilation at the Iraqi liberation.
When Vice President Dick Cheney promised on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "We will be greeted as liberators," Newsweek's anonymous "Conventional Wisdom" column writers sneered that Cheney's remark was "An arrogant blunder for the ages."
When Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz predicted that the Iraqis would welcome a U.S. invading force, The Nation's Eric Alterman sniffed: "Is Wolfowitz really so ignorant of history as to believe the Iraqis would welcome us as 'their hoped-for liberators'?"
In an article headlined "Panic in the White House," writer Andrew Stephen of the New Statesman sniped: "And they thought it was going to be so easy. They really did believe it: that troops would be welcomed in Iraq, with flowers and hugs and kisses, as liberators for whom they had been waiting so long."
Quentin Peel of the Financial Times added gloomily: "The danger for Mr. Bush is that he will win the war, eventually and unpleasantly, but he will never be seen as a liberator."
Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times opined: "(I)f this isn't Vietnam, neither is it the Afghanistan campaign, where Americans were hailed as liberators. I was in Afghanistan during that war, and the difference is manifest. Afghans were giddy and jubilant, while Iraqis now are typically sullen and distrustful and thirsty."
And while co-hosting ABC's "Good Morning America," Diane Sawyer derided: "What happened to the flowers expected to be tossed the way of the Americans? Was it a terrible miscalculation?"
This week, as all the world has now seen, the flowers were in full bloom. Jubilation rocked the streets. Coalition troops were showered with petals, kisses and hugs from Basra in the south to central Baghdad to the northern-most cities of Iraq. Here are just a few of the captions that accompanied the tender and telling photos taken across the liberated country:
"An Iraqi girl waves an American flag to U.S. Marines of the 15th Expeditionary Unit at the Marines Battalion Combat Operation Center in Nasiriyah, southern Iraq."
"U.S. Army Spc. John Dresel from Oxford, Conn., is kissed by an Iraqi child in Baghdad. The soldiers from the A Company 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment took over a section of northern Baghdad with a warm welcome from many residents . . . "
"A Kurd kisses a picture of United States President George W. Bush during celebrations in the streets of Sulaymaniyah, northern Iraq . . . "