Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Two Years After Saddam's Capture

It was Sunday December 14, 2003. I woke up in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and was very sick. It must have been the kibbe, which Mosul is famous for, I ate the night before. I must have been suffering from food poison. At about 12 p.m. my colleague Shaz came to replace me as I was heading back to Baghdad for a day or two before going back home in Lebanon. Shortly after Shaz arrived I left with my colleague A toward Baghdad. The trip took us about four hours and we passed through cities and towns such as Beiji, Tikrit, Samarra until we reached Baghdad. On the way we heard a rumor that Saddam Hussein was captured. The first thing we did when arrived on the outskirts of Baghdad was ask anyone about the news. A, an Iraqi who is known as al-Lubnani or the Lebanese because he says it was his dream to be born Lebanese, asked a traffic policeman whether he heard that Saddam Hussein was captured. The policeman replied "that is what I heard." In Baghdad we turned on the radio, since there was no signal on the 350-kilometer long Mosul-Baghdad highway. Then Radio Sawa began their news bulletin with the voice of then member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council Naseer Chaderchi saying that Saddam had been captured. We could not believe what we heard. We were shocked with the news. We drove to the office and everyone was terribly busy with the news. We watched the television as Iraq's U.S. Governor L. Paul Bremer appeared with several Governing Council members and U.S. military commander Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. "Ladies and gentlemen. We got him," Bremer said. Seconds later fire was opened in the air by thousands of Iraqis in celebration. Shortly afterward, they showed Saddam's pictures with long hair and a beard. In one of the videos shown, a military doctor was seen looking in Saddam's hair. It was clear that the pictures were a message for Iraqis that this is the man who ruled you with an iron fist and fear for 24 years. Saddam Hussein was captured a day earlier before it was announced. The news that day were the most important in Iraq since the Iraqi capital was run over by the Americans on April 9, 2003. Saddam today is on trial by an Iraqi court and he looks much more strong and confident compared to the how he looked.
The last thing I thought that morning or most people in Iraq was that Saddam was captured a day earlier. Everyone was taken by surprise.
The next morning was not quite. Several explosions rocked Baghdad and I went to one of the sites in an northern Baghdad neighborhood called Husseiniyah. It was a suicide attack at a police station that killed eight policemen. As I looked around the stations that was badly damaged a lightly injured policeman called me saying "let me show you something." I walked toward him then he said "look" pointing his index to a head and a foot. "They are of the suicide attacker," the policeman said. It was another shocking image from Iraq that is still very clear in my head two years later.
As the days passed, it became more and more clear that Saddam's capture did not end the insurgency but on the contrary attacks rose sharply since then and they continue.
Bassem Mroue
Baghdad Dec. 15, 2005
01:00 a.m.


At 7:13 PM, Blogger Anthony Shipp said...

This is a good blog. The insurgency was bound to happend after my series of units left Iraq at the end of 2003. It has always been my position that I should have never left. I should be in Iraq still today. The US Military should have took a position that did allow rotation of troops in and out of the country or these 7 to 12 month tours of duties. It didn't work in Vietnam and it will not work now. The mere fact the Marine Corps wanted to leave because they did not feel that "nation building" was in thier doctrine was a huge mistake. Whether we liked it or not (I'm talking about the generals and executives making these decisions) we were in a nation building status. This insurgency could have been better controlled by people like me still in the same capacity I was when I first went into Iraq as a US Marine. The reason is simple. The relationships we built with people like Abbad (the head honcho in charge of Iraqi labor on Camp Babylon) or his son Lathe was then 14 who is now 17 (old enough to be an insurgent now).... these people were our friends and we respected them and they respected us. I did everything in my power to build a good relationship with these people and thier village. This was happening all over Iraq regardless of being Army Camps or Marine Camps. American by nature are not going to abuse the hands that feeds them. We are not barbaric types who treated these Iraqis as labor slaves on our camps, even though we only paid them $2 per day for thier service. Of course this was required to minimize inflation right after major conflict. As it says in the Marince Corps guide to fighting small wars:
diplomatic consideration is paramount in the individual Marine. Becuase this trust between the native and us, will only help us in the end. So this massive rotation of troop, lack of established consistant control in each sector, with trust relationships in tact has only hurt the USA and our success in Iraq. Compound this with mis-management of resources, breakdown of the Baath party, disassembly of the Iraq Army, you have a recipe for disaster. This may sound negative, but war is a negative game. For those who might read this and complain that I am adding fuel to the fire because I'm a critic without a solution, let me say this... read between the lines. My criticism is founded on facts of actually fighting in Iraq. The solutions to these problems are finding new leaders that can actually solve the problems. I'm talking military leaders that can stand up to the executive branch and call bullshit on the DOD Sec and Commander in Cheif. The military does know best and they are not being listened to. Next, the USA had so many windows of opportunites to get it right in 2003, 2004, especially 2003... but we missed that boat by miles. At this point, it's more about a clean up game to not loose face as we did in Vietnam. Just my thought.

Cheers and Happy New Year,

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