Couvillon said, "The Iraqis didn't really have experience conducting meetings. When you and I go to a meeting, there's an agenda, you follow it, call for a vote ... well, in Saddam's time, you had whoever was the leader call people together and then tell them what to do. And if you disagreed, you wound up in a hole in the desert somewhere."
The United States government has had some ... optimistic projections for how quickly democracy would take hold in Iraq. But Saddam came to power in 1979, which meant a whole generation of Iraqis grew into adulthood viewing the government as "those guys who murder anyone who looks funny at them."
"No, seriously, this is just what my face looks like!"
"When I first started holding votes, everyone would look to who they presumed to be the power in the room and wait to see what we said. I had to say, 'No, you have to go with what YOU think is right.'
"I went to one meeting ... it was a writer's union. Authors and poets and journalists; they decided they wanted to have an election. Well before the leader had been appointed by either the governor or Saddam. Now, arguing and rhetoric are an art form in the Arab world. Being wrong or right isn't as important as the argument ... So they'd go back and forth, and in this particular meeting they argued back and forth about who they wanted to be the leader; not by name, but 'I want someone tall,' 'I want someone with a beard,' etc. Finally, I asked, 'Who are you going to vote for?' And none of them wanted to say, because they were afraid to step up without sanction from me."
"Fool me once, shame on you, because I will probably be too dead to be fooled again."