I'LL SHOOT YANKS TO SAVE IRAQ Mar 30 2003
From Stephen Martin in Baghdad
THE china has been packed away, the walls are bare and the family silver has been spirited away to a safer place.
Now all that is left in the Baghdad sitting room is a sagging armchair - and an automatic rifle resting on enough ammunition to kill a hundred men.
The weapon is more than 20 years old, a relic from the Iran-Iraq war. But when the Americans come rolling into town, Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar will use it to kill as many as he can.
"The more of those American bastards I get the happier I will be," says the father-of-three.
Ghazwan, 59, is no ardent supporter of Saddam Hussein. He loves English pubs and American diners, often visited the UK and points out he was even educated in the US.
He is no friend of the Iraqi regime. He just hates George Bush and Tony Blair more.
Ask why, and you get a one-word answer: sanctions.
His business closed and his savings were frozen because of the UN trade embargo on Iraq imposed after the 1991 Gulf War. Humiliated, he and his family now rely on money sent from his brother in London.
The sanctions were supposed to make Saddam's people rise up against him. But as Ghazwan furiously says: "You stupid fools have done the exact opposite.
"You have alienated the people in Iraq who used to be your friends.
"I loved both Britain and America but you idiots have turned me against you.
"You impose punitive sanctions on this country which bring us to our knees.
"And now you want us to roll out the red carpet for you - you must be joking.
"Saddam Hussein is no friend of mine. But when your troops come down my street I'll be shooting at your boys all the way.
"But it won't be for the president. It will be for Iraq."
He says he knows of many more who feel as he does.
Even when confronted with a litany of Saddam Hussein's human rights abuses, torture chambers and secret police, he holds firm. "You say Saddam Hussein has killed many people - I say the UN sanctions have killed our children. Does Saddam Hussein kill children? No."
Bitterly, he adds: "You weren't calling him a ruthless dictator in the Eighties when this place was dripping with money.
"Now you say you are bombing us into democracy. Yet since you've unloaded thousands of missiles on us I don't feel more democratic.
"So you should unleash another thousand - or double that, triple that or more. Maybe then I will feel more democratic.
"You give me the choice between Saddam Hussein or George Bush. I take Saddam Hussein every time."
This is why, when our troops come to liberate him, he will be shooting to kill.
His gun may be a museum piece compared to the Allied tanks. But, with his family sent away, this former Iraqi soldier means to fight. And he is not on his own.