Rumor Doctor blog archive

Will the Iraqi government award U.S. troops liberation medals?

Whether or not any U.S. troops remain in Iraq beyond the end of this year, the U.S. military's involvement in the Iraq war is drawing to a close.

Since Saudi Arabia and Kuwait issued awards to U.S. troops in recognition for their service during the Gulf War, will the Iraqi government follow suit? That was a prominent rumor at one point.

And with U.S. troops leaving Iraq by the thousands, The Rumor Doctor owes it to those who served there to find out if the Iraqi government plans on giving them a token of appreciation.

After talking to Iraqi government spokesman Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh, it's fair to say the answer is a polite “no.”

The Rumor Doctor mentioned to al-Dabbagh that France and Belgium also issued liberation medals to U.S. troops after World War II.

Al-Dabbagh replied diplomatically that while Iraqis appreciate U.S. efforts to topple Saddam Hussein's regime, "I don't think it is the same situation as we had in Europe."

One major difference is violence in Iraq quickly overshadowed U.S. troops' efforts, so while the Iraqi government is grateful to U.S. troops, it is not going to express said gratitude the same way France and Belgium did, he said.

That's the political equivalent of, "I really like you, but I want to just be friends," and internal Iraqi politics may explain why U.S. troops aren't feeling the love.

In 2009, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, but since then he has had to ally himself with radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al Sadr to stay in power.

Given Maliki's contentious relationship with U.S. officials, it would be surprising if his government ever issued medals to U.S. forces, said Stephen Walt, of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

"The situation is quite different than in the first Gulf War, where U.S. troops were defending Saudi Arabia and liberating Kuwait," Walt said in an email.  "We invaded Iraq and mismanaged the occupation, and it would be surprising (to me at least) if that many Iraqis were genuinely grateful. Some undoubtedly are, but probably not enough to make this a smart play by [Prime Minister] al Maliki."

THE RUMOR DOCTOR'S DIAGNOSIS: The Iraqi government seems to be showing little affection for U.S. troops. That's OK because most -- if not all -- U.S. troops will be seeing Iraq in the rearview mirror soon. Leaving Iraq is definitely an award unto itself.

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