Wednesday, April 9
A day that began with shellfire ended with a once-oppressed people walking like giants
Robert Fisk, The Independent, 10 April 2003
The Americans "liberated" Baghdad yesterday, destroyed the centre of Saddam Hussein's quarter-century of brutal dictatorial power but brought behind them an army of looters who unleashed upon the ancient city a reign of pillage and anarchy. It was a day that began with shellfire and air strikes and blood-bloated hospitals and ended with the ritual destruction of the dictator's statues. The mobs shrieked their delight. Men who, for 25 years, had grovellingly obeyed Saddam's most humble secret policeman turned into giants, bellowing their hatred of the Iraqi leader as his vast and monstrous statues thundered to the ground. ....
... At the Palestine Hotel, they smashed Saddam's portrait on the lobby floor and set light to the hoarding of the same wretched man over the front door. They cried "Allahuakbar" meaning God is Greater. And there was a message there, too, for the watching Marines if they had understood it.
And so last night, as the explosion of tank shells still crashed over the city, Baghdad lay at the feet of a new master. They have come and gone in the city's history, Abbasids and Ummayads and Mongols and Turks and British and now the Americans.
The United States embassy reopened yesterday and soon, no doubt, when the Iraqis have learned to whom they must now be obedient friends, President Bush will come here and there will be new "friends" of America to open a new relationship with the world, new economic fortunes for those who "liberated" them, and – equally no doubt – relations with Israel and a real Israeli embassy in Baghdad.
But winning a war is one thing. Succeeding in the ideological and economic project that lies behind this whole war is quite another. The "real" story for America's mastery over the Arab world starts now.
A would-be Saladin who failed his nation
Ewen MacAskill in Kuwait City, The Guardian, April 10, 2003
Saddam legacy: How wars, repression and poverty were delivered in the midst of plenty
Even by Arab standards, the cult of Saddam Hussein was obsessive. Until yesterday, it was difficult to turn a corner in Baghdad without coming upon a statue or poster of him.
One of the most grotesque - and high on the list for destruction, if it has not gone already - lies at the entrance to Saddam City, the deprived suburb where Iraqis yesterday took to the streets to rejoice at the dictator's downfall.
At a roundabout entering Saddam City, a huge poster showed Saddam in robes astride a white charger, leading troops into battle against a backdrop of Scud missiles. It is how he views himself: the tough Arab leader who alone stands up to the west, the first since the Kurdish-born Arab hero Saladin took on the Crusaders.
According to those who have met him, his obsession is how history will view him. Every act of his in recent years has been aimed primarily at the Arab media and posterity.
But Arab historians, like those in the west, will find it difficult to find much that is positive to record about a leader who seized control in 1979 of one of the wealthiest and forward-looking countries in the Middle East and returned it to poverty. He fought three disastrous wars and leaves his country under US occupation.
What support Saddam still enjoys in the Arab world - mainly among some Palestinians for attacking Israel in 1991, and at the grassroots elsewhere for refusing to be cowed by the US - was seldom shared in his country. He ruled over a people whose living standards dropped drastically, who lost family in the wars, and who lived in fear of his security apparatus.
Neighbouring Syria has a reputation for having the most brutal mukhabarat, or secret police, in the Middle East. But the fear among the public in Syria is not remotely comparable to that in Iraq. ... [...]
Arabs watch Saddam's fall in disbelief
Rediff.com, April 09, 2003
Arabs watched in disbelief on Wednesday as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein lost Baghdad to US-led forces without a fight.
"It's like a movie. I can't believe what I'm seeing," said Adel, a lawyer in Beirut. "Why didn't he just give up to start with if this was all the resistance he could muster? Instead of wasting all those lives for nothing."
In Cairo, people gathered around television sets in shops and coffee houses watching US troops toppling a huge statue of Saddam in the heart of Baghdad and Iraqis dancing on it.
"It seemed that Iraqis were all with Saddam; now it looks like many didn't like him. Maybe those destroying the statue are rebels against Saddam's rule," engineer Magdy Tawfiq said.
But security guard Waleed Tawfiq said he still did not believe Saddam was out. "I will be upset if it turns out Saddam has lost power. He tried to defend his land. If he is dead he will be a martyr."
Most Arabs have no love for Saddam, but his defiance towards the US has been met with approval.
Three weeks of war in Iraq have sparked anger across the Arab world, and the anger grew as civilian casualties mounted.
Protesters at hundreds of rallies have chanted praise for 'beloved' Saddam and held his picture aloft.
In Morocco, Rabat perfume shop owner Lahoucine Lanait described Saddam as the Arab world's 'best dictator'. ...
... Some said his death would make him a martyr. It was a question of honour.
"My hope is that Saddam falls fighting with his own gun. If he flees or surrenders, as many people believe, then he is like other Arab leaders who do not care about honour. It would be a total shame," said Sellami Hidoussi, a Tunis car garage guard.
Fahd Saleh of Saudi Arabia expressed equal dislike for US President George W Bush and Saddam.
"Saddam is a terrorist but he's not alone. Bush too is a terrorist, but Saddam is weak and Bush is strong. That's why he has won, because no one opposes a strong person," said the 33-year-old Saudi government employee.
"How wonderful the world would be without Saddam and without Bush!"