Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006
Saddam Hussain just after he was pulled from a hole in the ground
Saddam Hussain just after he was pulled from a hole in the ground

The Arrest Of Saddam

Human rights observer, Jo Wilding, reports from Baghdad on the public reaction to Saddam's capture

14th December 2003

They are saying that Saddam has been caught. The TV stations are showing pictures of an old, grubby, bearded man in captivity. Khalid says it's definitely him. "He has been on television for 12 hours a day for 35 years. I am sure it is him." Marwan says it's all a trick. "It's not the real Saddam."

The woman who begs with her six year old daughter flung her arms around me: "Saddam kelaboutch". The watch seller came over to try to give me a kiss as well but I'm not sure that was anything to do with the capture of Saddam. An old woman in a raincoat and a floppy hat stood on the island in the middle of the road twirling a plastic mop. Again I'm unclear whether that was related to the Saddam issue. Firas was grinning enormously, taking photos of everyone and everything. "My brother died in Saddam's war with Iran. Now they have caught him."

There was more than the usual amount of gunfire in the air as word spread, though thankfully less than when the Iraqi football team won a match a while back. The habit of firing into the air at times of celebration scares me more than all the car bombs, thieves and twitchy Americans put together. A man crossing the road crossed his wrists to signify handcuffs and called out "Saddam kelabach" through the window. Kerim, the driver, asked did I think it was true? "Saddam kelabach?"

I haven't yet met anyone with any pity for him, though I haven't yet bee to the main areas of resistance, but I haven't seen the dancing I thought I'd see in the streets while I've been driving around town this afternoon. The petrol queues are longer than ever and even smiles were a blessed break from the weariness of the struggle for basics. Kerim says eight hours is a good run from the queue's end to the pump. The 960km drive to the Jordanian border can be done in four and a half. Iraqi police shield the US tanks on sentry duty outside empty petrol stations. When fuel arrives, Kerim says, sometimes it only lasts an hour or two and then no one moves until another tanker arrives.

Khalid said they should make Saddam crawl over nails. We passed a portrait with his face painted over and Hamsa said: "Poor you. Now you are in handcuffs, you bastard." For me, I want to see his trial. I want to hear him tell the truth. I want to hear the whole truth. I want us to learn from this and never let it happen to people again, that they live under such a man.

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