Iraqi thugs are actually valiant freedom fighters? That’s apparently what Edward Gorenshteyn would like you to think (Daily Nexus, “Fedayeen Fight for Freedom, Not Hussein,” April 4). Gorenshteyn implies that the Iraqi people do not want this war, and that Saddam’s Fedayeen paramilitary is nobly defending them from an evil invader.

He is wrong on both counts.

On the matter of the Iraqis’ wishes for their country, their true desire has been obvious to anyone who has bothered to listen to them. Iraqis living abroad – who are thus free to truly speak their minds have been repeatedly saying that while they regret that their loved ones will go through another war, it is well worth it to free their nation from the tyrannical grip of Saddam.

As an Iraqi temporarily in Syria put it: “We want the Americans to come, and if they come tomorrow it will not be too soon. People are nervous, people are afraid, we don’t want war. But we do want to change the government and we will welcome anyone who comes to get rid of Saddam.”

And here are the thoughts of Dr. B. Khalaf, an Iraqi residing in London, printed in The Guardian: “I am so frustrated by the appalling views of most of the British people, media and politicians. I want to say to all these people who are against the possible war, that if you think by doing so you are serving the interests of Iraqi people or saving them, you are not. You are effectively saving Saddam. You are depriving the Iraqi people of probably their last real chance get rid of him and to get out of this dark era in their history.”

Exiled Iraqis have made many more such statements, and the same sentiments are being voiced in those areas of Iraq that have been freed by our forces. So why aren’t the Iraqi people yet in open revolt against Saddam? It’s hardly surprising that they are cautious given that, following the wishes of the U.N. rather than risking being “unilateral,” America did not pursue regime change after the Gulf War and actively back up the Iraqi uprisings, leading to their brutal suppression. The Iraqis are therefore understandably waiting to see whether the U.S. is serious this time before putting themselves at risk.

The Fedayeen are one of the very reasons for this reluctance. In contrast to Gorenshteyn’s portrayal of them as brave patriots similar to the American revolutionaries, the Fedayeen are essentially street thugs, little different than the blackshirts of Mussolini’s Italy. The group’s purpose is to crush domestic dissent through intimidation and violence and has been used as a death squad for assassinations and campaigns such as the public beheading of women accused of prostitution.

That’s hardly an example of a “sensible, freedom-loving” group just trying to save its nation from evil imperialists.

Regardless of whether the motives of the U.S. in this war are crass or pure, the Iraqi people are yearning to be free of Saddam, and war is unfortunately the thing most certain to topple his regime. War is indeed horrific beyond imagining, but the Iraqi people are willing to pay that cost, since as Gorenshteyn himself puts it, “Any sensible, freedom-loving person would do anything necessary to protect his or her life and the lives of his or her loved ones.”

They know that those very lives can never be safe under the totalitarian rule whose spirit the Fedayeen embodies so well.

Sean Benison is a graduate student in the Geography Dept.