Reporter Rod Nordland on Sunday found Libyans in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi just love America and the Obama administration: "In the Capital of Rebel Libya, Shouts Of Thanks to America and the West ."
Frustrated by the gridlocked traffic, the young man in fatigues was leaning on the horn of his old Chevrolet Impala, the one with the front and rear windshields shot out. The shrillness of the pointless noise made a foreigner in the car next to him wince.In recounting the "warmth and gratitude rarely seen in any Muslim country," Nordland skipped the rejoicing that came after President Bush overthrew Saddam Hussein. (To be fair, so did the Times itself, back in April 2003, burying it under sour, hedged headlines like "Army Seeks to Present Troops as 'Liberators.'")
Then came one of those Free Libya moments.
"Sorry, sorry," the horn-blower called apologetically, in English. The young man riding shotgun, also in fatigues and carrying a Kalashnikov, grinned sheepishly and apologized as well. Then he saluted, bringing his wounded right hand into view, a giant mitten of a bandage on it, blood soaking through in places.
"Thank you, thank you," he said. "America No. 1."
Americans and, for that matter, all Westerners are treated hereabouts with a warmth and gratitude rarely seen in any Muslim country - even those with 100,000 American troops - in probably half a century or more. People smile and go out of their way to say hello to them, and are almost shockingly courteous. It is that oddest of oddities, an Arab war zone where foreign joggers are regarded, not with hostility or even that sympathetic puzzlement reserved for the insane, but with a friendly wave or a toot on the horn.The starry-eyed reporter even passed along unverified pro-Obama street talk.
Many Libyan parents with newborn girls are reportedly naming them Susan, in honor of Susan E. Rice, the Obama administration's ambassador to the United Nations, for her vote in the Security Council in favor of establishing the no-fly zone. French visitors find an even warmer reception, and accolades to President Nicolas Sarkozy are graffitied on walls everywhere.You can follow Times Watch on Twitter .