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Iraqis Show Mixed Reaction to Saddam's Arrest - 2003-12-15

Iraqis are reacting with mixed emotions to the news of Saddam Hussein's capture by coalition troops. Some are elated, others disappointed, and many still doubt that it is really true.

On the streets of Baghdad, there is confusion mixed with jubilation, and sometimes sadness, at the news of Saddam's arrest. Even before the announcement was made, rumors spread through the city. Automatic gunfire could be heard ringing out as residents shot off their weapons in the air in a traditional Iraqi way of showing emotion.

After the announcement, as the sun went down, the gunfire intensified, so much so that it often sounded like Baghdad was the scene of a pitched battle. But it was just celebration.

More than a hundred people gathered outside the Communist Party headquarters, many of them waving red flags in jubilation. Drivers honked their horns and waved at bystanders.

In a cafe downtown, Khalid Abdul Zahra could not quite believe it was real. "Of course I feel enormous happiness, but we want to be sure that this is true," he said. "We want to see him alive, on TV."

Mr. Zahra said he hopes that Saddam will be put on trial for the crimes he has committed.

But it is not all jubilation on the streets of Baghdad. A former soldier in Saddam's army, Wail Abid, was crying out of sadness over Saddam's second fall. "I just cannot describe it," he explained. "Is this a tear coming down from my eye? Is it happiness that I am feeling now? No."

Mr. Abid says he spent most of his life in Saddam's military, and now feels all of that has been for nothing.

But one emotion has emerged over and over in interviews with Baghdad residents. They are simply shocked by the news of the way Saddam was captured. Most people expected him to put up a fight, or even kill himself if he were ever cornered.

For Ahmed Abdul Kadoum, the news that his ex-leader was found hiding in a hole in the ground was deeply troubling.

"I am so happy that they caught Saddam, but he should have killed himself," he said. "Now he has shamed us. His sons were killed because they fought with the Americans, and here they find Saddam Hussein in a hole two meters deep. It is a shame."