Saturday, March 22
Ubiquitous Saddam nowhere to be found
Agence France Presse, Mar 22, 2003
DUBAI (AFP) - Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) is everywhere in Iraq (news - web sites), beaming out from street corners and offices, newspapers and television screens, but he is also nowhere to be found, as his people can bear witness.
US and British intelligence trying to locate the Iraqi president, let alone determine if he has been wounded or even killed, face a foe who is a past master at deception.
Stories of multiple doubles, deep underground bunkers, decoy convoys and the like swirl around the Iraqi leader who has developed a legendary paranoia with personal security.
Given past reports of numerous coup attempts, the brutal violence of the Baath regime, and previous US efforts to target Saddam, his fears may be justified.
The snap bid to "decapitate" Saddam and his high command precipitated rather than prevented Gulf War (news - web sites) II on Thursday.
An anonymous British offical told the BBC he was dead, but US officials now seem to be groping in the dark again.
Hopes that surgicial Tomahawk missile strikes at least injured Saddam receded after a series of statements from senior Iraqi officials that the president and his family had again escaped.
Repeated television footage of Saddam and statements attributed to him promising "victory" and urging Iraqis to resist to the death did nothing to help the US case, even if they are far from convincing evidence of his survival. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the "shock and awe" attack on Baghdad only began Friday night after the administration failed to find out whether Saddam was alive and it was evident he was not going to quit Iraq.[...]