Monday, August 23, 2004

Iraqi Olympic Team Berates Bush for ‘Iraq Crimes’

ATHENS, August 21 ( & News Agencies) – Members of the Iraqi Olympic soccer team berated US President George W. Bush for using Iraq in his re-election campaign ads, wondering how he parrots about concepts of freedom and democracy while his hands are soaked with the Iraqi blood.

“He has committed so many crimes [in Iraq ],” midfielder Saleh Sadr told CNN’s Friday, August 20.

“ Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign. He can find another way to advertise himself.”

The ad shows a swimmer and the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan .

“In 1972, there were 40 democracies in the world. Today, 120,” an announcer says. “Freedom is spreading throughout the world like a sunrise. And this Olympics there will be two more free nations. And two fewer terrorist regimes.”

At a speech in Beaverton , Ore. , last Friday, Bush attached himself to the Iraqi soccer team after its opening-game upset of Portugal .

“The image of the Iraqi soccer team playing in this Olympics, it's fantastic, isn't it?" Bush said. “It wouldn't have been free if the United States had not acted.”

Everyone agrees that Iraq 's soccer team is one of the Olympics' most remarkable stories.

Though it lost to Morocco 2-1, it hardly mattered as the Iraqis won Group D and now face Australia in the quarterfinals Sunday, August 21.

If the Iraqis beat Australia , they would reach the semifinals. Three of the four semifinalists will earn historic Olympic medals.

‘Go Away’

Sadir, 21, said now all he wants from Bush is to pull out his troop of Iraq all at once, noting that this would be highly appreciated.

“I want the violence and the war to go away from the city. We don't wish for the presence of Americans in our country. We want them to go away."

But Ahmad Manajid, another midfielder, has a stronger response when asked about Bush’s ad.

“How will he meet his God having slaughtered so many men and women?”
Manajid’s cousin, Omar Jabbar Al-Aziz, was killed by the US occupation’s bombardment of Fallujah.

Manajid, who hails from Fallujah, said if he were not playing soccer he would “for sure” be fighting as part of the Iraqi resistance.

“I want to defend my home. If a stranger invades America and the people resist, does that mean they are terrorists?” Manajid said. “Everyone [in Fallujah] has been labeled a terrorist. These are all lies. Fallujah people are some of the best people in Iraq .”

Coach Adnan Hamad added: “My problems are not with the American people. They are with what America has done in Iraq : destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq . What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road?”

“Many people hate America now. The Americans have lost many people around the world -- and that is what is happening in America also.”

A spokesman for Bush’s re-election campaign said Friday that the administration would continue to run the ad despite objections from the US Olympic Committee (USOC).

“We are on firm legal ground to mention the Olympics and make a factual point in a political advertisement,” Scott Stanzel said.

An act of Congress, grants the USOC exclusive rights to such terms as “Olympic,” derivatives such as “Olympiad” and the five interlocking rings.

It also specifically says the organization “shall be nonpolitical and may not promote the candidacy of an individual seeking public office”.



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