Monday, December 15, 2003

The Beast in chains

Just as we expected, he was dragged out of a narrow cellar close to a small mudhut near his former stronghold in Tikirit. The timing was a surprise to Iraqis. I was beginning to doubt that he would be captured at all.

Yesterday afternoon I was still asleep when I sensed a commotion in the house, there was gunfire outside. I was a bit reluctant to get up and check since there was no power. Nabil stormed into my room shouting hysterically "They caught Saddam! They caught Saddam!". "Yeah Sure" I responded and covered my head with the blanket. I slept for another hour but the increasing gunfire and excited voices made it difficult. I got up and went out in the street, everything looked normal. I stumbled to my grandmother's house where everyone was huddled in front of the tv watching Al-Jazeera. The news were still uncomfirmed, so we waited impatiently for Bremer's press conference. When he announced "We got him" everyone in the room cheered out loud. The following video of Saddam in his long hair and beard was a shock to us all. My grandmother burst in tears.

Al-Jazeera repeated that video a hundred times in that hour. I don't know what got into me but I really felt sorry for the man. For the first time in years he looked so human. He was just a typical helpless 66-year-old Iraqi at that moment. I stared hardly at his eyes and tried to convince myself that this was the same man who destroyed Iraq and sent millions to their deaths. I found myself talking to the screen "Why did you have to do this to yourself?", "Why did you have to put us into all of this?", "Why didn't you fight back or at least kill yourself to spare us these images?".

I had no reason to, but I felt humiliated. I sank into an overwhelming depression and sadness, and I had a desperate need to get terribly drunk. I should have felt joy but I didn't. And I'm still dissapointed with myself.

I went out again, the streets were empty now, everyone was at home watching the news. Celebratory gunfire continued for hours. In the evening, I went out to fond armed teenagers filling our street carrying Saddam's pictures. They were shouting the vilest things about Sistani, Hakim, and even Ali Bin Abi Talib. Some of the mob were dressed in Fedayeen clothes with grenades and explosives in their hands. I got foolish and tried to take photographs. They dragged me in their midst and I thought this was it. Some accused me of being a spy, and others shouted "Kill the bastard". My parents and some neighbours were all over me and convinced the kids to leave me alone. After that they blocked the street and started to threaten passing cars, all the while shooting in the air. 4 or 5 IP cars showed up and the crowd dissipated. Shops closed and the streets were empty again.

I went to Omar's and told him we'd better postpone our trip to Basrah because the situation didn't look very good. I didn't go out today. It was totally different in the rest of Iraq, people were happy and danced in the streets the whole day. There is a glimmer of hope for Iraqis that Saddam's ghost won't be stalking them anymore. Some people described yesterday as the best day since April 9.

Sorry, I have to go now to prepare for my trip. I'll write more another time.