Americans are not often heroes in the Arab world, but as nonstop celebrations unfold here in the Libyan capital I keep running into ordinary people who learn where I’m from and then fervently repeat variants of the same phrase: “Thank you, America!”
As I was walking back from Green Square (now renamed “Martyrs’ Square”) to my hotel on Wednesday morning, a car draped in the victorious Libyan flag pulled up and offered me a lift. “I just want you to feel welcome here,” explained the driver, Sufian al-Gariani, a 21-year-old salesman. He beamed when he heard where I was from and declared: “Thank you, Americans. Thank you, President Obama.” . . .
President Obama took a huge political risk, averted a massacre and helped topple an odious regime. . .
Pro-Americanism now is ubiquitous. I was particularly moved by a rebel soldier near Zuwarah in the west who asked me if New York City was safe. When I looked puzzled, he explained: “Irene. The hurricane.” And he asked how he could help.
“Without America, we would not be here,” Ismael Taweel, a businessman, told me as he stood by Martyrs’ Square with a huge grin on his face. “I hope there will be more relations between Libya and America now,” he added. That’s a common refrain: Libyans are hungry to rejoin the world.
Belgassim Ali, a petroleum engineer, told me: “I would thank America for the stance to protect my people.” Without America, he added, “we would not be celebrating. We would be in the cemetery.” . . .
“I love America so much. It’s the land of freedom.” That warmth toward the United States seems to have replaced the early doubts. It’s coupled with huge appreciation for other foreign supporters such as Qatar, Tunisia, France and Britain.