American Influences Abound In Iraq

U.N. Seal, Resolution, Iraq, Saddam Hussein CBS

Once landing in Iraq, one can notice the message painted on the floor of the jetway that says, "Down USA."

It is one of the few signs of anti-American sentiment in the country, reports The Early Show's co-anchor Harry Smith. Iraqis aren't embracing America and its culture, but they're not rejecting it.

Even as a U.S. strike force readies for a possible assault on Baghdad, families spend their holidays at a local amusement park — celebrating as if the skies over Baghdad will be clear forever.

In a place where uncensored news is forbidden, rumors of war are thought by some to be exaggerated. There's no animosity toward the U.S. as a potential enemy. It's still acceptable to wear the colors of an American hockey team and pour the soft-drink of your choice.

The impact of American culture in Iraq is unmistakable. Some Iraqis have proclaimed their love for American movies and music. Fans of Michael Jackson, the Backstreet Boys, Anthony Hopkins, Steven Spielberg, Sylvester Stallone, and Britney Spears are everywhere.

It's important to remember that no one in Iraq says anything to the press without Saddam's government officials standing close by — listening to every word.

But with the Iraqis The Early Show interviewed, there seemed to have been no problem with the American culture, or with civilians who openly admire the United States.

On a quiet street, behind a tiny storefront, there's a little slice of America in the heart of Baghdad. Radio 1 is a music store complete with Britney Spear posters and the latest rap CD. But nothing in the shop is as pro-American as the customers.

The unbridled love of American culture is tempered by the fact that if war with the U.S. comes, they may all be called to fight.

"If you ask me, 'Do you want to hold a gun and stand against an American guy?' No, I don't like that," says Ahmed, an Iraqi student. "Because maybe I'm listening to their music, I'm watching their movies and no ... I don't want it. I don't want a war, not with America, no. Because I don't love war. I love peace. That's from the bottom of my heart. But what I'm going to do?"

But for now, and for the Iraqi boys living in limbo, the music goes on.
  • Rome Neal

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