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Saddam Hussein’s Capture Dominates World Headlines

Comment and analysis from Baghdad, London, Tirana, Kathmandu, Moscow, São Paulo, Bangkok, Nairobi, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Berlin, and Paris

Saddam Hussein action figure
The 12-inch "Captured Saddam Hussein" action figure will retail for about $30 in the United States (Photo: Hero Builders/AFP-Getty Images).
Baghdad
Al-Zaman (Arab nationalist), Dec. 15: This is a great day indeed. The era of oppression and dictatorship has gone forever.

Baghdad Al-Ahd al-Jadid (liberal), Dec. 15: This is the clearest and most beautiful morning in my country, Mesopotamia. Be joyful, oh my brothers, be joyful oh my brothers, for this is great news for Iraq.

London Al-Sharq al-Awsat (Saudi-owned), Dec. 16: It is beyond any doubt that the majority of Iraqis are overjoyed with this historical event and I am not exaggerating when I say that it is the true beginning of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The previous U.S. calls for the liberation of Iraqis hadn’t been enough to persuade them to emerge from the cramped domain of fear they have inhabited. They were ruled by the fear that Hussein would return and it wouldn’t be possible to stand up to his horrific revenge. This fear was justified, as we witnessed the proliferation of attacks targeting Iraqi civilians, police, and civil servants. Now Iraqis must consider, after enjoying their day of schadenfreude for their former leader as they watch him in U.S. custody on TV, and after realizing the many years he had been a U.S. ally while he lorded over his people and waved his sword in his neighbors’ faces, that this matter needs a moment to pause and coolly ponder this great event. Truthfully, I find it hard to use neutral language, as my entire Iraqi being bears a part of the former regime’s oppression. As an Iraqi lawyer, I had worked in my country, dreaming about justice and fairness for all the oppressed.
—Budur Zaki Muhammad

Tirana Shekulli (centrist), Dec. 16: Saddam Hussein’s scared face broadcast by the international media for only 30 seconds was the best message and the most meaningful lesson that could have been sent to the world. The Americans showed us the terrified face of a dictator. Anyone is free to think, read, and interpret that face as he or she wishes. But everybody should agree on one thing: The terrified face of that dictator means that from now on, the Iraqi people will be less terrorized. A couple of years ago, the United States sent a similar message to the world as they delivered [former Yugoslavian President Slobodan] Milosevic to The Hague. Hussein refused to understand that message. Now he has ended up in the collection of dictators taken down by the United States.
—Mark Marku

Kathmandu Kantipur (independent), Dec. 16: The United States and its coalition forces must have breathed a sigh of relief after capturing the tyrant Saddam Hussein, who had played a game of hide-and-seek for the past nine months. But their triumph will always remain incomplete until they ensure the full reconstruction of Iraq and the restoration of democracy. With regard to Hussein himself, the Iraqi people should be given the final right to try the tyrant. He is more a criminal to the Iraqi people than to the United States....The war won’t be over until power is handed over to the Iraqis.

Moscow Nezavisimaya Gazeta (centrist), Dec. 15: Saddam Hussein saves Bush. The capture of the fugitive dictator should silence grumbling about soldiers’ graves and the quiet protests about oil contracts. Hussein should boost Bush’s approval ratings.

London The Times (conservative), Dec. 15: Rarely do the monsters of history have to account for themselves. Hitler shot himself, Stalin died of a stroke. Pol Pot ran off into the jungle. Not since [German Lt. Col. of the S.S. Adolf] Eichmann faced a court in Jerusalem has a mass murderer on the scale of Saddam Hussein been captured alive and put on trial.

São Paulo Diario de São Paulo (centrist), Dec. 15: The difficulty will be finding a way to judge Saddam Hussein without creating an international scandal. If the Iraqi institutions already have shown they are too weak to take care of even the tiniest question related to civil society, imagine how they will handle a guy who until recently ruled Iraq with an iron fist. The task would be much easier if President George W. Bush hadn’t revoked U.S. support for the International Criminal Court, an organization created and sustained by 80 nations to handle characters like Hussein who have committed war crimes against humanity.

Bangkok Kao Sod (center-right), Dec. 16: Saddam Hussein could never have orchestrated terrorist attacks on such a scale all over Iraq from a wretched hole....The truth is that the man has never been a real threat but always in the grip of the United States. His rise to power was manipulatively crafted by the CIA and the United States....That explains why the man did not resist when arrested but wanted to “negotiate”....Today the United States must look for a new puppet to dupe the Iraqi people and protect U.S. interests in the Middle East. The United States, not Hussein, is the real culprit of the Iraqi people’s suffering.

Nairobi The Daily Nation (independent), Nairobi, Kenya, Dec. 16: The Bush administration will maximize on the PR value of Saddam Hussein’s capture. With eyes on the presidential elections 11 months away, Bush badly needed this win to ease the pressure on him over the Iraq mess. His team will use it to prove that the continued stay of American soldiers in Iraq is paying off.
—Ambrose Murunga

Tel Aviv Ha’aretz (liberal), Dec. 17: The images of the humiliated Saddam Hussein were another and most significant building block in the changing dynamic of the public relations campaign of this war. It is a form of brainwashing. The pictures were broadcast nonstop, innumerable times. They sent the message to the planet’s residents that the goal of the war was not the discovery of weapons of mass destruction but the capture and humiliation of Hussein. Hussein, to use the language of the American media, is the “Bad Guy.” America, according to that same lexicon, is a nation of Good Guys. The good won. That’s all that matters. Nothing else is important. Americans should hate Saddam Hussein even though no weapons of mass destruction were found. The pictures emanating from the screens are accompanied by implied imperative from commentators: hate, hate, hate.
—Rogel Alpher

Istanbul Milliyet (liberal), Dec. 15, 2003: The capture of the bloody dictator Saddam Hussein, who committed crimes against his country and humanity, is definitely a turning point in the process of establishing a new, stable, and peaceful order in Iraq.

Moscow Izvestiya (centrist) Dec. 15: The Western allies exult....The triumph will last 10 days—until the Christmas that the Protestants and Catholics celebrate. There will be a long sequence of patriotic themes on television. George Bush and other leaders of the “anti-Saddam coalition” will appeal to their people with solemn speeches. Opponents of the president in Congress and the Democratic Party will fall silent for the time being, waiting for the patriotic fervor to die down. But then it will all begin anew. Bombings by kamikaze terrorists in Baghdad and other cities, American helicopters shot out of the sky, shattered columns, burned-out police stations, executed collaborators who have worked with the occupiers.

Hong Kong Sing Tao Daily News (centrist), Dec. 15: The capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, reduced to desperation, symbolizes the evil fate of a corrupt dictator. It is also the best Christmas present this year for Bush. But for Iraqis, who endured a baptism by fire during the war, peace is still distant, and the road of reconstruction is still long and difficult.

Paris Le Monde (liberal), Dec. 17: Night after night since the celebrated day of the capture, it’s always the same story...Saddam, Saddam, Saddam. The TV news announcers are now openly asking themselves if the Americans were right to unleash these images of the president-turned-rat on the world....End of interlude, end of intermission. The cinema of Saddam can begin again. Looped images, fleas picked off, sets of jaws, with and without the beard, rotating camera angles and “live” scenes. Saddam has been arrested, but who will stop the violence and the fear of death in Iraq? Cut.
—Eric Fottorino

Berlin Die Welt (conservative), Dec. 15: This day will go down in history as a great day for Iraq and its population, as perhaps the deciding moment for the allies on their way to a postwar society marked by greater liberty—and probably as the day George W. Bush won the elections early.

More international press response to the capture of Saddam Hussein is coming in the February 2004 issue of World Press Review. Subscribe today to find out what you're missing.

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