"I'm against Saddam but I'm not for America," said a young man yesterday behind a shop counter full of music CDs and cassette tapes of speeches and lectures by Shia scholars.
Until two months ago Abdullah, 25, (who did not want to give his real name) was a student of engineering from Kerbala, a town south of Baghdad which contains one of Shia Islam's holiest mosques.
The tapes he can sell openly in Syria are banned in Iraq, where Abdullah passed them out clandestinely to friends until he felt the risk of being jailed was getting too great.
Now he is planning to go home. The patriotic drive to defend his country has overcome his hatred of Saddam's regime, he said, though there are other factors too - peer group pressure and anxiety about his parents' well-being.
"Many of my friends have gone back already in the last few days," he said. "Even if I just dig a trench by our house and sit in it with a gun, I might kill one of the invaders. They're coming down in parachutes so you might hit one."
Young Iraqi men in Jordan, which like Syria hosts several hundred thousand exiles, have also been flooding back home since the war started.
Jordanian records show that 5,284 Iraqis have crossed the desert border overland into Iraq since March 16. Iraq's consular office in Amman issued at least 3,000 temporary passports for exiled Iraqis in the war's first three days.
I think Americans are beginning to find they don't have a monopoly on patriotism. And that they didn't pay enough attention to the case of Stalin and Soviet patriotism--real, fight to the death to defend your country patriotism--during the Second World War.