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Iraq Report: December 15, 2003

15 December 2003, Volume 6, Number 52

For more news and analysis on the capture of Saddam Hussein, go to RFE/RL's "Post-Saddam Iraq" page.


Deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who has eluded coalition forces for eight months, was captured on 13 December in a massive operation in Al-Dawr, located some 15 kilometers south of Tikrit. Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head L. Paul Bremer made the announcement at a 14 December press conference in Baghdad, saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him." "For decades hundreds of thousands of you suffered at the hands of this cruel man. For decades, Saddam Hussein divided you citizens against each other. For decades he threatened and attacked your neighbors. Those days are over forever," Bremer said.

U.S. commander Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez told the same press conference that 600 soldiers from the U.S. 4th Infantry Division, along with Special Forces, engineers, and air support launched Operation Red Dawn in the early evening hours, having identified two possible locations, codenamed Wolverine One and Wolverine Two.

Soldiers were acting on an "actionable intelligence" that came earlier in the day, Sanchez said. He also told reporters that "a combination of human intelligence tips, exceptional intelligence, analytical efforts, and detainee interrogations" in recent weeks helped locate the whereabouts of Hussein. U.S. forces did not initially find Hussein at the two suspected locations, but later found him after cordoning off the area and conducting an intensive search, Sanchez said.

Hussein was found hiding in a "spider hole," nearly 2 meters below ground, just outside a mud hut that is located inside a walled compound. The hole had its own ventilation system. U.S. forces captured two individuals along with Hussein, identified by Iraqi Governing Council members as bodyguards, along with $750,000 worth of $100 bills, two assault rifles, one handgun, and a taxi. Sanchez told reporters that no shots were fired during the operation, and Hussein "has been talkative and is being cooperative." He added that Hussein appeared "a tired man," and "a man resigned to his fate."

U.S. Major General Ray Odierno gave a press conference in Tikrit on 14 December, telling reporters that coalition forces had checked the same location in earlier searches. He said he suspected that Hussein had hid in several similar locations across Iraq, and had probably changed his location every three hours. He said that Hussein was very disoriented when he was initially captured, adding that the two individuals captured with Hussein tried to flee when U.S. forces arrived on the scene, but were apprehended. He said Hussein had new clothes still in wrappers when he was apprehended.

Odierno also told reporters that no telecommunications equipment or telephones were found with Hussein, adding that he never believed that Hussein was directing nationwide attacks against Iraqis and coalition forces in Iraq. He also said that the hut was located alongside the Tigris River, and that small boats were docked nearby, which may have been used by individuals to visit Hussein or transport goods to him. He added that tribes and family members of Hussein had provided coalition forces with information on the possible location of the deposed leader over several weeks.

Iraqi Governing Council members Adnan Pachachi, Ahmad Chalabi, Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i, and Adil Abd al-Mahdi also gave a press conference to reporters in Baghdad on 14 December, saying that they had seen and spoken to Hussein. Pachachi, former Iraqi foreign minister and now head of the Iraqi Independent Democrats Movement, said that Hussein looked tired and haggard, and that he was unrepentant and defiant, telling the governing council members that he had been a firm, but just ruler. "Our answer was that he was an unjust ruler responsible for the death of thousands of Iraqis," Pachachi told reporters, adding that Hussein did not "express any remorse." Al-Mahdi told reporters that Hussein sounded "cynical" when speaking to the council members.

Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress said Hussein didn't feel the need to apologize for his despotic rule over Iraq. Chalabi also confirmed to reporters that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan played a role in locating Hussein. "Kosrat Rasul [head of the PUK's Political Bureau] had a role in uncovering the hideout of Saddam yesterday," Chalabi said. Al-Rubay'i confirmed that Hussein would be tried for crimes against the Iraqi people. Asked whether the trial would be public, Pachachi said, "Yes, definitely, the trial will be public."

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told Al-Jazeera Satellite Television from Paris that the news of Hussein's capture was "the happiest news in the life of the Iraqis." "We have always said that dictators are cowardly rulers. Saddam has proven this fact in the way he was arrested," he added. Meanwhile, Iraqi Governing Council member and President for the month of December Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim gave a press conference with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio from Madrid, telling reporters that DNA testing has confirmed that the man captured was definitely Hussein. "This is a great day for humanity, not just for the Iraqi people. This is a great day for all of us who are lovers of peace, because this criminal has committed atrocities against humanity and not just against the Iraqi people," Abd al-Aziz said.

"We want Saddam to get what he deserves. I believe he will be sentenced to hundreds of death sentences at a fair trial because he's responsible for all the massacres and crimes in Iraq," said Amar al-Hakim, a senior member of the Shi'ite Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Reuters reported.


International leaders reacted to the 13 December capture of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with an outpouring of support for the Iraqi people, and words of encouragement for a future democratic Iraqi state.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed the public from London, saying, "The shadow of Saddam [Hussein] is finally lifted from the Iraqi people." Blair was somber in his address, adding: "We give thanks for that, but let this be more than a cause simply for rejoicing. Let it be a moment to reach out and to reconcile. To the Sunnis whose allegiance Saddam falsely claimed I say there is a place for you playing a full part in a new and a democratic Iraq. To those formally in Saddam's party, there by force and not by conviction, I say we can put the past behind us. Where his rule meant terror and division and brutality, let his capture bring about unity, reconciliation, and peace between all the people in Iraq."

The British prime minister said that Iraqis and coalition forces share a common goal, that of rebuilding Iraq. "The rebirth of Iraq is the death of [militants'] attempts to sell the lie that we are fighting Muslims. Muslims were Saddam's victims. Muslims today in Iraq are the beneficiaries of his demise. Let's remember all those Iraqis that died under Saddam. The remains of four hundred thousand human beings already found in mass graves. So this is a time for celebration, but it's also a time to look forward to unify and to reconcile." The prime minister's comments can be viewed in full on the Downing Street website (

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin also welcomed the capture of Hussein. "With this arrest, the page of the Iraqi dictatorship is now turned. The international community should congratulate itself. It is a very strong symbol for the Iraqi people who can now say good-bye to a tragic period of their history and look into the future." "We now have an opportunity to get out of the crisis and we must seize this opportunity. It is up to the Iraqis to mobilize themselves in order to build a new Iraq. The objective is to preserve the unity and the stability of the country," he added.

In Spain, Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said, "Today is a great day for the liberty of the Iraqi people, because today this terrible shadow of this bloody dictator is going to vanish and the quality of their liberty will be enhanced." Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said, "Saddam was directly responsible for the deaths of millions of people over the last thirty years, responsible for tortures, assassinations and wars of aggression. Saddam was a threat to his people and to the entire world. The tyrant who defied the United Nations has fallen. Today, the moment has come for him to pay for his crimes."

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told reporters in Berlin, "The German government welcomes this arrest and we congratulate the coalition on this important success in the interest of freedom and stability for the Iraqi people and the entire region. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who will now face his just punishment." "I believe there now is a chance for violence to decrease, terror to come to a standstill and the energetic reconstruction of the country. At the same time, a faster handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi temporary government is possible. All this will contribute to stability," Fischer said. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder sent a telegram to U.S. President George Bush, saying, "It's with great delight that I learned of Saddam Hussein's capture. I congratulate you on this successful operation. Saddam Hussein caused horrible suffering to his people and the region."

And at the White House (, President Bush addressed the American people, saying: "The capture of this man was crucial to the rise of a free Iraq. It marks the end of the road for him, and for all who bullied and killed in his name. For the Ba'athist holdouts largely responsible for the current violence, there will be no return to the corrupt power and privilege they once held. For the vast majority of Iraqi citizens who wish to live as free men and women, this event brings further assurance that the torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever."

Bush also sent a message to the Iraqi people in his address saying: "You will not have to fear the rule of Saddam Hussein ever again. All Iraqis who take the side of freedom have taken the winning side. The goals of our coalition are the same as your goals -- sovereignty for your country, dignity for your great culture, and for every Iraqi citizen, the opportunity for a better life. In the history of Iraq, a dark and painful era is over. A hopeful day has arrived. All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq."

Meanwhile, a statement posted on the United Nations website ( cited a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as saying: "The secretary-general [Kofi Annan] considers that the capture of Saddam Hussein, the epitome of the former regime, is an important event. It offers an opportunity to give fresh impetus to the search for peace and stability in Iraq, on the basis of an inclusive and fully transparent process."

In the Middle East, reaction to Hussein's capture has been supportive, but measured. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa told reporters in Cairo, "This is a major development in the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. We'll follow -- we are following -- this news because of its importance and the repercussions of the capture of Saddam Hussein on the situation." Musa added, "I'm sure that the people of Iraq will express their reaction to [Hussein's capture], especially in the light of what they have seen, what they endured and do endure as a result of the situation in Iraq in the past and at present."

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters in Israel, "I told [U.S. President] Bush today that today was a great day for the democratic world, for those fighting for freedom and justice, and for those who object to terror. The entire world can breathe a sigh of relief, because the dictator who ruined Iraq cannot interfere with its reconstruction and rehabilitation," Ha'aretz reported on 14 December.

Qatari Foreign Minister Hamid bin Jasim bin Jaber al-Thani told Al-Jazeera television in Doha, "We call upon the Iraqi people, with all their sects and political affiliations, to cement their national unity so that they can achieve their aspirations in forming an elected national government and maintain Iraq's independence. We hope that this event will prompt the Coalition [Provisional] Authority to help the Iraqi people realize their aspirations so that they can resume their normal role."

Bahrain News Agency quoted an "official" government source as saying, "The kingdom sees this day as a new page for Iraq so its people may take sure steps to restore their role at the Arab and regional and international levels."

Meanwhile, in Kuwait, which Saddam Hussein invaded in 1991, Foreign Minister Shaykh Muhammad al-Sabah called the capture of Hussein a good omen for the region. "The Iraqi people are now rid of history's biggest tyrant, and no doubt his downfall will have positive effects on Iraq and its stability and on security and stability in the region," reported.

And Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar bin Sultan issued a statement in Washington, saying: "The capture of Saddam Hussein will end an infamous chapter of history for Iraq and the region. Saddam Hussein was a menace to the Arab world, and his reign of terror will be remembered for its brutality, aggression, and oppression. His capture is another step in Iraq's path toward peace and unity for all of its people.... We wish the Iraqi people success in rebuilding their country and their institutions, and stand by them in their hour of need."

Jordan, which is now helping to rebuild Iraq and train Iraqi policemen, issued a statement saying it hopes Hussein's capture will contribute to the dawning of a new era in Iraq, AP reported on 15 December. Syrian Information Minister Ahmad al-Hassan said his country hopes the unity of Iraq's land and people will be preserved and that Iraqis will be able to choose their government, AP cited the Syrian Arab News Agency as reporting.

And in Egypt, Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher told reporters following a call from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that Hussein's arrest had been expected at any moment, MENA reported. Maher added that he does not think that anyone will feel sorry for Hussein, and added that the issue of his arrest should not be given so much importance. "The most important concern is the stability and sovereignty of Iraq," Maher said.


Tehran has reacted happily to the 13 December capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi saying, "We also share the Iraqi people's joy," state radio reported. Alluding to the ruinous eight-year war against Iran that the Iraqi dictator initiated on 22 September 1980, Assefi added, "The history of Saddam's atrocities, especially the crimes against the Iranian people and the regional nations, are clear and unforgettable." Assefi's reaction, reflecting the pleasure of seeing a historical enemy fall, is what one would expect and is shared by the public.

This is also a bittersweet moment for Iran and the official reaction is likely to be more nuanced. Iranian reactions, which can be divided into three tracks, reflect the public's view and the government's view, but they also reflect questions about how to deal with Hussein and concerns about the continuing U.S. presence in Iraq.

Tehran's official news service, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), in many ways encapsulated the public reaction when it wrote about its reporters who were killed during the "Iraqi imposed war," the "cruelty and crimes Saddam committed" against Iran's Shi'a coreligionists in southern Iraq, and the gassing of Kurds in Halabja. IRNA also noted proudly that it had broken the story of Saddam Hussein's capture.

"The martyrs' families and those who tolerated the hardships of the war welcomed this news with delight," Tehran parliamentary representative Ali Shakuri-Rad said according to ISNA. More of a "vox pop" reaction came from a war veteran cited by Reuters. Ahmad, who lost an arm in the war, said, "I was listening to the radio and when I heard the news I cried." "I've suffered for over 10 years and I hope he will suffer more," Ahmad continued.

Reformist parliamentarian Mohsen Armin used the capture to make a domestic political point. He said, "The arrest of Saddam once again proved the fact that the age of dictators has come to an end in the world today," ISNA reported.

Hussein's capture also featured on the front page of several newspapers on 15 December. "Iran" and "Iran Daily," the Persian and English-language newspapers produced by IRNA, had the former Iraqi president's capture on their front pages. But while a "Saddam Captured" headline spanned the entire top of "Iran Daily," which is meant for foreigners, "Saddam Snared" only had a few column inches on the front page of "Iran," which is meant for the domestic audience. "Hamshahri," which is affiliated with the Tehran municipality, featured a photograph of Hussein and an article about his capture.

The Internet version of the English-language "Tehran Times," which is affiliated with the conservative Islamic Propagation Organization, also had photos of Hussein. Its feature article stated that the capture was a "precisely choreographed scenario" connected with the upcoming U.S. presidential election. From there the article deteriorated into a jumble of conspiracy theories.

This combination of responses by the public and the media reflects the official Iranian dilemma -- jubilation at Hussein's capture combined with irritation that the United States did it and continuing concern about the U.S. presence in Iraq. This dilemma was reflected by former Islamic Revolution Guards Corps chief Mohsen Rezai, when he said on state television on 14 December, "what is important is that Saddam has been captured.... God willing, in the future we will also celebrate the liberation of all of Iraq and the departure of the occupiers." Rezai added that people should not be upset that it was the United States that captured Hussein. "If it were possible, we could even hold a celebration for this great victory. The torment of God has finally found these people [former Iraqi leaders] even in the houses in which they were hiding. God willing, the Iranian nation will also celebrate the liberation of Iraq, when the occupiers leave."

Now the immediate question relates to how Hussein, who after his capture was taken to an "undisclosed location," should be dealt with. The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman noted, "The trial of Saddam and his accomplices in an open court will restore part of the trampled rights." Will he be tried before an international tribunal, by an Iraqi court, or by the Americans who captured him? This could be where there are divisions within the Iranian ruling apparatus.

Savojbalaq parliamentary representative Jafar Golbaz said the best place to try Hussein is Iraq, ISNA reported. Golbaz rejected American involvement. "If Saddam is tried by America, the process will be prolonged and he will not be tried correctly," he claimed. "It will become a behind-the-scenes political game."

Given Tehran's fondness for multilateralism, it is likely that the Khatami administration as represented by the Foreign Ministry will call for an international trial. Indeed, before Operation Iraqi Freedom Tehran repeatedly called for resolution of the Iraq crisis through the United Nations (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 20 March 2003). Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) member Jalal Talabani, however, said that the IGC agreed with the coalition forces some time ago that "all Iraqi criminals must be tried in Iraq," and added that a special court has been created for this, Iran's Al-Alam television reported.


As the news of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's 13 December capture surfaced, international legal experts and analysts began speculating on how and when the Iraqi dictator might be tried for crimes against the Iraqi people during his rule of Iraq.

The Iraqi Governing Council established a war crimes tribunal in Iraq last week to try former members of the Hussein regime (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 11 December 2003). The tribunal provides for a five-judge panel to review cases based both on international and Iraqi criminal law, and will be based on a 1958 Iraqi law that made it a capital crime to destabilize or threaten Iraq.

European leaders and international human rights groups immediately criticized the establishment of the Iraqi tribunal, saying that Hussein and other former regime members should instead by tried by an international tribunal, possibly located at The Hague. But this option is unlikely since neither Iraq nor the United States has recognized the creation of the International Criminal Court.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that the tribunal, while adhering to provisions on the rights of the accused and definitions of international crimes consistent with international law, lacks key provisions that would ensure legitimate and credible trials. "The tribunal does not require that judges and prosecutors have experience working on complex criminal cases involving serious human rights crimes. Nor does the law permit the appointment of non-Iraqi prosecutors or investigative judges with relevant expertise," HRW wrote in a 14 December press release (

The organization also contends that any court conducting a trial of former regime leaders in Iraq "must be independent of political influence, and free of bias and partiality," adding, "Saddam Hussein must be allowed to conduct a vigorous defense that includes the right to legal counsel at an early stage." It also expressed concern that the tribunal law does not prohibit the death penalty, nor does it "sufficiently address protection of witnesses and victims or security for the tribunal and its staff." HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth called on the Iraqi Governing Council to work instead with the United Nations "to create an accountability process that works."

Earlier, Amnesty International issued a statement ( on 10 December saying, "Under international humanitarian law, the authority of the [Coalition Provisional Authority] as an occupying power to establish a tribunal of the scope envisaged for the Iraqi special tribunal is doubtful at best." The human rights organization expressed concern that the tribunal would use the Iraqi Criminal Code to "regulate trial procedures and define crimes and punishments." Amnesty said that the Criminal Code has "some aspects...which are inconsistent with international human rights standards."

Aaron Rhodes, executive director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, said of the tribunal: "The process has to be consistent with certain basic principles. It shouldn't be the process of revenge. It should be the process of justice," Reuters reported on 14 December. "Any court trying Saddam Hussein [in Iraq] would have to follow certain standards of due process. I think it would be important for the UN to be involved," he said. And Dutch lawyer Michail Wladimiroff, who was appointed "friend of the court" to ensure a fair trial for Slobodan Milosevic at the United Nations war crimes tribunal at The Hague, pointed out, "God knows how long it would take before normal life has resumed in Iraq and they can find competent people" to sit on the tribunal, Reuters reported on 14 December.

U.S. officials have not expressly said what is to be done with Saddam Hussein, but Iraqis insist that the deposed president should be tried by his own people for crimes that include genocide, including the 1988 Anfal campaign in which some 100,000 Kurd civilians alone were killed, and 4,000 villages destroyed; the killing of Shi'ites and Kurds following the 1991 uprising against Hussein; the use of chemical weapons against Iraq's Kurdish population, and against Iran in the 1980s; the forced expulsion and/or displacement of ethnic minorities in northern Iraq as part of Hussein's "Arabization" campaign; and the repression of Iraq's Marsh Arabs, whose way of life was virtually obliterated by the Hussein regime's policies. In all, it is conceivable that some 300,000 Iraqis were killed under Ba'athist rule in Iraq, mostly under Hussein's rule.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on 14 December that Hussein "would be accorded the privileges as though he were a prisoner of war -- not that he necessarily is one," AP reported on 15 December. "One need not worry that [Hussein will] be treated in [anything except] a humane and professional way," the news agency quoted Rumsfeld as telling CBS's "60 Minutes" program. Rumsfeld also said on 14 December that Hussein's fate vis-a-vis a trial would be decided by senior U.S. officials. "No one would want to turn anyone over until and unless there was a process in place that was acceptable and appropriate and would ensure that [Hussein] would be brought to justice," BBC quoted Rumsfeld as saying.

U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared to express support for the Iraqi tribunal, saying in a 14 December address to the British people: "Saddam has gone from power, he won't be coming back. That Iraqi people now know and it is they who will decide his fate." But on 15 December, British envoy to Iraq Sir Jeremy Greenstock warned that Britain would have no part in any trial that might lead to the death penalty, "The Evening Standard" reported. One day earlier, British Foreign Office junior minister Bill Rammell told BBC news, "Clearly in those circumstances [a trial] we would make our views clear about the death penalty." "Our position on the death penalty is longstanding, we're opposed to the death penalty," he added.

But many Iraqis have argued that trying Saddam Hussein and other former regime members in Iraq, by Iraqis, will contribute to the nations' healing process. Iraq's new ambassador to the United States, Rend Rahim, told CNN on 14 December, "The Iraqis need to see justice being done in front of them," adding, "This is going to be truly a process of healing." And Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in Paris, "We as Iraqis are going to call for [Hussein] to stand trial in front of an Iraqi court to answer for all the crimes he has committed."

Perhaps Kurdish leader Mas'ud Barzani summed up the mood of Iraq's current leadership, and perhaps the entire nation, when he said in a 14 December address to the Iraqi people: "I thank God...for [Hussein's] capture for the sake of all the brokenhearted mothers, and it would be a great welcome if he is tried before those mothers. I hope that those who have committed crimes against the people would be referred to an Iraqi court of justice to get their just desserts."

Arab Press Review by Daniel Kimmage, RFE/RL analyst

Abd-al-Rahman al-Rashid, editor in chief of the London-based "Al-Sharq al-Awsat":

The sight of [deposed Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein] angered everyone who had been deceived, for he was not wearing a belt of explosives, he did not reach for a machine gun, he did not try to swallow a cyanide capsule. His tools were a phone and a bundle of dollars. With them, he ruled what was left of Iraq from a small hole, just as he had done from his mighty palace in Baghdad. He gave out orders to kill with one hand while buying loyalty with the other. The end of Saddam closes the biography of one of the false heroes who fill the pages of our history books. Yet we know that even as one lie falls apart, another emerges. We await another act in the drama of falsification.

The editors of Egypt's "Al-Ahram":

The truth is that the American-British occupation has destroyed Iraq's riches and infrastructure, torn apart the Iraqi state, and demolished its mechanisms and leaders. It has sparked internal strife through the appointment of a governing council based on sectarian and ethnic principles, rather than the principle of citizenship and the representation of each region's inhabitants in accordance with their demographic weight as part of a political process to express their wishes until the timely conduct of free, democratic elections supervised by the United Nations. The occupation has thrown millions of Iraqis into unemployment, need, and poverty. It has violated things held sacred and employed oppression, collective punishment, and murder. This occupation can only unleash acts of Iraqi national resistance against it, no matter whether Saddam is at large or in captivity. In fact, his capture may encourage the Shi'a, who comprise some 60 percent of the Iraqi population, to join the resistance against the occupation now that they no longer fear the return of Saddam Hussein's regime. Most likely, the resistance will continue as long as the American-British occupation weighs down on Iraq.

Hazim Saghiyah in the London-based "Al-Hayat":

A mischievous observer might suggest that the Americans will ask Saddam Hussein to return to power in Baghdad. After all, compared to the problems they are having there, he managed to rule Iraq for many years while guaranteeing its stability!

That's only a joke, of course. Seriously: congratulations to the Iraqi people! Saddam has been captured. The man who symbolized Iraq's humiliation, oppression, and mass graves is done for. He ended up being "cooperative" with his jailors. He was pulled from a hole in the ground, his beard was shaved, and in full view of the camera his mouth was examined and his head checked for lice. He didn't fire a single shot. He didn't fight. He didn't commit suicide. His grandson turned out to be braver than he was....

But this momentous event spurs us to ask several questions. Now that it is a little more relaxed, will the United States make some changes in its Iraq policy? Will it step back from its isolationism and focus on security to give the [Iraqi] Governing Council more power? Will it opt for broader international participation? Or will it consider the capture of Saddam the end of its problems in Iraq and the end of Iraq's problems, in line with its penchant for simplification. Will Iraqis choose to pursue resistance through political means that bring them together and cannot serve as the incubator of a new tyrant or the cause of bloody new cataclysms?

Saudi Arabia's "Al-Watan":

We wonder what the United States will do about the rest of the fugitives such as Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar. We wonder what the United States will do about its presence in Iraq if operations against it continue there. Finally, we arrive at the heart of the issue. The American administration has achieved its stated goal of toppling the regime and capturing its leader, yet it has not discovered any weapons of mass destruction. Here, we find that the United States must make clear what will happen to its presence in Iraq now that it has achieved the intoxicating success of capturing the man who was supposed to present a danger to the security of the United States and the entire world.

Mahmud Balhaymir in Algeria's "Al-Khabar":

It befits all of the Arab countries to watch what is happening so that their peoples can avoid what is happening to the Iraqi people today. They should learn the lesson that the "leaders" who lack legitimate popular support and who speak in the name of their people will suffer a worse fate than what befell Saddam and his comrades. Arrogant adventures will end up stripping the countries they rule of the least ability to resist. Their peoples will soon become easy prey for the new imperialism with its military and diplomatic strength....

The continuing stagnation and retreat of the Arab countries at a time when countries in Latin America and Eastern Europe are achieving success with political reforms is a disgrace. These countries were more dictatorial and backward than we are. But they learned their lesson and have moved to assert themselves. We continue to resist change, adore dictatorship, and stupefy ourselves. The result will be the subjugation of our countries to imperialism without resistance.

Abd-al-Bari Atwan, editor in chief of the London-based "Al-Quds al-Arabi":

We realize that the Iraqi president's appearance -- with matted hair and ragged clothes -- was extremely humiliating because no one expected him to be captured alive and without resistance, hiding in a small, filthy hole. More than likely, it was staged as a carefully crafted operation to mislead people. We have only heard the American story, more accurately, what the American military wanted us to hear. We will need more time for the dust to settle and for some parts of the real picture to emerge.

The capture of Saddam Hussein could be a blessing for many Iraqis, especially those who suffered as a result of his injustice and oppression. But it could come back to haunt the Americans invaders. The Iraqis, and especially those who have collaborated with the occupation, are greatly distressed. Some of them have justified their silence, and even their collaboration, saying that they feared Saddam Hussein's return to power. How will they justify themselves now?

These are momentous events, perhaps the most important days in the history of the Arab and Muslim community. They hold important lessons. We must learn these lessons if we truly desire a better future. First and foremost among these lessons is that justice, democracy, equality, transparency, and an independent justice system are the basic prerequisites for any real movement toward progress and the restoration of the community's dignity.

George Haddad in Jordan's "Al-Dustur":

It is only natural that the invaders and occupiers should try to exploit their success in capturing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for the greatest possible effect in the psychological war.

One notes that our Arabic-language satellite channels joined the media's propaganda "procession" in its attempt to wound the dignity of the Iraqi people and violate its will by suggesting to the uneducated and naive that the matter is over and done. "Mission accomplished," they claim, now that the "head of terror and strife" has been capture.

They captured Saddam Hussein, but have the invaders captured the desire for freedom and liberation among our brave people in Iraq?

The capture of President Hussein may help the American president with his television spectacles and snappy media shows, but the real end result will be the eloquent lesson that the Iraqis teach the world.