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Iraqis Envision a Future Without Saddam - 2003-12-15

Iraqis are gradually coming to terms with the capture of Saddam Hussein, who ruled the country with an iron fist for nearly 25 years. The initial euphoria has faded away, and Iraqis are now asking themselves what the arrest of their former leader will mean for the future.

Saddam Hussein dominated the political landscape in Iraq for a quarter of a century. Whether Iraqis loved him or hated him, he was always a figure larger than life. He inspired great terror in some, great admiration in others. But the one thing everyone associated with Saddam was power, which he wielded so completely for so long.

The sight of the fallen leader, looking disheveled in a bushy gray beard and matted hair, was a deep shock to many here. The news that he had been captured without putting up a fight was even more so.

Ahmed Abdul-Sattan, 32, says it was too painful to watch. He says he could not watch the television when Saddam appeared on it. He says it was a hard moment, a hard situation for any Iraqi to be in, at least for any honest one. He says the fallen leader let Iraqis down in every way.

Mr. Abdul-Sattan was not yet born when the Baath Party came to power in 1968. Saddam is the only president he can remember. But despite that, he thinks the Americans have made a mistake by believing that Saddam was the most important symbol to the anti-coalition resistance. He says things will never change, because the problem is not with Saddam, it is with the Iraqis themselves.

That sentiment is echoed by another man, Ali Abbass Hassan, who compares Saddam to a dinosaur, or a wild animal. He has a pessimistic view of Iraq's immediate future.

"I think the future will be worse than now. The previous regime ruined Iraq internally, and we cannot fix everything overnight,' he said. "It will take time."

But not everyone is taking such a bleak view of the road ahead. Mohammed Hashim, 33, says the capture of Saddam is a great achievement, one he never expected to see.

Mr. Hashim believes it will improve life in Iraq, but only when the people who supported Saddam accept that he is really gone for good. He says, of course it will change the future of Iraq, but unfortunately some Iraqis believed that Saddam Hussein would come back again. God willing, he says, he will never come back, and Iraq's future is one of democracy and freedom.

Mr. Hashim calls the ongoing anti-coalition resistance attacks the kicks of a dying mule.