I'm not sure how much we will ever understand the conditions in Iraq before the war. Americans have flip-flopped from the 9-11 mentality of retaliation at any cost to "Bring our boys home!" mentality. The media has berated our former president for getting us into this mess, etc. and we've bought in to it. "The war was a waste of lives, money, and resources." Whatever the case may be, there are some things about the war that only the soldiers brought home to share. One chaplain, Lt. Carey H. Cash, has recorded his thoughts in a well written book entitled, A Table in the Presence. His thoughts about the conditions in Iraq should be read by all.
...Our perceptions began to line up with the way things really were. Here the oppression was all too evident. Children and young men ran alongside our convoy, begging for any food we might throw to them. And when we did, it was a frenzy of violence as boys pushed aside girls to grab up the package, rip it open, and in a matter of seconds, gobble down its contents. ... They wanted food, and from the looks of their slight frames, that's what they needed the most.
Earlier, our battalion had passed through an intense firefight at the Saddam Canal, which saw dozens of Iraqi solders killed and dozens more taken prisoner. I had assisted our medical corpsmen and doctor while they labored furiously to treat an Iraqi soldier who had received a serious gunshot wound to the lower leg. ... I will never forget the look on his face. He couldn't understand why we were helping him. I watched as his abject terror gradually melted into a confused stare, and finally into the peaceable assurance that we were indeed trying to save his life.
Like other young men fighting in the Iraqi Army, he had no doubt been told that we would brutalize him as well as his family. Of course, it didn't take long for the Iraqis who surrendered to see that we were not those kind of people. Yet it didn't surprise us that they believed such lies at first. Why not? Their own army had in fact committed unbelievable atrocities upon their enemies, especially the Kuwaitis and Iranians, not to mention upon their own civilian population.
Lt. Carey H. Cash, A Table in the Presence, (Nashville,: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 139-40.