Skip to comments.Liberation Update (Selected quotes via the White House)
Posted on 04/30/2003 6:22:49 PM PDT by Spruce
VOICES OF FREEDOM
"You tell Mr. Bush I think he must be a Muslim for what he did for us.... This is God's land. Everyone deserves it. Every Christian, every Jew and every Muslim needs to live in peace -- and eat from God's gifts -- not from Saddam Hussein's hands." Abdul Razak al Naami, a sergeant in the Iraqi army until the Americans arrived, Knight Ridder, 4-29-03 "Saddam and his birthday were a black cloud over Iraq. We all want peace and freedom. He deprived us of these things."
Moayed al-Duleimi, Associated Press, 4-29-03
| "Today is a day of happiness for me, because we got rid of him. He destroyed us. We ask God that he never returns, because we are happy and -- God willing -- things will be better."
Munhal Taleb, Associated Press, 4-29-03
"After the war, we will see our country change for the better, with freedom."
"The resumption of school in Baghdad is the clearest sign of hope for the future that many Iraqis have had in years."
"We had an open process of discussion among Iraqis that has made me really optimistic about the future. We heard a wide spectrum of views. This (political meeting) is something Iraqis have not been able to do in 45 years."
"Until this year, the birthday of Saddam required joyous, staged public festivals for the leader of the 35-year, iron-fisted regime. We would pretend we were happy, but on the inside we were sad."
"Iraqi people have a double personality. One is me when I am in front of people related to the Baath Party, the secret services, the family of Saddam; I support them. Otherwise they would definitely put me in the jail or execute me. Among friends, people I know I can trust, I tell them what I really feel. Most Iraqis have that double personality."
"The soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division received a much-needed and entirely unexpected treat when, after months of waiting, their convoy finally reached Baghdad: the sight of a Toyota filled with eight gleeful Iraqis, all waving and cheering. Then came thousands of other Iraqis, in cars and alongside the road, who hailed the U.S. Army troops as the Humvees passed through the city. The soldiers had missed most of the war after Turkey denied their division passage into northern Iraq from Turkish soil."
"America is like a new friend. I just met him. I must give him a chance."
"Freedom has been inside us all along. But until now we haven't practiced it."
"We are here hopefully to put down the structure or agree on the skeleton of a government. We are here to represent Iraqi women, who have in the past played very little role in Iraqi politics."
"The people today after they were liberated from Saddam want security and stability. People want real participation. I am participating in this conference because those who are concerned with Iraqi issues must hear the voice of the people."
"Coming home after years abroad, Iraqis hugged and kissed as the gathering began. In Baghdad? one delegate asked another in disbelief. Yes, in Baghdad, the other replied."
"Whenever we had those elections for president, everyone voted for him 100 percent. And today nothing will happen, and this will prove that none of us liked him, not a one."
"Saddam was a criminal, a dictator, and fascist. I thank the Americans a lot -- we praise them for ending Saddam, with Gods help."
"On one patrol this week, a boy tending his father's small grocery grabbed Air Force Technical Sgt. Keith Westheimer's notebook and wrote a message in broken English, hoping someone with clout would see it: People Iraqi in Mosul need king leader of Mosul. People Iraqi very happy because Americans are here. Thank you. Karim Salah, 17 years old."
"It is a happy day for us because we can pray freely. It has been a long time."
"A 30-year-old secretary in Baghdad named Lina Daoud ponders what lies ahead. Her words come out as pastel bubbles: We want a happy future, we want technology, we want freedom, we want everything.'"
"Its a sight one old leatherneck said he will never, ever, ever forget: a man bent and wizened by age, pushing a wheelchair through the streets of a small town in Iraq. In the wheelchair was an extremely bent, aged old woman, barely able to keep her balance in the rickety contraption. As Marine Lt. Gen. Earl B. Hailston, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces for U. S. Central Command, passed by in his Humvee, the Iraqi couple caught his eye. Both gave a thumbs up, and the old woman started blowing kisses. Its something that will never leave my mind.'"
We are free to do things that were forbidden before.
The long-oppressed Saudi Shiites would have been heartened by their Iraqi counterparts' new-found freedom to practice their religious rituals. This will encourage them to press for their own rights.
It was like a dream. We heard the bombs falling and I thought: 'We will die here.' But God gave me a new life.
We couldn't talk about all this under Saddam, we couldn't look for our relatives who had disappeared or we would disappear too, says one man, sliding his thumb across his throat. Being a relative of a prisoner meant your women could be raped, your houses destroyed and all your belongings confiscated, so most people kept quiet.
With the end of Saddam Hussein's rule, hundreds of thousands of Shi'ites from across Iraq were free to take part in this year's pilgrimage unhindered by the security forces who once outnumbered and arrested them. As they entered the shrine to pray, women kissed its marble walls and great wooden doors. As they exited, men bowed deeply towards the shrine before turning their backs. Shi'ites estimate that hundreds of thousands, some say several million, have reached Karbala.
We used to be executed or thrown in jail forever for doing this when Saddam Hussein was in power.
This week marked the first time in nearly 30 years that Iraq's majority Shi'a Muslims could pray without fear of reprisal or execution by the government, and more than 1 million people flooded the holy city of Karbala to pay homage at the shrines of Hussein and Abbas, two of the most holy places for Shi'ites.
This is the first time here for me. It is as if I am waking from a nightmare.
We're still awaiting our freedom, but this is the first taste of it.
crowds seemed to explode with fervor over their newfound freedoms. Long processions from Baghdad and cities in southern Iraq Samawah, Nasiriyah, Najaf and Basra paraded through the streets, waving green, black and red banners. Many stopped every few minutes to break into chants, beating their chests or foreheads in a ritual known as lutm.
As in many lower-class parts of Iraq, some residents said U.S. President George W. Bush had the right idea in wanting to rid Iraq of Saddam. For two decades, the lower classes have been impoverished to the point where they felt they had nothing to lose.
Bush gives us freedom. He is giving us a future.
For decades, we were used to watching ourselves. Now you can think with words. But to talk loudly and to think loudly takes time. Freedom needs practice, and it takes practice to be free.
For two-and-a-half decades, the religious spectacle unfolding in Iraq was unknown. The country's Shiite majority, brutally repressed by Saddam's Sunni-dominated cabal, was nominally permitted to make the pilgrimage, but given little freedom to do so in practice
. If pilgrims managed to make the journey at all, they did so under a cloud of secrecy and fear. And yet, this amazing story of religious freedom reborn has largely been ignored. Instead, the front pages of newspapers have been dominated by transient stories of looting and unrest.
I cannot believe I am here today openly celebrating. The government used to shoot us when we tried in the past.
I walked all the way from Al Hendia to Karbala. I am so excited I am able to visit Hussein (revered son-in-law of Muhammad) now without fear.
We were prohibited from visiting these shrines for a long time by the Baath Party and their agents. This year we thank God for ridding us of the dictator Saddam Hussein and for letting us visit these shrines.
To the south of Baghdad, thousands of Shiite Muslims converged on two of Iraq's holy cities, exercising religious freedom long denied them under Saddam.
We are happy because we can follow our religion and Saddam Hussein is gone.
Chanting and singing, hundreds of thousands of Shiite Muslims from across Iraq walked toward the holy city of Karbala on Monday, freely making a pilgrimage that had been banned by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
I say thank you (U.S. President George W.) Bush and thank you (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair. Whatever the reason, if it wasnt for them, Saddam and his sons would be still around for another hundred years.
More than 1 million Shiites have been marching to Karbala, eager to reach the shrine in time for today's mass rites. They have marched, as tradition prescribes, because their annual season of mourning has come to an end. And this year, they have marched because they could. This is the first time in decades that Iraq's Shiites have been free to commemorate the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the prophet Muhammad.
"We need a natural life, a democratic life, like in any other country
when I came into Baghdad, I saw the ruins, but I also saw something else: freedom. We can be free."
"Iraq has just emerged from a nightmare that lasted 35 years. The problems that Iraq has suffered under the rule of Saddam's regime cannot be eliminated in one or two days. Iraqis must hold several meetings until they agree on what they deem appropriate for the establishment of an interim government representing all Iraqi factions and capable of preparing a permanent constitution top be submitted to the people through a public referendum before the nature of [the next] government could be agreed. This requires a long time."
"I am ready to help. Thank you for liberating Iraq and making it stable, I hope we have a very good friendship with the United States."
"A good leader can bring many things to Iraq. I can see democracy happening in Iraq because they are good people. They may take some time getting used to it, but I can see it happening."
"The people of Iraq do not want Islamic rule. For 35 years we have lived with no freedom, and these religious leaders are not offering us freedom."
It was a great day
I never thought I would have this freedom.
I can't express my feelings. All I feel is joy. This is the first time I've seen this (Shiite celebrations) for 30 years. Saddam forbade everything. He forced us underground.
"I was afraid when I saw my city again, I would die of happiness
this is the first day of my life."
"'Under Saddam, we were not allowed to have beards,' as he fondly rubs a week's growth of stubble on his chin. 'This was just one more rule against the Shiite.'"
As I drove into Basra, an ebullient crowd on a truck was dragging a statue of Saddam Hussein through the streets. When people saw me pull out my camera, they began cheering and whacking Saddam's face. Thank you, Mr. Bush, one called out in English, and it was delicious to watch this celebration of newfound freedom."
Storming the Al-Salam Presidential Palace, the looters marveled bitterly at Saddam's life of luxury as they passed shards of crystal from chandeliers and shattered mirrors. That's how our pharaoh lived, said one man, who would not give his name. Look how he lived when we couldn't even get bread, said another."
British soldiers relaxed with citizens at a nearby Iraqi home. Sitting Indian-style on Oriental rugs, they ate with local men and women and passed around wallet-sized photos of their English children.
Now people throw flowers at the few Warrior armored vehicles still patrolling the streets and men, women and children gathered along roadsides make peace signs and thumbs-up signals at passing soldiers, shouting Hello and Thank you in English."
It's all very interesting. The images of the statue are amazing. It's a new era in the Arab world, and we're happy to see that. We hope there will be new democracy in the Arab world
yes, the war was worth it.
(Selma Dakhel) wants her 10-year-old girl, Nadine, to learn something other than to chant I love Saddam at school, she said. We want freedom and a government chosen by the people. We will have democracy in our new time.
A lot of people from here have been taken away and tortured. We are very happy that Saddam is gone. We will cooperate with the British and the Americans.
Oh my God, I feel free to live. I have hoped for this day for so long.
I'm happy, Iraq is free and Saddam is gone.
Smiling citizens crowded every street around the American positions. There was a constant stream of people willing to give information and loudly condemn Saddam. American soldiers who a day before had been in close combat were now basking in the cheers and applause, their arms tired from returning friendly waves.
There were women and children in the crowds, but only the men did any talking. They would say the word Saddam and spit. Or run up to U.S. soldiers and shout 'George Bush good.'
The American people, particularly the movie stars against us being here, need to see this. These people need us. Look how happy they are.
The downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime, metaphorically incarnate in the toppling of his statue in Firdos Square in Baghdad, filled me with hope. If the regime were still in power, I would not have had the courage to contribute even these few lines under my name to The New York Times. Although I am a self-exiled Iraqi who has lived in Beirut for the past two decades, I have family and friends in Iraq and I had every Iraqi's dread that Saddam Hussein's security apparatus could sweep down on them at any moment.
I now feel very free; I know that I'll be able to sleep now. Saddam Hussein assassinated my brother in 1977 he was hanged in prison for insulting the president. It was August 5, 1977, and since then my family has been punished by the security services. Saddam's Iraq was a dictatorship of torture, war and terror. So today is the first day I can speak.
"Over the years, the Baath Party has urged family members to write pro-Saddam slogans such as Yes, Yes, to the leader Saddam Hussein! on the walls of their house. The family balked, prompting the local Baath Party officials to paint the slogans themselves. This week, one of the first steps the family took was to scrape the slogans off.
There was no justice under Saddam. He could do with us what he liked. The regime robbed the people."
We are still scared but we are happy. Thank God this has happened and the Americans have come. Saddam gave us nothing.
As long as (Saddam) is gone, who cares if he is dead or in Paris?
Iraqis watched with an amazement they dared not express before Wednesday's tumultuous collapse, as the dictator's aura of power faded to something akin to that of a petty thief on the run. It was as though they had awakened from a long, troubling sleep.
We don't consider the presence of American soldiers as an occupation. They came to free us from injustice, tyranny and slavery. Under Saddam Hussein, our lives had no value, no sense.
If the Americans are restoring our liberty they are welcome, and if they respect our dignity they can stay as long as they choose.
We are one again. Finally, we are one. I am 50 years old, but my life just started today.
We've been up all night watching TV, but we're not tired. We're too excited to sleep. I wanted them (his daughters) to see this historic day. This is the day of our freedom.
This is a moment I was looking for all these years; it's like a dream coming true.
I'm from Halabja," said Kafya Aziz, watching as a crowd swelled in Governor's Square. I escaped the chemicals, but my son and husband did not. I'd like to cut Saddam to pieces for all he's taken. I'm happy today. I'm too old, or I'd be dancing.
Firecrackers popped. Women wearing bright dresses and new lipstick walked arm in arm on the sidewalks as children, some sitting in the laps of their cigar-smoking fathers, smiled amid a joy they were too young to comprehend.
I'm so glad for victory. We've suffered much. As you see, I am not normal. I was in Saddam's prison, and then they forced me to fight on the front lines of the Iran-Iraq war. I was shot in the spine and cannot walk. This is the first day of my happiness.
We have just been saved. You know what this day means to me? It means never having to be afraid of another chemical attack. It means never having to fear my children's future.
Now my son can have a chance in life.
I saw it with my own eyes. People in Baghdad were dancing in the streets and burning Saddam's pictures and no one was firing at them. That was proof to me that Saddam is over.
Today is a clear lesson for dictatorships in the Arab world. I think they should start looking for ways to change their people's lives.
We discovered that all what the information minister was saying was all lies. Now no one believes Al Jazeera anymore.
Today, though, Adnan was a happy man, so happy that he could barely restrain his excitement. He was finally freed from a prison in downtown Basra, after British troops entered the city and drove the remaining defenders away. And as he took a small group of American journalists on a tour of the hospital, he enthusiastically led a crowd of fellow ex-prisoners, their families, friends and passersby in the first rendition of a pro-American chant that any of us have so far heard: Nam nam Bush , Sad-Dam No (Yes, yes, Bush, Saddam No). They chanted and danced, filling one of their former cells in a spontaneous celebration.
It's like a birthday. We're ready to make a new Iraq.
We have waited many years for this. Saddam is evil and he has gone. He killed Muslims, his own people and stole our money to buy palaces and cars and guns. He must pay the full price.
Man, I am very excited, every Iraqi person is very happy. We feel like we are reborn again. No more Saddam regime, no more of the Ba'ath Party. We are very happy, now we have got earth to go back to. We love America and we love Iraq too. This is like heaven for me right now.
People, if you only knew what this man did to Iraq. He killed our youth. He killed millions.
As night fell, residents throughout Baghdad exuberantly embraced a new sense of freedom after decades lived in fear of an oppressive regime. While U.S. troops and tanks moved throughout the city, the citizens of Baghdad danced in the streets, waving rifles, palm fronds and flags. Shouts of traitor, torturer and dictator rang out in reference to the Iraqi president.
It was dangerous, it was impossible, to say, Down with Saddam. But we have lived 35 years with the Baath Party. Today I am very free and I can talk. And I say, Thank you, Mr. Bush.
I haven't seen such exhilarating scenes since the implosion of the Soviet empire in the late 1980s. What we have witnessed is something that the Iraqi people wanted the world to know, and that is they are glad to be rid of the loathsome dictator, Saddam Hussein.
"Now my son can have a chance in life."
"I saw it with my own eyes. People in Baghdad were dancing in the streets and burning Saddam's pictures and no one was firing at them. That was proof to me that Saddam is over."
"In the most visible sign of Saddam's evaporating power, the 40-foot statue of the Iraqi president was brought down in the middle of Firdos Square. Cheering Iraqis, some waving the national flag, scaled the statue and danced upon the downed icon, now lying face down. As it fell, some threw shoes and slippers at the statue....'I'm 49, but I never lived a single day,' said Yusuf Abed Kazim, a Baghdad imam who pounded the statue's pedestal with a sledgehammer. 'Only now will I start living. That Saddam Hussein is a murderer and a criminal.'"
It confirms why we're here. This regime, all it does is honor itself. They build these huge lavish living quarters for the select few, but the rest of the country lives dirt-poor.
The unit's interpreter, Khuder al-Emiri, is a local hero, a guerrilla leader who was forced to flee
in April 1991 after leading a failed uprising against Saddam Hussein. Word of Mr. Emiri's arrival spread through town by way of children's feet. Their hero was with the Americans and the crowd believed the marines' intentions were good. They began to chant in English. 'Stay! Stay! U.S.A.!'
The euphoria nearly spilled over into a riot. Children pulled at the marines, jumped on their trucks, wanting to shake their hands, touch their cheeks. A single chicken hung in the butcher's window and still the residents wanted to give the Americans something, anything. Cigarette? Money?
You are owed a favor from the Iraqis. We dedicate our loyalty to the Americans and the British. We are friends."
For years we have lived oppressed lives here. Sunday was a day we had prayed for and now we are free of Saddams rule.
The whole Iraq will be happy if the news about Saddams death is confirmed.
For some, it was a day to hand flowers to British soldiers stationed in armored vehicles at a traffic circle or to gawk at British troops patrolling the city on foot beside their armored vehicles. For others, it was a day to vent rage at icons of the former authority.
"The reception that we received by the Iraqis have been mainly positive. Many children have come up to me wanting to hold my hand. Many of the British troops have been kissed by the children as theyve gone by. Now, a few people have motioned to go back or to leave but theyre certainly in the minority."
The Marines here are still concerned some Iraqi fighters remain. Keep away from the area, scream the loud speakers in Arabic. It is for your security. The coalition forces will not hesitate to shoot you. But hundreds ignored that, surging forward to greet the Marines with an emotional celebration in this predominantly Shia Muslim town.
"The closer the marines got to Baghdad, the warmer their reception. Troops soon encountered cheering crowds, with some people giving the thumbs-up sign. You go to Baghdad, and then I am free, an Iraqi man told one soldier."
"We shall never forget what the coalition has done for our people. A free Iraq shall be a living monument to our people's friendship with its liberators."
"Ameericaah? a little girl asked a Marine who had entered her village and taken a defensive position as others began to search homes. The streets were deserted. People peered around their gates. The Marine smiled, wiggled his fingers in the girl's direction and her fear and that of the rest of the townspeople melted. Within minutes people had left their houses and began to shake hands with the Marines. Liberation from the strictures of the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had come for a nameless village just a few miles from downtown Baghdad.
When some (Iraqi paramilitaries) fled, civilians from the nearby Shia Flats slum poured onto the streets in support of the British attack. Some shouted and cheered, greeting the British soldiers with waves, thumbs up and smiles. Other surrounded and attacked the fleeing Fedayeen Saddam forces.
Believers (should) not to hinder the forces of liberation, and help bring this war against the tyrant to a successful end for the Iraqi people
. Our people need freedom more than air (to breathe). Iraq has suffered, and it deserves better government."
The cool, cement walls were welcome relief from the blistering afternoon heat. The colonel walked across a worn rug and sat at the far end of the room, next to the community patriarch, an old man who stayed mostly silent. The patriarch's eldest son, 63-year-old Said Brahim, served as ambassador. We are so happy to see the Americans forces, Mr. Brahim told a Marine translator.
Hundreds of people poured out to welcome and shake hands with the soldiers. Women in chadors hovered in the background, as soldiers talked and joked with civilians and let some boys look through their gunsights. A jubilant crowd of about 100 Iraqis surrounded two British tanks near a Saddam mural and cheered the soldiers inside, giving one soldier a small bunch of yellow flowers.
"Ayatollah Ali Mohammed Sistani is...the undisputed A'alam al-ulema (the most learned of the learned) of the mullahs who minister to the religious needs of Shiites, 60 percent of Iraq's population. This week he will resume lectures, banned by the Saddam regime for seven years, at the oldest Shiite seminary.
"....[T]he ayatollah said he had advised 'believers not to hinder the forces of liberation, and help bring this war against the tyrant to a successful end for the Iraqi people....Our people need freedom more than air [to breath]. Iraq has suffered, and it deserves better government.'"
"As dusk fell yesterday evening, only a small girl dressed in rags could be seen on the streets of Jazirah al-Hari. She approached a [British] tank standing guard at one end of the village, and said: 'My parents will not come, but we need water.' The tank driver leant down and gave her a bottle of water. 'This is why we've come, isn't it?' he said."
"U.S. troops [are] getting a very warm welcome from the local Shia population. Now naturally, the Shiites...have no love lost for the Iraqi leader President Saddam Hussein. They have been very repressed by him in the past. And obviously...what they believe to be a continuous presence that they can count on, interest from the U.S. troops is something that they are quite happy to see."
"Hundreds of Iraqis shouting 'Welcome to Iraq' greeted U.S. Marines who entered the town of Shatra....'There's no problem here. We are happy to see Americans,' one young man shouted. The welcome was a tonic for soldiers who have not always received a warm reception despite the confidence of U.S. and British leaders that the Iraqi people were waiting to be freed from Saddam Hussein's repression. 'It's not every day you get to liberate people,' said one delighted Marine."
"'Saddam has given us nothing, only suffering,' said Khalid Juwad, with his cousin, Raad, nodding in assent. Mr. Juwad said he had four uncles who were in Hussein's jails, and he said he had deserted from the Iraqi Army three times in recent years. 'If the Americans want to get rid of Saddam, that's O.K. with me,' he said. 'The only thing that would bother me is if they don't finish the job. Then Saddam will come back, like he did in 1991.'"
"We've been waiting for you for 10 years. What took you so long? said an Iraqi man who, along with more than 500 others, surrendered near the Rumaila oil fields. Many had written such phrases as U.S.A. O.K. on their arms or hands. Some even tried to kiss the hands of the nervous young Marines guarding them.
Ajami Saadoun Khlis, whose son and brother were executed under the Saddam regime, sobbed like a child on the shoulder of the Guardians Egyptian translator. He mopped the tears but they kept coming. You just arrived, he said. You're late. What took you so long? God help you become victorious. I want to say hello to Bush, to shake his hand. We came out of the grave.
As Iraqi Americans reach out to their relatives in Baghdad and Basra, in Kirkuk and Irbil, some are hearing words they never thought possible: Iraqis are speaking ill of Saddam Hussein. They're criticizing him out loud, on the telephone, seemingly undeterred by fear of the Iraqi intelligence service and its tactics of torture for those disloyal to the Baath Party regime. I was shocked, said Zainab Al-Suwaij, executive director of the American Islamic Congress, a nonprofit group in Cambridge, Mass., that promotes interfaith and interethnic understanding. It's very dangerous. All the phones are tapped. But they are so excited.
Me and my husband, an old man, have to stay at home because we are afraid. We want the American government to remove Saddam Hussein from power and kick these soldiers out of these hills.
We're very happy. Saddam Hussein is no good. Saddam Hussein a butcher.
I have been waiting for this for 13 years. I hate him more than American government because I told you the Iraq government killed many people from Iraq. They just put (my brother) in jail for a year. After this, they killed him because he don't want to go to the army because his brother is American citizen, and his brother lives in United State.
(The trip) had shocked me back to reality. (Some Iraqis) told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn't start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam's bloody tyranny. They convinced me that Saddam was a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head.
I was shocked when I first met a pro-war Iraqi in Baghdad - a taxi driver taking me back to my hotel late at night. Don't you listen to Powell on Voice of America radio? he said. Of course the Americans don't want to bomb civilians. They want to bomb government and Saddam's palaces. We want America to bomb Saddam.
The driver's most emphatic statement was: All Iraqi people want this war.
Perhaps the most crushing thing we learned was that most ordinary Iraqis thought Saddam Hussein had paid us to come to protest in Iraq. Although we explained that this was categorically not the case, I don't think he believed us. Later he asked me: Really, how much did Saddam pay you to come? Daniel Pepper in an article I was a naive fool to be a human shield for Saddam,
As US forces push deep into Iraq, farmers and remote villagers are greeting them with white flags and waves. But the ground forces, backed by massive artillery and air support, are encountering pockets of resistance from Iraq's military. One man, about 30, yesterday ran from a field towards a US convoy shouting insults about Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Other men and boys stood in fields waving white flags. In keeping with the local Muslim custom, no girls or women appeared from their houses.
.The return of the Americans to Safwan was also an occasion for hope, even if mixed with wariness. Saddam finished! shouted another young [Iraqi] man, who gave his name as Fares. Americans are here now. His friend, Shebah, added, in broken English, Saddam killed people.
Coming into Basra as part of a massive military convoy, I encountered a stream of young men, dressed in what appeared to be Iraqi army uniforms, applauding the US marines as they swept past in tanks.
"Ajami Saadoun Khlis, whose son and brother were executed under the Saddam regime, sobbed like a child on the shoulder of the Guardian's Egyptian translator. He mopped the tears but they kept coming. 'You just arrived,' he said. 'You're late. What took you so long? God help you become victorious. I want to say hello to Bush, to shake his hand. We came out of the grave.'"
As hundreds of coalition troops swept in just after dawn, the heartache of a town that felt the hardest edges of Saddam Hussein's rule seemed to burst forth, with villagers running into the streets to celebrate in a kind of grim ecstasy, laughing and weeping in long guttural cries.
Oooooo, peace be upon you, peace be upon you, peace you, oooooo, Zahra Khafi, a 68-year-old mother of five, cried to a group of American and British visitors who came to the town shortly after Mr. Hussein's army appeared to melt away. I'm not afraid of Saddam anymore.
"We've been driving since dawn today in southern Iraq, and so far we've come across scores of Bedouin herdsmen. We've been greeted by friendly greetings of inshallah and salaam aleikum
we've seen both women and men waving greetings and shouting greeting to the U.S. troops.
"They told me that Saddam Hussein is not allowing anyone to leave Baghdad. I don't fear the Americans. I was in Baghdad in the war in 1991 and I saw how surgical an operation it was. Saddam Hussein has persecuted everyone except his own family. Kurds, Arab Shiites, Turkoman - everybody has suffered. But our country was a rich country and we can be rich again.'
"These are US Marines being greeted if not with garlands, with hand shakes by residents of the town in the deep-south corner of Iraq.
"One little boy, who had chocolate melted all over his face after a soldier gave him some treats from his ration kit, kept pointing at the sky, saying 'Ameriki, Ameriki.'"
"Milling crowds of men and boys watched as the Marines attached ropes on the front of their Jeeps to one portrait and then backed up, peeling the Iraqi leader's black-and-white metal image off a frame. Some locals briefly joined Maj. David 'Bull' Gurfein in a new cheer. 'Iraqis! Iraqis! Iraqis!' Gurfein yelled, pumping his fist in the air...
"....A few men and boys ventured out, putting makeshift white flags on their pickup trucks or waving white T-shirts out truck windows....'Americans very good,' Ali Khemy said. 'Iraq wants to be free. Some chanted, 'Ameriki! Ameriki!'
"Gurfein playfully traded pats with a disabled man and turned down a dinner invitation from townspeople. 'Friend, friend,' he told them in Arabic learned in the first Gulf War.
"'No Saddam Hussein!' one young man in headscarf told Gurfein. 'Bush!'"
"Iraqi citizens were shown 'tearing down a poster of Saddam Hussein' and Dexter Filkins of The New York Times was interviewed, saying that Iraqis he had seen were 'hugging and kissing every American they could find.'"
"Here was a chance to stop and I clambered down, eager to get a first word from an Iraqi of what he thought of this whole affair. 'As salaam alekum,' I said in the traditional greeting, then ran out of Arabic and quickly added, 'Do you speak English?' No go. But with a fumbled exchange of gestures we slowly managed to communicate. Thumbs up for the American tanks, thumbs down for Saddam Hussein. Then he pointed north into the distance and said 'Baghdad.'"
"A line of dancing Kurdish men, staring directly into the mouth of the Iraqi guns less than a mile away, defiantly burned tires, sang traditional new years songs and chanted, 'Topple Saddam.'
"March 21 is the Kurdish New Year....And bonfires have long been a symbol of liberation in this part of the world. 'We're celebrating [Nawroz] a national holiday,' said Samad Abdulla Rahim, 22. 'But today we also celebrate the attack on Saddam.'
"Many expressed hope that deadly fire would light the night sky over Baghdad in the days ahead, bringing an end to the Kurd's epic 30-year struggle against Hussein and his Baath Party. 'I can't wait for the U.S. planes to come and liberate Kirkuk,' said Shahab Ahmed Sherif, a 33-year-old Kurd who had fled the oil-rich city four days earlier."
Unidentified Iraqi man: "Help us live better than this life. Let us have freedom."
May God bless and watch over your child.
Bless you, kid. You need a REAL COnstitution.
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