Monday, April 14
U.S. Bombs Missed Hussein, Residents Say
Michael Slackman, LATimes.com, April 13, 2003
BAGHDAD -- Ask residents of Baghdad's Mansour district if they think Saddam Hussein's remains are at the bottom of a 60-foot pit blasted out of their neighborhood last week by U.S. bombs, and the answer will probably be no.
It's not that they believe the security-conscious president was hiding elsewhere. The U.S. just hit the wrong house, they say.
Right next to the rubble-strewn hole is a two-story white stucco home that has become the focus of intense speculation. Some neighbors believe Hussein was using it as a hide-out. No one knows for sure, of course, and it may well be a case of gossip run amok.
But neighbors say there is evidence to prove their suspicions. Chances that Hussein was there are "more than 90%, I think," said Saad Waali, 51, a retired general who lives nearby.
Exhibit 1: The five telephone lines hooked into the house. This isn't gossip. Anyone can see the five black wires running off a pole on the street and into the first floor. Five lines may be extravagant even by western standards for a residence, but here, no one has five lines.
"That's not just extraordinary; it's impossible in Iraq," said Gorgees Toma, 62, who lives next door.
Exhibit 2: The desk.
When the four, 2,000-pound bombs fell Monday in what U.S. officials called a major strike on a "leadership target," residents focused their attention on the houses that were obliterated. But as days went by, and the shock began to fade, people realized that a house bordering the crater was empty.
So they looted it.
Once people got inside, rumors started swirling that this was the house Hussein was using, and that the Americans had hit the wrong target.
The main reason was the desk.
Step inside the front door, into the modest, rectangular living room, and there is only one piece of furniture left. It is a large desk at the back of the room. It's not the kind of desk an ordinary person would put in the living room, or even in their home. It has a heavy wood top, about 6 feet long, on a rather gaudy wooden base. To the residents of Al Mansour, it looks just like the desk Hussein sat behind in televised broadcasts during the war.[...]