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Opinion: Fall of a Phantom

Saddam's capture meant the end of a myth and could mean the end of fear among Iraqis over cooperating with the coalition troops. Peter Phillip comments on the historic day in Iraqi history.


The last time he made an official appearance was at the end of April – just before U.S. troops took Baghdad. Since then, Saddam Hussein has become a phantom.

The fallen dictator was declared for dead, but then tapes of his voice encouraging Iraqis to hold out appeared and he was suspected of organizing the resistance against the occupying forces. Others though it was even possible that he was holed up in the U.S., his “removal” part of an elaborate agreement reached with Washington.

The speculation should now be over, at least for all those that don’t doubt every bit of news that comes out of Washington or from the coalition forces. The “phantom” has been caught. Saddam was captured in his hometown of Tikrit, with a long beard and not looking at all like the hero he liked to present himself as. Saddam lives.

Tribunal gets star suspect

His arrest is an important signal for the future of Iraq, just days before, Iraqis announced the establishment of a war crimes tribunal. This tribunal was delivered its most important suspect in the early morning hours. Saddam Hussein represents like no other the crimes that have been committed against the Iraqi people and neighboring states since the 1960s.

Though it became clear recently that a fleeing Saddam Hussein wasn’t responsible for every attack on U.S. troops and their allies, it was also clear that the willingness of Iraqis to cooperate with the occupying forces sank every day he remained on the run.

Saddam, followers will never regain power

It would be premature and unrealistic to expect the collapse of the Iraqi resistance. But Saddam’s arrest and his clear identification was for many followers an unambiguous sign that they would never again come to power and that it would be a better idea to hide and not involve themselves in a fight they cannot win. Among the Iraqi populace, the arrest reduced the fear that cooperation with occupying forces would be punished as “collaboration” should Saddam one day return to power.

That danger has now been eliminated and Iraqis can now begin working together for a peaceful and better future. The groundwork for next steps has already been set, but Saddam’s capture will lend them more weight and importance.

They won't be able to do this on their own initiative, but with the help of the Americans. On Sunday night, Iraqis experienced perhaps the most important step towards their new future. It will take time for them to get used to it.

  • Date 15.12.2003
  • Author Peter Phillip
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  • Date 15.12.2003
  • Author Peter Phillip
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4Rzd