Jubilant Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad Wednesday, to celebrate the apparent end of the regime of Saddam Hussein. They also greeted U-S troops and tanks that reached the center of Baghdad. Robert Raffaele has the latest.
In Baghdad’s Firdos Square, a dramatic scene unfolded as Iraqis tried for several hours to topple a giant statue of Saddam Hussein. Later they were joined by U-S Marines, who draped an American flag over the statue, but later replaced it with a pre-Gulf War Iraqi flag. Finally, a Marine towing vehicle pulled the statue down – to the cheers of hundreds gathered in the square.
In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld placed the day’s events among other landmark moments in history.
DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY
“The scenes of free Iraqis celebrating in the streets, riding American tanks, and tearing down the statues of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad are breathtaking. Watching them, one cannot help but think of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the Iron Curtain.”
Throughout the day, US Marines took up several positions in Baghdad. Including outside the Palestine Hotel. Conspicuous by his absence was the Iraqi Information Minister, who had given daily press briefings at the hotel.
As Marine tanks rolled down the street, residents waving their shirts greeted them. One Marine described his feelings upon arriving at the Iraqi capital.
“It’s going great, little bit of an anti-climax coming to Baghdad, but other than that, it’s going pretty good.
(OFF CAMERA) UNIDENTIFIED MAN
“Any message for the folks back home?
“Be home soon, I’m alright, thank God.”
In some areas of Baghdad, however, anger was the predominant mood. In the Sinak district, some Iraqis vented their rage at the U-S, including one man who said he lost four members of his family during the bombing raids.
UNIDENTIFIED IRAQI MAN
“When the American army and Mister Bush come here in Baghdad, we kill him. You must say that for Mister Bush, you must say that for American peoples.”
To the south in Basra, people continued looting the city, as word spread of the U-S seizure of Baghdad.
(NATURAL SOUND - SHOUTING)
People smashed pictures of Saddam Hussein, while others grabbed whatever they could.
In Northern Iraq, Kurdish men celebrated in the streets of Irbil, after U.S. Special Operations forces and Kurdish peshmerga fighters seized a strategic hilltop near the city of Mosul. The crowd chanted slogans against Saddam Hussein and flashed victory signs.