HAPPY IRAQIS CELEBRATE THE CAPTURE OF SADDAM, EMBRACE AMERICA, AND PROFESS LOVE FOR BUSH!
Iraqi reactions to the capture of Saddam
14 December 2003, Occupied Baghdad -- So by now you've all heard about the capture of Saddam Hussein in his hometown, Tikrit.
For the record, he was captured by members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), not by US forces.
As I type this, sporadic gunfire is echoing off the buildings in Baghdad. The media are already falling in line and telling everyone this is going to be a huge morale boost for the US-led coalition, that attacks on US soldiers will decrease, etc., ad infinitum.
I'm here to report that this is another version of the pulling down of Saddam's statue -- a publicity stunt, helpful (albeit temporarily) to politicians in Britain and the US. Desperate for higher percentages at home, Tony Blair already confirmed the reports of Saddam's capture nearly an hour before the CPA held their press conference doing so.
But, again, word on the street is quite different from the story being told by CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and even the BBC.
Faisal, 21 years old, shares with me how he feels about Saddam's capture.
"I feel terrible. Really, I thought there was a chance to improve my life. But now, with the occupation, I have no hope. I feel the resistance will be worse now, because people will feel more desperate."
I asked him why he feels this way.
"Because as long as the Americans are here, there will be increasing resistance. Who wants to have their country occupied?"
He believes crime will be worse-because the fear of Saddam is gone, so now people will really turn towards crime.
Ahmed, 25, feels similarly.
"This is a sad day for Iraq. The people celebrating are uneducated and not the majority. You wait and see. It will become much worse."
On Al-Arabya television station here, a local Iraqi reporter, Mr. Al-Amari, talks about how with Saddam gone it will make things harder for US troops in Iraq.
"Saddam was helping coordinate attacks against the multinational companies here. Now, without his leadership, the resistance will target US troops even harder."
He goes on to discuss that the people celebrating now are Iraqis who had family members who suffered under Saddam. After all, the Shia and Kurds haven't even been suspected of being in the resistance, from the start.
Another Iraqi man who wishes to remain nameless, says he fears what is to come now.
"I think the Americans have a program. I think Saddam is sitting in Camp David. I think this is not true, I don't care what they say. This is just the timing they use to get the companies in here next year, which they are waiting to do. This has been fixed in advance."
Ahmed, shares how he believes this will draw more Iraqis into the resistance movement.
"What other hope do they have to get the Americans out of here now? Fighting against them is truly the only way. It will be worse now for the Americans here."
A police officer is asked why he isn't fighting the Americans.
"I will. I'm waiting for the right time. Many of us feel this way."
Now we see what happens.
A little later, in Al-Adamiyah, Baghdad...
The suicide bomber, wielding an RPG and wearing a bomb, is hoisted onto the shoulders of a man in the roaring crowd which is composed of men crying for Saddam.
Kalshinkovs rattle off countless rounds as men thrust their fists into the air, chanting, Biroch, biddam, nefdika ya Saddam ("By our soul, by our blood, we will sacrifice for you Saddam!").
Over and over -- the crowd has grown from tens, to hundreds, to thousands -- and begins roaming the streets.
It all started by just interviewing some people in front of a mosque.
"I don't believe them -- this is another American lie. That man is not Saddam."
Khalil, 21, yells at me.
Other men crowd around immediately when they find out we are press. My translator is speaking as fast as he can to translate the infuriated men's words:
"They show us this faked picture to get our minds off the terrible situation here -- the no gas, no electricity, they don't want us to talk about how terrible it is here!"
Gun shots of Saddam supporters crack nearby.
A man named Mustafa tells me,
"Even if they arrest Saddam, there are three million more who are fighting, or will begin to fight. You wait!"
Countless men now swarm around me and a fellow journalist who is filming all of it.
"If Saddam dies, the resistance won't stop. He is just one man! We will fight now!"
My interpreter begins to weep.
Men see this, and grab him and thrust him atop a man's shoulders. The crowd erupts as fists are thrust into the air and the chanting fills the streets. People are running to join the demonstration.
A suicide bomber appears and is also thrust on a man's shoulders.
We are swarmed, then the mob takes to the street, traffic is halted, and the crowd grows.
The people are inspired. More shots are fired.
For our safety, we run and grab a cab and leave. Streets are clogged as we slowly make our way from Al-Adamiya.
On the way one of our interpreters asks a man on the side of the road as we sit in traffic what he thinks of it all.
"Look at the dogs here dancing. What do the think? America is here to free Iraq? No way. For me, I will fight, because Saddam is better than the Americans."
Back at the hotel another journalist shows us footage taken of the mob just 20 minutes after we'd left, showing how the crowd had burgeoned even further. We here rumors that Al-Adamiya is now closed off for the night, if not longer. We here reports of similar demonstrations in other areas of Baghdad.
This is the reaction of countless Iraqis tonight in Baghdad.
Dahr Jamail is a freelance journalist and political activist from Anchorage, Alaska. He has come to Iraq to bear witness and write about how the US occupation is effecting the people of Iraq, since the media in the US has in large part, he believes, failed to do so.
Page last updated: 14 December 2003, 16:00
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